Baseball Preview

Friday, June 22, 2007

I might kill two birds with one stone on Sunday and get the boxing out of the way too.

Last night, I attended a practice session with the Oxford Kings baseball team. On Sunday, I will be making my debut and ticking baseball off the Olympic list.

In 2005, the IOC voted to remove baseball from the Olympic programme for the 2012 Olympics. It remains an Olympic sport though and there will be votes in future that may see it reinstated to the programme. My list was drawn up at the end of the Athens games though, so I need to have a go at it.

Baseball is a bit of an Olympic tart. She turned up to a number of Olympic parties and flirted with everyone before disappearing for years at a time without so much as a word or a phone call.

She first showed up without an invite in 1904 but somehow blagged her way into the St Louis Olympics anyway. She then staggered in again eight years later in Stockholm when an American team played Sweden (and beat them 13-3). In Berlin in 1936, two American teams played each other for no apparent reason (or medal). In Helsinki in 1952, Baseball slipped quietly in the back door dressed as a Finn as two teams from the host nation played a modified version of the sport, which they imaginatively called Finnish Baseball. There was a one game exhibition between the US and Australia in Melbourne in 1956, and the Japanese then took on the yanks in a similar fashion in Tokyo in 1964.

After twenty years away, baseball returned and made an exhibition of herself in the 1984 games when someone got around to arranging a tournament in Los Angeles (Japan beat the US in the final). In 1988, she was upgraded from an “exhibition” to a “demonstration” sport (and the US beat Japan in the final). Finally, in Barcelona in 1992, the Olympic games made an honest woman (or “official sport”) of baseball.

Since the IOC started dishing out medals, Cuba has won three gold and a silver, the US has managed one gold and one bronze, and Japan has managed one silver and two bronze. Australia and Taiwan have each won one silver, while South Korea managed a bronze in 2000.

I’m not sure where I stand on baseball as an Olympic sport. One criterion I broadly apply is that if winning the gold medal at the Olympics isn’t the pinnacle of the sport, then the sport shouldn’t be in the Olympic games. That certainly applies to baseball. You can say what you like about the misnomer, but the World Series is where it’s at if you’re into baseball. The game is played and loved in many other countries of course, but I doubt there are many top class participants in those countries who would turn down the opportunity to play Major League Baseball if it arose.

I doubt any such opportunity will be doing much arising for me. The practice session last night was fine – I can catch the ball most of the time, I can throw the ball roughly where I was meaning to throw it most of the time, and I can hit the ball with the bat now and again - but as with all new sports, it’s hard to do those simple things when you’re also trying to remember which particular simple thing you’re supposed to be doing.

I haven’t played a game of baseball before, but I’ve played a little softball since I’ve lived in Oxford. My abiding memories of doing so involve people shouting at me “Stop running!” at moments when it seemed logical to me to be running very fast indeed, people shouting at me “Hold on to the ball!” at moments when it seemed logical to me to throw the ball as hard as I could to someone standing on a base, and people shouting at me “Run! For the love of Jesus, run!” when it seemed logical to me to just stand and admire the shot I had just hit.

In short, logic (or at least what passes for logic in my brain) has very little to do with baseball. I think on Sunday I’ll just turn up and try to do exactly what I’m told. It won’t be easy, but there’s a first time for everything I suppose.

I'll be hoping for as little of this kind of outcome as possible.


Anonymous said...

Top work Olympian - how quickly can you grow a Rolly Fingers moustache?

John said...

Baseball was cancelled at the weekend thanks to lack of players. I met get called up to play next week instead. I still don't think there's enough time to grow a Rollie Fingers moustache though sadly. What a legendary piece of face fur that is!

John said...

"I met get called up"?

I might get called up... but not by the Mets. Not yet.