Happy Opening Day, 2016! The start of a new baseball season is here. My love of baseball goes back to my childhood. The experiences of playing the game still resonate with me about twenty-five years since I last played a game in high school. The diverse friendships I formed and the memories of playing catch with my dad are simply priceless. I may not follow professional baseball as much as once did, but to watch a game or two during the week, especially catching a Sunday afternoon game is relaxing and fun.
I hear that the future of the game is uncertain, and that the sport will decline. The demographics are not favorable. The largest support base is now over fifty years old, and as the older generations die out, fewer will take their place. Already, the youth leagues I once played in are becoming less popular, causing the pipeline for future players to dwindle. What will the sport look like thirty years from now if the trend continues?
So many books about baseball history I’ve read over the years all have one thing in common. The future stars were drawn to the game as young children. Baseball was considered the “National Pastime” for a reason. Every weekend and afternoon, children played the game. Neighborhood games were played in the cities and in the country. This is not true today, and the “pastime” name has been reduced to historical references to the glory days of the game. There are youth leagues, and some individuals still play the game with love and passion, but the numbers are declining.
The decline of the game is systemic for an overall issue taking place today. The average attention span is shorter, much shorter than before. Baseball is just an example of this. The need for instant gratification makes the rewarding, slow things in life less desirable. Will future generations take the time to learn something in depth, or to slow down to enjoy something basic. Standing in front of a masterpiece of art, contemplating the meaning may be a thing of the past. Instead, people may glance quickly and move on. The news channels, even the twenty-four cable news channels are sound bite machines. Politicians simply spout slogans and sentences to catch a short blip on the TV. Everything geared for exposure and PR than substance.
Spend some time and watch a game. Appreciate the strategy at play when the pitcher is facing off with a batter. So many things come into consideration. Is the batter a power hitter, or does he usually hit for contact? Does he pull the ball more often, or does the batter spray the hits all over the field? Does he hit better against right or left handed pitchers? The possibilities and strategies are endless. Baseball is a very deep and rewarding game. As in life, there are rewards that can be obtained if you search for them.
Baseball, like life, is more meaningful when taking the time to appreciate it. To rush through life will deprive experiences and diminish meaning. Take a step back and slow down sometimes. Appreciate life’s nuances and little things in the rush. Listen to the stories of others, and spend time reading and learning more. Life seems to be more sound bites than ever, so take the time to not just glance at a news burst, but read into it. Take in a game of baseball and realize that everything doesn’t need to be at breakneck speed. Now get a ball, bat, and glove and play ball.