My kid was a good baseball player, and lord knows I watched a lot of little league games. One of my best memories as a kid was going to Wrigley with my dad and being so awed when I walked up the stairs and saw the field for the first time. How green the grass was and the ivy hanging on the outfield walls. The big 368 signs in the power alleys and the 400 sign in dead center. When I came up the stairs the other night, nothing had changed, all the memories came rushing back and while sitting there I realized how universal and unending the traditions of baseball really are.
Between innings, the defensive team runs (or walks) onto the field. The first baseman leisurely rolls a few balls to each infielder who in turn leisurely toss it back. The pitcher throws 5-6 leisurely warm up pitches to the catcher. The center fielder and left fielder play long catch while the right fielder and a teammate on the sideline toss it back and forth. When the pitcher finishes his warmup the catcher fires one down to the second baseman who swipes at the bag, turns and throws to the shortstop who turns and throws to the third baseman who looks at the ball and then lobs it to the pitcher who rubs it up, puts it in his glove, scrapes at the rubber, and then looks into the catcher. Not until all these actions have been completed does the batter step in and get the inning started. This was the same ritual at every game my son played in, the same at every major league game ever played, I'm sure the same at every game played back in the 1890's. (I didn't attend any games back then but I can only presume) And in the event a batter strikes out with nobody on base, the catcher will fire the ball to the third baseman who turns and tosses to the shortstop who turns and tosses to the second baseman who then gently throws back to the pitcher. Next batter. And even at the completion of every inning, the catcher will or whomever finished the play will try to roll, throw or pitch the ball and stop it on the mound making it ready for the other team to begin the routine all over again. What a game.
The beauty of this is that every player willingly participates in these traditions. It is part of the game. Win or lose, hot or cold, windy or calm, every one of these traditions is acted out every time it is required. It makes baseball a beautiful game. It's the same game my father loved, the same game I love, and the same game my son loves. A baseball game on father's day might be the most perfect way to spend the day. Except the final round of the US Open is today too.
The Cubs play the Red Sox tonight at Wrigley Field. The US Open won't be over until around 9pm CST. But you can bet I will catch at least the end of the baseball game knowing the Cubs still stink, the traditions will be honored, and my dad, rest his soul, will wonder why I am wasting my time even checking the score. Because it's baseball Dad, that's why.