September 4, 2002

Pitching For A Strike

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All right, I admit it. I was one of the obsessed college students that signed on to her computer about as soon as last call was announced Friday night. I, like tons of others, wanted to see what every sports fan had been waiting all summer to find out: Would baseball strike?

With one fateful click, flashed up on the screen and the news that there would be no baseball strike appeared. While my other obsessed counterparts cheered at the news, I sat speechless. I was honestly hoping baseball would strike.

For my baseball crazy friends out there, I’m happy. I understand the fall would not be complete without a World Series. And I understand that A-Rod needs to continue to earn more money every time he takes a breath than I will see in my lifetime. However, for those of us who have had just about enough of baseball players’ whining, I was thoroughly upset. I contemplated hand delivering a note to every baseball player telling him to strike, trying to think up some new incentive for the stoppage.

But alas, I just continued to hit reset confirming my worst fears. While my computer continued to flicker, “Baseball will not strike,” I came to the realization that if baseball players are so worried about whether or not they make a seven- or eight-figure salary, they have forgotten the point of baseball.

Baseball, and all sports, should be played by those who appreciate the game and the opportunity they have to play it. It should not be about money.

When I was eight years old I walked around the outfield of Shea Stadium with my brother’s baseball team on Banner Day. I fondly remember being in awe of my surroundings, staring up into the never-ending stands. Remember, this was back before the threat of yearly baseball strikes and a ridiculously long Mets losing streak. The Mets were golden, fresh off a World Championship season. Gripping my handmade banner amidst the professional woodcut plaques, I was proud of my little creation and just happy to be there.

Every time my family and I jumped in the car to travel to Shea there was an excitement that couldn’t be explained. We had a laundry list of items including the all-essential baseball glove, just in case there was a foul ball into the upper upper deck. There were also limitless pens in case of an autograph opportunity after the game, a camera for the meet and greet, and of course, binoculars to try and distinguish one blur from another.

Despite the hassle of gameday traffic and the stickiness of New York summer nights, trips to the ballfield were ones of excitement and enjoyment. My family and I loved every moment of these adventures. During my childhood visits, and even up until a few years ago, I would always remark how lucky the players were; they had the best jobs in the world. These baseball players were getting paid to go out there everyday and do what they love.

Now, however, I question how much these players love what they are doing. I couldn’t imagine making the amount of money they are making to do what they do, and complaining so much. Out of frustration I planned my own weekend strike. I turned off baseball and turned on the various other sporting events that found their way onto cable television.

On these various other channels I saw true athletes. Athletes out there playing because they loved to play, not for the price tag that accompanied it.

On Sunday, I watched part of the Major League Lacrosse final and although disappointed that my Long Island Lizards failed to capture their second championship, I saw guys out there defying the odds. Men in their 40s playing a sport they love, not because they get paid a lot — they don’t, not because they get a lot of television exposure — they most certainly do not, but because they love to play. There are players in that league that live all across the East Coast and Midwest that fly in every weekend just for another chance to play.

Then there were the WNBA Finals, which most people didn’t even know were taking place. While most of America was sighing at the relief that baseball would continue, these women were preparing to play for a national title. In a league whose future is in question, these women went and played their hearts out, even without the national recognition.

These players, as well as the hundreds of weekend warriors who spent their Labor Day on old elementary school baseball fields and inverted football fields, are the real athletes. They are the individuals out there playing for the love of the game.

Watching the semifinals of the Little League World Series a few weeks ago in New York City, I was amazed at how 50-year-old men in business suits could easily leave their beers just to move closer to the television to remark at the athleticism of the children. Let’s just hope those little leaguers remember how much they love what they are doing. If not, we could have been watching the next members of Baseball Strike 2022.

Archived article by Kristen Haunss