For The Love of The Game

Stephen RamirezContributor IJuly 8, 2009

Wow, aren't you getting tired of the constant negativity surrounding Major League Baseball?  I sure am. 

In reaction to all the negativity, I felt like writing an article that will hopefully remind everyone of why we follow sports—particularly baseball—so closely. 

The picture you're looking at is of my two-year old nephew, Noah, after his older brothers baseball game. According to my family, this is exactly how I was when I would go to my older brother's game. I would throw an over-sized helmet on and run to the plate dragging a bat between innings. 

When kids begin playing baseball, there's no pressure (at least there shouldn't be, overzealous parents!). There's just a bunch of kids on the field, playing with the grass, swatting at bugs with their gloves, and running in the wrong direction. 

The saying that baseball is as American as apple pie is said for a reason—baseball is what has helped carry this nation through some of it's toughest trials.

Yes, the professional game is littered with negativity: segregation (thanks again, Jackie), racism galore, the bashing of Roger Maris after he beat the Great Bambino's record, the Black Sox scandal, Pete Rose, and yes, steroids.

But through all that, baseball has always made it out of the tunnel, albeit a bit bruised.  Jackie opened doors, Roger Maris was given his proper due (finally) in 1998 because of Big Mac and Slammin' Sammy, and even though we are at the end of the so-called "steroids" era, the game has never been more popular. 

Remember 2001?  Remember the first game in Yankee Stadium after the towers fell?  Remember the tears in your eyes, the lump in your throat?  We needed baseball, and as usual, it delivered.

Major League Baseball is doing a great job of reaching out to the inner city community with its RBI program; The effect is already being felt.  Did you know that this year's All-Star game will boast ten African-American players? 

Last year's magical run by the Tampa Bay Rays gave hope to teams not named Yankees or Red Sox. They taught us that you don't need a $200 million payroll (or $100 million, for that matter) to be a contender. 

This year has seen the rise of the new generation. 

Players such as Evan Longoria, David Price, Tommy Hanson, Justin Upton, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Andrew McCutchen, Brian McCann, Hanley Ramirez, Joe Mauer, Edwin Jackson, Zack Greinke, and Tim Lincecum are establishing themselves as the new crop of talent. 

Did you know Albert Pujols could win the Triple Crown this year? The man is on pace to hit over .330 (again), bash 59 HR with 157 RBI! 

The point is, no matter what the press, some fans, Congress, or even the Commissioner himself (sometimes I think he wants to stay in the news regarding steroids—how else do names of superstars leak out of a supposed secret list of names? That would never happen in the NFL) come up with to bring baseball down, it simply rounds third, slides into home, scores, dusts itself off, and moves on to the high fives of the players and the adoration of its fans. 

And somewhere in this vast Cathedral of baseball, sits a father.  He has just watched his son drive in that run, a rookie just called up from the minors.  He smiles joyfully - the fans don't know who he is, or why he's there.  But he knows that the time, effort, and love that he taught his son about the game - has paid off.  What greater joy can a father have than to see his son succeed?

You want to see the stars of tomorrow?  Visit your local little league park and check out the kids like my nephew Noah—they see a ball and a bat on the dirt and they pick it up, dust it off, and play ball.  Not because of money, endorsements, or fame, but for something inside each of them that tells them this is right. 

It's called a love for the game. That's why they play; that's why we watch, and cheer, and scream, and cry.  And smile.  Baseball.