The Death of Baseball

 

 

A slightly exaggerated conversation with my son, Zane, age 9.

 

Travis: Well, son, hockey season is almost over.  Travel tryouts and the Friendship tourney to go.

Zane: (while using his teeth to separate Lego pieces) Yup.

Travis: It’s been a long season.  A good season.

Zane: Yup.

Travis: On to baseball!

Zane: Nope. (building an interstellar blaster ship)

(pause)

Travis: No baseball?

Zane: I want to play lacrosse.

Travis: What’s lacrosse?

Zane: Lacrosse may have developed as early as 1100 AD among indigenous peoples in North America. By the seventeenth century, it was well-established. It was documented by Jesuit missionary priests in the territory of present-day Canada. The game has undergone many modifications since that time.

In the traditional aboriginal Canadian each team consisted of about 100 to 1,000 men on a field that stretched from about 500 meters to 3 kilometers long. These games lasted from sunup to sundown for two to three days straight. These games were played as part of ceremonial ritual, a kind of symbolic warfare, to give thanks to the Creator or Master.

Travis:  You Wikipedia all of a sudden?

Zane: I looked it up.

George Catlin's rendition of an early game.

George Catlin’s rendition of an early game.

Travis: So there’s, like, a thousand players and you play all day for three days?

Zane: No, that’s the old version.

Travis: What’s the new version?

Zane: It’s like hockey except on grass.

Travis: Why do you want to play lacrosse?

Zane: It’s like hockey except on grass and you throw the ball with a stick with a basket on it.

Travis: Sounds alien. Baseball is American!

Zane: Lacrosse was American before there was even an America.

(point to Zane)

Travis: But you loved baseball!

Zane: You love baseball.

Travis: I do!  I was an All-Star first baseman in Little League.  I stole home plate in regionals! Growing up in Texas we played baseball from February until September when football started. My first sporting memory is seeing Yaz hit a home run against the Toronto Blue Jays when I was four and then I took you to Fenway when you were four and Big Papi hit a home run to the same part of the right field bleachers and you had your first hot dog!  Don’t you remember?

Zane: It’s kind of fuzzy.  Maybe it was all the pitches I took to the head last year.

Travis: Maybe it was all the pucks you took to the face this winter.

Zane: At least I had a full helmet and chest pads and leg pads and a stick and a blocker and a glove and a cup.  In baseball they make you stand up there naked while some twelve-year old throws at your head and everyone’s yelling at you to swing so you swing and you still get hit in the ribs and you get called out on strikes at the same time.  Do you remember that pitch Isaac took to the face last spring and they had to re-attach his nose after they found it in the backstop?

Travis: Yeah.  But, hey, he got a free pass to first base and scored on two past balls and a throwing error!

Zane: Yeah.  That’s a real exciting game when all the scoring happens on errors.

Travis: But didn’t you like the sunshine and smell of the grass?

Zane: Was that when I was standing out in left field for three innings or when I was sitting on the bench for three innings?

Travis: You looked like you were having fun out there.  You were dancing.

Zane: I was trying to swat black flies and mosquitos.

Travis: Won’t there be black flies and mosquitos on the lacrosse field?

Zane: Yeah, but I’ll be running around the whole time and won’t notice.  Besides, all my friends are playing lacrosse this year.

Travis: What friends?

Zane: Isaac and Mac and James and Noah and Matt and Jack and…

Travis: Okay, stop!  If all your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump too?

Zane: Probably.  They’re pretty smart kids and would probably have a pretty good reason for jumping off the cliff like there was a zombie army they were trying to get away from and there was water at the bottom of the cliff or marshmallows or something.

Travis: You really don’t want to play baseball?

Zane: Baseball is boring.

(Dad clutches chest fearing his first heart attack.)

Travis: It’s not…it’s subtle.  It’s about anticipation and reaction and a little white ball arcing through the sun drenched sky.

Zane: It’s about making little piles of dirt with your cleats waiting for the pitcher to throw a strike.

Travis:  Exactly!

