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Viewpoint: Of course God loves us — after all, he gave us baseball

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Sam Waltz
Founding Editor

If God had created an 11th Commandment, doubtless it would have said, “Baseball shall always be played in the daytime.”

And a 12th might have been “The pitcher always shall bat. No designated hitter.”

At the risk of a bit of sacrilege, this column celebrates the beginning of the 2018 baseball season, with all 30 teams opening on the same day last week, and the Phillies’ home opener on Thursday.

Baseball is yet more proof of God’s love for us.

And, for a business publication column, business and sports – particularly baseball – have been interwoven and integrated since virtually the beginning of time. That seems particularly the case for baseball where so many business and professional leaders take more than a passing interest in the game.

Just days before the opener, I returned from my 10th Annual Talent Evaluation Project in Clearwater, Florida, otherwise known as MLB Spring Training.

I saw 18 games in 21 days in seven ballparks, rising early to work in the mornings and working in the evenings, to avoid calling my time there “a vacation.”

Some sports are more about one team, as Philadelphians – and those of us in Delaware – are about the Eagles in NFL football. Some sports can cycle through periods of broader interest and niche interest, like NBA basketball and NHL ice hockey.

Common currency among baseball fans, however, long has seemed to be a passion for the sport itself, that is, something larger than just the team one follows.

For many, even without realizing it, in business and in life, baseball becomes a metaphor for it all.

We “strike out,” and things go bad. We “hit a home run,” and the success is obvious. We “commit an error,” and the foul-up seems obvious. We “get on base,” and we’re in contention.

Which of us can ever forget in the classic baseball film “Field of Dreams” the special place reflective author Terrence Mann, inimitably played by James Earl Jones, who intones”¦

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

In a world where the rules of even important stuff can change overnight – the NFL last week changed the rule defining what is “a catch” in a football pass play – can you imagine anyone changing a rule about what a score is in baseball? Or whether a batter should be entitled to four strikes as well as four balls?

Like life, baseball seems the ultimate in a collective (social?) sport that also is the ultimate in individual performance. We create a society, or a sub-set of one, on the baseball field, and at work, by how each of us contribute to the whole, but the performance of each of us seems clear every day in every play.

It’s the important and identifiable role of strategy set in the “stop-action” play of baseball – that is, play after play, with time for strategy in virtually each and every one – that I’ve always felt creates a special appeal to the intellectual quality of those in business and the professions who take the time to understand it.

And it’s the culture that blends both a full commitment of purpose as well as a collegiality among its members.
By the way, if God had given us a 13th Commandment, it likely would have absolved us from indulgence with baseball, such as “Ballpark food and beverage shall have no calories that accumulate on one’s body.”

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