The late Kobe Bryant won an Academy Award for his short film titled "Dear Basketball." It was a love story of sorts, chronicling the moment he fell in love with the sport, its ups, its downs and what he was able to garner from his career in the game he loved.
As we embark on another spring of America’s pastime, baseball, I think it might be important to pen a letter to the game itself. A game that can never seem to get out of its own way, so to speak, coming out of an off-season riddled with controversy surrounding World Series championships that were won under suspicious circumstances and the laughable “penalties” handed down to the wrongdoers. Baseball finds itself in familiar territory, once again trying to gain back the trust of loyal fans like myself and many others out there.
Dear Baseball — Why can’t you ever get it right? Rigged games in the early 1900s, gambling by those trusted to protect its sanctity, steroids, the list goes on. Only professional boxing has harbored more scandals than you. And that was with a heavy-handed crime syndicate calling the shots; you’ve made your own mess, time after time after heartbreaking time.
At every level, honestly, technology in aluminum bats made the youth game dangerous for a spell, while college statistics skyrocketed with each monster home run hit by a 150-pound second baseman. You “fixed” that problem with BB-Core bats, but then you added pitch limits that stem strength and player development. You created something called a “middle reliever” and a “setup man,” encouraging those on the mound to never finish a battle they started.
Where, Baseball, is your purest form? Where can we find the sport we once loved? The sport that brought us to shabby ballparks at all levels all across this land to enjoy something that was simply in our DNA. Professional baseball built palaces to the game to attract wealthier fans when all we ever wanted was a wooden bench, food that wasn’t even close to healthy and a friend to share the experience with.
Baseball has wronged many of us over the years. In 1994 I sat in Oakland-Alameda Coliseum to watch the final out of the season, not in October in grand World Series fashion, but in August, as a work-stoppage and player strike ended the season. Six years later I sat in San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium watching visiting teams touting the likes of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battle it out over baseball’s single-season home run record at the expense of the hometown Padres. Years later I would learn that record wasn’t worth the paper my outfield ticket was printed on. That too was tainted as so much of baseball’s history tends to be.
Nearly two decades later, with dwindling viewership and a constant search for ways to “speed up the game,” the Major League Baseball powers stumbled across one of the largest scandals since “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and the notorious Chicago “Black Sox” took a dive, and it was swept under the rug. We honestly don’t know how to help you anymore, Baseball. This sport has become like that friend or relative struggling with an addiction that you simply love too much to let go, but at some point, you write off as being beyond help.
Dear Baseball — when will you help yourself? If there is one thing baseball has been able to do through scandals, heartbreak and skullduggery is create a new set of heroes. A new story for fans to follow and for hearts to be captured over. As the 2020 season gets underway at a variety of levels, we’ll be searching for that feeling once again — albeit we swear for the last time.
Dear Baseball — please don’t disappoint us again. Make the local fields alive with pure action that reminds us how great the game is and can be at all levels. Dear Baseball — it’s spring and your time to shine, blossom in this period of gloom and make the game honest like, unfortunately, it has never truly been.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.