Baseball is Life: A True Game of Inches

2013-09-27 10.09.37

People who say football is a game of inches have never played or coached baseball and, by extension, never lived life. One inch may be of some importance in football, but it doesn’t define the game nearly as much as fans and players would like us to believe. The real game of inches is baseball. Consider the following partial of ways one itty-bitty inch can change the tempo and direction of a baseball game.

In baseball:

–One inch off the plate can mean a run is walked in.

–One inch off the plate can mean a hit batter that results in a brawl with suspensions and/or a run walked in.

–One inch off the rubber at the wrong time and the batter gets the base. A balk can mean a run scores; it’s happened plenty of times.

–One inch to the left down the left field line means a foul.One inch to the right down the left field line means a hit.

–One inch to the right down the right field line means a foul. One inch to the left down the right field line means a hit.

–One inch too short of a lead means less of a chance of a stolen base.

–One inch too far for a lead off means a probable pick-off.

–One inch difference in the height of an outfield wall is the difference between a home run and an out.

–One inch added to their vertical jump by an outfield can mean the difference between an out and a home run.

–One inch is the difference between catching the ball or missing the ball.

–One inch can be the difference between throwing the runner out at home or the run scoring.

One inch. That’s all it takes to profoundly alter a baseball game. That’s it. No other sport, regardless of what football claims, can say that about one little inch. One inch is all it takes to profoundly alter a person’s life too. The height of the pitcher, the height of a batter or a fielder, of an umpire all matter in the game of baseball. The reason the pitcher’s mound was raised a few inches then lowered is noteworthy as well; depending on the height of the mound, either the batter is helped or the pitcher is helped. One inch changes a game. Baseball is nothing but about inches. Literally EVERY inch matters. Every inch is a game changer. No other sport can say that.

One inch is all it takes to alter one’s life. Every inch matters too.

This is why I still adhere to the idea that Ernie Harwell helped me understand so very long ago: Baseball is life. As Tim Siedell points out, it is the quintessential game of life, for better or worse. Think of the number of times one inch may have made in your life, of how the minutiae controls you. Do you remember that time when, as many kids say today, there was “Another foul ball, but I’m still glad I hit it”? You tried, but failed or succeeded all because of one inch.

Consider these:

–If I had sat one inch farther from my wife at the place we met, would we be married? Would I have scored the love of my life? Would I have hit a home run? Would I have two wonderful kids? Would I have anything I have that I cherish so much?

–If you hadn’t bumped into that person on the street, would you have been hit by a car? If you’d been 1 inch to the left or to the right, what would have happened?

–If you crept forward in your car one inch, would you have avoided the accident?

Ernie Harwell, the man who taught me more about baseball and life than my parents, probably knew that life and baseball mirrored one another in these ways.

Then there’s the fact that these inches can get people in trouble in baseball and life, but rarely in football. I’ll probably take flak for saying this, but football players are spoiled and pampered. Consider that they get million dollar contracts to play HALF a game ONCE a week. Baseball players, on the other hand, might play 162 games, sometimes with two on one day and often with over a week of no breaks, while traveling all over the country and Canada day in and day out. Their ability to remain undistracted, remain focused is challenged every single day of the season. They literally inch their way through a season. Not so in football. If a football player stubs their two, they sit out sometimes for weeks. If a football player decides to go home and visit the family for a few days, he can. They take inches for granted. A baseball player dislocates his shoulder and he pops it back in and keeps playing (Brandon Inge while with the Tigers and the A’s did this very thing). When a ball player gets in trouble, when he moves an inch too far outside of the rules, he’s actually suspended and fined. When a football player does (like the Lions’ Suh) he gets to keep playing because the team “needs him” and he “probably” learned his lesson. If Suh had decided not to hit a player, had paused for a second and not moved one more inch, he wouldn’t have had any issues. But does he care? No. Because the NFL excuses poor behavior. Baseball, and life, don’t. In the short run to first, life may look like it does excuse poor behavior, but in the long run around the bases, at some point, life and baseball show you if you lived within the lines or outside of them, they show you if you moved one inch to the left or to the right. A-Rod and the other alleged dopers are perfect examples of this. Eventually, that one inch caught up to them.

Life is baseball; baseball is life.

No one will ever convince me otherwise.

My recommendation to everyone is to choke up an inch, stand strong in the batter’s box and wait for your pitch. Home run, single, Base on Balls, or hit by pitch, one inch will make a difference in your life.