Everyone who practices a sport thinks that sport is the best game around. But we baseball lovers know that those who do not play baseball are plain wrong as baseball is the best sport in the world.
As a kid I was raised with soccer. Nevertheless, I had a bit of interest in baseball when it was broadcasted on TV. Mostly with games of the Dutch national team during European Championships. Even though I had a soft spot for the game, it took until 1986 before I attended my first baseball game. From that moment on I was sold. It was even that bad when my father asked me the next week whether I wanted to go to a game of Ajax Amsterdam or to a baseball game, I opted for the baseball game.
In 1988, I started playing softball with the club I attended my first baseball game at. I started playing softball mainly because I thought I was too old to start playing baseball. But eventually, in 1992 I turned to playing baseball and I regretted it a lot that I had not started sooner.
But what makes baseball the greatest game on earth? It all starts with the nature of the game. It is one of the few games that is not played by the hour. So watching a game on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon or on a summer night is not limited to two or three hours. It is so laidback. With a bit of luck, a game will last four hours. There is a tiny disadvantage of playing long games like that in the Netherlands. When a game turns to extra innings, it will end after twelve, even if the score is still tight. But since we do not have a huge pitching staff like in MLB, those twelve innings are understandable.
Another thing that makes it a great sport is sitting in the stands with like-minded fans. You chat a bit with complete strangers. The smell of burgers and hot dogs. I remember a game at the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2012. I sat next to a guy whom I got into a conversation with. He thought it was fantastic that I was from the Netherlands and loved baseball, the US national sport.
Unlike soccer, you can have a chat with a fan from the opponent about whether a player was save or out or whether a pitch was a strike or a ball. Sure there is some rivalry but there is never animosity. After the game, you can have a beer with the opponent, all in good fun.
How about the tactics of the game? People who don’t like baseball say it is a boring sport. I guess we all know that they say it because they don’t understand the rules. Yup, baseball is an intelligent sport. I love to see National League baseball when a manager needs to make a move but also has to think about if he will let his pitcher hit or whether he will replace him by a pinch hitter.
Then the history of the game. You may wonder if there is one other sport that registers its history like baseball does. And with that, I do not only mean Major League Baseball but also Minor League Baseball. Baseball is played in the Netherlands since 1908 or so and the first official competition was played in 1921. Sure the history of Dutch baseball is not as vast as in the USA but still, we have quite a bit of history. Not everyone likes to read about baseball history but since I am a history nut in general, I love to read stories about Ty Cobb,Babe Ruth, and their contemporaries but also about Roel de Mon, Sparta, and AHC Quick, (just to name a few) which are major names in Dutch baseball history.
But reading (and writing) about baseball is nice, but there is nothing better than to play the game itself. I bet you have all pressed your mitt to your face once or twice. Due to an injury, I was forced to stop playing baseball but even after thirteen years, I can still smell the scent of my glove. The scratching sound of your cleats when you walk on the pavement from the dressing room to the field. It is the omen of another great afternoon (or morning, depending on the level you play at) of baseball. The sight of the green pastures of the playing field.
The thrill when you hit the ball away for a base hit or extra bases. Or the excitement when you make a great defensive play. I remember a game in which everything went my way. I hit well, which did not happen that often, I made a couple of incredible catches in left field. After the game I felt great already but when I walked to the clubhouse from the locker rooms, my coach was talking with the coach of the opponent who said “that left fielder of yours was very good.” You can imagine that great fealing even got better and I had a huge grin on my face.
Legging out a single, stretching a single into a double; priceless. The direct duel between the pitcher and the batter. The communication between the battery mates.
When you walk around on a sports facility at the end of March or the start of April and you hear the crack of the bats, the thumping sounds of baseballs hitting the gloves, you know spring and eventually summer is coming. In other words, baseball is the herald of better days to come after a long cold, and dark winter.
As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t matter at which level you play. The fact that you can play, hit, field, run, and have fun makes baseball the best game in the world. Prove me wrong. 😉