Today is Valentine's Day, and I don't think I know anyone who actually likes it. That doesn't mean those people don't exist, I'm sure that they do. Life's rich pageant is not complete without humans dotting the full range of the spectrum of taste. But for my wife and I, and the majority of our friends, and seemingly all people between the ages of 18-50 or so, the commercialized feel of taking "One Day" for romance is something we have rejected almost whole hog.
But the idea of Valentine's Day is one I can still get behind. Life's ever rushing current can be such that we find the mutually beneficial aspect of appreciating the things we love to be difficult. So setting aside a time, regularly, monthly, or even annually to the expression of care and love is something I actually think is good, and worthwhile.
I will be very honest, this offseason has left me exhausted. I already hated the offseason before I ran a baseball website, but the yawning emptiness of Fall and Winter have left me very tired. Had it not been for, truly, the best staff any editor could ask for I'm sure I would have simply collapsed on myself months ago. But we are now here, less than a week from when we can start to write again about the game, and look forward in earnest, rather than simply try to fill our idle days with whatever silly idea presents itself.
I love that we are so close, and I love baseball. More than anything else about Lookout Landing, the best part is being around and among so many people that love the game, because the game is why I'm here, and why I'll always write about baseball, in one form or another. So if you'll excuse the indulgence (which I grant you this entire series had been largely self-indulgent up until this point) here are a few things about the game that I love, in no particular order:
- When you dive for a ball in the outfield, fully outstreched at top speed, feel the ball hit the pocket of your glove, know still air born you've done something great, then sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide across the outfield grass, a natural expression of joy built into the very thing you're celebrating.
- Brendan Ryan fielding a ground ball deep in the hole, and the deft transfer of weight and ball that looks effortless but was honed over a lifetime.
- Watching a decade of Ichiro, possibly the most unique superstar in baseball over the past 50 years, dominate the sport by hitting weak flares, and choppers up the middle.
- A good, clean tag; inches from safe, but still out. The fielder points his glove to whoever threw the ball, and whips the ball around the horn.
- It is so, so, so, very hard. Throwing the baseball 100 MPH requires diligence of work ethic and the knowledge that every pitch could be your last. Likewise those pitches are incredibly difficult to hit, and demand eye-hand coordination and mental toughness higher than any sport I know. Baseball gets celebrated as a kid's game, but at its highest level it has been turned into one of the greatest spectacles of humanity's physical potential.
- Felix's roar, and the Court echoing his triumph. That this relationship exists between player and city, during a time when the team has been one of the most frustrating experiences in professional sports, is a testament to that, although so much of this is all very well dressed marketing and commercialism, there is something more. Something better.
- The knuckleball. I can think of nothing else in sports that contains one rogue element so completely unlike anything else in the game, and one so rarely used.
- Playing catch, the simplest, and perhaps most singular experience in the history of American childhood.
- The homerun, the greatest feat in the game, again a unique and iconic spectacle in sports. The player wins by literally going beyond what the game is designed to be.
- The stats, and all the stupid arguments that go along with them. As frustrating as the culture clashes and generational gaps that go along with attempting to compare players across decades, or discuss FIP with your Uncle Frank, the very act of its frustration, that so many people care about what all these men do in a silly game, and have so many opinions about which ones did it best, is in itself something I enjoy very much.
- More than anything, the perfect swing, and the tactile feedback of hitting a sphere with a rounded stick so well that every sensation in your body instantly tells you you've done something great, something worth admiring. Then remembering to bust your ass down the line, digging for three, belly flopping on to the bag, and popping up, taking a deep breath, and smiling.