Strikes, new stadiums, steroids, inflated ego’s, entitlement, scandals, media sensationalism, ridiculous contracts, overpriced tickets, play for pay mentalities, greed – just of few of the reasons why the brand of American baseball is slowly dieing.
Now, to be perfectly honest, I can’t claim to be the biggest fan of professional baseball, but it would be hard not to appreciate its affect on our history, culture and national identity. Names like Ruth, DiMaggio, Aaron and Mantle live on to this day, reminding us of baseball’s glorious past.
In recent years though, baseball has taken quite a beating. Sure, stadiums still get filled and jerseys still sell, but for the most part, baseball has begun to lose its luster. If you want proof of this, all you need to do is turn on your TV. It seems that every day there is a new contract dispute, allegation of steroid use or the demolition of another historic ballpark. Unfortunately, baseball seems to have lost its way. They have forgotten their promise to their fans, their history and their legacy.
But there is hope.
This past Saturday I attended the opening day ceremonies of my son’s Little League, and over the course of the next few hours, witnessed why generation after generation of Americans remain loyal to the game. And even though the world of professional baseball seems to have forgotten them, they have refused to forget the game.
The reality is, baseball does not live in million dollar stadiums, but rather, in small parks and in small towns all over the country. There, people are reminded of a time when all of the problems of the world could be solved on a baseball field. All that was needed was a glove, ball, bat and a few good friends – something I was able to experience as I watched 300 young boys line up on the diamond for the season’s first pitch.
Hats were placed over each of the player’s hearts as the anthem played on this cool spring morning – each of them dreaming of making that one great play on the field. I doubt many of them were worrying about future contracts, the media or deciding whether or not to cheat in order get ahead. No, I think they were simply enjoying the game itself.
While the brand of professional baseball may be damaged, it is not beyond repair. In order to fix it though, the powers that be must remind themselves of their promise to their fans. Their promise to not only produce good baseball, but to also protect an American treasure that each year gets further and further out of control. They must remind themselves of what it was like to play the game when it was still just a game.
Michael J. Russo
The Russo Group