When I think of baseball I immediately go to the cracking sound the bat makes on solid contact. That moment of explosion from brain process to muscle snap to unleash a swing, whether a violent chop or fluid smooth, on that baseball daring to get by – always a freeze frame moment.
Recently I had a great baseball weekend; enjoying my hometown Toronto Blue Jays against the Cleveland Indians at the Rogers Centre one day and then the Toronto Maple Leafs, our Intercounty League Baseball team, in a playoff game at Christie Pits the next. Same game, different talent levels but baseball, at its simplest, is about the swing of that bat, the slide into home and the pop of the catcher’s mitt, no matter the size of the cheque.
At the Indians-Jays game an armada of red-shirted Korean exchange students, none older than 12, filled the five rows in front of us in our section. They were participants in a student exchange program run out of a Belleville. We figured they were attending the game to catch some ball in the impressive dome on a sunny day with the massive CN Tower stretching high above.
Then, Shin-Soo Choo of the Indians came to bat.
The Korean kids went wild. Here was their reason for being there. I remember when Willie Upshaw or Jesse Barfield would step into the batter box, at good ole Exhibition Stadium, and I would go wild too.
However, my reaction lacked the national fervor these kids were exhibiting. Add in their teachers and chaperones losing their minds cheering for Choo, you then understood, this was not just their hometown hero but their national hero. You could not help but cheer a bit too, not just for Choo but for them as well, or at least I thought.
How great would it have been for those kids to see Choo, a five-tool star player for Cleveland, hit a home run? They cheered mightily to get his attention and when he hit a double, eventually scoring a run, he might as well have found the cure for cancer- a hero for the ages…on this day anyway.
Near the tail end of the game, Choo came to bat again. The Korean kids started hollering and chanting their hero’s name. They had made this section of the Rogers Centre their own.
This was the last moment of their international baseball experience before it became a memory. With each pitch, foul tip and swing, they tried to soak up every fleeting minute of it.
As they chanted in rhythm, we looked over to our left, to a young Blue Jays fan, probably around five or six years old, in our row.
He had his right foot up on the back of one the chairs before him.
What was our loyal Blue Jays fan doing?
In synch with the clapping and rhythm of the Choo chants, he was quietly giving the thumbs down to the Indians star, while wearing a devious grin.
Baseball…it truly is about the kids.