Confessions of a baseball fan

Published on Tuesday, 14 November 2017 19:41
Written by Harry N. Mazadoorian

I’ve been a Red Sox fan for as long as I can remember.

The months from April to October always bring me great joy, with the opportunity to study and follow a team I get to know very well. This year’s Red Sox ride started with particularly high expectations of stellar play from longtime team stalwarts, amazing new prospects and some mighty mid-season acquisitions. The entire season, including holding on to first place in the Eastern Division, was a nail biter. Now that the dust has settled on the 2017 season, I find myself completely exhausted and spent for a number of reasons.

First, of course, is the disappointing way the season came to a crashing end for the Sox. Winning only one game with the Astros in the Division series was a let-down for sure. And to make it even more complicated, I experienced major twinges of divided loyalty watching the games every time New Britain’s own George Springer stepped up to the plate. How could any native New Britainite not be a big fan of this Hardware City superstar?

But other factors also took their toll on me.

One is the fact that watching - and understanding - major league baseball has gone from a passive laid-back activity to one requiring total immersion and attention. The dizzying number of new statistics require an academic approach seemingly unparalleled in any other sport. As a kid I only cared about a pitcher’s wins, losses and strikeouts and a batter’s batting average and home runs. Now, the baseball statisticians and mathematical geniuses have introduced a whole new lexicon and numerical analytics which keep me running to my media guide and baseball websites. If you don’t understand the WHIP, OBP and OPS and “exit velocity” you can no longer follow the game. I’ve long followed a pitcher’s ERA, but who knew (until I tripped over it this past season) that catchers’ ERA’s were also recorded. Had I not taken (and passed) a statistics course in college, I doubt that I could keep up with this game.

Still another source of exhaustion and frustration: newly minted baseball expressions continue to keep me on the edge of my seat as I try to understand what the broadcasters are talking about. I split my time following the Red Sox between the radio and TV. On the radio, longtime rock solid announcer Joe Castiglione speaks a language and at a pace with which I can usually keep up, although sometimes his encyclopedic knowledge of the game gets beyond my limited means to comprehend.

On TV, some of the colorful language of announcers like the charming and knowledgeable Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley keeps me scratching my head and consulting my reference guides. I’ve broken the code on expressions such as “cheese” and “gas.” But “hair” on a pitch and “can of corn” for a fly ball make me feel that the language of the sport has left me behind. (Clue: a “can of corn” is similar to a “parachute” …….if that helps.) The expressions keep coming: Other commentators for other teams use them as well: Does anyone know what a “Loogy” or a ‘Lawrence Welk “is?

The game has certainly gotten complicated at least for the casual fan. Sometimes Castiglione’s iconic expression “Can You Believe It?” seems to refer to how complex our national pastime has become.

So at the season’s end, I went through the motions and watched the World Series, but without as much enthusiasm as I had in 2004, 2007 and 2013 when the Red Sox emerged as champions. However, I confess that even though the Astro’s eliminated my Beantown boys, Springer’s magnificent MVP performance for seven games continued to give me a special connection to the series and did keep me close to the TV.

From here on, I’ll watch NFL and NBA games during the remainder of the fall and winter seasons. But all the while, I’ll be patiently waiting for Boston’s (and Houston’s) spring training to begin and the new statistics and expressions which the 2018 season will undoubtedly bring.

And while I’ll continue to grouse about how complicated they’ve made what former Commissioner Fay Vincent once referred to as “our modest little game,” I won’t miss an opportunity to dive into the dictionary, media guide and statistics books to find out just what on earth are they talking about!

After all, I want to make sure that I can distinguish a Loogy from a Roogy.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials on Tuesday, 14 November 2017 19:41. Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2017 19:44.