a Sweet Escape The Freedom of America's pastime

Intro

When you think of the sport of baseball, you may think of beer, hot dogs, nachos, and a boring game a bunch of drunks play for far too much money. Or, if you are a fan of the game, you might have a far more romantic thought process. You will think of the intellectual calls by the coach in given situations, the amount of skill it requires to simply just hit the baseball being thrown 95+ mph, and you will physically feel a love or passion for not only the players, but the game as a whole. However, to players this is not just a sport but an entirely different world that we get to escape to. No matter how big a fan you may be, you cannot feel the way a baseball player feels in the moment of this amazing game we call baseball. My goal for this essay is to inform and educate the "outside world" what lies within the sport versus what is seen in the public eye. Not everybody gets to see just how many different levels and other leagues there are, or fully understand the immense joy we feel in this beautiful escape. Having said all that, I was fortunate to grow up playing baseball all twelve months out of the year for the majority of my childhood on an exclusive baseball field built solely for my friends and I in the front yard of my buddy's house on the North Umpqua river that runs through my hometown of Roseburg, Oregon. This little field is where I have made so many memories and put in the work that has allowed me to continue making memories on other baseball fields all over the nation.

History

In an article by Factmonster, it explains baseball as "The sport that evokes more nostalgia among Americans than any other is baseball. So many people play the game as children (or play its close relative, softball) that it has become known as "the national pastime."' It is said that the first officially recorded organized baseball game ever played was on June 19, 1846. This game was played by the New York Nine and the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, which resulted in a 23-1 New York Nine win. According to Baseball-Reference, the National League, which still exists, was established in 1876. It wasn't until 1901 when the American League was officially (and permanently) established, making Major League Baseball a two-league business. The top team from the National League will play the top team from the American League in the first modern World Series in 1903. The Pittsburgh Pirates (NL) played the Boston Americans (AL) in an 8 game best-of series in which the Boston Americans became the World Champions (Baseball-Almanac). The average attendance for a professional baseball game in 1901 was 3,247 fans, but in 1909 baseball reached a pre World War I record of 5,836. With WWII and the Great Depression, attendance was very inconsistent for a long time. The upgrades in stadiums helped a bit, but it wasn't until the marketing and hype era where baseball was truly America's pastime. Free agency, big money contracts, and performance enhancing drugs like steroids were all huge factors that impacted attendance. The game got interesting and exciting, players were getting traded and sold for better players, steroid users were hitting mind blowing home runs. In 1979, attendance finally broke 20,000 people, but in 1993 games were reaching 30,000+ screaming baseball fans in the stadiums. Other factors that improved the game include sponsorships, merchandise, television, etc. Baseball games provided a quick escape for the working man, opportunities to bond with family, meet new people with the same passions as you, and much more. The love for the game changed everything.

One of baseball's first stadiums. Polo Grounds 1880-1963.

Levels of the Game

As much as I would like to defend the sport from the "you can play the sport drunk!" stereotype, I really can't because there is a real league called Beer League Softball and you literally drink as much beer as you want while playing games and honestly, that's the beauty of it all- literally anybody, of any size, shape, or race can play. The greatest thing about this game is that anybody that wants to play, can! Whether you are 5 years old or 50 years old, there is always a chance to play. So you aren't talented enough to play professionally? You're in luck! There are competitive (and non competitive) men's softball leagues in almost every city around the nation. Anybody of any age can play at least a version of baseball. There is wiffle ball, softball, fastpitch, and of course just normal baseball. In fact, many people I know personally have picked up competitive men's softball once they were done playing baseball in high school or college and they travel all over the United States to play in big tournaments. Some are even televised!

Lifelong Relationships

Many baseball players started playing at a very young age and have made their first friends through the game. When I was just seven years old, my dad and a guy he barely knew, who had a son the same age, decided to create a travel-baseball team together. We were called the Roseburg Red Sox. We had the same team, consisting of the same 14 kids, for five years. We spent 8 of the 12 months out of the year together every single year; we traveled all over Washington, Oregon, and California together. We stayed in the same hotels together and played in tournaments. After long days on the baseball field, despite spending every waking moment together, we would all play in the hotel pool and get into trouble together. It didn't matter where we all were or what we were doing, we were a team of best friends that just loved to have fun and bond over the same passion for baseball. To this day, I am close friends with almost every single one of those kids I played with and we will all get together over the breaks from college or work and act like we are all 8 years old again. When my brother died when I was 14 years old, the first people I went to were on that team with me. When my best friends dad lost a battle to cancer, almost every single one of us showed up to his funeral. It is an unexplainable love we have for each other and it is all because of baseball. We have gone through some of the best times and some of the worst times in our lives together. You just don't come across friendships like this in today's world and I couldn't be more thankful for each and every one of them.

