The Power of Baseball

You may have heard the story of Abner Doubleday inventing baseball (fact check?) in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. Whether he did actually invent baseball or some patriotic, historian embellished baseball’s beginnings to boost its glory, it is at least certain that the future Union Army Civil War General Abner Doubleday used baseball to boost the morale of Union soldiers, having fashioned makeshift balls and bats to play.

Doubleday knew the power of baseball.

Or when Kirk Gibson, known for his competitiveness and clutch hitting, hit a game-changing home run in a Major League Baseball 1984 World Series game for the Detroit Tigers, and then in the 1988 World Series, did the same thing as a Los Angeles Dodger, only the latter time, he went up to bat barely able to stand, much less swing a bat.

Here he was driven by what experienced players know as the power of baseball, energizing spectating millions of fans in hugely emotional and cathartic moments.

The Baseball Hall of Fame claims that baseball: “inspires movements, instills pride and even heals cities.” Heals cities? Looking closer to this reference, baseball has indeed been instrumental in revitalizing numerous local economies by concentrating human interest and with that financial support.

The soft collective hum from baseball games being played on the planet at this very moment is only a small slice of what would be considered the power of baseball.

Baseball’s worldwide acceptance and popularity are massive, being played in at least 133 out of the planet’s 195+ countries, by a whopping 65 million people (including softball.) So what is the draw? What brings humans to baseball? Well, there are countless arguments for baseball providing objective (physical) results via training, discipline and focus, but there are a cornucopia of subjective gains to be had in both the individual baseball player and the entire baseball team, not mentioning the non-player contributors, supporters, volunteers and family that clearly become necessary in the management and organization of baseball leagues and teams.

To “hold” baseball, that is, to foster its existence and to “make it happen”, simply requires people to come together and collaborate. When the baseball ship chugs forward, it requires many hands-on deck. Words like “community” and “overlap” become unspoken and assumed concepts that are willingly followed in order to make baseball happen.

But the concepts of community and overlap become yet again tiny, tiny facets of the myriad gains and experiences this otherwise children’s game can offer. Words like family, fun, and joy are ever-present when one arrives at a baseball game in play. Of course, asking young players what baseball is for them, these three are clearly the most common responses. 

But alas, the baseball experiencer has so much more to gain!

Here are words and concepts people associate with baseball:

Past-time: To what do you owe this wonderful experience? Started in 1839, baseball has been proven overwhelmingly to be a go-to recreational source to fall back on.

Communication: From sharing the very desire to want to play baseball, to standing on the field with your teammates ready to defend and react to the batter´s response to whatever your pitcher throws at them, relaying messages is number one, since it is extremely a team sport, and only with proper, sophisticated communication can the game be played with success.

Coordination: Who’s in? Who’s playing? Who’s available? Who’s driving? Who is setting up? Do we have an umpire? Is Jane able to play first baseman already since her healing? Who is handling the equipment? Do we have a pitcher who is not tired? Coordinating baseball is an art form, carried out by very talented artists. Their medium? A heavy mix of time, place, characters, energy, speculation and execution. A true art form.

Stamina: Stamina in Baseball? Really? Don’t they just stand around on the field? How could that be exhausting? Well, energy management in baseball relates to forming and holding a vision for building a league or a team regardless of the impact of environmental factors, and to consistently remain undaunted in the heat of a game or a tournament or the many tough or challenging moments therein, and maintaining composure in the greater challenges of team sports. Stamina in baseball is about keeping unrelenting focus.

Baseball offers a humongous array of intangible goods and experiences to players, managers, officials, families and others that can easily be used in other parts of life, not only on the field, including experiencing success or defeat, setting and reaching goals, learning about discipline and in what ways it is effective, equality among players and people and fans, the opportunity to experience and handle emotion – be they new or unfamiliar, the possibly unfamiliar need to follow rules, learning how to stay on task, learning how to concentrate, learning the correct movement in a situation and becoming aware of one’s own body and its limits, character-building, friendships, relationships, and empathy, all products of working with others toward one purpose.

And to revisit the emotional aspects of baseball, there is all that, including elation, despair, coping, dopamine, passion, maintaining motivation, putting in a self-respectful effort, the glee of fitness, and enjoyment of playing (and watching) the game.

Fascination? Oh yeah. That’s the power of baseball.

(c) Tommy Meyer-Ortiz 2023