By TIM BARTO
A couple month ago, Must Read Alaska was kind enough to share my lamentations as I began a trial separation from Major League Baseball (MLB); the latter party having necessitated the split by joining the NFL and NBA in putting social activism over sports.
So, you may be wondering how the separation is going. It’s going surprisingly well. A little too well, actually. My family and friends were really worried about my mental well-being, being a baseball addict, and all. Now I’m worried about myself.
You see, the oddest thing happened: I found out I can live without Major League Baseball, and live rather comfortably, thank you very much.
I came to the realization after talking over the phone with a baseball buddy of mine. He asked if I was still not following the MLB and I said I was not, and then I said, “And you know what?”
“You don’t miss it,” he said, beating me to the punch.
“Right. I don’t miss it.” Did I jut say that?
The first road to recovery is admission, right? Well, there it was. I admitted I didn’t miss Major League Baseball. It surprised me; kinda’ like the feeling a guy gets after kicked to the curb by the one and only . . . only to realize it’s Friday and he has a free weekend ahead.
Fifty years of checking box scores and watching The Standings (capitalized out of a nostalgic reverence) first thing in the morning; five decades of card collecting, late-night game highlights, scoreboard watching, and heaving various household items at television sets and radios when my team lost.
How could this be? Was I duped? Is my collection of 423 Cincinnati Reds pennants all for naught? (Yep, I have over 400 pennants of one team. Just one team! You still doubt the sincerity of my calling it an addiction?)
Well, I’m not ready to say it was all for naught — although I really like using the work naught –- because I have great memories. The Big Red Machine of the 1970s will always have a place in my heart, but I learned I can do without developing ulcers because the Reds are playing below .500. (I actually don’t know if their below .500 at present, but I’m taking an educated guess.)
So, now, as alluded to back in those dark, early days of April, I turn my attention to the Alaska Baseball League. As president of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks, I have directed my baseball passion to that team.
Program layouts, sponsorship deals, keychains, decals, and host families. Outfield banners, posters, pennants, and mini baseball bat pens. Presentations at churches, soliciting post-game meal volunteers, and trying to sound intelligent with the coaches who humor me enough to not tell me I don’t really know what I’m talking about.
I’ve found an addiction to replace my MLB addiction. But this one is pure baseball; young men who play hard and are still learning the game; coaches who coach because they love the game; fans who learn the players’ names, numbers, and abilities to hit in the clutch . . . or not; and umpires who travel all the way to Alaska to sleep in spartan quarters and get yelled at by all the above.
I love it. And I recommend it.
The five-team Alaska Baseball League opens this Saturday, June 5, and runs through the first week of August. There are games in the Anchorage bowl almost every day for the next two months. Quality college baseball played by guys who love to play the game.
I hope to see you at the ballparks.
Tim Barto is Booster Club president for the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks – who play at Loretta French Park where admission is FREE.