The news of Wild Bill’s passing only magnifies the notion that baseball as we know it is singing its swan’s song.
Cal is gone, fan’s can’t stand and cheer with out drawing the negative attention of Camden Yards’ over-empowered ushers, and you can no longer upgrade from the cheap seats – it’s no wonder why the passion on the field seems to be gone. All of those little things made up our American baseball experience. All of those good vibes for the players and team came from the seats. Yes, you need to put a competitive product on the field, but baseball is truly about rooting for the home team, keeping the boys motivated and keeping the fans in the seats.
This weekend I received the most shocking news of my baseball fandom. ESPN.com reported that after 69 seasons, the Puerto Rican Winter League has canceled its upcoming season due to financial problems. Winter baseball, especially in Puerto Rico, was a staple for ballplayers looking to bring their game up to the next level, not to mention, it was a means for the American professional player to earn more money in the off-season. Players like Boog Powell, Phil Niekro, Tommy Lasorda, Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, Ivan Rodriguez and Cal Ripken all spent time there and were revered by the locals. But today the MLB has placed restrictions on its players winter activities for fear of injury and 3 of the 6 teams on the island are insolvent. The island’s league is taking this winter to try and salvage an intrinsic part of baseball history.
I think, if this crisis cannot be overcome, that the failure is going to creep up the food chain. Puerto Rico’s league champion moved on to play other Latin American teams for the Caribbean Baseball Championship. Now teams from baseball hotbeds like the Dominican Republic have lost a competitor. What does this mean for them?
Baseball, especially the MLB, has lost its connection to what is real. If the fans support the team the team succeeds…if the team supports the fans, the fans keep coming. This is true in Puerto Rico and true in Baltimore. I only hope that these lessons are not too late.
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