In Summerfield, North Carolina, late on the afternoon of Thursday, March 3, our grandson attended his first baseball practice. Hudson turns four in April.
When I was four, I had no idea that baseball existed. The world has changed.
We received a full report regarding Hudson’s practice. This included photographs with a brightly colored glove. Video showed him hitting the ball off the tee and scurrying down to first base. Like his grandpa and Aunt Lizzie, Hudson swings from the left side of the plate.
Growing up down the road in Burlington, I developed a love for baseball. Behind our house was an abandoned field. Our next door neighbor, Ken Simmons, transformed that field into a place for us to play. Ken had the vision.
Once we cleared out loose rocks, Ken mowed the broom straw grass and weeds. His father helped him form a rusty rectangular metal frame with chain-link fencing into a backstop. Plywood, cut with a hand saw shaped home plate.
Left and center fields had a tall stand of hardwoods and pine trees. Today, in my imagination that would remind me of Fenway’s Green Monster. No tree line in right field— a worn, narrow lake trail formed a boundary.
We had no helmets, nor batting gloves— just an odd collection of wooden bats, and a few baseballs.
Didn’t matter if you were a girl or a boy, we all played. Sometimes, friends from a few streets away would join us for a game.
We played nonstop. Of course, there were multiple delays as we searched for batted balls that had landed deep into the woods.
Way back then, the New York Yankees were my favorite team. I read short biographies about baseball players from the May Memorial Library, scoured box scores in the afternoon paper, read every printed word on the back of baseball cards, and at night listened to games on my transistor radio.
As an adult, I followed the game from a distance. I became a fan of the Boston Red Sox. Had the privilege of attending major league games in Boston, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Chicago.
At some point, like a slow roller down the third base line, my interest in baseball began to subside.
I was thrilled when the Red Sox and the Cubs won the world series. However, the players strike in 1994-95, combined with the steroid challenges pushed me away.
I’ve read enough about baseball history to know that salaries, benefits, and a tug of war between owners, players, and now a player’s union have always been around.
Clearly, I’m not the brightest guy in the world, but I have no comprehension for the salary that Max Scherzer will be paid to pitch for the New York Mets this baseball season. Mr. Scherzer is scheduled to be paid $43,333,333 million. He has a three year contract valued at $130 million. I need to get on his payroll.
And that is my gripe about this most recent baseball lockout— who really is hurt by this lockout? I’ll tell you who is hurt—the fans and the people who work behind the scenes to make sure that a baseball game and its season happen.
Prior to this lockout being resolved on Thursday, March 10, both the union representing the players and the owners made nice comments about baseball’s fans. I’d call those statements shallow flattery.
Because if the owners and players really cared about the fans, no lockout would have occurred.
And if the players and owners really cared about the game, instead of raising the guaranteed annual salary of a major league player, why not significantly raise the salary of all stadium workers who do the dirty work before and after every game?
I wonder how the players and owners would feel if at some point in the future fans and stadium workers locked out owners and players at every major league stadium?
Sometimes on a perfect spring day, my mind daydreams back to that field behind our house. I hear the chatter of my friends, the unmistakable sound of a wooden bat hitting a tired baseball, and the sighs of relief when a lost ball was found. I wouldn’t trade anything for those priceless memories.
For our grandson, I hope his coaches are patient, kindhearted.
In teachable moments, I hope sportsmanship is the takeaway, not winning.
And despite baseball’s imperfections, I hope he has fun learning about a storied game.