Another great thing about baseball, is you get to meet all kinds of people from all over the nation. Baseball has taken me to 11 states and I have made friends in almost every one of them. It's pretty awesome to meet people and listen to their stories and hear who they know and what connections they have made. Its a great feeling to know I could travel just about anywhere and be able to make a quick phone call and have a place to stay for the night if I needed it. That's just what baseball does for people. How could you not be romantic about the sport?

Del Rio Road

If you were to ask me where my favorite place in the world is, my answer would be the baseball field on Del Rio rd in Roseburg, Oregon. A homemade baseball field in the front yard of my best friends house that was built just for us when we were 10 years old. I spent so much of my childhood on that field. I can honestly say this baseball field shaped me into the man I am today. I have experienced every emotion imaginable on that infield dirt. My blood, sweat and tears will forever be a part of it. Countless hours spent with my dad playing baseball; some days for fun, some days to work my ass off. I had so many days growing up where I just absolutely despised being there, but I have even more days where I would do just about anything to be back on that field. I know it sounds a little silly saying my favorite place ever is a baseball field, but I can close my eyes and in that moment, I'm home. It's not just a place to play baseball- it's where my best friends and I took our pictures for our high school prom, it's where I lay in the grass in the middle of a warm summer night and just stare at the stars and listen to the sound of the river flowing, and it is where I have spent some of the most amazing moments with people that mean the world to me. Nothing will compare to that baseball field on Del Rio road. Being so far away from home now, it is my biggest escape when I go back home on breaks from school and baseball. We are far too big to play on the field now, but I find so much joy in the fact that I can watch the little league kids practicing and sharing all the same emotions I did when I was their age 11 years ago. It is an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia when I catch myself watching these little ball players laugh until they cant breathe, cry because they would rather be playing video games, and sit Indian-style in the outfield picking grass blades while the other group hits. I just find myself with the biggest smile on my face.

Conclusion

A sport with such rich history, and so many "subgenres" it is impossible to cover it all in a short essay, but hopefully I was able to paint a clear enough picture for you to at least begin to understand just how special baseball is for so many of us that are fortunate enough to be able to play this game. It is an escape to another world that allows all the stress of your everyday life to just melt away. The memories I have made and the relationships I've built will forever hold a large piece of my heart. Where it all began for me, means the absolute world to me and I wouldn't trade it for anything. This sport has instilled an immense love in me that I will never be able to fully explain.

Photo Essay

The pictures included are all a reflection of the relationships baseball has brought to me and the opportunities it has provided. Ever since I can remember, baseball has been something I have enjoyed more than anything else. A baseball field is where my two biggest friendships formed; both guys I can't consider friends, they are my brothers. Through the toughest parts of all our lives, when Zach's father died of Parkinson's Disease, when David's dad died of cancer, and when my brother died in a car accident, nothing has separated us. We have been there for each other through everything since we were 8 years old, and we continue to grow closer to this day. I owe it all to baseball.

Russel Award Scholarship Senior Year HS
My Friend/Teammate of 3 Years Tommy Lane
Mid-Game Fun Against Connor
Summer Jeep Drives with David & Marvin
Herd Baseball at Appalchian Power Park
Connor and I at a Restaurant in Oregon for Baseball
David and I in Front of the Field That Built Us
Summer Baseball in Kelowna, British Columbia
Mountain Adventures Back Home with Zach

Annotated Bibliography

1. Morosi, Jon Paul. “MLB's Real Challenge: Drumming up More Passion at the Stadium.” FOX Sports, Jon Paul Morosi, June 2015, www.foxsports.com/mlb/story/major-league-baseball-can-learn-from-caribbean-series-in-puerto-rico-020615. This article talks about the differences between professional baseball in America versus professional baseball in Latin countries. With the downfall of excitement in American baseball, they are trying to find ways to get the fan base back to the way it was when baseball was rising. When he went to games in Puerto Rico, Jon Paul Morosi noticed how excited and passionate the fan base was. He came to the conclusion that in America, fans buy tickets to games to be entertained by the players, but in Latin countries, the fans buy tickets to be a part of the entertainment.

