POSTED BY: BOB KNOTTS
Maybe it’s time to rediscover baseball … with your kids. Perhaps they’re your own kids, or young relatives or the kids of friends or neighbors. They could be kids you work with somehow, possibly through a nonprofit such as the Humanity Project. They might even be your grandkids. But I’m going to make the case in this blog that baseball is well worth your time. And theirs.
I’ve loved this great game all my life, intensely as a child growing up in Detroit around my beloved Tigers. My passion for the sport faded somehow for many years only to re-emerge as strong as ever now as a very mature adult. And because this organization I founded to help kids, the Humanity Project, is so in touch with young minds and young sensibilities, a thought occurred to me recently: Kids of all ages could benefit from learning the joys of baseball from an adult, especially a parent. Here’s why I think that’s true:
- A different kind of sport: Baseball has been called a team sport played by individuals. Think about it. The pitcher and batter square off, alone. If the batter connects, he becomes a runner who competes only against the person fielding the ball, followed by competing with the person catching it. Baseball is a great team sport but it requires each individual to do their job effectively for the team to win. That’s unlike the dynamics in, say, football or basketball where a mediocre player can slide through an entire season on the backs of better teammates. Explain that side of baseball to your kids — and tell them how it is a value worth emulating in everyday life. We should do our best as individuals to help the team, whether that team is the home or the workplace or the whole community.
- Better sportsmanship: Point out to your kids the way baseball players typically behave. Again, very unlike football or basketball players or athletes in many sports these days. With rare exceptions, baseball players pride themselves on avoiding showy displays of ego after they make a great play. Home run? They trot around the bases without trying to show up the pitcher. Incredible catch? They go back to their position to get ready for the next play. And ballplayers often talk and joke with players from opposing teams, even during very important games. They compete but don’t hate their opponents. Baseball is a game of class. And it can teach kids to behave well themselves, on the field or in life.
- The Zen of the game: There is an almost meditative quality to watching a baseball game. That’s not to say the games are dull. They’re not — at least not if you understand the human dynamics happening throughout the game. I’ll clarify that point in a moment. But back to the Zen of baseball… The great sportscaster, and baseball enthusiast, Bob Costas put it this way: “Baseball is a game of atmosphere and anticipation, punctuated by moments of brilliance and excitement.” That atmosphere and that anticipation offer us time to relax and even to reflect as the game unfolds. Explain that to your kids, helping them to appreciate the poetic beauty of baseball. It’s a chance to slow down and enjoy life as you’re also being entertained.
- A mental game: Precisely because it’s a team sport played by individuals, baseball also is a game of the mind. The pitcher and catcher must calculate what type of pitch the batter expects next, then give him something else. The batter has to understand that this is what’s happening as he awaits the ball, then himself calculate what the pitch might be. They’re not guessing. It’s based on statistics as well as experience and intuition. Baseball is a sophisticated mind game. Helping kids to recognize this also helps them to look a bit deeper into their own psyche as well as into the heads of others.
These are only some of the ways, described briefly, that baseball can become a valuable pastime to share with the kids in your life. We live in a frantic, frenzied, high-tech world. Baseball is one antidote to the ill effects our modern society can have on all of us. Every baseball game is a paean to our history as a nation, the great players and great moments since baseball was invented in 1839. And every game is an opportunity to quiet our lives as we enrich our appreciation of this sport and these remarkable athletes. It’s been said that hitting a Major League baseball is the hardest of all things to accomplish in sport. That may or may not be true. But I do know this much from personal experience: Watching fine players hit, and pitch and catch and throw, a baseball can teach important lessons about life … and form a bond between an adult and child that both always will cherish.