Why I Love Baseball – John Murphy on Line Drives and Life Lessons

Baseball Roundtable is proud to present a guest post – for the BBRT Why I Love Baseball page – from John Michael Murphy – for whom baseball has been a combination of line drives and life lessons.

JohnMurphyLine Drives

Murphy was selected by the New York Yankees in the sixth round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Sacred Heart University (SHU) – the highest MLB draft pick in the history of the SHU baseball program.  His collegiate honors include all conference, all region, and All American awards. Murphy led the SHU Pioneers to four Northeast Conference (NEC) championship games, culminating in NEC titles in 2011 and 2012.  As senior team captain, Murphy led SHU in batting average (.367) slugging (.565), on base percentage (.442), doubles (13), home runs (4), walks (26), and stolen bases (29). Murphy also stroked plenty of line drives in the renowned Cape Cod League, where he batted .308 with four homers, 16 RBIs and six stolen bases in 104 at-bats – making the All-Star Game before a hamstring injury cut his season short.

Life Lessons

Murphy took what he learned on the baseball field to heart, and you can read about the life lessons he garnered from the national pastime in his guest post.

Murph’s Laws of Baseball (Murphslaws.com)

Murphy has now launched a website – Murph’s Laws of Baseball – dedicated to sharing what he’s learned about baseball’s line drives and life lessons.  Here’s how he describes it:

With a pro career coming to an end, I look forward to passing on the information I’ve gained over the years that have allowed me to be successful on my journey of baseball and life. Through drills, articles, and swing analyses from a professional level, I am excited to further baseball fanatics’ knowledge of the game.

Want to learn more?  Click here to visit Murphy’s site.  Want a look at how Murphy analyzes the hitting stroke?  Click here for his guest post on the Be A Better Hitter website.  Now, for a look at baseball’s life lessons, read on.

 

Why I Love Baseball – Line Drives and Life Lessons

By John Michael Murphy

 

Throughout my years of playing baseball at the Little League through professional levels, I learned many different life lessons.  Baseball has taught me about character, responsibility, work ethic, and the value of maintaining dedication to a goal. If I hadn’t played the sport I love for the last 20 years of my life, I don’t know where my life would be today.

A commitment to going about my business the right way – both on and off the field – is something I will always have with me as a result of playing this game. Being respectful to everyone on field, in the dugout, or in the crowd not only reflected my respect for the game, but also helped me form positive habits and attitudes related to how I treat those outside the game. Having respect for the world and people around us is something that is lost in today’s society. We tend to be selfish and care about things that are only beneficial to ourselves. The way we think and behave determines our character. By playing the game of baseball, I learned to behave in a respectful manner – ensuring I would not embarrass myself, my team and coaches and, most important, my family.

Baseball, particularly at the collegiate level, also taught me a lot about time management, setting priorities and following through.  Managing responsibilities and priorities in collegiate athletics is a challenging task.  Having class all morning, going to team workouts, going to practice, back to class, then finishing work and studying will force you to develop good habits. The time management skills I  developed  – going from freshman year where I struggled with the process, to senior year, where I didn’t have to think twice about where I would be at any hour of the day –  have served me well.  Being able to balance tasks and set priorities makes my everyday life easier and I have baseball to thank for that.

Baseball also taught me a lot about setting, and keeping your eyes on, important goals.  Having and sustaining the motivation necessary to reach a goal is what creates successful individuals. Baseball motivated me more than I could ever imagine. Once I was able to realize my ability, my goal setting never stopped. In high school, my goals went from making varsity to playing Division 1 baseball. Once those goals were achieved, my targets were elevated, progressing into wanting to start as a freshman in college to playing professional baseball. By setting those goals and letting nothing come between me and the process of achieving them, I allowed myself to realize that success, in any task, is achievable if your work ethic, mindset, and actions are all goal-based.

