The game of baseball that I played as a child was quite different than the one played by adults on television. For one thing there were usually just three of us playing—five if the twins, Lonnie and Donnie showed up. On the weekends we might get as many as seven in a game, but that depended on whether their older sisters, Linda and Laura, were home and had nothing else to do.
At the time, none of us played organized ball on a team in a park. How can you put lightning in a bottle? When it came to selecting a field to play on we had two choices: a triangular shaped double lot that was bordered on two sides by houses, or a square shaped double lot that was bordered by two houses, a rock road, and 100 acres of sub-tropical jungle.
Three-man baseball rules were pretty simple. You swung at everything that was pitched at you unless it was waaaay outside, or too high or low. We had a pitcher, a batter and an outfielder. You shagged your own balls if you didn’t swing at—or missed—a pitch.
A base hit meant that you kept your at-bat streak going until you collected your requisite 3 outs. If you were good enough to drive a fly ball into the jungle you stood a good chance of scoring a run. Finding the ball was always challenge unless it was a nice white new one. We had to look for snakes before we picked up the ball, so that gave the runner a little bit of an advantage.
One year we were feeling our oats and David, Kenny and I tried out for Little League Baseball. They were both selected by two teams and I was not.
That Summer Linda and Laura discovered boys; Lonnie and Donnie connected with the new guys who came around their house. Our neighborhood contests stopped.
I retreated into the world of books. Baseball sucked. A switch in my brain was turned off and I lost all interest in anything to do with the game.
Over the years that pay-no-mind attitude has continued to be my constant companion, occupying the space in my head that was formerly reserved for the sport of Baseball. Thanks to technology, I began to change my perceptions when I started this blog.
I had been blogging for about 3 months when I received a comment on a post from Bill over at The On Deck Circle. In a two week period the two of us had written posts about the Doolittle raid on Tokyo during WW II and we started following each other’s blogs. Bill is one helluva writer and his baseball posts revived a glimmer of interest for the sport in me.
As a result of following Bill I have also discovered Steve at Brewer’s BaseBall and Things and V at Verdun2’s Blog. Both of these men are excellent writers and venture beyond baseball from time to time.
Technology has generated a personal change in me for the better. I feel a bit more open-minded concerning things that have turned me off in the past. I have a bit less contempt prior to investigation these days and that turns out to be a good thing for all concerned.
The influence of technology in Baseball is the subject of Multimedia Monday this week and I have caught a glimpse of the Future. Last Tuesday night The Lioness and I attended a Minor League ballgame between the San Rafael Pacifics and the Vallejo Admirals. Our local team won the game with a 7—3 score, but the note-worthy point on the night was that for the first time in a professional baseball game a robot called balls and strikes at home plate.
In an attempt to take human error out of the game, SportVision’s PITCHf/x video system was the final word on every pitch thrown. This is the same system used for televised games at every Major League ballpark. MLB Sportscaster/Ringmaster Eric Byrnes relayed the computer’s evaluations to players and fans alike over the Public Address system all night long.
New Technology meets legendary Old School sports. Is it heresy or progress? The end of an era or the start of a better E.R.A.? These were points that I never had to consider as a child playing at the sport.
I say “playing at” the sport because our version was a bastardization of the rules and traditions of the Grand Old Pastime. Every now and again, while chasing a fly ball into the jungle, we would pause the game to savor some fresh Mulberries, or crack open a newly fallen coconut. We would drink the milk and share the white meat inside as we sat in the layered green shade of tropical trees under a canopy of blue sky patterned by the shadows of limbs on even bigger trees.
Baseball was an excuse to hang out and rules were made to be broken, if they were followed at all. The use of computerized strike zones as in the RoboUmp game struck me as an inevitability for professional baseball. Perhaps they could use it in some exhibition games, or the All Star game, before implementing it full-time.
The strongest crowd reaction that I heard all night was over one call in the sixth inning. The funny part is what they were yelling: Reboooot! Reboooot! It was a far cry from “Kill the Ump!” and that in itself is progress.
I have always believed that at some point in the future an automated strike zone would be permanently implemented into professional baseball. After the awesome success of the system last night that day needs come sooner rather than later. To think that games on a daily basis will continue to be manipulated by human error when this technology is available is an absolute shame. I realize many people are resistant to change but this is a change that will undoubtedly better the greatest game in the world for the generations to come. —Eric Byrnes