Over the past week, thanks to the Washington Nationals playing in the World Series, I’ve learned more about baseball than I’ve ever known before. I never thought I could actually enjoy watching baseball but here I am. (Of course there is something else to be said about being at a game at a ballpark… It’s fun even if you don’t pay attention or understand how the game works. I went to my first baseball game just a couple of years ago with my friend Mike and his family).
As an adult, I have discovered joy in learning new things. From getting to understand, even if it’s a basic level of understanding, everything from philosophy to chess, you find a certain enrichment to your life. It can be learning a new language or a new skill, there is a thrill in discovering something you enjoy. That’s one of the beautiful things about life. It’s so true to say that we learn something new every day. Only in learning something new can you discover a particular field or subject that you enjoy.
I have enjoyed learning new things in general. St. Paul talks about being all things to all men. (First Corinthians 9:22). If you are acquainted with a variety of fields of knowledge and different topics, you have some fuel to connect with all kinds of different people. This is very invaluable people who are considered to be introverted like me (although labels don’t do justice to human beings was so much more than labels).
Baseball is a sport that I didn’t enjoy watching on TV. “It’s a long and boring game,” I used to think. But that was largely because I didn’t understand how the game actually works. Now that I’m getting to learn about the rules of baseball, I find that I like watching it. The thing is, there is a learning curve to everything, some of them are steeper than others. Baseball is not a straightforward sport like soccer, nor is it quick paced like basketball. Nor is it super hyped up as American football. It takes effort to bring about the gameplay of baseball, at least I found it to be this way in my case.
I think that the game is very cerebral and requires a lot of precision and planning ahead. The pitcher has to think about the way to throw the ball so as to make the batter strike out. He also has to think about the possible trajectory of the ball if it is hit. A homerun must be avoided at all costs. Depending on the trajectory and how far the ball will go, infielders or outfielders will have to be able to catch the ball so as to get players before they can reach a base. There is a lot for the pitcher to consider and ultimately the game can all come down to this one person. But that’s not to say that it is not very much a team sport requiring every player to give 100% and to cooperate with fellow teammates. Sometimes, sacrifice is required. A batter may allow himself to be tagged out in order that his teammate can make it to the next base or run all the way to home plate and score.
An interesting comparison to the spiritual life is that the object of the game is to make it home and take as many people there with you. There’s probably a whole lot more. Also, an analogy that Bishop Robert Barron uses when speaking about the beauty of Catholicism: rather than begin with the rules of baseball, begin with showing them the beauty of the game and then they will want to play, and in order to play, they will learn how the rules work – – – and having played the game, they will know.
When I learned that the Nationals won the playoffs, making it to the World Series, I resolved myself to pay attention and actually watch. As I write this, I’m watching game six and hoping that they can force a game seven to win the thing. (Best of seven). [Update: October 30, sure enough they beat their opponents, the Houston Astros and there will be a game seven. Pretty exciting. Amazingly, the Nats seem to do better on the road. They lost every home game of the Series.]
After watching game one, there was a lot that I didn’t understand. But I really wanted to get the game. So, I did the only logical thing I could and went online to learn how baseball works. Thanks to YouTube, I learned the basics. Also, to give a shout out, my friend Nick cleared some things out for me. In coming to understand, I have grown in appreciation.
Game seven is tonight, you know I’ll be watching.