Play Ball!

It’s Opening Day for another season of baseball which means it’s time for my annual reminder of how baseball, of all of our athletic games, is the most like LIFE. That’s why there is more to learn from baseball than there is from any other sport.

Football is enjoyable and popular even though I’ve always thought George Will showed off how smart he is when he observed that football showcases two unpleasant aspects of modern life. He pointed out that the game consists of “violence punctuated by committee meetings.”

Who doesn’t like basketball?  The fast pace, the beauty of a three-pointer arcing toward the hoop, the sheer athletic grace of the players. It’s a wonderful game. 

Like many of my age group, I don’t understand futbol very well, but I have found it is not the boring game that I thought it was. It’s exciting.  The players are as athletic as the hoopsters, and it’s nice to see that you can be a person of normal size and still excel. 

I am grateful that I never acquired an addiction to golf.  It’s ruined many people.  I am a terrible golfer, never having stayed in double digits. But I understand how someone can get addicted to this game. There was that one perfect chip shot I made one day.  I watched as the little white ball rose in a perfect arc against the blue sky and came to rest on the lush green just two feet from the cup. So beautiful, and it felt so good! I can understand how someone could chase that elusive feeling for the rest of their lives. 

All of these games are good, but none of them are models for LIFE as baseball is. Why do I say that?   Let’s start with the fact that major league baseball players play every day.  You don’t practice for six days and play on one. No.  The game is there to be played every day. Just like LIFE.

There is not much specialization in baseball compared with the other sports.  Everyone has to bat (well, except for the pitcher).  Everyone has to play defense (well, except for the DH).  Everyone has to be able to run and throw and catch.  Of course some are better at certain things than others, but everyone has to be able to do the basics. Like LIFE.

In baseball you can’t check in and out of the game.  Once you are taken out, you are out.  LIFE is like that as I’m sure you have noticed.  When the Coach takes you out, you are not coming back in. 

As George Carlin pointed out, in baseball the goal is to be safe at home.  Isn’t that something we all want in LIFE?

To be successful in baseball you have to be a good team player. No one can singlehandedly win the game. But there are times in baseball when you are utterly on your own. When you stand in the batter’s box, no one can help you.  Kinda like LIFE. 

Baseball is the only game in which the defense controls the ball.  Have you noticed that LIFE is like that?  You are trying to live a certain kind of life, but there are more things out of your control than in your control.  You are trying, with the help of your teammates, to navigate your way through life from first base, to second, to third and then to be safe at home. But you are not in control. You do not have the ball.  LIFE has it.

Baseball, as former MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti once wrote, “breaks your heart.  It is designed to break your heart.”  It teaches us how to deal with suffering. I remind my son of this every year at the end of the season.  Last October we were texting back and forth as the Atlanta Braves clobbered Our Astros in Game Six of the World Series.  As the game came to an end, I called him and asked him if he remembered what baseball is really about.  “Yes, Dad,” he said.  “Baseball is about suffering.”

But this is Opening Day!  Carlos Correa is dead to me, but Justin Verlander is back, and Jose Altuve lives on. Let’s play ball!!


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at

Tomorrow: a COVID case from Indiana….