Thursday, April 5, 2012

Play Ball!

It is time for a change of pace, to use an apt baseball expression. Most of my blog postings are on matters that are serious, important, and sometimes controversial. But today I am writing about baseball, which is not so important, not a serious matter, and shouldn’t be controversial (unless there is argument over which team is best).
The first games of the new Major League Baseball season began last week (on March 28-29) in the Tokyo Dome, of all places. The Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners traveled to Japan and split a two-game series that inaugurated the new major league baseball year.
Here in the States, the MLB season opened last night (April 4) with the St. Louis Cardinals playing the Miami Marlins—the new name of the former Florida Marlins. And the game was played in Marlins Park, their new baseball stadium. I enjoyed watching the first inning (on ESPNHD) and the rest of the game on the old TV in my study.
The Cardinals, a team I have rooted for over the last 60+ years, have a new manager and also a new first baseman, as Albert Pujols, their best player from 2001 to 2011, now plays for the Los Angeles Angels. It will be interesting to see how last year’s World Series champions will do without Tony La Russa (b. 1944), their outstanding manager from 1996 to 2011, and Pujols, one of the all-time great baseball players.
At least the Cardinals got off to a good start last night, winning 4-1.
The Kansas City Royals, the other MLB team I have rooted for since their birth in 1969, has its first game of the new season tomorrow night (April 6) out in Los Angeles against the Angels. (So the Royals’ pitcher(s) will have to face Pujols.) It will be interesting to see if the Royals can finally come up with a winning season after so many losing ones. (They have had only one winning season, 2003, since 1994!)
As for Japan, the new baseball season began the day after the second MLB game there. I have been a fan of the professional team in Fukuoka City, where I lived for 36 years, since that team moved there in 1988. Since 2005 the team has been called the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, the name coming from the IT corporation that bought the team that year. They won the Japan Series last year and have already won four of their first six games of the new season.
Professional baseball in Japan may not be quite as good as major league baseball in the States, but it is pretty good. And there are some excellent players. Many of them have come to the States and have done quite well. The Seattle Mariners’ right fielder Ichiro Suzuki is the premier example.
This year a new pitcher from Japan has come to the U.S. to play for the Texas Rangers. He has the unusual name of Yu Darvish (b. 1986); he was born in Japan to a Japanese mother, but his father is Iranian. In recent years he has been one of the very best pitchers in Japan, and it will be interesting to see how he does here. Quite well, I would guess.
Since I have enjoyed baseball so much through the years, I feel a bit sorry for those who don’t feel some thrill or excitement when hearing those magical words, Play ball!


  1. Is "change of pace" really a phrase from baseball?

  2. Here is an online dictionary definition:

    n. 1.(Baseball) a baseball pitch thrown with little velocity when the batter is expecting a fastball; - called also change-up.

  3. Baseball is one of the interesting sports not played on a field, court, or rink with two ends - also curling, sumo, cricket, golf, clays, etc. - but baseball in particular. I enjoy these sports because they ARE different, and this one is so American (in no way a put down to the Japanese and others who also enjoy the sport).

    Memories take me back to the Kansas City Athletics (A's) and the early days of the Royals down at Municipal Stadium, which had a small town feel like Wrigley Field. There were the old name players like Ed Kirkpatrick, Cookie Rojas, Freddy Patek, and Bob Johnson, who treated baseball as athletes rather than bottom-line professions. Would that I could have seen the Kansas City Monarchs play.

    April 13 is opening day at home for the Royals - always a fun day, win or lose. It is also Greater Kansas City Day with a special edition of the Kansas City Star sold in bundles or street corners in honor of the Royals opening day, but to support local charities - 100% of proceeds I believe. A big chunk will go to support the Rotary Youth Camp out on the shores of Lake Jacomo. The camp is designed to provide a local camping opportunity, at no cost, to those who are developmentally and physically disabled in collaboration with several local nonprofit organizations. Having served as a Camp Director with one of those organizations for 4 years at the camp, let me encourage each of you to buy a paper (or a bundle) that day.
    Special thanks to the Kansas City Star, the Kansas City metro Rotary clubs, and the Kansas City Royals for making this a fun day for the community, and a good support for local nonprofit charities.

    1. Thanks, Tim and Leroy, for reminding me about all the good features of baseball. As a young boy growing up in Kansas City, one of my proudest moments was getting my own baseball uniform and cap for our little league church team. I am old enough to remember going to see the KC Blues before the A's and Royals. Baseball seems like such a "civilized" game with minimal physical contact and maximal focus on hustle (in the good sense).

  4. I'd say the value of baseball in this country does not lie in the major leagues, but on the little league fields across the country where boys and girls learn a past-time they may carry with them throughout their lives. They also learn skills, technique, fair play, discipline and working at something bigger than themselves...something they can't do alone.

    Each baseball season begins with my own memories of the ball field in Farley, Mo., where I learned to play the game. My first baseball coach died last Friday and I've thought a lot about him the past several days. He was a great example to me...he did what he said, never played favorites even though his son was on the team, never lost his temper, he was always positive and reinforced the idea to work hard because we could always be better than we were at that moment.

    In these memories and what I took with me into my adult life are where I find the joy of baseball. I'm now coaching my son's team trying to instill this same joy in him.

  5. One baseball memory outshines the rest for me. When our eldest child was just a few months old, we had him sitting in a baby seat with us while we watched a movie on TV. At a commercial we changed channels to see how the Royals were doing. Larry Gura was pitching. We found the score, and went back to the movie. Except, the movie was not acceptable. There was no peace in Dempsey Land until we turned the channel back to baseball. Our family's number one baseball fan was born!

    His brother played soccer, his sister played basketball, but thirty years later he's still baseball through and through. Maybe it was that middle name, Speaker, which, my wife tells me, among other things, links him to a distant relative, one Tris Speaker. Well, I know he is also a Dempsey, because, on occasion, he will also play croquet!