For the Love of the Game

I come from a family of people who love baseball. My grandfather is a good Italian boy from the Bronx, and so baseball was a huge part of his youth. He passed that love down to my father (and my mom), and so I grew up watching the Yankees.

Disclaimer: yes, I am a Yankees fan. I am from a family in New York and New Jersey, and there is nothing I can do about that. I am also a Rangers fan, and most recently an Astros fan (poor Disastros…) If you can’t stomach the idea of someone being a Yankees fan regardless of whether they win or lose, or whether A-Rod is a giant overpaid dud or Jeter is a class act, then this isn’t the post for you. I’m very sorry. (I’m not.)

Some of my most vivid memories as a child revolve around baseball, from going to the Rangers games every 4th of July to watching my little brother’s games in Little League.

We often went to Trenton Thunder games when I still lived in New Jersey (The Thunder is a AA Yankees farm team). At one game, when I was there with my brother, my dad, and my grandfather, we’d managed to convince someone to get a giant, leg-sized Coke to share. Then we all stood up for the National Anthem. Then we sat down. My grandfather did not remember setting the giant, leg-sized Coke on the seat when he stood up. He remembered only after he sat on it, flattening it spectacularly, and getting everyone on our bench rather successfully soggy and sticky.

At another Rangers game, one night when they were playing the Yankees, my father brought a broom and wore his Yankees jersey (My father occasionally is dubious on his levels of common sense). He intended to swing his broom around, yelling about a sweep, because the Yankees had won the first 2 of 3 games in that series. Instead, the Rangers won, and my mom made him sweep up peanuts.

My own attempts to play ball ended rather dramatically – my first practice in softball as a 4th grader I got hit in the face twice and hit in the back once, and I never went back. Other than enjoying a good game of catch in the back yard, I have no interest in actually PLAYING Baseball – but I still love it. I love watching it, even on TV (though I’d much rather be at the game). I love reading about it, following trades and keeping up with obscure stats (though I still don’t understand all the nuances, but I’m not sure ANYONE really does…).

The most recent thing coming out of baseball makes me sad though – my Astros are going to be forced to move from the National League (Central) to the American League (West). On one hand, this means little more than they’ll be the Rangers punching bag instead of the Cardinals punching bag for awhile. On the other hand, this means designated hitters.

It seems like such a little thing. In the National League, pitchers must bat like every other player. In the American League, there are players – Designated Hitters – who are there specifically to bat in the Pitcher’s spot in the lineup.

That said, there’s something endearing about the pitchers who really do put it all out there, swing for the fences, and run the bases with the rest of their team. They’re willing to contribute to their own cause, as it were.

As well, the designated hitter is, essentially, a one trick pony. The only thing a DH does is hit – he doesn’t have to be competent in a fielding position. (Same for the pitcher, but a pitcher is such a key part of a game that they still are essential parts of the team.) You also end up with a pretty significant change in stats and things like run generation, as pitchers aren’t generally known for being stellar at the plate. It also changes the pitching strategy, as you don’t have to worry about a tired pitcher at the plate in your lineup.

Still, all that aside, I just really like having pitchers swing the bat. It’s just… part of what I expect from my Astros. Even if I call them the disAstros. Because really, they’re absolutely terrible.

I’ll still be an Astros fan, if and when they move to the AL. And I’ll still be a Yankees fan, even if they don’t make their pitchers bat. But it’s one of those little things that I’ve come to expect as a Houston Astros fan that I wish they’d make part of ALL baseball.

You know, like peanuts and beer. And cola the size of your leg.