10 things we miss about baseball right now

April 7th, 2020

I miss Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, and I'm guessing a few million Giants fans are feeling the same way right now. Their insight and humor are part of what has made the Giants special all these years.

Besides, you just knew you couldn't find two people you'd rather watch a baseball game with, and not hearing their voices brings home part of what we don't have right now.

Plenty of baseball's allure is that the games are part of our lives every single day for seven months, and that means people like Kuiper and Krukow -- and Jim Deshaies (Cubs) and Suzyn Waldman (Yankees) and Bob Uecker (Brewers) and lots of others -- are like family members.

That's especially true now in what would have been the first part of the regular season. Major League Baseball's early games are particularly special because we've missed the sport so much and tend to overemphasize their importance. We know better, but we can't help ourselves.

Here are nine other things I'm missing about baseball:

2) J.D. Martinez vs. Aroldis Chapman
You're free to come up with your own late-inning matchup. It's that moment when the hitter is in the box and the pitcher has the sign. Everything we love about Major League Baseball is summed up in that singular moment of expectation with a game on the line, and each team putting its best in position to win the game. You can't turn away whether these are your favorite teams or not.

3) Mike Trout slams one in the gap in left-center
Outfielders are chasing the ball or getting lined up for the relay. Infielders are moving here, there and everywhere. Again, you can substitute your favorite player and ballpark. In this craziness, there's so much going on that it's impossible to follow. As George Will once said, "People say baseball is slow. Actually, there's more going on than any one person can track. Everyone is moving -- and with purpose."

4) Dugout celebrations
People sometimes ask, "Is that stuff staged?" Sure, some of it is. Don't lose sight of the larger picture. These guys like one another and love their jobs and are proud of the level at which they play the game. As Joe Maddon once said, "I hope I never get to the point where I don't celebrate. If that happens, it's time to go home. That's why we do what we do."

5) Greetings
One of the coolest routines is a player stepping into the batter's box for the first time in a game. He will acknowledge both the umpire and catcher with a tap to the shin guard or a casual nod. This is a thing of beauty, a way of telling the world, "This is our game. We're trying to beat you, but in the end, we're here because we all have the same love and respect for this game."

6) Double plays
So much artistry and timing, anticipation and athleticism squeezed into a mere couple of seconds. Inside the ballpark, you see the double play develop, and then you watch an Andrelton Simmons or an Ozzie Albies, and they make it all look so routine. And yet, there are countless moving parts in sync.

7) Ballparks and their quirks
There's a spirit to them, not just the older parks like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, but all of them. No matter how many times you see a diamond, you are struck by its symmetry and beauty. Some fans get through the gates as early as possible because they love the feel of an empty park while knowing how the place will be transformed over the next few hours. Many team employees love eating lunch while sitting alone in an empty park. As one said, there's a power to these places.

8) Batting practice
It's the sounds of bat swatting baseballs. It's such a daily thing that we tend to take it for granted, and yet there's an intrinsic beauty to watching players file in and out of the cage, practicing hitting it this way and that way. It's also the oohs and aahs a player makes when a teammate launches a ball to a distant portion of the stadium.

9) Small talk
Al Kaline's passing was a reminder of one of the best parts of a day at the ballpark. Kaline was a regular around the batting cage and on the field chatting up friends on both teams. His presence was a constant reminder that this generation of Tigers is connected to every other generation. Every team has iconic players like that. Until his death last year, Don Newcombe's presence at Dodger Stadium had the same impact. No sport gives itself to small talk the way baseball does, and batting practice is the best time of day for that. It's players from one team catching up with those from another team. It's broadcasters and coaches and managers, too.

10) Fan reactions
D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall was the first to point this out to me: the looks of joy and expectation on the faces of the kids gathered near the field hoping for an autograph. He reminds his players of this as well, asks them to remember when they were that age. "This," he said, "is a huge part of the ballpark experience for these kids." No matter how many times a year you watch this, this is still one of the best parts of a day at the park.