Posted by: Staff | 03.10.2008

Advancements in Baseball: Not Always Beneficial

ZACK LEVANDOV ’08

Beginning in the slums and alleys of New York City in the 19th century, baseball has risen to become America’s favorite sport and one of the most successful athletic businesses. In the old days, many had to take long treks to the nearest professional ballpark. Today in Boston, all it takes is a short T ride or a quick car ride down Storrow Drive to Fenway Park.

Baseball has not only experienced beneficial changes, there have been numerous negative alterations as well. Fifty years ago, going to the ballpark was a unique and special experience. Baseball used to be an important social event: fans dressed up and went to games to gamble, to enjoy themselves with friends, and to bond with their families. Today, fans goes to games more casually, are less emotional, and their behavior is controlled with strict rules.

Furthermore, when baseball began, all stadiums had natural grass and seats piled up high, so close to the players that the fans could hear them talk and shout on the field. Today, stadiums are becoming fake and tacky. Fans are placed in domed, bowl-shaped parks where players meander about on artificial turf and view the game from such a far distance that the action on the field might as well be on small TV screen. Fans simply should not have to endure the flaws of such aesthetics and architecture.

To start off, the artificial surface must go. There should be nothing fake or artificial about baseball, least of all the grass. Baseball is America’s sport, so why should there be an artificial quality to it? Baseball, in its ideal, form is one of the most pure sports played today across the globe. It is a simple and laid-back game, requiring only a few friends, a ball and a stick. The odd shade of the artificial grass is a poor and unappealing counterfeit of green grass. Sitting around an artificial field is almost like sitting on a picnic blanket. Why gather around a carpet to enjoy peanuts, sodas, hotdogs, and the game when you could do the same thing without leaving the comfort of your own home?

Artificial turf also affects the game of baseball negatively for the players both physically and strategically. When the game is on the line and an outfielder has an opportunity to make a quick run towards the infield to catch a fly ball, what do they have to consider? Since artificial turf is harder and more abrasive than grass, the impact on the ground is going to feel like a collision with a cement wall, and a player risks a rug burn or a tear in his pants. Additionally, the away team has to consider the possible directions the ball can take when bouncing from the ground and how high it will soar over the outfielder’s head, since balls bounce less predictably off artificial turf than off natural grass.

Moving on, domes create a bland ambience for baseball. As human beings, we love sunlight and the warm feeling of the rays on our skin. Why play baseball inside when it was invented as an outdoor sport? Yes, it is true that domes protect the weather from ruining the field and the sun from shining in players’ eyes, but baseball should be a pastoral sport; players lope across the field, and a strong batter can send a ball seemingly far into the sky. Underneath a dome, it is all a different story. The game is sealed, players’ skin even appears unhealthy, and the ball is in danger of hitting a rafter. The sense of outdoor sport is completely taken away from the fan. Instead, fans are in a room.

Don’t you, as a fan, want to be outside and closer to the game while have the feeling of genuine baseball in front of you? One should have a desire to feel closer to the game instead of being forced to the back wall of a bowled stadium, like the remnants of unwanted cereal. Don’t you, as a fan, want to be outside and close to the players? Don’t you want the sun on your face and the wind to blow, while the players scamper across natural grass? I like hearing the ball slap the catcher’s mitt, and the shortstop shouting “I got it!” when the ball is popped up in the infield, which you can’t hear when you’re far from the game in a domed stadium, listening to air conditioning vents. In baseball, atmosphere is just as important as athletics and false environments should be eliminated.

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