Sports and the "Unimportant": Baseball's Home Plate

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Sports and the
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the rubber polygon at the apex of the baseball diamond known as home plate. The game of baseball simply revolves around this tiny stadium landmark.

It is treated with both respect and disdain. It is treated as both “unimportant” and as the ultimate goal.

The ball players address the plate as they approach when they take their turn to bat. It’s with reverence and a bit of trepidation that they step up to the plate.

The reverence is in acknowledging that this is both the beginning and ending point. The batters entire focus is in preventing the baseball’s flight path from being completed as it attempts to pass over this plate.

The trepidation comes in the form of failing to stop that ball from invading the home plate air space. Using the bat as an imposing and formidable weapon the player creates even more significant disturbances through the same air space the ball is trying to traverse.

In having failed in the air defense, that batter must remove himself from the presence of the home plate to the confines of the bench in pure rejection.

If successful, a batters launch of the ejected ball from over the plate, home plate must know the odds of seeing that player racing across its face again. Many men are there to protect the plate; all propose to prevent the batter from his intention of pounding his cleats onto that same surface for a scoring point.

The batters come and they go, but they are continual through the course of the game. The home plate will mark and remember their persona through the multiple visits.

The concierge of the plate is the umpire. The umpire will dutifully brush and clean the plate between batters or even between pitches as he sees fit.

The umpire’s job goes beyond just maintenance. He also serves as ambassador for home plate, imposing proper judgment requiring attitude adjustment by either the defensive or offensive players in all concerns to the plate.

Of course, the primary protagonist of home plate is the baseball pitcher; his projectiles that are hurled inches from the surface of home plate are like low-flying fighter jets on a mission.

For every batter that assumes air defense, the pitcher will endeavor to fire multiple balls past and over the plate. The pitcher and his accomplice, the catcher, continually assault the peace of home plate as they direct the flights of the ball over it.

During a game, it is both the beginning and the ending and the primary focus. By the end of a game, the home plate has been pampered, beaten, defended, and stomped on.

All because it occupies a very small, “unimportant” piece of real estate.

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