Jussel: Explaining baseball’s complexities to a 5-year-old
The 5-year-old sat cross-legged on the floor, a sponge soaking in all he could about the baseball game showing on the huge TV.
He was clad in white baseball pants, a purple Troy Tulowitzki jersey, rubber baseball cleats, a pair of wristbands and a black Colorado Rockies hat. That outfit was worn when watching baseball at the park or on the tube, playing catch in the backyard, or simply leafing through the huge “History of Baseball” book that normally rested on a coffee table in another room.
As the inning came to a close and the commercials started to roll, he turned, looked at his grandpa and asked a question: “Tell me again why the Rockies aren’t playing today Papa,” he asked of the old-timer seated on the nearby couch.
“The Rockies are done this year,” the grandpa said. “Their season has ended, just like your Little League season ended last week.”
“Why are these teams playing and the Rockies aren’t?” the boy asked.
“This is a thing called the playoffs,” the grandpa replied. “The teams that are really good, which the Rockies aren’t, keep playing until they get to something called the World Series, and the team that wins is the best in all of baseball that year.”
The young fan digested that information, then asked, “How do you get to the playoffs?”
The elderly gentleman thought about it and explained, “Back in my day, they didn’t have playoffs. You just won a whole bunch of games and were the best team in your league. Then you played the best team from the other league in the World Series. Now, if you win about half of your games, you might get in the playoffs.”
“And the Rockies can’t win half their games?” the boy asked.
“Not even close,” answered the grandpa.
Turning to look at the TV again, the boy said, “Tell me again who these teams are playing right now.”
Grandpa told him it was the Oakland A’s, the team in the white uniforms, and the Detroit Tigers, the team in the gray uniforms.
“So, they are really good?” the 5-year-old asked.
The elderly gentleman, used to answering query after query from his young sidekick, thought for a few seconds, then he said, “Oakland wouldn’t seem to be any good, not any better than the Rockies. They don’t have many hitters. Heck, one of their best hitters was run out of town by the Rockies (Seth Smith). And I’d bet my monthly Social Security check that there aren’t 10 people in Grand Junction who can name their top pitcher, let alone their starting staff.
“I think we have to go all the way to the top with Oakland, all the way up to Billy Beane (‘Moneyball’ movie subject and the team’s general manager) to figure out how they get into the playoffs.”
At that point, the grandpa stopped and chuckled as the youngster climbed into the refrigerator to grab some ice cream as his interest in the complexities of winning baseball games had obviously waned.
Ice cream coated in chocolate, the boy returned to his position in front of the TV. There was a brief silence as the two baseball fans turned back to the action, in this particular case, a lot of Detroit hitting and not much of anything by Oakland. This one was turning into a rout.
“Well, Papa, if the Rockies aren’t any good, when will they be good again and be able to play like these two teams?” the youth asked.
Again, the grandpa started with the simple answer.
“They’ll be good again when CarGo (Carlos Gonzalez, whom the 5-year-old imitates with his left-handed batting stance and swing) gets his leg well again and Tulo (the above-mentioned slugging shortstop) gets his leg healthy again, and when they get some good pitching and …”
That’s when the elder decided to take another tack.
“So, let’s talk about altitude, humidors and finances,” he said to the youngster.
With that the 5-year-old said, “Papa, I’m going to go change into my cowboy clothes. Can we watch a John Wayne movie?”