2. Brisbee, Grant. “Do Baseball Players Make Too Much Money?” SBNation.com, 2013, www.sbnation.com/2013/4/16/4229588/mlb-salaries-baseball-millionaires-what-about-the-children. In this article, Grant Brisbee talks about the opinion that professional baseball player make too much money. He talks about why people would think that and why people wouldn’t. For those that view professional baseball as just a sport played by average Americans, they will think that baseball players make far too much money. Their thought process is “why are adults playing a game making far more money than you and I and we are working a 9-5 plus overtime?” The fact of the matter is that professional athletes are not “average working men,” they are the most elite players on the planet and that is why they are signing multi-million dollar contracts. Mr. Brisbee also speaks on behalf of people that may think that just the owners should be making all the money, but that would contradict the issue of “rich people getting richer.”

3. “Pride and Passion of Baseball in DR.” Major League Baseball, mlb.mlb.com/dr/pride_passion_dr.jsp. In Pride and Passion: Baseball in the Domincan Republic, John Thorn “the Official Historian of Major League Baseball” informs us how and why Major League Baseball has improved over the years- and continues to do so. He gives much of the credit to the players emerging from the Dominican Republic. Numbers-wise, Dominicans are killing it at the professional level in America. There are roughly 1,750 dominican-born players in the minor leagues, and that isn’t counting the players that are a part of a 40-man roster at the top level. Today, baseball is just as much a part of the DR as it is in America, meaning that it is the national pastime for their country as well. The difference that sets the players apart though, is the American dream. We live that already, but to the Dominicans, they are exceeding in baseball in hopes of making it to America and becoming a big name and making much more money than their nation’s elite can make.

4. Newman, Mark. “Why We Love Baseball.” Major League Baseball, 2007, m.mlb.com/news/article/1800838/. Mark Newman interviewed players, coaches, and fans all over Major League baseball. What makes this one special is that he did so on Valentine’s Day to kind of emphasize the immense love that floats around and within the game. Answers pretty much bounced between “anybody can play, no matter the size,” the relationships created/involved, the overall atmosphere of the game as a whole, and the feeling they get around baseball. From a lifelong fan’s standpoint, Joel Kweskin mentioned the uniqueness of baseball. Most sports are variations of the concept- back and forth action with the goal of scoring. Baseball is mapped out on the field, a game of failure, and an uncontrollable game as far as where the ball is hit (or not hit). Baseball manager Joe Maddon, says his love for the game is because you get to feel like a kid again, every single day. That giddy feeling a kid feels every day over pretty much everything they see or do, is a lost “talent” among adults, and that’s the feeling of escape I spoke so heavily about in my essay.

5. “The Wiffle Ball, Inc. - A Brief History.” The Wiffle Ball, Inc. - A Brief History, www.wiffle.com/pages/welcome.asp?page=welcome. David and Stephen Mullony give a short version of the history of Wiffle Ball. In 1953, their father who was 12 at the time, wanted to play a pick up game of backyard baseball. After hours of searching for enough players for two teams, him and his friend gave up. They found a perforated plastic gold ball and a broomstick handle, and began to throw hard sliders and curve balls to make it tough to hit the ball (since it was just two people) and played a version of baseball that just them could play until they found enough players for a real baseball game. Eventually his father made a plastic ball the same size as a baseball and put holes in half of it in order to create movement and cause the ball to travel less distance. The game was designed to involve a lot of strikeouts, and at the time, when somebody would swing and miss it was called a “wiff,” hence the name Wiffle Ball. This game is now one of the biggest backyard games played by baseball players and fans.

6. @Baseball_ref. “History of Baseball in the United States - BR Bullpen | Baseball-Reference.com.” Baseball-Reference.com, www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/History_of_baseball_in_the_United_States. This article by Baseball-Referece covers just about every part of the history of baseball. In-depth information about how baseball started, when it started and the rise of the sport, and so much more. The New York Knickerbockers was the first team to play baseball under modern rules in 1846. The start to the rise of the major leagues took place in 1870 when the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players split the league into professional players and amateur players. This article covers information about the dead ball era from 1900-1919. This was a time when baseballs were too expensive to be losing multiple per game, so they designed a “dead” baseball that would not fly nearly as far. A single baseball would often last an entire game (today’s games go through about 30). Baseball’s during this era were only to be replaced if hit into the crowd and lost.

7. Marc Topkin, Times Staff WriterLinkView all Articles. “Friedman Still Relishes Relationships Formed with Rays.” Tampa Bay Times, www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/friedman-still-relishes-relationships-formed-with-rays/2275808. Tampa Bay Times writes this article about the former President of Baseball Operations for the Tamba Bay Rays organization and the relationships he formed while with the organization before continuing his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Friedman tells the writer that he still consistently talks with his friends he made while with the Rays. Some of his best friends were formed through baseball, whether it be players or other employees within the organization. In his return to Tampa Bay to visit, he says it felt weird saying hello to people he worked beside for 10 plus years of his life. Baseball is a business, and unfortunately sometimes that means switching teams in order to improve yourself or the team. The most special thing in baseball for Friedman is the relationships throughout the building, the staff, and the players. These friendships mean everything and are his favorite part of being around the game.

