Obituaries published in the June 1, 2003, edition of The Atmore Advance
I recently attended a little league baseball game here in Atmore. It took me back to the true meaning of the sport. None of the players were using enhancement drugs, none were hitting with corked bats, and none were being paid a dime to play.
Every player out on the field was there for one simple reason. They were there because they love baseball.
I love sports and spend my leisure time watching baseball, football, basketball or whatever is the sports d'jour at that time. More and more I am becoming appalled each time I sit down to watch a professional baseball game.
What has happened to America's pastime? I don't want to just pick on Major League Baseball, it is true with all professional sports including the NFL, the NBA, and etc., it just happens to be baseball season. Every time that I watch a game there is some kind of news of this player being arrested, this one kicked off of the team because of drugs, or a player has missed practice because he is in jail.
In addition, there is no loyalty among teams, players are with one team this year and may be with another team in another league the next year.
The most recent professional sports debacle has been the Sammy Sosa corked bat incident. Whether you follow baseball or not, Sammy Sosa has pretty much been a household name since the great homerun race with Mark McGuire in 1998. Sammy Sosa had become famous as a great baseball player and was most well known for being humble about his athletic talents. Unfortunately, the recent scandal over a bat that had been drilled out and filled with cork will cast a dark shadow on an otherwise brilliant career.
Sammy became the model role model for children all over the world almost overnight. He was almost single-handedly the savior for Major League Baseball's problems of the mid 90's. Baseball had gotten a black eye with the American people because of player salaries and threats of labor strikes. Sammy was a breath of fresh air that revived America's once glorious pastime.
It is truly heartbreaking to see a player such as Sammy fall victim to the bureaucracy of the sport. Saddest of all is the disappointment of the fans, but also the impact on the children that look up to him.
There is speculation whether it was an honest mistake and that Sammy simply picked up a bat that he used for batting practice to impress fans. Or whether, Sammy intentionally used the bat to try to bring himself out of a recent slump.
Either way, there will always be that question mark there. His career and his image will always be tarnished.
One thing that has bugged me about the whole explanation that Sammy gave for having the corked bat was that he used the bat in batting practice. Why would a guy that has always been humble about his abilities want to bash out 50 homeruns during batting practice? Is it pressure from the Cubs organization? Is it pressure from Major League Baseball?
My conspiracy theory is that he was encouraged by the Cubs organization to use the bats during batting practice to excite fans and sell season ticket packages and continue the media frenzy created by the homerun race in 1998.
Lets take the conspiracy theory even further, could the great homerun race have been a ploy by Major League Baseball to revitalize slumping ticket sales and the problems of the mid 90's. The baseball greats Henry "Hank" Aaron and Babe Ruth never hit 60-70 homeruns in a season and they are considered two of the best ever.
It makes you question how far some players, owners or teams might take it. Doesn't it?
If you have not been to a little league baseball game lately make plans to attend one. It was refreshing to see the kids having fun, practicing good sportsmanship, and simply having fun. This was the game I had been looking for. It was baseball in its purest state. These little league players reminded me what the sport is about. It's about having fun, appreciating your teammates, respecting your opponents and above all playing hard.
Brian Giles is publisher of The Atmore Advance.
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