We are coming up on three weeks since the last Major League Baseball game was played, and I’m starting to get a little antsy.
Sure, there is some baseball going on, like the Korean Baseball Organization preparing for its season. The Lotte Giants stream their team scrimmages, with players wearing masks and no fans in the stands. It’s kind of eerie.
I’m sure that when MLB returns, whenever that is, I’m going to wish baseball was a person that I could hug. At this point, I’d happily sit through a game with old September rosters and a pitching change every inning. I just want baseball back.
The play of the game itself is wonderful, and what we all want to see again, but here are some of the little things l truly miss about baseball.
Managers in cleats
With Jim Leyland and Bobby Cox now retired, I can’t think off the top of my head of a current manager who wears cleats. The very idea is absurd, as the managers don’t really need the traction those shoes provide. But then again, why should managers wear uniforms in the first place?
Since they do wear uniforms, I take pleasure in the managers who go the extra mile and add on the extremely unnecessary accessory of spikes. Kudos.
The bond between umpires and catchers
Everyone else on the field during a baseball game gets to stand upright for the vast majority of the time, at least when they’re not sitting down. But not catchers, who are in a constant crouch the entire time on defense. Their behind-the-plate pals, the home plate umpire, has no dugout to retreat to, and is not in a full crouch but in an ever-vigilant state of hunched-over readiness for the entire game, both the top and bottoms of each inning.
Umpires and catchers aren’t on the same team, but they share a special bond. And it’s most evident when one of them gets nicked up. If a foul tip gets an umpire right in the mask, invariably the catcher picks that exact moment for a visit to the mound, buying time for his friend. Similarly, if a catcher takes a ball to the beans and needs a moment to recoup, the home plate umpire is always there to hand deliver a new ball to the pitcher, maybe even finding extra time to brush off home plate on his way back to his position. It’s a beautiful kinship between catcher and umpire, just two toiling souls looking out for each other.
The calm before the storm
When covering baseball, I’ll be at the park several hours before the game starts, before fans arrive. There’s usually not a lot going on on the field, except maybe for a few players milling around or getting their work done. What these moments provide is a wonderful glimpse of how beautiful a baseball field is, major or minor league, even with nobody on it.
The perfect picture
In a similar vein of ballpark views, what was a treat the very first time I covered a baseball game in 2009 and remains so today, is getting to the field at Dodger Stadium. The clubhouses are below the field level, and on that level on the third base side there is a hallway that leads to the field. The final stretch of that path is lined with a bunch of framed Dodgers photos from the last quarter century or so. My favorite of those pictures is giant human Jonathan Broxton sitting alone on the dugout bench while gently holding his tiny infant child. It’s a wonderful pic, from the great Jon SooHoo.
After pregame interviews there is usually downtime before the the game actually starts. This void is filled expertly at Dodger Stadium with music, either from DJ Severe picking tunes or Dieter Ruehle playing songs on the organ. I enjoy the atmosphere of it all, especially when they respond to current events, like Ruehle playing a slew of Tom Petty songs after he passed away.
Related: Here was Ruehle playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” last week, if you need your fix.
That music sets the stage for the game, and after the anthem and pregame festivities the pitcher takes the mound to his own chosen music. Clayton Kershaw has used ”We Are Young” by Fun before his starts for ages, the song so synonymous with his pitching that it played at Dodger Stadium immediately after the final out of his no-hitter in 2014. While it’s impossible for me to hear that song without thinking of Kershaw, my favorite pregame song is “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam, used by Rich Hill before his starts. A great stadium song, for sure.
Now Rich Hill is with the Twins, so it might be a while before I hear “Even Flow” in a baseball context again. But once baseball comes back, I’d be willing to listen to just about any song, as long as the game I love is back, and all the wonderful little things that come with it.