Along the ride, I have made some of the most amazing relationships. I have met and made best friends who will always be a part of my life, no matter where we end up. Meeting those coaches and players, learning how to manage my days, how to work towards goals, and how to handle myself in a professional manner are all part of who I am today – and why I love baseball.

A Reader Chimes In – Guest Post From A Fan of the National Pastime

Why I Love Baseball

We Have Passed the Baseball EquinoxBaseball engenders a child-like attachment through all stages of one’s existence. Most of us have loved baseball for as long as we have had any memories at all, and it will remain accessible to all five of our senses until our final breath. How many things can we say that about?  Not even a sunset or a beautiful wine can reveal as many new characteristics each and every day.

                                                                                                                                                                                       Tom Cuggino

 

Baseball Roundtable loves to hear from readers, especially when it’s clear their passion for the national pastime reflects BBRT’s tag line of Baseball is like life – only better.

Tom Cuggino, who provided the quote above for BBRT’s “Why I Love Baseball” page, is one of those individuals. In this post, BBRT would like to share Tom’s comments on his love for the game – and some of his favorite ballpark memories.  But first, a little background on this Tom .  Tom is in his mid-forties, a life-long baseball fan, a family man and a Financial Controller for Cisco Systems. He’s been to games at twenty of the current MLB ballparks, as well as a several of the now “lost” ballparks, including Old Comiskey, Shea Stadium, Candlestick Park, County Stadium and Jack Murphy Stadium.  Here, slightly edited (and with a BBRT comment here and there) are the comments from this welcome guest poster.

 

Baseball memories from Tom Cuggino

I’m originally from the NYC area (Yonkers/Westchester County) and my family, like many in that part of the region, saw several generations residing in the Bronx after arriving from Italy around the turn of the 20th Century.  So, my first love is the Yankees.

My family moved to Chicago when I was in grade school, and I adopted the Cubs as my National League team.  That leaves me with a most unique and blessed perspective as a fan, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

BBRT note: A perspective shaped by the Yankees, with their 40 World Series appearances and 27 World Championships on one hand – and the Cubs with just ten World Series appearances (none since 1945) and two World Championships (none since 1908) on the other.  That seems to cover all the ground between delight and disappointment.

The only book I ever read until about junior high was the Baseball Encyclopedia. I spent countless days of backyard Wiffle (R) Ball with my friends, leveraging full MLB lineups (all results were null and void without a legitimate attempt at the players’ batting stances).  I also fondly recall simulated baseball dice games that we invented – in which each roll produced a different pitch outcome – occupying us for hours on rainy days.

Some of my favorite stadium memories include:

  • Tom Seaver - who went into the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets' cap - won his 300th game with the White Sox.

    Tom Seaver – who went into the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets’ cap – won his 300th game with the White Sox.

    Tom Seaver’s 300th win at Yankee Stadium. Seaver was pitching for the visiting White Sox, and it came on Phil Rizzuto Day (8/4/85). Phil was presented with a “Holy Cow” during the pre-game ceremony, and promptly tripped over it and fell down.  I’ll also never forget how many Mets fans were on hand to cheer on Tom Terrific.  My grandfather and I sat in the upper deck by the left field foul pole and Don Baylor flied out to Ron Kittle right in front of us for the final out. Seaver pitched a complete game as a 40-year old that day.

BBRT note: The 40-year-old Seaver tossed a complete game that day, holding a tough Yankee lineup (Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey St., Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, Willie Randolph) to one run on six-hits (all singles) and one walk – while fanning seven. For trivia buffs, Seaver was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992 – being named on 98.8 percent of the ballots, the highest percentage in HOF balloting history.

 

  • Fred Lynn’s grand slam at the 50th All-Star game at the old Comiskey Park (7/6/83). It came in the third inning off a lefty, Atlee Hammaker, and remains the only grand slam in All-Star game history.

