Why Baseball Is Magic

The Following is by Leslie Branch a Featured Writer:

Why Baseball is Magic

Baseball is magic because nothing is ever as it seems. For example, let’s say you have your light-hitting (but great fielding) shortstop up at the plate. It’s 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh in favor of the other team, but the inning's lead-off batter just took a 3-1 fastball high and away for ball four. In such a close game, bunting the runner over to second is probably the safest move. However, you know that a reliever coming onto the hill to start off an inning is prone to some control problems at first; moreover, he will start fastballs right over the plate to get some strikes. A pitch to hit is probably on its way in the next two pitches, and the particular player at the plate is just money when it comes to picking up base hits in the later innings of a close game. It’s the kind of intangible that permeates the whole game: The knowledge that at any moment, something unlikely, amazing, quirky, or gritty – or all of the above – is bound to happen.

The pitch comes and sure enough it’s a fastball out over the plate. The experienced shortstop does not try to do too much with the pitch, but hits it soundly the other way into right-center field, allowing the leadoff walk to get to third. The aggressive move paid off: Now your team has runners on first and third with no outs, rather than one out and a man on second.

Everyone has their own take on an issue, their own preference with a certain guy at the plate. The person sitting next to you may have had a completely different preference, preferring to keep a cool head about things and play the numbers. He thinks a man hitting .210 is always going to lay down the bunt in that situation. The alternative to letting him swing away is a ground ball double play; then you would be left with two outs and nobody on. If we needed a run badly enough to go against the odds, at least wait until the bottom of the eighth or ninth.

You can see the point. A baseball game can have hundreds of potential circumstances on the field, let alone all of the intangibles provided by the six inches between every baseball player's ears. You could even study baseball in a college course: The rituals of the players in light of that which they cannot control or the relationship between a team and its community.

Another aspect of the magic of baseball is that the athletes are truly the best in the world. Baseball is the kind of sport where, in order to put it all together and put together a Hall of Fame career, the player must master many aspects that involve different traits. Obviously is the physical aspect of the game –durability, power, arm strength, and technique. However, there is the mental aspect of the game as well –one's baseball IQ so to speak, when to shade over to left-center field when a certain player is up to bat, how to deal with the inevitable slump or injury and come back stronger.

When a player can put skillfully put together baseball's mental aspect with rare physical gifts, it is magical to watch.


Sociology 101 (2012)
Baseball is Magic (2012)


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