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Friday, February 11, 2011

Baseball is Dead

The entire world watched this morning, anxiously awaiting the biggest development in what has become one of the most dramatic revolutions in recent memory.

Protesters had been filling to streets demanding swift and decisive change, but until now remained unsatisfied.

The news broke to cheers and shouts: Cal Athletics is reinstating Women's Lacrosse, Women's Gymnastics and Men's Rugby. Cal Baseball was not so fortunate.

Hip Hop Baseball is Dead.

Now I'm not going to sit here and lambast Cal Athletics for this decision. They're in a tough spot. Nobody in this state has any money. I'm sure you could point fingers at the way the Athletic Department has spent money in the last decade and how it's been spending more than it's been bringing in. But the moral of the story is, if the State had enough money to give to Cal, we wouldn't be having this or a lot of the other problems this great university is facing.

In addition to having no money, the Athletic Department has to comply with Title IX, try, attempt to satisfy numerous monocle-wearing donors trying to tell them how to do things, and consider which sports actually bring in money.

Cal Football, Men's and Women's basketball and Women's Volleyball are the only sports at this school that bring in enough revenue to pay for themselves. In fact, their revenue pays for everyone else too.

It makes sense, then, that a sport like baseball, which both costs a lot to maintain and brings in very little revenue, would get the axe.

I'm not going to sit here and say that I was an ardent supporter from Day 1, attended all their games and donated to save the program. I did attend a game, once. And that was mainly just because Eric was doing the PA and he told me that if I came, he'd play a special song for me during an inning break. He did. It was The Temptations "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." And it was beautiful.

It's just sad that baseball, America's pastime and one of Cal's first sports, is no more.

Baseball's beauty is in its longevity, its consistency. Plus or minus things like the DH, baseball has been the same for 150 years. Equipment has changed, sure, as has strategy like the use of relief pitchers. But three stikes have always made an out. And three outs an inning.

More than any other sport, those who play baseball are indelibly linked to those who played before them, dating all the way back to Abner Doubleday. Thus, it's sad when that chain is broken.

More than anything, I think this just reinforces fears that baseball in America is slowly dying. We already have the statistics that show the number of American born players in the Major Leagues is rapidly declining. The even more dramatic drop in African American baseball players has been well documented. Football and Basketball, being much more flashy and marketable, are attracting a lot more young American athletes.

But the real issue comes down to my arch nemesis. You know what I'm talking about. When you drive by fields on Saturday afternoons, what are scores of little kids playing? No, not baseball.


I understand soccer's place in the world. It's the most popular sport in the world. It's important and stuff.

But when it comes to seeing my university keep its soccer team over its baseball team, it's sad. I realize soccer is a lot cheaper to maintain due to the overwhelming amount of equipment required for a baseball team. And I also realize that soccer has also had much more success in recent years than Cal Baseball.

But at the risk of sounding like an absolute moron, this isn't Europe. Jeff Kent is one of the greatest offensive second basemen of all time. He's a Cal Bear. So are Xavier Nady, Conor Jackson and Brandon Morrow. And it's just wild to think that in 50, heck 5, years, when kids go outside to a grassy field on a sunny summer day, they're going to play soccer, not baseball. That is, assuming they're not inside playing Call of Duty 7 on some Xbox 4D that attaches to your retina.

I realize this is a battle I cannot win. More and more kids are going to keep playing soccer. More and more kids are going to use the b-word to describe baseball: boring.

But it's a big day in this losing battle. A big time university program has eliminated its baseball team altogether. The sport which gave us the Stanford Axe has now fell victim to it.

I suppose we can only hope that the Chinese are big baseball fans.


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  3. Not since the Taiwanese brand of baseball started to go downhill over a decade ago. (Also depends on whether you consider Taiwan a sovereign nation or not.) You will, however, find ardent baseball support in Japan and South Korea (see WBC).

    I weep for our Alma Mater. The best we can hope for now is that the economic profile of the state shapes up soon, and that we can reinstate one of the great traditions of our school.