In this country and plenty of other countries we show kids how to throw baseballs before we teach them to read books. And then we send them into the streets and backyards and schoolyards to throw and throw and throw some more.
If they throw enough and are lucky enough and tough enough they just might sign a contract to start somewhere like Jamestown or San Pedro de Macoris or Helena.
They might be one of two or three guys on the team that have a shot at the big leagues so they keep throwing and throwing and throwing. They work on a curveball and a changeup and a slider.
Their arm hurts, but the pitching coach tells them not to worry and the trainer rubs them down with stuff that feels like boiling tar.
They keep throwing and their arm keeps hurting. They don’t stop because they’ll be sent home and that would be a lot more painful.
But their fastball stops popping and their slider stops breaking and they end up in a MRI tube. Then a doctor cuts a tendon from their other arm or their leg and sews them back together like a rag doll. Or maybe they slice open their shoulder and scoop it out like they’re gutting a fish.
Then the ballplayer is alone for 12 months, 16 months, maybe two years rehabbing an arm that may never throw another pitch. All along they wonder what might happen to a life that has never known anything but throwing a baseball.
A few make it all the way back, but most are left with only the scars and the pain.
George Mitchell’s report on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in baseball mentioned all kinds of unnatural substances and warned about the harm they can do. Nowhere did it mention what the unnatural act of throwing a baseball can do to the human body.
Making people suffer isn’t a game. If there is nothing to help prevent and heal these injuries then Major League Baseball ought to be funding research into something that does.
Or maybe we should just stop showing kids how to throw baseballs.