Monday, January 23, 2012

The Little Things We Love About Baseball

It's been a long winter already, with still two more months to go until the real games get started. And boy howdy, we're bummed out about it.

The notion that we'll spend another month talking in negative terms - what the Jays haven't done, who they haven't signed and what they won't achieve next year - is enough to make us barricade ourselves in the basement under a pile a pillows and stuffed animals, waiting for warmth of the spring to come rouse us back to a happy place.

In the midst of this pity party, we noticed a handful of fine baseball-loving folks feeding their sunnier thoughts about the game into Twitter yesterday, under the #WhyILoveBaseball hashtag. Those cheerful notions made us reflect on the little things that we love about the game, and what we look forward to seeing soon. We've collected a few off the top of our head to share with you.

Gappers: This isn't to diminish how awesome it is to see players smack-a-tater, but there's something sublime about the mounting excitement that builds when a well-hit ball gets into the outfield gap. It takes an extra second or two to figure out if any of the outfielders have any sort of play on the ball ("That ball's gonna get down!") and then the fun starts ("And it's gonna get to the wall!") If there are runners on, you've got motion around the diamond and players scoring and guys taking extra bags and cut-off throws and sliding plays at the bases. How much fun is that?

Lefty Pick Off Moves: We grew up watching Jimmy Key confound runners who attempted to distinguish between his move to first base and his move home, and there are few plays that we enjoy more than a well-executed pick off. (Skip to 1:26 of this video, from Key's induction into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, to see Otis Nixon get got by a quick and deceiving move to first.) Conversely, nothing is quite so infuriating as to watch your own runner be picked off or lean back to the base unnecessarily. It's always a little disappointing these days to see the number of lefties who don't tend this skill, and who do little more than monitor the runner and chase him back with a soft toss.

The Number 42: We always find it a little weird when watching another sport and seeing someone wearing Jackie Robinson's number. But during the baseball season, we always like whenever a camera shot wanders over towards the retired numbers in the ballpark and finds number 42 among the local squad's honourees. It's seems to us to be a good and fitting tribute to the man, and a reminder of what to us is baseball's greatest shame.

Players Acting as Impromptu Base Coaches: Occasionally, you'll catch either the runner coming around third waving the runner behind him in to score. More often, a runner who's already crossed the plate looks back and signals to the runners behind him when and where to slide. Sometimes, a committee comprised of runners and on-deck batters gather to provide voluminous feedback to the baserunners. And sometimes the "hands-up, stand-up" signal morphs perfectly into a congratulatory high five.

Uniforms and Flair: If you've read our blog for any amount of time, you've probably picked up on how much we love baseball uniforms. The different permutations and the peculiar, one-day one-offs that pop up throughout the season are fun to see. But we also love seeing the multitude of ways that players make the uniforms their own: Wristbands, armbands, high socks, baggy pants, long sleeves, eye black, shades on, shades off, flip-downs, flat brim, taped wrists, shin guard, pine tar stains, double ear-flaps, mutli-coloured cleats and Franklin batting gloves. Just to name a few. They might not always be what we'd wear on the field of play, but the way a player dresses up his uniform always helps to differentiate him from every other player. It's always nice to see some personality out there.

Inning Ending Strikeouts: Especially as games reach their later stages, and the outs become more important (meaningful?), having your pitcher get the better of the batter is great fun. Whether if it comes from extracting a swing at something nasty or freezing the batter with an unexpected breaking ball in the zone, nothing elicits a fist pump quite like a K to end a frame. (Bonus points for the strikeouts that come accompanied by the pitcher hopping off the mound.)

That's our list, and we feel a little bit better just having shared it. How about you? What warms your baseball heart on these cold winter nights?


Minor Leaguer said...

Walk-off hits at home.
The Seventh Inning Stretch.
Kids with their gloves at the ballpark.
Beer in one hand, pencil in the other with a score card on my lap on a summer's day with the Dome peeled back.
Infield singles.
Stolen bases.
The Wave (I know I may be alone on that lsat one).

Dave said...

Beating the crap out of the AL Central for the first 15 games of the year, looking at that 9-6 record and extrapolating that out to a 95+ win season.

Ignorance is bliss before reality sets in.

Ottawa_Jays said...

Outfield assists
10+ pitch at-bats
When you say, "here comes a homer," and the next pitch ends up in the bullpen

Darrell said...

Watching the pitcher's delivery and the shape of the pitch. Calling balls and strikes in my mind. The fact that every single pitch has a definable outcome, and it's always a surprise. If even just a small one.

