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Baseball is Life

November 27th, 2019 by dk

To mark our first weekend without baseball since mid-March, let us reflect on how the game reflects on us. Baseball is life — ending too soon, even for the winners. Unlike other sports, the arena of play is customized to a home team’s preference. It’s the same game everywhere, and it’s played differently in each place.

I wonder how long it will be before a tech billionaire buys a team and reconfigures the outfield shape with a dozen different angles, forcing outfielders to play a life-sized arcade game on every deep ball against the wall. Baserunners will love it when a player misjudges how a ball over his head will careen. It would be fun to watch.

Make no mistake. Baseball is mostly watching. More precisely, it’s mostly waiting and watching — loitering, but with cheering. Newscasters love baseball because the highlights are so easy to identify. Show the winning hit and the final out, and that’s enough. To call it “the whole ballgame” is to affirm how little occurs.

Baseball seldom leaves its players worse for wear at the end of the day. Except for pitchers and catchers, a day at the park for a player doesn’t differ much from a fan’s. It’s mostly standing around, waiting for something to happen, mixed with sitting around, knowing that nothing will.

I grew up watching baseball. Baseball prepared me for life. Nothing else mirrored for my young mind the vast stretches where nothing significant happens. Nobody lives their life with a 24-second clock. (Or, those who do — Amazon warehouse workers — we pity.) When a game fields two entirely different sets of players, depending on who has the ball, that’s not like life at all.

Baseball is like golf, except baseball needs a team. There’s plenty of time to guess what might happen or to complain about what just did. An ounce of action makes a pound of meaning — just add humans.

I dislike how computer databases mash baseball statistics together. It’s interesting to know that Juan Soto was the youngest player to hit three World Series homers, but do I care that he was the sixth World Series player to commit an error on his birthday, and the first since Atlanta shortstop Rafael Belliard in 1995? No.

Collective data is more revealing, because it can show a team’s character. The 2016 Chicago Cubs were rambunctious puppies, piling on runs just for fun. The 2019 Washington Nationals were cornered cats, coming from behind to win five elimination games. How many hits came with two outs and two strikes? Their character shines through.

Life isn’t settled by bar-bet arcana, but details reveal character, which determines destiny. Life is lived in the curious silence between moments which might matter, but probably won’t. The unknown outweighs the known, as it must.

Biologists explain that species evolve when big things happen, but only rarely. Equilibrium is necessary, and necessarily disrupted. Cosmologists don’t wonder why stuff exists so much as why there’s empty spaces between the stuff.

Life is filled with meaning, because there’s so very little of it. And so now, we wait. Spring will come.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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