BBRT note: The AL pummeled the NL 13-3 in that contest, the league’s first ASG victory since 1971. Lynn started in CF and went one-for-three in the contest. Lynn’s third –inning grand slam (with Manny Trillo, Rod Carew and Robin Yount on base) earned him ASG MVP honors. Trivia note: Lynn is one of only two (and the first) players to win the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards in the same season (Lynn with the Red Sox in 1975, Ichiro Suzuki with the Mariners in 2001).

 

  • GoodenThe Cubs’ throttling of Dwight Gooden in their 1984 home opener, 11-2 (4/13/84). It was Gooden’s second major league start (his MLB debut had come a few days earlier in Houston), and he wore #61 (later reversed to his familiar #16). Both teams had been awful for many years, so no one could imagine the exciting summer they would both bring us that year as they rose from the ashes. While the Cubs fended off a repeat of their ’69 divisional collapse at the hands of the Mets, they famously blew the NLCS to the Padres after gaining a commanding 2-0 series lead.

BBRT note: Gooden finished the year at 17-9, 2.60 with a NL-leading 276 strikeouts (still the modern-era rookie record); winning the Rookie of the Year Award.  In that April 13th game, Gooden lasted just 3 1/3 innings, giving up six runs on seven hits and three walks. By the way, Tom’s prose led BBRT to look deeper into rookie records – to find that the all-time rookie strikeout record belongs to Matt Kilroy (513 for the 1996 Baltimore Orioles). Kilroy will be the subject for BBRT’s next post.  Thanks, Tom, for spurring that research.

 

  • Game Four of the 1980 World Series in Kansas City. Willie Mays Aikens hit two towering home runs in a losing effort.

BBRT note:  Aikens had a strong series, hitting .400, with four home runs and a triple (among eight this), eight RBI and five runs scored as the Royals lost to the Phillies in six games.

 

  •  Game Two of the 1989 World Series in Oakland. The game immediately preceded the famous Loma Prieta earthquake that delayed Game Three, and oddly (given the natural disaster) featured both of the local Bay Area (Oakland and San Francisco) teams.

BBRT note:  The 1989 World Series may hold the record for nicknames: The Bay Bridge Series; The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Series’ and the Earthquake Series. The A’s won the Series four games to none, outscoring the Giants 32-14.  Pitcher Dave Stewart, who won two games – giving up just three earned runs in 16 innings of work – was the MVP.  Ricky Henderson had nine hits (five singles, one double, two triples and one home run) and three stolen bases in the four games.

 

  • MunsonOn a sadder note, two of my earliest baseball memories were a pair of Yankee games that I attended … sandwiched within two weeks of Thurman Munson’s tragic death in 1979. Thurman was a first favorite player of mine, and was much of the reason I became a catcher for most of my baseball playing life. The first of the two games was actually his final game (8/1/79), against the White Sox in Chicago. Oddly, he played 1B that game. The second (8/13/79) was against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium, and I’ll never forget how surreal it felt to see Brad Gulden behind the plate that night.  It was of little consolation that the Yanks won both contests.

BBRT note:  In that final game, Munson came to the plate twice – he was replaced at first base by Jim Spencer in the third inning with the Yankees up 3-0 – and did not put the ball in play (walk in the first, strikeout in the third).  The following day (August 2, 1979), Munson was killed in a plane crash while practicing take offs and landings in his private jet.  Munson, just 32-years-old when he died, played eleven MLB seasons, was a seven-time All Star, AL Rookie of the Year (1970), AL MVP (1967) and a three-time Gold Glove winner (1973-74-75). A .292 career hitter, he averaged .357 in 30 post season games.  A trivia note – Munson is the only player to win both the Rookie of the Year Award and an MVP Award in a Yankee uniform. The following

BBRT says thanks to Tom – and looks forward to seeing his prose on this page again in the future.

