Baseball is back. Spring training is over. Opening Day is here. In a world of chaos and danger, baseball, to me, is the one constant, my trusted safety zone.
It’s always been this way — from my days growing up in Queens and rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers, to watching my son Sean playing Little League ball in Seaford, and then my grandson Jack playing Little League in Wantagh, and travel ball in Massapequa and all over Long Island — even out of state.
Watching the boys play on local fields was as exciting — sometimes more so — as watching the Dodgers at Ebbets Field or the Mets at the Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium or CitiField. Contrary to the “Bad News Bears” images of screaming coaches and hysterical parents, the tone and attitude of youth baseball were always enthusiastic and uplifting.
My wife, Rosemary, and I enjoyed going to our son’s and grandson’s games and being with the parents, family members and friends of the other players. There was a genuine spirit of camaraderie and community involvement. (Even Rosemary, who has no interest in baseball and wouldn’t go to a major league game if I paid her, never missed an inning of Sean’s or Jack’s games.) As someone who grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, which didn’t have a blade of grass where kids could play, I was always impressed by the first-class athletic facilities available for youth sports on Long Island, particularly in the Town of Hempstead.
I realize that baseball has to compete with football, basketball, soccer and hockey for attention, and I don’t begrudge those sports. But baseball will always rank highest with me. It requires great skills. Hitting against a pitcher throwing blazing fastballs and sharp-breaking curveballs, and having to make a split-second decision on whether the pitch is in the strike zone and whether or not to swing, is as difficult to do as anything in any sport. There’s also the strategy that baseball requires, such as matching certain pitchers against certain batters in certain situations, and whether to bunt, hit-and-run or go for the long ball.
Peter King is a former congressman, and a former chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security.