The Nostalgia of Baseball

I quit playing baseball in seventh grade. Lacrosse seemed cooler.

Plus, I was kind of over bubblegum and ranch-flavored sunflower seeds — and my splitter wasn’t breaking the way I wanted it to! (Just kidding, I threw a 55 mph fastball and a “changeup” that was really just a slightly slower fastball.)

Since hanging up my cleats, I’ve swung a baseball bat maybe ten times. It’s just not a sport that you can casually play with your friends, ya know?

And yet, despite all that, baseball holds a special place in my heart that no other sport can touch. Not even basketball, which I’m completely obsessed with; or lacrosse, which I played in college.

Why? Nostalgia.

One of the earliest memories I have is of my dad pitching to me in the front yard. I was probably seven years old at the time.

Like most memories, certain aspects are more vivid than others. Was it spring or summer? No idea. But somehow, I can recall exactly what I was thinking as I waited for the pitch:

Bottom of the 9th. Two outs. Bases loaded. It all comes down to this.

I imagined myself in that moment so many times as a kid. In the yard, in front of the mirror, during whiffle ball games in the summer. Crazy how that stuff sticks with you.

As football season gets underway, baseball will inevitably retreat into the shadows. We’ll keep tabs on the pennant races and tune-in for the postseason, sure, but the majority of our attention will be focused on the gridiron.

I’m not complaining about that. In fact, I’m as excited as anyone to start binging on football. However, in light of these memories that I’m remembering — these feels that I’m feeling — I think I’ll watch more baseball than usual this month and next.

It’s just such a special sport, man. How it drops players into moments tailor-made for greatness … how the lack of a clock suspends us in those moments for far longer than we deserve … how it’s the most quantifiable game on earth, and yet, allows for the most random outcomes imaginable.

Oh, and nostalgia is a hell of a drug. That, too.

See ya next week,

Kendall Baker, for Religion of Sports

Reflection (last week in review)

* NFL: Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Brian Dawkins, Brian Urlacher, Terrell Owens, Jerry Kramer, Bobby Beathard, and Robert Brazile were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

* CFB: The Urban Meyer scandal continues. Here’s the latest on the embattled Ohio State head coach.

* MLB: The trade deadline has come and gone. Who were the biggest winners and losers? Answers here.

Looking Ahead (coming up this week)

* Thursday-Sunday: 2018 PGA Championship: This year’s tournament will be held at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri for the first time since 1992.

* Thursday-Saturday: NFL Preseason, Week 1: All 32 NFL teams will be in action this week, beginning with Browns-Giants at 7 PM ET on Thursday night (NFL Network). Football’s back, baby. Football. Is. Back.

Scripture (articles worth reading)

* The Ringer: How Bob Ley Became ESPN’s Most Important Broadcaster: “The network’s longest-serving anchor is the perfect figure to interpret the collision of sport and politics. And the Worldwide Leader needs him now more than ever.”

* NYT: The Woman Who Plans To Swim Around The World: “This month, a New York woman will try to become the fastest person to complete six marathon swims on six continents. Then she has to get back to her day job.”

* ESPN: The Saban Effect: How One Coach’s Unrelenting Process Has Sculpted College Football: “Nick Saban’s past decade at Alabama lives among sports’ all-time great dynasties. It also begs imitation. Piece by piece, fallen rival by fallen rival, the tendrils of Saban’s ‘process’ span college football, his blueprint reshaping an entire sport.”