8. “Linkedin.com.” Linkedin.com, www.linkedin.com/pulse/baseball-family-bonding-kevin-christofora. Kevin Christofora writes this article about how participating in Little League can strengthen relationships with loved ones. The priceless moments you get from kids playing baseball are so special; like when they smile and wave to their mom and dad in the crowd from the field. The benefits of coaching your child (or just being their biggest fan) include opening up communication, keeping your relationship close, and allowing you to cheer each other on. You get to talk to them about the game and whether they are having fun, and you spend a lot of extra time teaching your son or daughter new skills. If you are a child playing for your dad, you want to make him happy and he wants you to be happy. This is cheering each other on; you want the absolute best for your loved ones. All these are great benefits to placing your child in Little League.

9. “McKeon’s Guide To Beer League Softball.” Not The Common Fan, 5 Apr. 2010, ntcf.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/mckeons-guide-to-beer-league-softball-2/. In this funny (but serious) article about Beer League softball, you read about the sport and why people play. Basically to relive your high school or college glory days on the baseball diamond, teams compete in men’s softball. Each player should bring a minimum of a six pack of beer to respect team etiquette- nobody likes a mooch. Men play with a larger softball and the pitcher floats the ball underhand from the pitchers circle. The goal of this league is to stay around the game of baseball, even if you are old and out of shape. Simultaneously, the players will compete to win and get drunk while doing so. It adds a fun twist and takes away the stress that comes along with regular baseball.

10. Daniel, P.K. “Looking At Youth Baseball From The Inside.” BaseballAmerica.com, 15 July 2013, www.baseballamerica.com/high-school/looking-at-youth-baseball-from-the-inside/#3IGzLIdzFYE9M4bL.97. In the article by P.K. Daniel, she tells his story about how they came to the decision to place their son in high school travel ball and taking him to showcases. The benefits of doing this include: seeing new places, creating new friendships, exposure to colleges/pro scouts, and improving your son’s overall skill of the sport. Despite the benefits, there is definitely some down side to this, she explains. A good argument is that she believes it may be more beneficial , as far as skill goes, to get 15 minutes of focused work in the backyard. There are more cons, but the ultimate decision was to include him in travel baseball and showcases.

Works Cited

@Baseball_ref. “History of Baseball in the United States - BR Bullpen | Baseball-Reference.com.” Baseball-Reference.com, www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/History_of_baseball_in_the_United_States.

“Baseball in America: A History.” Baseball in America: A History, www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0875086.html.

“People like Us Are Afraid to Leave Ball. What Else Is There to Do? When Baseball Has Been Your Whole Life, You Can't Think about a Future without It, so You Hang on as Long as You Can.” Search Quotes, www.searchquotes.com/quotation/People_like_us_are_afraid_to_leave_ball._What_else_is_there_to_do%3F_When_baseball_has_been_your_whole/219225/.

“World Series : A Comprehensive History of the World Series by Baseball Almanac.” World Series : A Comprehensive History of the World Series by Baseball Almanac, www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/wsmenu.shtml.

Reflective Piece

Personally, I am happy with my advocacy essay. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this because it was a topic special to me. This was very helpful to my writing because I knew what questions I want to answer, and I had a knowledgeable background with similar shared emotions among myself and other baseball players. A learning objective I believe to have achieved was, "Ability to attend to issues of audience, purpose ad rhetorical context." This class was a lot of fun for me. Despite the series of unfortunate events that took place, causing me to miss a good amount of class, I learned a lot and was very interested in what was being taught (which is not common for me). My "Into the Wild" analysis was a struggle for me and I didn't really enjoy writing too much because of the constant frustration of not connecting with the topic. The biggest skill I feel that I acquired through this class is to search deeper than just the surface of a topic. Before, I didn't really look into topics before, rather just got what I needed to get done and move on. This skill has not only made me a better writer, but I can take that skill into my every day life.

This advocacy essay has definitely been one of the more enjoyable projects I've done in college so far. Learning how to use Adobe Spark, write in a new style, and being able to choose topic so meaningful to me made this a fun piece. My biggest strength in this essay was telling my story and explaining what this topic means to me and so many other people. My biggest weakness was trying to find interesting ways to explain the different levels of baseball without going on for way too long and losing focus of the topic.

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