I made it to the 8th inning in last night’s MLB All-Star game, which I believe is the latest I’ve made it in 4-5 years. See, it’s not just fatherhood that slows you down!
My man DTS posted some thoughts about the All-Star game yesterday. Perhaps it’s the difference between growing up in St. Louis and Kansas City, because I always loved the All-Star break. Maybe Cards fans were always comfortable with knowing people nationally understood what St. Louis baseball was all about, while those of us in the western half of the state saw George Brett, Amos Otis, and Frank White’s annual trips to the game as a chance to share with the world how great baseball was in Kansas City at the time. Or maybe DTS and I are just different.
Regardless, I loved the pageantry of the game. All-Star week always felt a little like a family picnic to me. There were Yankees and Royals and Red Sox and Orioles and A’s all joining forces for a day. The players seemed to find the perfect measure of taking the game seriously, yet understanding it was an opportunity to relax a bit. (Witness the players who came onto the field in white shoes back in the day. I always wanted to see someone from the A’s or Astros come out in black shoes.) The game was perfectly timed so players, fans, and analysts could take a breath and reflect on what had happened so far in the season. Who were the rookie sensations, the teams playing over their heads, the disappointments? How were the pennant races lining up? What trends had sustained themselves over the first three months of the season?
My first sports bet ever (at least that I remember) was over an All-Star game. I bet my uncle a nickel that the AL would win in 1979. Man did I hate Dave Parker for launching those missiles from deep right field that kept me from winning!
The league I spent most of my playing years in did not have an All-Star game. When I finally hopped over to one that did, it was a huge deal for me when I made the All-Star team my second year (summer after 8th grade). I was usually a pretty calm guy on the field, but when I went out to warm up my buddy who was the starting pitcher, I could feel the extra eyes on me, the buzz in the crowd, and the subtle acknowledgment from parents and coaches in the crowd, “That kid who’s catching can really hit.” (I was 1-2 with a stolen base that day. No errors in my chances at first base.)
I did fall out of love with the MLB All-Star game in the 90s, but then again, I was falling out of love with baseball at the same time, too. The home run derby seemed more important and exciting. Despite being a loyal American League fan, their dominance over the NL became boring. I had better things to do. Then, of course, came the disaster three years ago. As I’ve rediscovered my love for baseball over the past couple years, so too have I found the joys of the All-Star game. It’s not the same as when I was a kid, but what generation doesn’t say that? It is fun and interesting to me again, though.
It was weird watching Mike Piazza bat last night. He looked old, slow, and clearly on the downward spiral of his career. He had one of the most vicious swings I’ve ever seen. Now much of the violence in it is gone. It’s funny how your own age determines how you view others. When I was a kid, seeing older players like Yaz and Pops play in the All-Star game, they didn’t seem any less athletic than the young guys. They had an aura about them that maintained their greatness.
Can we please get rid of the idiotic slogan “This One Counts!”? It clearly doesn’t, since Eric Gagne’s blown save two years ago didn’t interrupt his saves record, and Kenny Rogers’ suspension did not cover last night’s game. And don’t get me started on the whole home field thing. I wrote plenty about that last year.
I watched last night’s game on the couch, using my brother-in-law’s PowerBook to tap out another draft for my grad school personal statement while S. read a book on the loveseat. Last year, we were out for our anniversary dinner then put our infant carseats in our two vehicles when we got home. Two years ago? In St. Lucia on our honeymoon, passed out from sun and wine by the third inning. Three years ago? In Colorado Springs on a business trip. I had a 6:00 AM flight back to KC the next day, so went to bed long before a tie was declared. Idiots.