Zane: I’m playing lacrosse.

Travis: Do you realize that the three major sports you play: soccer, hockey, and now this lacrosse thing…I never played them as a kid.  Well, soccer for one year before I was old enough for football…

Zane: Times change, dad.

Travis: They do.  Hey Augi!

(Augi looks up from his doodle pad)

Augi: What?

Travis: You’re still playing baseball right?

Augi: Yeah.

Travis: Oh, thank Ted Williams there’s hope.

Augi: Until I’m old enough for lacrosse.

 

 

For more info on lacrosse in the Bangor area check out Eastern Maine Lacrosse or your local rec department.

 

For more info on baseball, softball or spring soccer look at your local rec department or organizations.

 

Bonus material:  With the end of several seasons we say good-bye to a number of our hometown heroes.

 

Living way up here in the far-flung Northeast we don’t enjoy a close proximity to professional athletes.  We might see Seth Wescott every now and again up at Sugarloaf or Jimmy Howard cruising Green Lake in the summer but that’s about it.

We can watch the Patriots and the Bruins and the Celtics and the Red Sox on the flat-screen and make the occasional four hour trek to Boston for a game but that’s a once-a-year sort of thing and we’re not likely to run into any of those guys at the Hannafords.

Portland has the Pirates and the Red Claws and the Sea Dog’s and can tell stories about a young Pedroia if they want to. Up here in Orono we have the University of Maine and that ain’t a bad thing.

Six months ago, when young men and women were registering for the Maine Junior Black Bears at the Alfond and perhaps picking up some rental gear little did they know that one of the guys helping them with their shin-guards would be flying off to Texas to start his pro-career and the other guy might soon be on a plane to Vancouver.

When Mrs. Estes 4th Grade class at Asa Adams elementary got a new student teacher last fall, little did they realize they would be seeing her play in front of 3,500 people in her last, conference title clinching game at the Cross Center.

Living here, our kids enjoy the opportunity to look up to some great role models and whether it’s skating with the Black Bears or doing the Electric Slide they have the chance to meet them, give ‘em a fist bump, or even help them find the book stacks for reading time.

College and pro athletes may not be the best role-models, and we’ve certainly had a few incidents around town that would support Charle’s Barkley’s statement to that effect…which is a role-model for not  being a role-model, but they give our kids hope and inspiration and maybe that extra push to get them through a season or a game or a possession.  They learn by watching Liz Wood drive the lane or Damar Aultman hall in a pass.  They dream about backstopping a shut out like Meghann Treacy or firing a blast from the point like Ben Hutton.  They dream of running as fast as Dani Aviani or skate as smoothly as Brooklyn Langlois.

Kids from all over Maine watch Katy Massy, Jake Rutt, Courtney Anderson and all the other home-grown talent in Blue and White and think maybe…someday…that could be them.  And they need that.

My personal thanks to several former students either graduating or moving on who have taught me at least as much about sports and heart and dedication as I might have taught them about supporting an argument or poetic imagery.  Thank you Devin S., Stu, Jake, Jen, Andrew, Britt, Tori, Axel, Carlton, Patrick, Damarr, Devin C., Jordan and anyone else I might have missed and good luck.

Travis Baker

About Travis Baker

Travis Baker grew up playing baseball, basketball, football and soccer. There was a brief stint with karate and a briefer one with fencing but he would not return to the glory days of youth sport until he moved to Maine and had a couple of boys, Zane (11) and August (7), of his own. Inspired by his lads, he learned to play hockey at the age of 35 and now plays every Monday night in Brewer. Thanks to a number of former students, he’s learned a wee bit about lacrosse, field hockey and track and field. When not helping out in his kid’s activities, is the award-winning playwright of One Blue Tarp and Hair Frenzy, both of which premiered at the Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor. Travis is the author of Night and the Texas Sky, and numerous short stories and essays. He is married to the founder of Maine Yoga Adventures, Holly Twining. Currently, he coaches hockey, baseball and serves on the board of the Maine Junior Black Bears as the PR Director.