News and Tribune

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April 17, 2013

HUNTER: Baseball still America’s pastime

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Baseball — I have heard all of the talk about the NFL, college football, March Madness and the NBA being the new pastimes of the United States when it comes to sports, and maybe they are.

But America’s true pastime with regards to sports is baseball.

I believe that because it is so intertwined with our history — our U.S. history.

Major league baseball is something that we talk about regularly in U.S. history class because it is so much a part of Americana.

How can you talk about the 1920’s without speaking of Babe Ruth? Or the 1940’s and 50’s without Jackie Robinson? Or the 1960’s and 70’s without talking about how our culture was changing?

But baseball stayed the same — minus the longer hair. It was the only pro sport for many years in this country, and it is one of the few sports that hasn’t changed greatly through the years. Besides, what other sport can you sit at the knee of your grandfather in the United States and watch the same game he grew up with?

With regards to baseball, you don’t have to be some super human athlete to be a good player.

Sure, you have to have great hand-eye coordination, but baseball is a sport that seems more feasible for more people to play at any level.

Tall or short, big or little, a little husky or skinny — when it comes to baseball, it is you vs. the pitcher when you are hitting.

It is the pitcher vs. the hitter. It is being able to field a routine ground ball or fly ball. It is all things anyone who plays up to the high school level should be able to do.

It is a sport played outside, usually in the sunny spring where people are glad to be able to get outside after a cold winter here in Southern Indiana. Plus it is a sport that is passed from grandparent to parent to child and on and on.

It’s a sport that when playing in your yard, you can use tennis rackets and tennis balls because you can actually hit that ball farther and maybe you don’t use a tennis racket, you use a bat instead, or you can play hot box (two bases a few feet apart with two defensive players and a runner).

Isn’t it funny that you can’t get a child to clean up his room, but he will run from base to base in hot box for hours?

It’s a sport that you can play catch with a friend or family member and when you get tired of just pitch and catch, you start to throw ground balls to each other or fly balls or balls that you have to dive and catch.

It’s a sport where — I guess they still do this — collect the sports cards of your favorite players and I loved the cheap gum that came in the packs.

It’s a sport that two people who may or may not have much in common can bond on whether they like the Cincinnati Reds or the New York Yankees or the Chicago Cubs.

Last Saturday, Silver Creek Little League in Sellersburg had its opening day parade in the morning, followed by the announcing of the teams at the Little League field.

Many other communities do this. But I, as a history teacher, cannot help to think about how this tradition continues from year to year to generation to generation.

In many other countries, they rarely have parades like this, and some only have military parades. But in America, we have little kids dressed in their uniforms excited to play the game of baseball riding in floats, throwing candy out to anyone who can catch it and fill their plastic bag to the top.

You want excitement?

Go to one of these parades and see the children excited, but more importantly see the fathers and mothers excited because they are reliving their own childhoods knowing they are passing on something other than a new iPhone or iPod.

See the grandparents who understand the game of baseball because they played the same game 50 years ago and can connect with a generation that is so different from their own.

There has been no 3-point line added, no rules to protect quarterbacks, no sport from Europe influencing it, and no different interpretations of the rules (see fouling in basketball).

It is the same game that all generations have played. It is a thread that binds the generations together no matter what new and exciting man-made hype can create.

There will always be baseball and I can’t think of anything better than that on a warm spring day while my children are playing the same game I did.

Perry Hunter is a Henryville High School teacher and a former coach of the school’s boys’ basketball team. You can visit his blog at coachperryhunter.blogspot.com.

 

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