Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Catching a Baseball, One of The Games Simplest Pleasures, yet through the first 8 games of the 2007 Season, Our Washington Nationals have made it a chore. What a shame, and embarrassing at the same time.
I feel for Our Manager, Manny Acta. The ability to catch a ball, has nothing to do with the just completed Spring Training. Not a single player in the game today, just learned the technique over the six weeks from mid-February to late-March. And, it makes me wonder what exactly is taught these days to young players as they advance from adolescence to manhood. The skills of the game have eroded, league wide. Make no mistake about, as much as many would like to point and blame, this is just not a Nationals Problem. Major League Baseball is filled with mediocre, less than capable talent.
Why do you think THE DESIGNATED HITTER has lasted so long in The American League. Its perceived better to have a one-dimensional player hit while another pitches, to add flavor to the game. Never would many Major League Teams think its important to teach a pitcher how to hit. Yet, those pitchers with pride--Dontrelle Willis and Jason Marquis, among others, help their teams and themselves, giving them a better chance to win (I could go off on a tangent right now on the dumbing down of the game, but I will hold off for another post).
And that's my point, ITS ALL ABOUT PRIDE (something I believe Ryan Zimmerman practices each and every day), and the willingness to make yourself the very best you can be. Something's missing in sport today. "Why make myself a great all around player, if I am already being paid millions to play the game anyway." A comment many athletes believe today, sadly.
Growing up in Alexandria, Virginia, I played baseball every conceivable day as a child. Hundreds of practices, pick up games, along with a full slate of Little League Games. We were taught to field the ball, with two hands (a total lost art today). Today, its far more important to be flashy, stabbing the ball with your glove hand only. Once you begin to not use a skill, you become a lesser player. That erosion of skill a cumulative effect.
As I advanced to my teen years, a few more hundred practices, many more games, both High School and Summer League were participated in. No doubt, when I graduated from TC Williams High School in Alexandria, Virgina, my days spent on the baseball diamond were approaching a THOUSAND!! A thousand days, playing, practicing, improving my skills, to the the best of MY ABILITIES.
Yet, I was fortunate after High School, unlike many, and continued to play the College Game. A 60 Game Spring Season Schedule, A 20 Game Fall Schedule, untold numbers of practices, participating in year round workouts. At every turn, there was opportunity to, at least, attempt to improve. Which, fortunately, I did--advancing to The Professional Level, eventually ending my career two steps from The Majors.
Through it all, easily I played baseball for nearly 3000 days through my early 20's. If I couldn't catch a baseball by then, really, I didn't belong on the baseball diamond. Fortunately, fielding was my forte, its what made me a professional player, until the day I could play no longer, retiring injured. I was proud of my fielding. I cared and strove to field the ball correctly through proper techniques.
Looking at THIS GREAT GAME TODAY, my nearly 3000 days of baseball activity pales in comparison to Major League Players. A veteran Major League Player in his 30's may well be approaching double that amount, 6000 days of baseball. Cal Ripken Jr, I would safely say participated in over 10,000 days of baseball over the course of his fabulous baseball lifetime. Cal Ripken Jr. CARED ABOUT THE GAME and the proper way to play, maybe more so than any professional player during my lifetime. That's why I will always cherish, NOT ONLY HIM, BUT ALSO HIS CAREER. Number 8 is a GREAT MAN!!
Errors are an everyday part of the game of baseball. No one is perfect, ever. Scorching Liners, Rushing To The Outfield Wall For A Deep Fly, Hard Hit Ground Balls, A Runner Trying to Take You Out While Throwing The Ball, errors on plays like those are understandable, and expected. Being able to make that play consistently, without making an error, is the sign of A REAL PROFESSIONAL. But, if a Major League Player really cares, there is NO EXCUSE for dropping a routine pop up while drifting back toward the foul line. Or, dropping a routine toss to first, a ball that hits right into your glove.
Pride, that's what it all about. After Thousands and Thousands of days on the Baseball Diamond, A Major League Player should make the routine play.
Nothing more is expected. Nothing less is acceptable.
Game Photo Credits:
Manny Acta, Dontrelle Willis, Ryan Zimmerman(Throwing-(AP)Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Ronnie Belliard Fielding--(AP)Evan Vucci
Zimmerman Taking Out Fielder--(AP)Lawrence Jackson