Watching Baseball

October 1, 2008

I’ve been watching baseball with rapt attention since 1975. The Boston Red Sox were playing in the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds…and they lost. And I was just a spectator.

This year, the Pawtucket Red Sox made the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Better still, they set an all-time mark for wins with a record of 85-57 in 2008. And they did it all while bleeding players to their Major League affiliate, the playoff-bound Boston Red Sox.

From Dustin Pedroia to Brandon Moss to Jed Lowrie to Jacoby Ellsbury to Clay Buchholz to Bartolo Colon to George Kottaras to Jonathan Van Every, the AAA team shed great players faster than the 1997 Florida Marlins.

Moss ended up going away in the Manny Ramirez trade, and the rest of the crew is either suiting up for tonight’s game against the Anaheim Angels or sitting idly by on the 40-man roster.

As all this happened to the farm club, I sat by and I watched. I caught some foul balls during the season, but I was just a spectator.

Why am I so hot on the fortunes of the minor-leaguers? The reason is three-fold.

For the first time in my life, I’ve owned professional sports team season tickets. It’s been a goal/dream/aspiration for years. It’s been languishing on my 100-things-to-do-before-you-die list for years and I finally spent the money this year.

Next, I own the domain names and – two up-and-coming athletes on the PawSox. When they make it big and want me to run their fan clubs, I’ll be ready. Or I could offer them the domain names for signed memorabilia or a little cash.

Finally, it was the first time I got to set foot on a professional baseball field. Better yet, 2008 was the first time I got to hit a baseball while standing at the plate at a professional baseball stadium.

Not counting my Major League tryout in 1992, the last time I shagged fly balls on a field was during high school. I wasn’t entirely remarkable back then, but my speed and defensive tools made me eligible for the scouting bureau day at a field west of Boston.

16 years later – courtesy of the Pawtucket Red Sox ticket office – I was standing at the plate with a wooden bat in my gloved hands, staring at a bunch of other season-ticket holders in the field at McCoy Stadium. And I put on a clinic.

Pitch after pitch came hurtling toward the plate and then headed off my bat to the outfield. Of the 35 or so pitches I saw, I missed three entirely, I fouled off four, I dribbled six infield outs and smashed the rest to the outfield.

What’s it feel like to break out of the spectator mold and live a little fantasy?

My hands hurt. I was out of breath. My shoulder was junk. The days following the batting practice, my body hurt all over. And a week later I’m still smiling.

Is there something you’ve been waiting to do? Is there something you wanted to try, and haven’t yet jumped at?

My suggestion is to stop spectating and go make things happen.

Standing there at the plate, each swing of the bat reminded me that my things-to-do list isn’t going to complete itself while I watch from the sidelines.