The Ack said...

Snap throws.

sporkless said...

A really slow guy getting credit for a stolen base on the back end of a double steal.
A pitcher coming to bat in an American League game, because either the game has gone on forever and/or the manager has risked bringing his DH in to field.
Beating the Red Sox at the Dome. Don't care how, when, whatever score - it's always awesome.
Curtain calls. (And the underlying event that deserved the curtain call.)
Balks that occur due to comical reasons, e.g. pitcher falling off the mound, dropping the ball.
I know it's not cool to like them, but I love a beanball war and bench clearing incidents. Love the intensity.

Tony said...

Sitting in my usual seats at the local ballpark, scarfing down a burger while they play "Boys of Summer" over the stadium speakers.

Anonymous said...

Playing John Fogerty's "Centerfield" on Opening Day.

tincanman2010 said...

Like Darrell, it's pitching for me. I love it when a pitcher knows he's got the stuff to get batters out today, he works briskly, in sync with catcher, no nibbling at corners. He doesn't have to be overpowering with double-digit strikeouts; but he is in control and both teams know it.

Bam_86 said...

Getting to the ballpark early enough to catch BP. Which is often difficult if you live way outside of Toronto.

Spiggy said...

When there's a delay in the game and a baserunner just stands around chatting with the infielders, because it's so transparently just laundry.

Deere5800 said...

I'll add to the pitcher thing. When your pitcher goes to another ball park and shuts the team, and their fans, up. Something about it when you can just tell that the home fans know their team doesn't have a chance

Eddie said...

Waiting to hear Jerry or Alan praise Travis Sniders' thighs - "Just look at them! That boy could be a farmer!"

dbenson1399 said...

Greg Zaun's between inning instructional sessions - when they give you those great stats ... he hits 328 when he faces left handed batters on Tuesdays who's last name start with Q. - Brett Lawrie's celebrations - when one of the boys hits the ball so hard and long that you just go "wow" and you rewind the replay 4 or 5 times and just watch the ball get crushed - diving infield snags where they throw the guy out while on their knees - when the camera pans to the super hot chick in the crowd :-)

Anonymous said...

This blog looks crazy now.

CaptainLatte said...

Yunel Escobar long tossing a couple of feet from my seat ... Adam Lind rocking back and forth during the anthem ... Papi Walton walking out with the day's SP ... catching up on gossip with the ushers.

Anonymous said...

-watching This Week in Baseball on the Jumbotron
-groups of attractive girls watching the game and knowing exactly what's going on
-seeing all the ballpark workers you haven't seen since the last fall and saying hi
-watching batting practice with my dad

Raymond said...

A real nasty slider, since I grew up with a notable disability to hit the breaking stuff.
It warms my heart to see major league hitters freeze and vaporlock and take it for strike three, chase down and away, or end up running to first holding the shattered remains of a bat. Priceless!

Ian - BJH said...

Brandon Morrow's delivery ... it's a thing of beauty.

julie~ said...

Listening to a ball game on the radio, hearing Jerry call the game while I drive home down the Gardiner.

That first warm spring day, when the ball game is on tv, the sun is actually warming up your house, and you can open the windows and let the warm breeze in, and you just *know* summer is on the way.....and along with it a whole bunch of baseball!

Going to the game with someone who doesn't really know baseball, and getting to explain all the silly little rules that make the game so amazing.

Baseball party invitations said...

Thanks for blogging this! It is really beautiful!

J. B. Rainsberger said...

The 9-3 putout.

A two-seamer that nips the inside corner.

Holding the batter to a single on a ball off the wall.

FIVE INFIELDERS!!!!111!11!!11!

Scoreless after 13 innings in 3 hours and 8 minutes.

Chill said...

-The anticipation of the first pitch.
-Our pitcher creating toothpicks out of previously perfect bats.
-Their hitters shaking their heads while they shuffle back to the dugout.
-The backhand flip from the glove to start a double play.
-Bautista staring down the opposing pitcher after a pitch that's high and tight...and taking the next one into the 2nd deck.
-My 8 year old excited A-Rod was held hitless, even though the Jays lost.

...when do pitchers and catchers report...?

Mike said...

Hoping you might witness a no-hitter when the pitcher has kept them hitless after 5

Hoping that you might be at the longest game ever when it goes into the 14th inning

Hoping that at some point, when the foul ball comes your way, you will make a diving grab that will be noticed by the players :)