Passing some time with the pastime

This column appears in the March 24, 2009 Daily Journal newspaper. Give your opinion below.

OXFORD – As Alabama players kept rounding the bases at Swayze Field on Sunday, it took nearly 45 minutes to play the first inning.

A mix of thoughts began to round the bases in my mind. Ernie Banks’ famed line, “Let’s play two,” was not among them.

I had time to daydream, because the game I was tasked to cover was essentially complete. There were some details still to work out, but the victor was known.

“Baseball needs a clock,” I thought.

The idea isn’t original. It raises the ire of purists, and no, baseball doesn’t really need a clock, though sometimes I’d like the option of having one for the 19-6 games I cover.

I’ve been covering sports in some capacity since 1983, and I’m closer to the finish line than the start line.

I have always embraced the change of seasons, covering different things. I can watch most anything and not be bored, at least not totally.

Certain characteristics come with age, hopefully a little wisdom, but certainly, for me anyway, has come a greater appreciation for baseball. It isn’t that I ever really left the sport, but there were times when the pace of college basketball or the eruption of a football stadium when the home team scores in the final seconds meant more to me. I still enjoy those times.

More than ‘The Show’
But I’ve also found myself looking forward to the start of baseball.

I don’t mean the start of Major League play, necessarily, as the Big Boss wrote about Sunday. There is something special to be found far below “The Show.”

The temperature warms up, sometimes not quickly enough, and the atmosphere generally is more laid-back.

Football is a much bigger operation. Careers ride on the outcome of a game that is played only once a week.

There’s pressure on baseball coaches too, and they feel it. But when you play 60 games in a season you don’t have time to get your briefs in a wad on a daily basis.

I find value in a 2-1 pitcher’s duel, which lacks enough offense for many people, and I’m stoked when the batter successfully places a bunt between the pitcher’s mound and third base. That really isn’t easy to do. It’s interesting to see a guy like Ole Miss junior Zach Miller look so natural at third base after spending his college career at second.

It’s amazing how different the skill levels really are going from high school to college to the minor leagues in Pearl or Memphis where the throws from third base and deep short cross the diamond with much more authority.

This baseball season of renewal is not brand-new; I’ve seen it coming. It represents the completion of a circle, returning to the sport that so many of us played first and enjoying it at levels below rampant abuse of steroids and egos.

Later this summer when I’m not on the Journal’s time, I’ll sit in AutoZone Park with a couple of like-minded friends. We’ll sit, talk and offer commentary among ourselves on the game, perhaps other subjects too. At least one story will begin with, “Back when I played …”

It won’t matter that baseball doesn’t have a clock then, because I’ll be able to leave early if necessary.

But I probably won’t.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@djournal.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at djrebel.wordpress.com.

Parrish Alford/Daily Journal