America’s Pastime and the American Dream. Major League Baseball and the World Baseball Classic. July 4, 1776, a summer day in 1791/1792 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Abner Doubleday in 1839 in Upstate New York, and Saturday, March 18, 2017, in San Diego, California. What makes America’s Pastime special? Why was a March evening in San Diego better than any other Saturday night?
America’s Pastime and the American Dream, there are thousands of articles and movies that reference them together. American as apple pie, a Detroit car company, or the red, white, and blue of Old Glory. We see them together in comparisons across all aspects of American life.
He hit a home run in the conference room today. He really struck out in his effort to win that argument. He never reached second base with his business plan.
Other American sports reference America’s Pastime when discussing a completely different game. He hit a home run with that spectacular touchdown catch. The best tennis players accomplish the greatest feat when they complete the Grand Slam in winning the four major tournaments. Golf, racing, and even Hollywood reference the same “grand slam” for their best accomplishments.
There are blue collar workers bustling through the minor leagues in the hopes of a big payday and possibly a white collar front office job or post career direction change. Draftees coming up through the ranks to eventually make rank. Some are luckier and make General to play with the big boys and girls. Free enterprise, hard work, a white picket fence and all that, it is the American Dream and it is ingrained in the ebb and flow of a Major League Baseball season as it is in the lives of all Americans.
A laughable comparison some may say because of the salary differences between a bus driver and a minor league ball player, let alone a player who reaches free agency and signs a record-breaking contract. However, the principles are the same. As former Secretary of State and President of the United States Thomas Jefferson once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” It is the journey, not the destination. It is about who you became along the way, not what you become.
America’s pastime is special for many reasons. It is the only sport where the offense does not control the ball while it is in play. As in life, you do not need to be in control of the ball to strikeout or hit a homer. You can still hit when someone else controls the ball.
It is the only sport without a clock. The game ends when the last out is recorded. As in life, you pursue and find your destiny, and let it find you until your last out is called by the Big Umpire in the Sky.
It is the only sport where doing something well, like getting a hit, three out of ten times (or 30%) is considered great. As in life, any successful person will tell you that they have far more failures than successes. It is the old adage of seeing the tip of the iceberg of success as opposed to the large portion of hard work and failures below the surface. A look below the surface will show you the heartaches, headaches, and battles in the trenches.
It is the Facebook effect on people’s psyches where perception is reality—a share of a picture is now literally worth a thousand words. However, where other sports and professions teach perfection or near perfection as the goal, baseball teaches you consistency over a lifetime. Consistency, in a world driven by immediate results and satisfaction, is unfortunately underrated. America’s pastime consistently pushes the importance of being consistent back to the top of our minds, again and again.
America’s pastime was a bit more special on a Saturday evening by the Bay. Saturday, March 18, 2017, at Petco Park, the United States played the Dominican Republic in an elimination game during the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The game meant nothing for the World Series, but it meant so much more than a World Series title. It was country versus country, nation versus nation, and homeland versus homeland. Passion for your flag’s colors invaded the stands on this Saturday night.
(If interested, for the home run shot video with Team USA outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, that is yours truly standing, arms raised, back row, in the white shirt in Suite 4D of the Western Metal Supply Co. building, cheering).
The game was much more than that though. It was a completely different feeling, experience, and important moment to be cheering for your country as opposed to a club in your city. Dodger fans rooting for Giants' players. Two Orioles’ players stealing hits from each other because they represent two different countries in the tournament. It was about history and love of your homeland and the opportunities America provides and being proud about those experiences and freedoms.
It was about watching the best baseball players in the world for a two-week period, which culminated one fateful night in America’s finest city. An All-Star Game normally happens once a year, but for this tournament it happened for consecutive nights with different teams of talented players from around the world. Instead of National League versus American League, it was country versus country. For the first time in many people's lives, they got to witness the greatest players play the greatest game representing their countries.
It was about a secret. A secret that for too long has seen Americans’ sit back and fail to engage with this war of a tournament. Those who attended, watched, and cared felt a special connection to the players, the game, and other fans because it was one cheer, and one win, for one country.
The Americans, eventually, as you know, accomplished what seemed to be the improbable and yet thinkable. They won the 2017 World Baseball Classic on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, in Los Angeles, California, with two weeks of Spring Training games to go before the start of the 2017 Major League Baseball season. Our boys in red, white, and blue are now, truly, World Champions.
Along the way, Team USA beat the Dominican Republic, Japan, and Puerto Rico in a five-day period. During that period, Team USA beat the defending champion, two-time champion, last year’s runner up, and two undefeated teams, all in elimination games. Like us, Team USA was not perfect in tournament play, but the team showed up, played consistent baseball, and the harder they tried, the luckier they got.
Baseball showed again why it is America’s pastime. It was Independence Day, Opening Day, and Game Seven of the World Series all rolled into one. One country, one game, and in the words of American outfielder Adams Jones, “U-S-A,” with a hand swipe under the name on the front of the jersey!
It was an honor and pleasure to watch the world come together for such a special event. That it was for America’s Pastime makes it so much sweeter. Baseball, the game with humble beginnings, now a growing world affair.