I love baseball. With its timeless, spaceless environment and apparently eternal playing field design there is even a Zen quality to it.
What I like most about the game, though, is that it offers its participants opportunities for success based on intelligence and discipline as well as pure athletic talent.
I believe it is not a coincidence that Trail dominated both baseball and hockey in this province for decades. Somehow it did not hinder hockey players’ development if they played ball all summer instead of grinding out hockey 12 months of the years. Two world championships, innumerable provincial titles, players achieving scholarships and/or professional careers, all took place while hockey was essentially just a winter sport.
Baseball teaches lessons and skills transferable to the hockey rink, and vice versa.
Then comes 2015, where the discipline and integrity of baseball has been undermined at its highest levels.
Just for starters, this was the year of the hot dog in Toronto, and I do not mean the now-considered-cancerous mystery meats that are staples at ball parks everywhere. The Blue Jays, with their preening and stirring and parrot-carrying set the worst example possible for their younger fans.
Does anybody believe Jose Bautista’s bat fling will not be emulated by kids all over the baseball world this summer – to the danger of other participants and detriment of the ethic of fair play and sportsmanship. Bautista should, quite simply, have been tossed and suspended for that hijink, and the Jays should have been excoriated at home, as they often were on the road, for their showboating ways.
That being said, MLB has hit a new low with its world series telecasts. Fox broadcasting, for some unknowable reason (most likely, however, the same disregard for integrity that is the main feature of its news channel), this year features two of the worst examples in modern baseball history within its highlighted analysis crew.
The two, Pete Rose and Alex Rodriguez, instead of hiding somewhere in the shadows from embarrassment for their misdeeds, are front and center on television, and probably being paid handsomely, in spite of the shame they have brought on themselves and the game.
Rose, celebrated for his hard-nosed (I have no problem with that bit), “Charley Hustle,” approach and supreme hitting skills, shamed himself and embarrassed the game, bringing it into disrepute by breaking the stringent and necessary rules about gambling – it is most likely he fixed games in which he either played or managed in order to overcome loser’s debt – and lied and lied about it. Being caught, he lied some more and never apologized.
Rodriguez cheated, and lied, and cheated, and lied, and threw bush league attitudes into his on and off field mix, despite possessing legendary talent and being in the presence from the start of his career of such classy and equally talented examples as Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter.
The two belong better in a cubicle in Cooperstown labelled Hall of Shame than on national television during the sport’s marquee event. It says something about the mindset of the people with the most influence on the sport that they are front and center – and it isn’t something positive.
The game is such a treasure it will likely survive the travails and travesties of 2016, but is disappointing where those with the money are taking its most visible activities.
It seems promising that going into tonight the Smokies are on a winning streak, but the next month promises, despite five of the first six games being in their home rink, to be the toughest of the season. Trail will play six games in November against the league’s three division leaders, which have amassed the same number of losses, nine, put together, as the Smoke Eaters already have on their own.
Add to that that following this home-heavy stretch (beginning Sunday afternoon against Penticton at Cominco Arena) the month finishes with six road games and it is clear that if the Smokies are going to come together and make a run at a playoff place, now is the time that endeavour must start.
Holding their own until December will be a major accomplishment. Here’s hoping.