For look at BBRT’s take on “Why I love baseball” – click here. 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

 

 

Why I Love Baseball – Guest Post by Veteran Blogger Bill Ivie

I-70Today, BBRT features a guest post in our “Why I Love Baseball” category from Bill Ivie, freelance writer, veteran baseball blogger, founder of i70baseball.com (dedicated to daily coverage of baseball in general and the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals in particular) and contributor to Bleacher Report.
Why I Love Baseball
by Bill Ivie
Baseball was a foundation of my life from a very young age.  My father used it to teach me life lessons disguised as sports practice.  He taught me a love of the game that is far beyond any connection I have felt with anything else (short of my wife and kids, obviously).
I spent countless hours taking ground balls in the back yard and on practice fields.  I was not allowed to take batting practice until I had satisfied whatever metric was my goal for the day defensively.  The ground balls were hit harder as we went along and the goal became harder to achieve.  But through hard work, perseverance and determination, I got there.  My reward was to enjoy hitting for a bit.
Sounds familiar now.  I work hard in my life.  Obstacles come, goals are set and sometimes it all seems insurmountable.  At the end of the day, if I put in the work and determination, I get the satisfaction of a goal reached.  Then I get to kick back and relax with the game.
During the offseason, it is baseball movies and documentaries.  During the season, it is the joy of the game.  Of course, there is nothing better than sitting at the park.
It is an assault on your senses.  It is the smell of the grass, roasted peanuts and hot dogs.  It is the glaring sun and the ball flying through the air.  The sound of the crowd as they discuss the game and anything else that is on their mind.  It is the crack of the bat and the sound of the ball smacking the leather of a glove.
The game of baseball, when viewed live, is America’s dinner table.  People discuss their days, talk business, talk about popular topics in the world and marvel at the drama unfolding in front of them.  The game is heartbreak and jubilation.  It is a massive let down and the overcoming of odds.  Indeed it does provide the opportunity to see something happen that has never occurred before each and every time you watch.
You see, baseball is a lot of things to a lot of people.  It is so easy to love and so hard to walk away from.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bill Ivie
Founder | I-70 Baseball
Freelance Writer | i70baseball | Bleacher Report
For more “Why I Love Baseball,” click the YILBB hot link at the top of the home page.   BBRT welcomes your guest post on this topic. Just use the “Contact” link and type your thoughts into the comments  section and I’ll format them for posting. 
 

Why I Love Baseball … Guest Post from sportswriter/author Larry LaRue

BBRT presents a guest post from journalist/author Larry LaRue.

BBRT is pleased to bring you a guest post from veteran journalist/sportswriter Larry LaRue, author of the entertaining book Major League Encounters,  a compilation of 100 vignettes over 255 pages that gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at what drives the men – and boys – who earn the rare opportunity to play our national past time  at its highest level.  (See BBRT’s review, posted August 30, for more detail.   Major League Encounters is available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.  BBRT thanks LaRue for his contribution – especially the very appropriate tale (since this is a post for BBRT’s Why I Love Baseball section) on how he witnessed the no-hitter on which the Kevin Costner’s film “For the Love of the Game” is based.

 

Why I Love Baseball

By Larry LaRue

For BaseBallRoundTable.com

I’ve loved the game my entire life and 33 years ago was given the opportunity to cover it professionally. What I learned from and about the men who play, manage and coach the game only deepened my affection for baseball.  All of us who played the game learned somewhere along the line how difficult it was to be as good as the best on our teams. It was no different in the majors.

In the spring of 1988, Ken Griffey Jr. was in camp with the Seattle Mariners and his natural ability was astonishing.  He was having a great spring until he faced Oakland’s Dave Stewart, and Stewart made him look foolish at the plate.  After a second strike out, Griffey went to hitting coach Gene Clines.

“What is that pitch?” he asked.
“That’s a split-fingered fastball,” Clines said.
“Why does he keep throwing it in the dirt?”
“Because you keep swinging at it.”

Griffey considered that, took it to heart. He committed the pitch to memory, swore he would make Stewart throw it for a strike. When the regular season opened, rookie Griffey faced veteran Stewart in the Kingdome for the Mariners home opener.  Stewart got ahead in the count, threw Junior a splittie.  Griffey hit it off the left field fence for a double.

