To My Fellow Baseball Fans:
I know how some of you are feeling. McGwire. Sammy. Barry. Rocket. Now A-Rod. Next up, Ichiro or Matsui? Why not? This steroids scandal has to cover the entire racial spectrum of baseball.
Seriously though, hearing Alex Rodriguez tap dance around his confusing admission of using performance-enhancing drugs makes a part of me want to fly to the Dominican Republic, hail a car and head for the nearest sandlot where kids are playing with a stick for a bat, milk cartons for gloves and a mudrock for a ball. I did say a part of me.
It may be a little more costly than catching opening day at Kauffman Stadium, or even New Yankee for that matter, but I long for that irreplaceable joy that you and I know.
The game is no longer pure at the highest level, which means it’s probably only true in the lower rungs: In sandlots and little league parks around the Americas and Japan. The only thing true about Major League Baseball right now is Jose Canseco, and that’s a scary notion. Think about it, you can’t trust the players because they could still be loading up on human growth hormone.
You can’t fully trust the baseball writers — at least the ones who started covering the sport between 1987 (when the Bash Brothers started mashing) and 2003 (when drug testing started) — because most sat by idle, and didn’t have the moral conscious, in that time frame, to write steroids out of the game during that period.
You can’t trust the owners. They only want your money, and you can’t trust anyone who only wants you for that alone — Jose Canseco, casino operators, hookers, strippers, bankers in general, the banker on Deal or No Deal especially, Bernard Madoff, gold diggers, ex-wives in general, ex-wives of celebrities especially, Uncle Sam, etc.
The answer, for you the baseball fan, is simple. I found it in the most obscure place: a Raphael Saadiq song from 2004. He sings, “How come most grown folk/they need more help than these children do?” Even if you don’t have kids who play, go watch little league baseball. If you drive by a park and see a game, stop and watch the joy those children exude while playing.
I won’t tell you to avoid Williamsport, Pa. in August — the Little League World Series is every bit the cash-driven exploitation of children as is depicted in Slumdog Millionaire — because it’s still about the kids. I will tell you to drop by Omaha, Neb. in June. A final score might be 21-19 during a College World Series game, but it’s the best baseball atmosphere in the world.
Now, I’m not pleading with you to refrain from taking your kid to the Major League ballgame. I’ll be at more than my share this season. My team, the Royals, should be decent (crossing fingers). I’m just saying that you should consider this option first.
It might keep a few more dollars in your pocket during these tough times and it could put the smile back on your face that A-Rod just snatched away. And you won’t be able to boo. You can’t boo kids.
Anyway, I’m about to go buy The Sandlot on DVD. I love it when Smalls tricks the lifeguard into a kiss. It gets me every time.
P.S. I’d even go so far as to ask President Obama to skip out on the first MLB game of the season, and to instead throw out the first pitch at a high school game in Texas or California.