The Flight of the Sporting Orb
I just looked up "baseball" on my blog search engine. Not for a definition, but to find if, when, and how often I have mentioned our "national passtime*" on my blog. Answer: Seven. In not a single case was my mention in relation to baseball qua baseball. Today I repair that omission, on the occasion of having attended an actual baseball game, played between two professional baseball teams at a stadium. I do not propose to wax eloquent on the subject; there are sportswriters, novelists, and, I should think, a number of philosophers who have beat me to it. Neither am I likely to offer any original observations; they may well have been exhausted a century ago. And yet, I'm an American male, whose father took him to baseball games as a youth. I am a lifelong Yankee fan, at least in the sense that I know the Red Sox are evil and must be destroyed. And I have actually played baseball myself, ending one season with a batting average of 1000!
That last "stat" as they are called in baseball land, will come as a shock to those who know me as an indifferent (at best) athlete. But there's a simple explanation. One long-ago year at summer camp, I was chosen by a team that didn't know any better, and permitted an at-bat. I hit a single, possibly a legitimate one, or perhaps the result of an error by the opposing team. My side was retired, I was dismissed from the game for unremembered reasons, probably legitimate ones, and was unchosen from the team, batting average intact for the remainder of the season. That along with my "most improved" plaque in canoeing are two of my favorite memories of camp. I've made this point about my very modest eptness with the sporting orb to point out something interesting and special: I can catch a baseball.
Q: How is that "interesting and special?"
I and almost everyone else can catch a baseball, too.
If I may elaborate: Humans have the remarkable ability to "calculate" ballistic trajectories in an almost instantaneous and amazingly accurate way. A frequent ritual I and my associate Tony undertake is "The Passing of the Truffle." I abstract a Lindt chocolate truffle from its container, walk over to Tony's office, and, without any mechanical computation, flick my arm and wrist just so. The wrapped truffle, which is not homogeneous, aerodynamically unstable, and light enough to react slightly to the viscosity of the air, nonetheless follows a trajectory determined by the initial flip, possible spin, and, of course, a uniform (at least in this case) gravitational field. Tony, for his part, watches the initial trajectory of the wrapped truffle, and, in much less time than it takes to reach its destination, places the manipulative appendage at the end of his multi-jointed arm in precisely the right location to intercept it. The truffle, with no terminal guidance whatsoever, shortly finds itself in his palm, at which point his fingers close on it with exactly the right timing and pressure to prevent either the loss or crushing of the precious and delicate confection. I find it amazing that two people can "cooperate" in this precision venture with no planning, cogitation or unusual skill or aptitude other than having grown up in the United States, where baseball is routinely played by the young. Presumably other cultures with a tradition of throwing and catching objects routinely emit similarly-skilled people.
Ask a robotics engineer, artificial intelligence "expert," or any science person to build a machine that can do this.
The Bluefish Vs. The Long Island Ducks
The Vs., above, is probably a good hint that I am talking about opposing teams of sport, rather than some dire inter-species conflict in Long Island Sound. It was a home game for the Bridgeport, CT. Bluefish. They thrashed the Ducks 10 to 5. (I consider that a thrashing, although it might just count as a solid win if there is an official table that begins with "squeaked by" and ends with "murderously trounced.")
Long Island starter Brad Halsey (1-1) after three innings of work. The
southpaw conceded seven runs on eight hits with three walks. Bluefish
hurler Dan Reichert (1-3) earned his first win of the season, lasting
five and two-thirds innings while giving up five runs on nine hits with
That, from the Ducks' web site, is "baseball talk." I understood it, even the "southpaw" part. Here's some baseball talk, albeit less abstruse, from me.
What I Love About Baseball
Yes, the usual stuff. I'll have a ball park (or Ball Park) hot dog even if I've already had a fastfood that season. Although I rarely yell at the umpire, I will often have uncharitable thoughts. Second guessing the manager is even more fun, and, of course the pitcher's ballet is endlessly intriguing. But, as I hinted above, I am fascinated by fielding. Although I know there's plenty of subtlety in pitching and catching, the feats of the fielders seem almost superhuman to me. Yes, I can toss a truffle across an office with accuracy and aplomb. But a Duck (or maybe a Bluefish) playing first base stuck his glove out, by apparent reflex, and caught a batted ball that I'm sure was going around 100 miles/hour. Balls that went over a hundred feet in the air on what was a pretty windy day routinely landed in the gloves of the outfielders. They often have to catch balls on the run without even looking at them. (To give him some credit, when catching a truffle Tony does make facile use of his swivel chair.)
Fielding ground balls is another surprising skill, given that the ground is uneven and the balls swerve a little and bounce a lot. Yet the Bluefish (and the Ducks) make short work of grabbing grounders and throwing them to where their teammates are likely to be when the ball gets there. And the distance and accuracy of the outfielders' throws are often astounding. I suppose if you're a big fan with a season ticket to a major league ballpark, you might have seen it almost-all. But I, an episodic fan, have seen it hardly-any, and retain my sense of wonder at the skill of the fielders.
The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball
As I mentioned, I am by tradition and a bit of practice a Yankee fan. I just read an article about how much it costs to attend a Yankee game. $100 per person, roughly. But at least it's inconvenient and the traffic is horrible. The game in Bridgeport, CT, had cheap parking, inexpensive yet excellent seats, and the same lovely weather as in nearby The Bronx. Not just the Bluefish and Ducks, but Blue Crabs, Riversharks, and Bears, color unmentioned for the last two, are among the members of what appears to be this alternative League. How can one fail to appreciate an association where all the specified colors are blue and parking requires no mortgage loan?
*Don't get me started on the notion of having or needing a "national passtime." I would give a lot for the privilege of being bored for as much as an hour. No nation, least of all the United States, needs a passtime.