As a boy growing up in a Connecticut suburb of New York City, nothing mattered more to me than baseball. My father, my brother Bob, my grandfather, my uncle, my other brothers — all of us passionate about America’s pastime. Perhaps before I was swayed by those passions that emerged and strengthened as I grew older, like girls, music and photography, nothing mattered more than the New York Mets, my little league and Babe Ruth baseball teams, and the neighborhood whiffle ball championships that provided our neighborhood with competitiveness that often defines desire to strive to succeed. Rooting for the Mets, I was an outcast among the dominating Yankee fans. I believed. And I still dreamed.
As the years passed, dreams of baseball faded: the great baseball strike of 1981; the era of Steinbrenner buying championships; the sad cancellation of the 1994 World Series— the result of yet another player strike—to me baseball was no longer America’s pastime. It had turned into big business—business built on and profited from the dreams of young American boys. The bad taste in my mouth from these events still lingers. Where there was once a day I knew every player on every team, and could quote world records for every baseball milestone, the thrill and passion of baseball never returned.
Sure, I love to watch a good game of baseball. And I’m always drawn to an exciting World Series. But Baseball has never been the same for me since those early days of my childhood. And this is sad.
This year’s postseason of baseball captured my attention now and again. Secretly, I hoped the Tigers would have made it to the series. Not because I like the Tigers or have ever liked the Tigers, but with an economy stalling and a city once home to the world’s largest company, I felt that Detroit deserved hope.
This year’s series has been spectacular, from a pure baseball — the game — point of view. Any time any world championship goes down to the line, and where underdogs upset, it’s exciting. Though I must admit, I didn’t care which team won, I do like a good game.
Tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals capped an amazing season what could only be called a miracle, to the chagrin and tearing eyes of the Texas Rangers, and won the 2011 World Series — the 11th time in their long history. I congratulate the team and tip my hat to the city — which perhaps deserves hope as much as Detroit.
Yet, what inspired me to write about this tonight is a great story of passion, perseverance and hope. While the high paying recruits and headline grabbing players certainly played great ball and contributed to a fantastic win for the Cardinals, it was a local boy that really captured me and my imagination: David Freese. As a young boy who grew up in the shadows of the St. Louis ballpark, and always a good player, he gave up on the game several years ago because he’d lost the passion. He gave up on a baseball scholarship and began to pursue other interests.
It didn’t take long, but Freese returned to baseball—because he did miss playing the game.
Wow! He sure played the game of baseball this year — especially in the post season — like nobody else. He lived the dream. Playing for the team that he rooted for since he was a little kid. Tonight he walked away with the MVP award for the 2011 World Series. In many ways Freese was an underdog, perhaps overshadowed by bigger names on the ball club. But he’s a local boy — doing what he loves—because he loves the game—not because it’s what he’s paid to do.
Watching Freese accept his MVP award tonight was a humbling moment to watch. And for a moment, I stepped back in time and relived, albeit briefly, the ideal and the reason why I loved baseball—once America’s greatest pastime.
Congratulations David, you’re the man!
Catching up on old emails while here in San Fran….. Baseball remains Americas Pastime. And you answered why it remains so with your acknowledgment of David Freese’s World Series heroics. Baseball today is littered with colorful stories of players who overcame adversities (ie, Josh Hamilton) and the like, or not, to become role models or hero’s of sort or just plain outstanding ball players… AK let the growing pains of evolution of the business side of baseball interfere with his love of the game. And that was easy to do back then if one got caught up in the press and all that. (Remember to reread the July 6, 2011 post here at Digital Tavern- Everything Must Change > 20 Reasons Why Change Is Good.) The people that truly loved the game didn’t stop loving and appreciating what goes on ‘between the lines’ because of an owners antics or the players striking after years of getting hosed by those same owners. Sure, it put a bad taste in many a peoples mouth at the time, even yours truly. MLB was tarnished for a while, but now it’s time to come out of the Bitter Barn and play. Every generation thinks there’s was better, so I hear. Sure, nowadays baseball isn’t the only game in town. But, the baseball that you remember, that is, what’s going on between the lines is pretty much the same game. And that’s the only thing that matters.