By Ken Reed
I always get excited when a new baseball season starts.
Baseball has a hook in me and I’m not sure why.
It’s not my favorite sport. It might not be my second. But I’m drawn to it in ways I’m not with other sports.
Believe me, I’m not a big fan of the overly romanticized odes to baseball that too often show up in print or on the big screen. Nevertheless, there’s a specialness to baseball for me.
I guess there’s no better place to start than with spring training. I actually get excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to camp. I love everything about spring training. Conversely, I could care less about football and basketball training camps.
I like the leisurely pace in the spring. Players mosey up to the field for batting practice with smiles on their faces. They joke with teammates and fans and sign autographs along the way.
Old-timers in uniform hang out around the batting cage or bullpen and tell stories as often as they give advice to players.
I love the mild weather at spring training games and sitting in the grass beyond the outfield walls. I enjoy exposing my winter white to the sun and watching better-looking sun worshippers do the same. I get a kick out of five-year-olds playing catch and chasing wild throws down the grassy knolls, often tumbling as their little legs can’t keep pace with their increasing speed.
I cherish the fact that I’ve shared family vacations to spring training with my parents and sister; my wife and friends; and more recently, with my children.
Once the regular season starts, I look forward to perusing the morning box scores while eating my breakfast cereal and drinking a cup of tea. Why is looking at box scores such a fun ritual in baseball? I rarely look at basketball and football box scores ….
I love listening to baseball broadcasts on the car radio. I also listen to baseball games as I mow the yard and I’ll bring a speaker out to my backyard deck to listen to the game while flipping burgers. With a baseball radio broadcast, you can “see” the game unfold in ways that are impossible with football and basketball.
All I need is a couple innings. I don’t remember the last time I listened to an entire baseball game on the radio but a couple innings is like a laidback 15-minute chat with a good neighbor over the backyard fence.
Baseball brings a ton of history and nostalgia to the table as well. It connects me to the innocence of my youth like no other sport.
As a Denver native, we weren’t blessed with a Major League team during my youth. I adopted the Oakland A’s (cool uniforms, funky names, lots of mustaches and nearly as many stars) as my team growing up. I can remember the entire starting line-ups, rotations and closers for the ’71-‘75 A’s. I can’t do the same with my favorite basketball and football teams from the same era.
My dad recognized my passion for the A’s and baseball and wanted to feed it. He somehow always found a way for our annual Griswold-like summer family vacations to include a game or two involving the A’s in some American League city. Today, these games hold memories everyone in the family cherishes … like the time my younger sister turned her popcorn container into a megaphone and yelled as loud as she could, “Go Koufax!” Sandy Koufax was long retired and the Dodgers were playing 2000 miles away!
My uncle and cousin in Minnesota taught me how to keep score at the first Major League Baseball game I attended, a game featuring the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers way back in 1968 at the old Metropolitan Stadium. Today, I still like keeping score at baseball games, whether sitting at a game by myself or sharing scoring duties with my wife or kids. Yet the thought of scoring a game in basketball or football (do they score games in football?) never crosses my mind.
I have great memories of being 10-years-old and walking to the local convenience store with my best friend on hot summer days to buy a couple packs of Topps baseball cards. We’d immediately rip them open to see what players we got and then walk home and trade duplicate cards (we called them “doubles”) with each other for players we didn’t have in our collections.
There’s no better game for shooting the breeze with family or friends than baseball. The pace is perfect for simultaneously watching the action on the field and catching up on the activities of a good friend’s kids. And going to a baseball game is ideal for extended family outings. Grandparents and grandkids alike are comfortable at the ol’ ballpark.
I guess part of baseball’s allure is the constancy of it. It’s there with you, day in and day out, for eight months (counting spring training and the postseason). Baseball’s a great companion, even if it’s not your favorite sport. I have a relationship with baseball that I don’t have with other sports, or many other things in my life for that matter.
Once baseball gets you it has you for life. Jim Bouton captured it best at the end of his classic book Ball Four.
“You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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