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20 Days

Continuing to put winter on the clock.

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It is a game often associated with its leisurely pace, one defined as much by inaction as action. That reputation, particularly in a country that worships at the altar of a sport that crams 10 minutes of action into a 3 1/2 hour multimedia marketing extravaganza, is ill-earned. Still for a sport that Walt Whitman termed "the hurrah game of the republic", time and the shifting sands of culture have left baseball with a reputation as Your Dad's Favorite Game, and it's very uncool to like the same things as dads.


Chase Utley

All it takes is a throw six inches too far to your right. The two of you have practiced the play tens of thousands of times, separately and together.The grounder comes to short, you race to the bag, plant your left foot on the very outside corner of 2nd, and in one swift motion you receive, throw, and let that natural movement and the glory of physics carry your body to safety.

But always you're aware of those six inches. The grounder could take a strange hop, or a rain shower an hour before first pitch could slow the ball down slightly. The shortstop may reach into his glove, action beyond thinking, but the ball might elude him on his first foray into the leather. The currency of turning two is microseconds, and those events could cost you both dearly. Then in a rush the ball comes to you, harder than it should and, again, too far right. You would have to stab across your body's momentum to reach for it, and everything is off now. You will find yourself stopped at 2nd, your target and your doom 180 degrees behind you.

The runner is fast, first of all. Almost all baseball players are frightfully fast, and the sport demands the ability to accelerate quickly. Not only that but he's shockingly big. 220 lbs of muscle that, just like you, has dedicated his life to making his body a vehicle to fulfill childhood dreams, and amass unimaginable wealth. In addition he is the teammate of the guy who hit that grounder, and 23 more players in the dugout.

The sport has a 125 year history and code that honors the sacrifice of self, and it's married to similarly aged rules that nebulously define what the runner is allowed to do to you when he gets to 2nd. This mass of intent with spikes at its tip is charging at your back at about 20 MPH, and in less than 1/2 a second your career, along with your body, could be shattered. This is every day, and every time you turn two, from now until time and age move you, inevitably, to a position that demands less athleticism.

But today the hops are true, and the delivery is perfect. Your arms act in concert, deftly transferring the ball from the glove to your throwing hand, your upper body works like a well designed, upside down trebuchet, and now it's the runner's turn to wince as the ball hisses inches from his bare face. He slides in the "neighborhood" of the base, but you're long gone, your follow through gracefully carrying you out of any harm. Two outs, and a smile.

If you love it, it's never boring. And it is coming.

20 days...