For many of the 33 years I covered the game, I was in the press box of one ball park or another most nights all season. It was impossible not to see the physical toll a 162-game season took on the men who played it.  By the All-Star break, every pitcher was at less than 100 per cent.  So were most hitters. There are strains, aches and minor injuries that are largely ignored day after day after day.

The game isn’t played by supermen. Those who succeed, however, do so because – like all of us growing up playing once or twice a week – they love to be on a diamond.

Being around players meant appreciating their devotion to a game, and understanding it was for the most selfish of reasons. They could not imagine enjoying any thing in life more than playing baseball well.

Cal Ripken Jr. considered his consecutive games streak little more than a man showing up for work every day. He did it because he loved the game, yes, but he also did it because he felt an obligation to teammates and the franchise.  He’d signed on to play baseball. Unless there was someone on the team better than he was at what he did, the team was at its best when he played.

The more I learned about the game – and I often learned it from old-school managers like Gene Mauch and Dick Williams, who didn’t mind pointing out what I didn’t know – the better it got.

Seeing a pitcher set up a hitter in the first inning for what he might need to do late in the game, knowing what hitters looked for in certain counts … the complexity of the game was fascinating.

More than anything, though, knowing the men who played the game made watching it all the more gripping.

On May 14, 1996, I watched Dwight Gooden throw a no-hitter for a New York Yankees team he’d barely made. Starting because someone else couldn’t, he was a shell of the pitcher he’d been when he burst upon the game.

That night, however, Gooden pitched on heart and grit and the desire players never lose no matter what their ability. By the seventh inning, he had nothing left but a curveball. By the eighth inning, he’d thrown 110 pitches. In the ninth, he passed 120 pitches, then 130.  On the 135th pitch of the game, Gooden completed a no-hitter. Kevin Costner’s film, ‘For Love of the Game,’ was based on Gooden’s performance.

For Gooden that night, the game was about redemption.

Baseball has never been only about athletic ability. The drama each season provides goes beyond wins and losses and gives those who follow it comedy and melodrama, delight and torment.

The best players fail, not just at the plate or in the field, but occasionally in life. Unknowns fill in and become stars.  Bodies break down, teams that are great in May flounder in July.  The game is never scripted and as a writer, I couldn’t have created more moving stories.

I watched Nolan Ryan throw his last big-league pitch, a ball with nothing on it, and walk off the mound and the field for the final time as a pitcher.  He’d thrown a million fastballs by then, set records and left his mark, but Ryan knew his right arm. What hurt that night was, he knew, the end.

“I’ve thrown my last pitch,” he said afterward, without tears.

I consider myself fortunate to have known men like Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Bret Boone, Griffey, Fred Lynn, Ripken, Bruce Kison, Jay Buhner … and countless others who gave me their time, shared their stories.

Professionally, I’ve now covered my last baseball game.  I’ve been shifted back to news, where my career began, as a columnist.

Yes, I love the game of baseball, and the young players like Mike Trout, Kyle Seager, Chris Sales. I will miss covering the sport and the men who keep it alive.  Players like Ryan and Ripken, however, showed how to walk away with dignity that reflected well on them and their game.  No tears here.

I still love the game.

10 Reasons Why I Love Baseball

BBRT lists ten great reasons to love our great game … and invites your comments .  So, let’s get the discussion started.



1.  Baseball comes along every spring,  accompanied by sunshine and optimism.

Baseball is the harbinger of better times.  It signifies the end of winter (not a small thing if you’re from Minnesota like BBRT) and the coming of spring, a season of rebirth, new life and abundant optimism.   Each season, you start with a clean slate.   Last year’s successes can still be savored, but last year’s failures can be set aside (although rival fans may try to refresh your memory), replaced by hope and anticipation.   On Opening Day, in our hearts, we can all be in contention.

