Reflections On The 'Boys' Of Summer
The baseball season is well underway now. In the past, I've managed to resist posting to 13.7 about the thrill, the hopes, the excitement, the shamefully partisan delight that I feel with the start of the new season.
This year is different for me, though. For the first time, I'm an assistant coach for my son's Little League squad — and I'm even more steeped in baseball, and its sheer difficulty, than ever before.
A couple of nights ago David Wright, star third baseman for the New York Mets, bungled a fairly routine play in a game against the Atlanta Braves. He fielded a grounder skillfully, but then instead of throwing to first base for the easy out, he spun around and tried, unsuccessfully, to tag the passing runner. It was the wrong choice, but an understandable one. He followed his impulse instead of making the percentage play.
He acted exactly like one of my Little Leaguers.
It is a cliche that professional baseball is a kids' game played by men, but I've never been so struck as I am now, volunteering as a coach, by the sense that the young professionals are really just big kids. They struggle, just like the kids, trying to rise to the challenges the game poses. Execution is hard in baseball, sure, but knowing when to execute, what and how, understanding what the situation requires, takes a kind of knowledge that professionals in their 20s still struggle to acquire. It isn't surprising that even stars like David Wright make mistakes. And it isn't surprising that on any given day, at least a couple of my 10- and 11-year-olds sob quietly on the bench, humbled by the game.
Little League baseball is a lot like church. It's a grass-roots affair, grounded on commitment, nourished by charity and volunteer spirit. It's loving. The games themselves are the tip of a pyramid whose base is a community vested in the value of learning to play the impossibly difficult sport of baseball.
And the love extends to pros like Wright. Yes, they may be millionaires, mercenaries working for the highest bidder. But, before that — and besides that — they are lovers and students of the game we love. They are our children.
Alva Noë is a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, where he writes and teaches about perception, consciousness and art. You can keep up with more of what Alva is thinking on Facebook and on Twitter: @alvanoe
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