This is certainly the most frequently I have posted blog entries in my time doing this blog. Heck, I think at this point I will have doubled my number of blog entries in the past two days alone. Yesterday I posted an entry revolving around a negative subject concerning our great past time, and a subject that I have personally grown more and more tired of. In fact, most of the writing I have seen recently seems to be concerned with what is wrong with the game, and all of the negative that has come up in the sport over the last several years. If one was to just see this media coverage, it is certainly easy to lose track with all that is right with our game and the positives that come forward from it. I hope through this entry, I can influence some people to start looking at the positive aspects of the game and those magnificent things which have taken place and will undoubtedly continue to take place in the future.
First, there have been a number of underdog stories that have transpired over the past several years. One that immediately comes to mind is the Tampa Bay Rays making it to the World Series. Even as a Yankees fan, I can recognize the accomplishment here. I truly wish it had been the Yankees instead of the Rays but that is beside the point. A franchise who had never even had a single winning series in their prior history found themselves in the Fall Classic. Nobody expected them to even finish above .500 at the beginning of the season. Even during the season all of the talk was whether the Rays were for real and when would they collapse into the cellar once again. We all kept waiting for it to happen, yet it never did. They certainly did not need to win the World Series, or even make it to the Series, to have a successful season. Just making the playoffs would have been a success. With their trip to the Series, they took a step forward for underdogs everywhere.
Another underdog story that was truly inspiring was the re-emergence of Rick Ankiel with the St. Louis Cardinals. Perhaps a better way to put it is the emergence of Rick Ankiel as a truly gifted hitter. I think everyone knows the basics of his story. He started in the Majors as a top pitching prospect and then he fell apart as a pitcher. He decided he wanted to keep playing, so he became an outfielder and a solid batter. The excitement as he kept knocking balls out of the park was palpable. The only thing that takes away from this story is Ankiel's eventual link to HGH. HGH or not, this is still a truly amazing comeback story. In my opinion this story would certainly make a great movie in the likes of "The Rookie" or any number of inspirational stories based on sports figures coming back at a time or age when all would have thought they were done.
The anticipation of the upcoming season. Who can deny that as the new season dawns upon us, pitchers and catchers report in just 2 short days from now, that we are not beginning to fill with excitement? I know I am looking forward to the new season with hope that the Yankees win another championship, and that all of the off-season moves work out well. At this point, fans of every team can have optimism about the season to start. Some may be justified and others may be in dream land, but we can all believe for the time being. At this point, we are all equal in the standings. Unfortunately, I will have to follow spring training from the computer but I know that I will be following it and building up my excitement for Opening Day in April. As always, I will be looking forward to the Yankees first series of the season against the Red Sox. I am sure that fans across the nation have things they are already looking forward to. Maybe it's going to spring training, going to a game in a new stadium, or just being able to sit at home and watch a game while you have a cookout and drink a few frosty ones on a sunny summer afternoon. Bottom line, all of these things that we have to look forward to have been overlooked recently.
Whether we are at the park or watching games from home, the camaraderie with your fellow fans is another great thing about our game. I know I have made quite a few friends, both virtual and real life, by talking about our team. While it is just a little bit different, I have even be-friended the occasional Red Sox fan. the sport of baseball gives us as an American people a common subject to share, an institution that can unite us all. There are very few things that can do this as baseball does. People need to remember this as we move forward into the season and beyond.
What can beat taking your kid to his or her first game? It was just a few short years ago that I took my sons to their first baseball game. It was one of the best experiences of my life. From the time we walked into the park to the end of the game, we had an absolute blast that day. Unfortunately, I spent a little too much money. Before it was over, my boys were walking out of the park with jerseys and caps, and a stomach full of soda and hot dogs. And really, is there any place in the world that you can get a hot dog that is as good as at the ball park? Without this sport, my sons and I do not have that memory. In fact, to this day I remember the first game that my dad took me to as a kid. It was a Yankees game when Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Goose Gossage, and the other greats from the '77 to '78 Yankees were playing. It was a game in 1978 against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. The sport of baseball gave me a memory that has and will last a lifetime.
Hope. In today's world we all need hope. Without hope, what do we really have, and what do we have to look forward to? Baseball gives us some measure of hope in our every day lives. If a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Kansas City Royals can have hope, we all can. And just maybe that hope and optimism can spill over into other areas of our lives and society. It is something. With our economy in shambles and being told our environment is almost beyond repair, we really need something to give us hope and optimism. Maybe baseball, and everything it means to us as a people can give us at least some measure of hope, and if not hope at least a means to escape from our troubles and just be a kid again.
I hope that as me move forward, we can all look for positive stories, because nothing but negative events sure is depressing after a while. Here's to the upcoming season and all that it holds in store for us all.