Baseball remains my favorite sport. I might have followed the Rays, but the ballpark is too big to feel close to the action, and admission costs too much for my wallet. As a boy, it was a bargain for me to watch the Phillies at Shibe Park, renamed Connie Mack Stadium, and pay 75 cents for general admission.
The best deal for the buck these days is minor league A ball courtesy of the Florida State League. Entrance fees are easy on the pocket, ballparks are small, and one can get up close to the players. Coaches are typically the major league stars of yesteryear.
The minor league park atmosphere is friendly. I would take the children to Clearwater to watch the Phillies (now known as the Threshers), or to Grant Field in Dunedin and watch the Blue Jays. The best seat for me is behind home plate where you are free to express displeasure at bad calls. The kids might get antsy and roam around the park but eventually would appear for hotdogs, peanuts and sodas. My unwritten rule required that we get together for the seventh-inning stretch.
On one occasion, we watched the Clearwater Phillies play the St. Petersburg Cardinals. What an exciting game. There were lots of hits, the score went back and forth, and finally finished in extra innings. I don't remember who won, but could not imagine any ballclub providing the entertainment of this dogfight on a cool Saturday night. Philip, my 5-year-old, fell fast asleep, but Michelle, 10 and Becky, 9, who were both playing organized baseball, stayed fixed to their seats watching the last few innings.
On the ride home, the girls conversed about the excitement of the game. Then Michelle posed a question, "Daddy, if I had suggestions about baseball rules, who should I write?"
"What rules are you concerned about?"
"You know dad, this is my first year of Little League baseball. I have come to several minor league games with you and there's an awful lot in baseball that doesn't make sense."
"Well," I said, "Baseball has been played this way for more than a hundred years. The rules are the rules!"
"I don't buy that," she said curtly. "Just because something has been done a certain way for years, doesn't mean it can't be improved. If the rules are wrong, they ought to be changed.
"For example, there are nine innings in the game, right?"
"Absolutely," I answered.
"Well," Michelle continued, "It makes no sense to call them innings."
"What's wrong with that?"
"The players go out to the field from the dugout and they go out of the dugout to bat. It would make a lot more sense if the game were broken up into outings, not innings. There should be nine outings, no one is coming in; they are all going out!"
"And another thing," Michelle added, "Why when someone hits the ball in the air and it is caught by an opposing player, do they call it a fly-out?"
"What's wrong with that?"
"For one thing," she immediately responded. "If the ball went out it would be a home run. It should be called a fly-in."
"And about this stealing bases business." Michelle started up again.
"What about it?"
"Look, a man runs from one base to another. They call that a stolen base but the base is still there. Nobody stole anything. It makes no sense to accuse the man of stealing a base when in fact the base is right there where he left it."
"Wasn't it a great game?" I offered, hoping to change the subject.
Michelle would not be deterred. "Why do they call it a walk, if they don't let you walk?"
"What are you talking about?" I demanded.
"When a player is pitched four balls, he gets a walk, right?"
"That's right," I said, "What could be possibly wrong with that?"
"But the player doesn't walk, Daddy."
"Of course he walks, he goes to first base," I countered.
"Well, in Little League," Michelle shot back, "When you get a walk, the coach tells you to run to first base. It's the same in these games. Whenever, the player gets a walk, he has to run to the base."
"What should they call it? A run?" I shouted.
"Exactly," Michelle countered, "Or let the player walk."
"Have it your way," I said, "But you certainly couldn't call it a run if the player got on base due to four balls. A run occurs when the player crosses home plate. That's a run!"
"What plate? There's no plate," She countered.
"You're not listening, daddy, of course I know what home plate is, or the plate, but it makes no sense to call it that."
"What should it be called then?"
"Fourth base!" Michelle replied without hesitation. She had led me right into that one.
I just shook my head, deflated and bereft of further argument. I considered her comments.
"I will get you the address of the baseball commissioner when we get home; send him a letter. By the way, if you think baseball is crazy, wait till you start playing tennis."
Marc J. Yacht lives in Hudson. This is adapted from his book, Doc's Leisure Reader: Commuter Tales and Bedtime Stories.