I spent the better part of this evening in Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. Tonight was the first of three games I’ll be attending between the Mariners and the Boston Red Sox, the team I have been following for many decades.
There is no better venue for a ballgame than Fenway Park in Boston, but of all the more-or-less modern ballparks, the one here in Seattle ranks near the top. For one thing, rainouts are not a problem because this ballpark has a cover that opens or closes … an essential feature here in the Pacific northwest.
The usual criticism heard of the game is that it’s slow and, therefore, boring. To a baseball fan, that comment marks the critic as someone not only completely ignorant of the game, but unwilling to learn. Slow? No, because the more you know about the game, the more you need those 15 or 20 seconds between pitches to think about the almost limitless possibilities about to unfold.
Many years ago, I had the priceless opportunity to actually watch a Big League game with Bob Fontaine
, a baseball lifer and, at the time, general manager of the San Diego Padres. I wish I could have recorded every word, but I do remember Bob saying, “Baseball games are like snowflakes: no two are exactly alike.”
I really gained some insight to that a couple of years ago when I read “The Head Game”, a book by by Roger Kahn
, one of the great baseball writers. It’s about what goes on between pitcher and catcher in their effort to deal with whoever is coming to bat and how the combination of circumstances at that particular moment affects their decision. Is the batter in a hot streak or a cold streak? What are his weak spots and his strengths? Does he have any tendencies in this particular situation? And on and on. A whole damn book!
I no longer get impatient when, with an opposing player up at bat, a catcher calls time and jogs out for a brief conference with his pitcher. I use those precious seconds — I need those precious seconds — to speculate about what they’re discussing, about what they want to happen, and about what the batter is thinking and what he may be trying to do. And I can’t wait to see what actually will happen.
Here’s what I remember Bob Fontaine saying that describes the endless fascination of baseball … a profound thought expressed in wonderfully simple terms:
“If you go to a baseball game and don’t see something you’ve never seen before, you weren’t really paying attention.”