OPINION COLUMNS

Baseball offers gamut of emotions

By Joy Carrico | Published Saturday, May 7, 2016
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I think baseball is about the moment.

Every year teams compete, some advance, some advance further, four play for two pennants, two play the World Series. Year after year this happens.

Teams have seasons where they are stellar and seasons where they stink. Very little of it matters much beyond the present season. Almost none of it matters after a few years. And even if they stunk last year, this year is a whole new ball game.

During a game, we don’t think about the past or the future, but merely experience the world as it is happening right here, right now. In this moment, anything can happen, and we’re all equal in our anticipation and observation of this event that is unfolding before our eyes. Each game is a new opportunity, it’s own self-contained world of experience.

We can display the entire spectrum of emotions during one ball game. We cheer with happiness at a home run. We bite our nails while watching someone squeeze a double play out of his run or attempt to steal. We get mad at the umpire who clearly can’t do his job when he calls safe who was obviously out (when it’s them) or out who was obviously safe (when it’s us).

We hang our heads when our batter strikes out and takes the slow walk back to the dugout. We lament a loss, and we celebrate a win. It’s all there in the few hours it takes to play eight-and-a-half to nine-plus innings.

So every game is special. When it’s over, it’s over. Another game is around the corner.

Occasionally, though, we get to experience a moment that lasts beyond the next day’s office chatter about game. There are moments in baseball that are talked about years later. For those of us who are there, the shared experience is magical. We share this moment, and we feel it together. It unites us in a way that isn’t available outside sports.

Twenty-five years ago, I got lucky. I was there for one of these moments. A big one, it turns out. On May 1, 1991, Nolan Ryan pitched his seventh career no-hitter. It is pure chance that I was at the game. I didn’t follow baseball. I was a teenager, and my uncle had season tickets. He offered them to me, and I took a friend to a game for something to do. I didn’t even really understand what I was witnessing. At the time, I thought it was his seventh no-hitter in a row.

But the magic of this moment couldn’t be missed, even by the most uninformed spectator. The moment as I remember it happened like this: Nolan Ryan was pitching and was well into the game with no hits. I don’t remember what inning it was, but it was obvious to the fans that Ryan was struggling and might not get his no-hitter.

The spectators spontaneously erupted into applause to encourage him. It was so loud and so full of warm-hearted encouragement that even in my naive state I was swept up in it and cheered for Ryan along with everyone else, hoping against hope that he could pull it off (whatever IT was, I wasn’t clear on that).

And then Ryan responded to us. He paused in his pitching and doffed his hat to the crowd, acknowledging the encouragement. I felt so good to be part of a stadium full of strangers all united in saying to Ryan, “We are with you. We want this for you.”

If baseball has the potential to provide this kind of experience, it makes sense to me that it’s America’s pastime. I can certainly think of worse ways to pass the time.

Joy Carrico is a graphic artist for the Messenger.

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