I went to an Astros game Saturday. They haven’t had the best of seasons, but I rarely turn down an opportunity to go to a game. I used to be more of a sports fan. As a child, I cheered on the Houston Oilers. But then Bud Adams packed up his team under cover of night and set up shop in Nashville.
That pretty much ruined me for professional football. All I have left is hating the Cowboys, and that’s not even much fun anymore.
In the late 80s and early 90s, I was a huge Rockets fan. I watched Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon lead his team to their first franchise championship. I even named my cat after their head coach, Rudy Tomjanovich. (The cat’s registered name is Rudy T. Rocket.) A few years later, the soft spoken and humble hero of Rockets Basketball was summarily traded to the Toronto Raptors. The man who brought in countless fans and millions of dollars to the city should have retired in Houston, but there is little loyalty in professional sports. Add to this disappointment of my beloved team, basketball players began to look and act more like street thugs than professional athletes, and their antics on and off the court left a foul taste in my mouth. (Pun intended.)
Being a fan of Houston professional sports teams has proved a painful experience. You may recall the Houston Astros, in what is quite possibly the most bone-headed PR disaster in modern sports history, the Astros chose not to renew pitching legend Nolan Ryan’s contract and allowed him to go to the Texas Rangers.
But despite my distaste for the former Astros owner (I have high hopes for the new one) for me, the only professional sport still worth supporting is major league baseball.
A thinking man’s game, but also a boy’s game. According to the Associated Press, the average salary for a MLB player in 2012 is $3,440,000. Granted, they’re factoring in the enormous salaries of superstars like Albert Pujols who will make 12 million this season or Alex Rodriguez who will pull in a cool 30 million, but even the minimum salary of $480,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Just shy of half a million dollars a year for what must be one of the greatest jobs on earth: playing baseball.
Oh, sure. It’s not all sunshine and roses–time away from family, concerns about being traded or your latest hitting or pitching slump–but all things considered, it’s a pretty sweet deal. And what’s more, what you will most likely realize if you ever happen to get to a game early enough to watch the guys warming up, is that the vast majority of the players know just how lucky they are. They seem, in a word, jubilant.
We weren’t there early enough to see the Astros warm up, but we watched the Indian players from the balcony for several minutes.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Other times, not so much. You can blame the photographer (me) for this. Because while I did manage to capture these three players waiting around to field a ball,
what I failed to capture was what they did once the balls began flying in their direction. From left to right, we’ll call them Player 1, Player 2 and Player 3. It didn’t take long for me to determine that Players 1 and 3 were veterans. Player 2? Most likely a rookie.
For most of the time I observed them, the rookie stood several feet in front of the other two players. He chased after every ball and caught the vast majority of them while Player 1 and Player 3 carried on a conversation. It wasn’t until the rookie had chased after and caught a ball that was coming straight at the other two players that Player 3 decided to the rookie needed to be taken down a couple of notches.
The next ball was hit high, its downward trajectory within three feet of the rookie. He stretched out his glove and waited for the ball to fall in. But it didn’t. Because Player 3 ran out in front of him at the last minute and stole the catch. School was in session.
I spent the next twenty minutes watching Player 3 do everything within his power to keep the rookie from catching another ball, including a couple of times where he removed his glove and threw it at the incoming baseball just so Rookie wouldn’t make the play.
Professional baseball may be big business, but it’s also a game played by grown up boys. And watching ball players serves as a reminder not to take life too seriously.
This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Jubilant, hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. For more jubilant posts, please visit him at PeterPollock.com.