 2.  The pace of the game invites contemplation.

Between innings, between batters or pitchers, and even between pitches, baseball leaves us time to contemplate what just occurred, speculate on what might happen next and even share those thoughts with nearby spectators.  Baseball is indeed a thinking person’s game.

3.  Baseball is timeless and, ultimately, fair in the offering of opportunity.

The clock doesn’t run out.  There is no coin flip to determine who gets the ball first in sudden death overtime.  No matter what the score, your team gets its 27 outs and an equal opportunity to secure victory.  What could be more fair?   And then there is the prospect of endless “extra” innings, bonus baseball for FREE.

4.  Plays and players are distinct (in space and time).

Baseball, while a game of inches, is also a game of considerable space.   The players are not gathered along an offensive line or elbow-to-elbow under a basket. They are widely spaced, each with his own area of responsibility and each acting (as part of a continuing play) in their own time frame.  (The first baseman can’t catch the ball, for example, until after the shortstop throws it.)   This enable fans to follow, understand  and analyze each play (maybe not always accurately) in detail.   And, baseball’s distinct spacing and timing makes it possible to see the game even when you are not there.  A lot of people grinned at President Gerald Ford’s comment that he “watched a lot of baseball on the radio.”  In my view, he was spot on.  You can see baseball on the radio – you can create a “visual” of the game in your mind with minimal description.    That’s why on summer nights, in parks, backyards and garages across the country, you’ll find radios tuned to the national past time.

 5. The scorecard.

Can there be anything more satisfying than keeping an accurate scorecard at the ball park?  It serves so many purposes.  The keeping of a scorecard ensures your attention to the happenings on the field.  Maintaining the score card also makes you, in a way understandable only to fellow fans, more a part of the game.   That magical combination of names, numbers and symbols also enables you to go back and check the progress of the game at any time.  “Oh, Johnson’s up next.  He’s walked and grounded out twice.”  It’s also a conversation starter, when the fan in the row behind you asks, “How many strikeouts does Ryan have today?”   And, it leaves you (if you choose to keep it) with a permanent record of the game, allowing you to replay it in your mind (or share it with others) at will.  Ultimately, a well-kept score card enhances the game experience and offers a true post-game sense of accomplishment.

6.  The long season.

Baseball, so many have pointed out, is a marathon rather than a sprint.  It’s a long season with ample opportunity to prove yourself and lots of chances to redeem yourself.  For fans, the long season also represents a test of your passion for the game.  Endurance is part of the nature of the true baseball fan.  And, and in the end, the rigors of a 162-game season prove your mettle and that of your team.   Not only that, but like a true friend … baseball is there for you every day.

 7.  Baseball invites, encourages, even demands , conversation.

Reason number two hinted at the importance of conversation, noting that the pace of the game offers time to contemplate the action (past and future) and share those thoughts with others.   I love that about the game, but I also love the fact that whenever baseball fans gather, their passion comes out in conversation – and they find plenty to talk about:

  •  Statistics,  statistics, statistics.  Baseball and its fans will count anything.  Did you know that Yankee Jim Bouton’s hat flew off 37 times in his 2-1, complete-game victory over the Cardinals in game three of the 1964 World Series?  More seriously, statistics are part of a common language and shared passion that bring baseball fans together in spirited conversation.  As best-selling author Pat Conroy observed “Baseball fans love numbers.  They love to swirl them around in their mouths like Bordeaux wine.”  I agree, to the fan, statistics are intoxicating.
  • Stories, stories, stories.  Baseball and its fans celebrate the game’s history.  And, I’m not talking just about statistics.  I’m talking about the stories that give this great game color, character and characters.  Ty Cobb sharpening his spikes on the dugout steps, Babe Ruth’s called shot, Louis Tiant’s wind-up, Willie Mays’ basket catch, Dock Ellis’s LSD-fueled no-hitter.
  • Trivia, trivia, trivia.  This may fall close to the “stories, stories , stories” category, but fans cherish the trivia that surrounds our national past time – whether that trivia is iconic or ironic.  For example, it’s ironic that the iconic Babe Ruth holds the best winning percentage against the Yankees of any pitcher with 15 or more decision against them (17-5, .773).

