Saturday, April 17, 2004

My Relationship With Baseball by Lisa Alcock

So much has happened in the off-season, much of it enraging, some of it depressing and some of it comical 1. My brother and a few of my friends are so mad at the sport—the sheer stupidity of the owners (Tom Hicks) and the greediness of the players—that they’ve decided to give up on baseball for good. I’ve read the same news stories my brother and friends have, yet I remain hopeful about the state of baseball. Recently I have realized that my relationship with MLB is quite similar to several of my past dating experiences with men.

Initially, I get excited about the prospects of a new baseball season. Usually in December when [Zisk staffer] Kip [Yates] and I are well into NHL season we begin to count down the days until pitchers and catchers report. In the dead of winter nothing seems more exciting than the promise of a new baseball season. My head begins to fill with thoughts of sitting at Shea with friends on warm summer evenings, beer in hand, enjoying the game. Similarly, when a prospective gentlemen (and I use that term loosely, because there have been so few to fit that definition) enters my life the first few dates are exciting and I’m filled with glee at the new prospect.

Getting back to baseball…something happens to piss me off in general, like, say the greediness of players (“Pay-Rod” comes to mind) who have no team allegiance and go to whatever team is offering them the most money; or owners who think they can buy themselves a championship. (Last I checked there were 162 games, Georgie. That and you need some lefty pitchers.) I get mad and frustrated and wonder “Why isn’t there a salary cap?” Or “Why can’t every team begin on a level monetary field?” I bitch about the Yankees to anyone who will lend a compassionate ear. Sometimes during mid-season I give baseball the cold shoulder for awhile—limit myself only to watching games on TV. But I never give up on the sport. I remain hopeful. (Or is it naivety? Am I ignoring the blaring inherent problems within baseball?)

Like baseball, I bitch about dating. I have great dates with guys, we make plans to go out again, then they cancel on me and I never hear from them again. Or I have really terrible dates where there’s no connection between me and the guy. I quit for periods, but I always come back….forever hopeful, thinking that if I just keep trying maybe I’ll meet a good one.

I agree with much of what Kip discusses in “Valentine’s Day Massacre?” [See article elsewhere in this issue.] However, I don’t think I could give up on baseball. How could I? I’ve been with it for so long; I can’t just quit cold turkey. I have many great childhood memories inextricably linked to baseball. I can’t remember exactly how old I was when my family and I started going to downtown Detroit to the corner of Michigan and Trumball to watch the Tigers. I remember being awed by Trammell and Sweet Lou’s abilities to make double play after double play seem almost effortless. I played years of softball in grade school which solidified my love and understanding of the game of baseball. I was on teams that were similar to the Bad News Bears, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t the best outfielder, but that’s not the point. Amongst other things I was learning how to get along with my fellow teammates and play as a unit. We were playing because we enjoyed softball and the competition. It was my Mom who took me to K-mart to buy my first glove (it was a Cooper) and my Dad who showed me how to oil it and break it in. I cherish the times playing catch with my dad in my backyard. He taught me how to ground worm burners and catch pop flies in the setting sun during Michigan summers.

I guess I could be jaded by my past dating experiences, and be cynical about current or future dates, but I’m not. Experience has helped me understand what I want. Just as I could be jaded and cynical about the state of baseball, I’m not. Baseball has the potential to change and build upon past mistakes. I think things will get better for the both of us.

An outsider might wonder why I still date. They may call it blind stupidity, but I call it hope. Hope that something will work out. I also have hope for the sport of baseball. Hope for a salary cap, hope for better revenue sharing and hope that there are still a few baseball players out there who really love playing the game, and are as wide-eyed about the sport as I am.

1 - I’d like to vote for my favorite couples of the season right now. For the NL: Clemens and Pettitte, and for the AL: Jeter and Pay-Rod.

By day, Lisa Alcock is a copyeditor at a legal publishing company. By night, she can usually be found at the gym, or at home watching Law & Order reruns and SportsCenter. Her dream job is to work at ESPN. It is also her dream to date Mark Mulder. The author would like to admit that she has not read the Chicago Manual of Style in its entirety. Kip Yates says of the author: “When she steps inside the white lines herself, she can also bring it!”

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