To help get me through a tougher than usual winter and the long drought of “life without baseball” between the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention and college baseball season, my wife Sharon ordered some baseball documentaries-“When It Was A Game”- through Netflix.
While enjoying these classic DVD’s featuring strong, skilled baseball men wearing wool uniforms and playing the game with pride and enthusiasm, I tried to put my finger on what was so different about the baseball experience of today and way the players of “yesteryear” played the game. I noticed many differences. The stadiums were filled with men smoking cigars and wearing hats, suits and ties. The playing surfaces looked rough and the grass was stressed and worn (did ground crews exist in the 40’s?). The infielders actually left their gloves on the field at the end of the inning…they just tossed them out on the outfield after the third out!
Maybe it’s just me, but they looked like they had more fun. Many major league players were paid so poorly that they worked during the off season or went on “barn storming” tours around the nation playing “pick up” games in towns without a major league team; but yet, they had fun. They ran the bases as if their pants were on fire. The way they ran the bases reminds me of something I heard my mentor Ron Polk say many years ago, “Gentlemen, run the bases with reckless abandon under control.” Their hitting and pitching mechanics, in most cases, weren’t nearly as “pretty” as the modern player, but hitters seemed to hit for higher averages and pitchers logged many more innings than today’s players. They just seemed to be having so much dog gone fun!
Today’s players are bigger, stronger, have more comfortable uniforms, better equipment and smoother hitting and pitching mechanics; they hit the ball further more often and pitchers throw harder. Modern players run faster, but there is a different pace and energy these days.
This particular issue of Inside Pitch is designed to help the player, coach and all baseball enthusiasts create new memories. This is an age of wonderful opportunities to enhance the game. Digital instruction, better playing conditions, greater exposure and improved training techniques are available to almost every serious coach and player.
My personal challenge to coaches, players, and fans is simple: have more fun when you show up at the ball park. Soak in the sun, smell the grass, the glove leather and the popcorn. Be the best teammate, coach and fan that you can be. For the players reading this: coaches, fans and scouts want to see energy, effort and enthusiasm. Compete, smile and enjoy the game more than you’ve ever enjoyed it before.