Basically, I took a long time to say I love the fact that baseball fans will talk with passion about something that happened in today’s game, yesterday’s game, over time or even in a game that took place on August 4, 1947.  And, as a bonus, all this conversation – all the statistics, stories and trivia – make the games, moments within the games and the characters of the game (heroes, goats and mere participants) as timeless as baseball itself.

 8.  The box score. 

BBRT editor’s  mother used to refer to an accordion as “an orchestra in a box.”  That’s how I view the daily box score – the symphony of a game recorded in a space one-column wide by four inches deep.   Some would say the box score reduces the game to statistics, I would say it elevates the game to history.  What do you want to know about the contest?   Who played where, when?  At bats, hits, stolen bases, strikeouts, errors, caught stealing, time, attendance, even the umpires’ names?   It’s all there and more – so much information, captured for baseball fans in a compact and orderly space.  I am, of course, dating myself here, but during baseball season, the morning newspaper, through its box scores, is a treasure trove of information for baseball fans.

 9. The irony of a team game made up of individual performances.

While baseball and baseball fans live for individual statistics and, while the spacing of the players drives individual accountability, the game is, ironically, deeply dependent on the concept of “team.”

Consider the offense.  Unlike other sports , where you can deliver victory by giving the ball or puck – time and time again (particularly as the clock runs down) –  to your best runner, skater, receiver or shooter, in baseball, your line-up determines who will be “on the spot” and at the plate when the game is on the line.  It may be your .220-hitting second basemen, rather than your .320-hitting outfielder.  Yet, even as the team depends on the hitter, he is totally alone in his individual battle with the pitcher.  And, achieving individual statistics that signify exceptional performance also demands a sense of team.  You don’t score 100 runs without a team mate to drive you in (although the statistic remains your measure of performance) …  and, you don’t drive in 100 runs if no one gets on base in front of you.   And, can you think of any other sport that keeps track of – and honors – the team-oriented “sacrifice.”

On defense, the story is the same.  A ground ball pitcher, for example, needs a good infield behind him to optimize his statistical presence in the “win” column.  And the six-four-three double play requires masterful teamwork as well as individual performance –  duly recorded in the record books as an assist for the shortstop, a putout and an assist for the second baseman and a put out for the first baseman.  Then there is the outfield assist – a perfect throw from a right fielder to nail a runner at third earns an assist – even if the third baseman drops the ball and earns an error.  Two individual results (one good / one bad) highlighted, but without the necessary team work – a good play on both ends – a negative outcome in terms of the game.

Ultimately, baseball is a game of individual accomplishments that must be connected by the thread of “team” to produce a positive outcome.

10. Baseball’s assault on the senses.  (Indoor ballparks fall a bit short here).

The sight of a blue sky and bright sun above the ballpark or a full moon over a black sky above a well-lit stadium.  The feel of the warm sun or a crisp evening breeze.  The scent of freshly mowed grass or steaming hot dogs.  The taste of cold beer and peanuts.  The sound of the crack of the bat, the cheers (or moans) of the crowd, the musical pitch of the vendors.  Baseball assaults all the senses ―  in  a good way.

Now, I could go on and on, there are lots more reasons to love this game: its combination of conformity (all infields are laid out the same) and individualism (outfield configurations not so much); its contributions to culture (literature and movies); its strategy (hit-and-run, run-and-hit, sacrifice bunts, infield / outfield positioning, pitching changes, etc.); triples; the 6-4-3 double play; knuckleballs; and more.  But to protect myself – and BBRT’s readers – I’ve limited myself to ten.   I probably could have saved a lot of time and words  had I just started with this so-perfect comment from sportscaster Bryant Gumbel, “The other sports are just sports.  Baseball is love.”  That says it all.

Do you have some reasons of your own for loving baseball?  Or something to add to these observations?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.