Hay’s Daze: Getting to first base

  • Apr. 21, 2023 5:30 a.m.

We’re in the thick of it now! Hockey, I mean. Playoffs. “He shoots! He scores!” “She shoots! She scores!” ringing in the air. So what better time to talk baseball?

The Major League of Baseball (MLB) kicked off for another year just a few weeks ago, and although I’m not a die-hard fanatical fan of baseball per se, there’s some very interesting things going on baseball-wise. For example, they changed some major rules of the game which is somewhat surprising if you’re a person who is easily surprised, like yours truly. Also, it turns out that experts say that global warming is, to coin a phrase from baseball lingo, “juicing home runs”!

I can remember as a short little shrimp in junior high all I wanted to do was to play first base in city league baseball. Now in order to be an excellent first baseperson you were basically required to be two things: very tall, and very left-handed. Very tall so that you could stretch out and snag throws that are way off the bag, and very left-handed because your glove is on your right hand and it’s easier to turn to the base to tag out runners. I was neither of these things.

But I had two other very important things: a first baseperson “trapper” ball glove and Dave Grove, the legendary coach who encouraged shrimps like me play first base.

Charlie Grove (Mr. Grove’s son) is pitching. He lays in a wicked fastball; the batter (Yook Foo Quan on the North Red Deer team) takes a wild swing and WHAP! he skies it straight up in the air about 10 miles up there, right towards first base. Now, of course, it’s two out and if I catch it we win the game, and well, you can see where this is going.

I yelled “MINE!” like you’re supposed to do, staring straight up and scrambling, zig zagging, stumbling underneath the ball coming back down at me at twice the speed of light referenced in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I’ve got my glove up and my hopes up and it’s a big moment, the moment where I prove that a little shrimp deserves to be a first baseperson and I absolutely know I’m going to catch that ball, and SMACK it hits my glove and bounces out and rolls away while Yook Foo rounds first on his way to second.

A moment like this can shatter self esteem and haunt you for the rest of your life but I soon realized there are other things more important than baseball (like hockey?). Still, I’d give anything to go back in time and catch that @#$%^ ball!

But I digress. MLB has changed “America’s pastime”. To speed up the game, now there is a ‘pitch timer’ – 30 seconds between batters, 15 seconds between pitches. Secondly, the defensive team must now have four players on the infield, and finally the size of the bases has been increased from 15 to 18 inches square. That’s a big deal – kind of like increasing hockey penalties from 2 to 3 minutes, adding a 6th skater on the ice, and increasing the size of the goals. Yikes.

As for home runs? Scientists studied 100,000 MLB games and over 200,000 balls in play and then had to go and lay down for a long nap. Also they discovered that since 2010 sluggers have sent an extra 50 home runs over the fence every year. Why? The air is warmer and therefore thinner and the ball goes farther.

Okay, so now I know why I dropped the ball way back then. It was just too darn cold and the ball was going too darn slow!

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. You can send him column ideas to harleyhay1@hotmail.com.

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