Tuesday, July 17, 2007


There is a growing gap between those who play baseball and those who watch. It’s no different than any other gap in this country: Some of it is fueled by racial and cultural differences, but most of it is economic.

“A ballplayer has to be kept hungry to become a big leaguer,” Joe DiMaggio once said. “That’s why no boy from a rich family has ever made the big leagues.”

That still holds true for the most part. There are a few players from wealthier backgrounds and some from the middle-class, but most Major Leaguers grew up poor. Some in the United States and Canada, more in places like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and Panama and Nicaragua and Columbia and Mexico.

Poor people know the game in a way rich people can never understand. That’s were the gap starts.

Poor kids play baseball in parking lots in the Bronx and rocky fields in the Dominican. They play with scrap bats and cardboard gloves and old rubber balls. Baseball isn’t something their parents sign them up for. It’s what they are and what they do. It’s their way up and sometimes their way out.

Too many people who can afford the best ballpark seats these days don’t get it. They never played baseball like that and simply don’t understand the game.

The gap really widens because too many of them think they know everything. That’s how it always seems to go in this country. No attempt at understanding leads to one more social gap in an America littered with social gaps.

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