Friday, April 16, 2010

Our National Trinity

Baseball, Apple Pie, the Flag and, oh yes, Motherhood!
by Charlie Leck

I’ve been writing a bit about baseball lately. One of my old friends is a faithful reader of my blog, but he really wants me to stop writing about baseball. Basically, he asks: Who cares? Or to put it a bit more profanely: Who gives a damn?

He writes: “I know baseball is supposed to be somewhat intellectual by its nature...but the people who play it are often thugish fools...while most of the people in the stands are foolish thugs...”

Now this is a guy who has criticized (now publically) one of the elements of the great American trinity! Next he will be telling me that he doesn’t like apple pie either!

As Forest Gump used to say: “Let me say this about that!”

Baseball is grand, especially when it’s played properly, with enthusiasm and on green, green grass under God’s magnificent sky.

We’ve got a professional ball team up here in Minnesota and its last couple of managers (over more than20 years now) have made a point of teaching our ball players the true fundamentals of the game. In years past we’ve had some enormous success with our teams even though we weren’t the most talented team in the major leagues. We won the World Series in both 1987 and 1991 by understanding and playing fundamentally sound baseball.

Now, in 2010, I am here to tell you that the baseball world had better watch the Minnesota Twins because we not only have a team drilled in the proper fundamentals, but we are also a damned good team with a lot of talent both offensively and defensively. The great caveat, of course, is that we need our guys to stay health and be lucky enough to avoid serious injuries. If we do, we’ll see you in the playoffs folks and we’ll be there to win. We will not be satisfied with consolation prizes.

A couple of days ago one of the Boston Red Sox players striped a line drive base hit to right field. Now, the generally accepted etiquette of baseball is that, when I guy like that gets a bang-bang solid hit, the other team gently retrieves the ball and returns it to the pitcher. Yet, on this afternoon the Red Sox player sort of sauntered up toward first base after nailing the line drive. The Twins right fielder saw the touch of casualness on the part of the opponent and raced to retrieve the ball that had hit the turf in front of him and fired a strike, as if he were a second baseman, right into the waiting mitt of the first baseman. At the very last second, the Red Sox player saw the embarrassing situation and raced like hell to the bag, just beating the throw from the outfield by a fraction. Notice I have not used the opposing players name here because I don’t want to embarrass him.

From the time we are little kids, we are taught to hustle up the line when we get a base hit because anything can happen to the ball and any defender is capable of screwing up and allowing you to make more out of it than seemed at first obvious. We were also taught that we were never to be thrown out at first base on a ball we hit safely into the outfield. Nothing in baseball, I think, would be more embarrassing.

Now, take the opposite example from the game I attended today. One of the Twins’ players, Nick Punto, lined a drive into the outfield. Punto race up to first base and, as he approached the bag, he saw that the Red Sox outfielder was being very casual about getting to the ball, to field it. Punto turned on the jets, rounded the bag and raced down to second, stretching a simple single into a surprising double.

After the game, the Red Sox outfielder expressed some anger about being shown up by Punto even when the Twins were already ahead by eight runs in the game. It is something ball players are not supposed to do. Sorry sir, when a team is trained to react to certain situations in certain ways, they do so more like a machine than as a thinking human being who doesn’t want to embarrass the player on the other side.

Watch out, baseball! The Twins are cranking it up a notch!

This is information for my friend who was mentioned in the opening of this blog. When a team is strong up the middle – and you, of course, know that that means in center field, at short stop and second base, and at catcher – they are a team to fear. The Twins are damned strong up the middle.

I had a fabulous time at the Twins game today. Parked my car miles and miles from the stadium, boarded an express bus that dropped me across the street from the main entrance plaza and the sun was shining brightly and the place was packed with adoring fans and peanuts and crackerjacks were flowing abundantly.

I was a delighted, little kid again – watching kids play the game the right way.

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