By Benjamin Regan, 13, South Pasadena
BASEBALL IS BACK! After nearly five extra months of the offseason, and unprecedented schedule and rule changes, meaningful baseball is almost here! Today our fantasies will turn to reality as baseball returns. The walk-offs, the strikeouts, the home runs, the double plays, the outfield assists, the RBI hits, and so much more are all coming back in the most exciting of fashions on July 23rd!
As a pitcher myself, I am looking forward to the pitching duels, one ace against another posting zeros on the scoreboard inning after inning, batter after batter, waiting until one team can burst through and score. I can’t wait until the best of the best in Major League Baseball battle for 60 games for the right to play in the postseason.
Yet for all the things that we are excited to see, we cannot forget the long and difficult layoff. What has it meant to not have baseball? Personally, as a player and fan, the absence of baseball was a painful one. I love everything baseball: playing, watching, statistics, announcing, and so much more. I missed all of those elements of our National Pastime. I missed the magical feeling of standing on the mound, looking at my teammates behind me and the catcher in front of me. I missed the smells and sounds of the game, the glistening green grass, and the white chalk down the foul lines. I missed the dugouts and my teammates. I missed the crack of the bat and the pop of the glove. I missed it all.
I was curious to what baseball’s layoff meant to others in the baseball community, and how its return will impact them. I reached out to some of my teammates, coach, fellow fans, and a baseball writer to capture what it truly meant to not have baseball.
For fans across the country, baseball is more than a game. It’s part of their lives, a routine that they can enjoy for 162 games in the regular season and (they hope) more in the playoffs. To fans, the lack of baseball is a disruption to the baseball routine that they live and breathe. One of those diehard fans is Miss Lang, my second grade teacher and the biggest Dodger fan I know. “Whenever there’s a baseball game on,” she said, “my sister and my dad and I have a text thread and we text constantly during the game. It connects me to my friend who lives up north and we talk about the games. Honestly,” she added, “I miss just turning on the game and making a hot dog. It’s relaxing and it’s my down time.” Miss Lang is thrilled to have baseball come back, and when she can, “going to the stadium” will be magical. She’s eager to feel the “excitement when someone gets a hit.” To “turn on the TV and see the boys in blue back on the field!” As a Dodger fan, she misses the “competition between the teams and the rivalries, especially the Giants and the Dodgers.”
“It sucks,” Bob, a good friend and baseball teammate said bluntly. He was thinking about not being on the field. “It just means that you have to stay home and you can get out of shape,” he continued. “You have to stay not rusty.” When baseball comes back and he is able to play again “just going back to normal, just doing tournaments, and practicing with the boys,” will be his favorite part. He’s also a fan of MLB and he’s excited to “see the rookies for this season like Bo Bichette, Luis Robert, and Gavin Lux,” once the season resumes.
My coach Dan Law misses all the things that unfold throughout the games he coaches. He “misses the butterflies before a big game. I miss the smile I get watching my pitchers strike out the side. I miss talking to the umpire after the game and him telling me how much fun it was to see my catcher work behind the plate and what a good group of players I have. I miss 6-4-3 double plays.” He’s always thinking like a coach and how playing on a team can help kids develop. “I miss telling the boys we are not out of this game because I believe in what we do. I miss winning. I even miss losing. Because we never lose, we got a chance to learn something new. I miss watching the boys be kids together.” He looks on this time with some sadness, too. “I will forever miss 2020 for what it took from my players and every experience I will never get back.”
“It’s been really strange to not have baseball,” said the national baseball writer of the New York Times, Tyler Kepner. “It’s been quite bizarre to have no new games, highlights and stories to follow. I always surround myself with the game, and now it’s not there. I’ve always seen baseball as a friend who is always there for you, and I’ve really been missing my friend.” When I asked him what he is excited for when the season resumes, Kepner said, “I’m looking forward to watching these tremendous players perform. Not having fans in the stands will make the season feel different. The 60-game schedule, compared to 162 is a huge change from baseball’s normal rhythms. New rules like the man-on-second in extra innings and the DH in the NL will take some time to digest.” But overall, “it’s really fun just to watch their skills on display and to follow along with the strategies as the games unfold.”
After a long and difficult and unprecedented wait over the past few months as the extended offseason warped into a 60-game sprint, baseball is back. From players to coaches and writers to fans, those three magical words mean more than can ever be said. It has been a long and challenging wait for everyone, none more than me. It’s a time that we mustn’t forget but hopefully never repeat. Opening day is upon us and I know it won’t disappoint. I am speaking for everyone in baseball nation when I say that it has never been better to know…
… that BASEBALL IS BACK!!