It’s been awhile since I’ve written about one of my favorite topics. And, as the season starts winding down toward a long winter’s rest (no playoffs in this city!), I may as well get another baseball-related post out there. Something will arise to take its place in the offseason (that’s why football and basketball exist in the first place), but they won’t ever capture my imagination the way baseball does.
Today was a crisp afternoon, with only a suggestion of fall in the air. All kids are back in school now, and Labor Day has come and gone, so nobody can have any illusions that Summer is still around. The days will keep getting shorter, and colder, and before too long we’ll all be wondering where this year has gone. But for now, there’s still daylight until well past seven in the evening.
Fall brings football with it, and organized soccer gets started up as well. The league my daughter plays in puts on whatever games it can until it gets too cold, and then takes a few months off before starting up again in the springtime. It’s life in a Northern town, for lack of a more original way to put it.
As my daughter and the other young girls on her team took turns at kicking soccer balls into a baseball backstop, an image caught my eye. I noticed that the baseball diamond at my local park has begun a metamorphosis of sorts. If you look at the picture above, you can make it out for yourself.
The right edge of the picture is where the grass and the dirt of the diamond meet each other. Recently, the grass has begun growing back into places that had formerly been dirt on the baseball diamond. When nobody uses the diamond, the dirt isn’t needed anymore, and the grass begins taking over instead. And, as you can tell from the soccer goal in what should be the outfield, more grass and less dirt would be just fine with the soccer players, anyway.
I wouldn’t expect any sort of organized baseball to be taking place on that diamond in September. There’s a greater emphasis on football now, and baseball season for school teams doesn’t kick in until the springtime. But the lack of even a few kids throwing a ball around, or hitting tennis balls for fun, or playing a game that we used to call “hotbox,” was troubling. I was looking for any sign of baseball life, and instead I found only soccer and football. It was quite depressing for me.
A half an hour later, and about a mile or so away, I came upon another diamond with a softball game going on. I was pleased that the diamond was being put to use like that, and that dirt would continue to predominate over the grass. But I also got to thinking about the grownups who play softball. They know the rules, and how to swing the bat and catch the ball and so forth, because they probably played baseball at an earlier stage of their lives. And, with space limitations and window replacement costs being what they are, it’s unrealistic to expect to see baseball being played in a populated urban area. So softball can be considered as a sign of baseball, on some level.
I’m not breaking any new ground by suggesting that soccer is very popular with kids today. But I am going to also suggest that their interest in baseball has suffered as a result. In economic terms, the opportunity cost of playing in a soccer league is that baseball doesn’t have the same appeal for kids that it did a couple of decades ago.
I’m confident that there will always be professional baseball games to attend, and amateur softball games to play in. But the creeping grass at the park’s diamond reminds me that participation in soccer is on the rise with the next generation, while interest in baseball seems to be on the decline. And that’s one “green” movement that I’d rather not see.