Baseball doesn't always $$$uck

John Taylor: April 02, 20080 Comments

A-Rod will make $28 Million this year playing for the Yankees, more than the entire team payroll of the Florida Marlins (quick, name 2 players on that team) -- or roughly enough to keep all of Community Medical Centers operating for two weeks.

Steroids, ticket prices, the cost of garlic fries and stadium parking, millionaire players pretending like their sweat doesn't stink (and should be sold on Ebay). There are lots of reasons to mock/ignore baseball. There are also reasons to celebrate it. Anybody who's seen the movie "Sandlot" knows that.

Haven't been back to my Brooklyn 'hood for years, but a few multi-billion-dollar teams ago, we played stickball on the streets, between bursts of honker-drivers.  You needed a broomstick, a rubber ball, a couple of sewer covers to serve as home plate and second base and door handles on parked cars to be first and third.

One day a dozen of us were playing. Suddenly, a batter swung so hard that his broomstick flew across the street and into the storm window of a brownstone where kids were playing. The glass exploded, showering the kids who, somehow, escaped without a cut.  Their father was shaken, tearful, relieved but never raised his voice or threatened to call the cops.

He refused our offer to pay for the window. Still, we gathered up every stray dollar and quarter we had, and gave it to him. Maybe it was because we were brought up right. Maybe, at the moment of the accident, baseball -- listening on transistors to the pros while pounding Pensie Pinkies onto tenement roofs -- helped frame a sense of traditional proper behavior.

I thought of that the other day while reading a NY Times column by David Brooks, focusing on a book called "The Mental ABC's of Pitching." One of Brooks'  takewaways: ".. you have to build a structure of behavior and attitude. Behavior shapes thought. If a player disciplines his behavior, then he will also discipline his mind."

That's why the best relief pitchers can quickly forget yesterday's blown save -- usually without swearing, kicking dirt or throwing bases -- and be called on again today to practice their craft.

It's still OK to look for role models in baseball. It'd be better to find them at the kitchen table and at the other side of a handshake.