Central to the game of baseball is the act of throwing and catching. The pleasure that envelopes the face of the young daughter as she successfully catches the ball and picking it up in her tiny, stubby fingers rears it back as high and far as she can to her anxiously waiting father, it all comes from throwing and catching.
Now imagine you are sitting on the top of a grassy hill in late 19th century Philadelphia, and down below a group of me are running around bases and hitting grey, lopsided balls with oblong and heavy wooden bats.
The pitcher lobs one into the opposing hitter, a big burly fella, and he takes a sharp cut, the ball speeding along the slick grass to the third baseman, who knocks the ball down with his calloused, workman’s hands — the use of a baseball glove will not be the norm until the 1890’s (and even then it consisted of merely a thin layer of fingertip-less leather) — and with a shuffle he cocks his arm and gives a lofty toss to the first baseman, the ball beating the runner to the base.
The successful defense flips the ball around the infield and the spectators, who have no tie to either team but are there solely to be entertained by the spectacle that is baseball, applaud the talent of the players and neatness of the play.
Now you stand back up having just finished tying your shoe. The sun is beginning to set, and from your position in the outfield you can see the red rays gleam off the sides of the city skyscrapers across the river, the same city that you will be exploring later that night with your friends and some girls, and elation washes over, the real thing, so this is what it feels like.
Ping! An easy fly, a little to the left, settle under and with a satisfying Wap! the 2nd out of the final inning is recorded. Wiping sweat from your hand you toss the ball in to the shortstop, who’s already shouting to the centerfielder which way to shade for the next batter.
You didn’t record a hit among your four trips to the plate today, but you did tag a changeup right at the leftfielder, and also you battled for a walk in the fourth inning and would end up witnessing Jamie’s mammoth homerun from the basepaths, in awe as the ball careened over the fence and splashed into the water. What a game.
What a game.