A Composer's Adventures

Baseball, the Stuff of Life

Bautista

As we reach yet another All-Star Game, I’m reminded how profound baseball really is. And I say that knowing some people consider it a snooze-fest. A friend visiting Toronto from Lebanon was at her first game. Someone asked her in the third inning how she liked it. “Oh, has it started yet?” she asked. Indeed! Baseball is notorious for filling the field with nine fielders who seem to be just standing there while one opponent wiggles a bat. Isn’t that boring? Yes, if you don’t know what’s really going on.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell pointed out that all mythology from around the world, including religious stories and fairy tales, tell one basic story: the hero crosses a threshold, and in crossing acquires a guardian who provides instruction and support. The hero then encounters demons and treats them in ways that turn these menacing creatures into either enemies or allies. Ultimately, the hero completes the quest and returns home to tell the story. Such adventures bring to mind figures like Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Hamlet, Cinderella, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk—and, however sacrilegious and Toronto-centric it may sound, Jose Bautista.

I think baseball fans unconsciously identify their own threshold crossings in life with the individual who steps up to the plate and tries to get a hit and round the bases. The pitcher and catcher conspire to baffle him with pitches, but if the batter gets on base, the coaches at first and third bases become guardians who receive orders from the ostensibly wise manager sitting in the dugout. So we pull for the individual struggling against the demons and cheer when the batter gets a hit. And upon coming home, the player can tell stories to help teammates with their adventures.

Baseball is everybody’s story, as long as you see the drama inherent in all those people who seem to be just standing around.

Michael Colgrass

3 Comments

  1. The fact that the outfielder has to sit for what might be hours, attentive and still, only to be ready to perform perfectly just once at a moment’s notice, is a subtlety of the game lost on most.

  2. Though I know the game quite well, I’m not a fan and have never paid to go to a game. I am interested, however, in the struggles that we all go through and their commonality. I am encouraged to have another look at Joseph Campbell’s writings. Thank you Michael.

  3. Thanks Micheal for writing more articles so I know your are OK. I sent an email expressing my wishes for your complete recovery a few months ago. I had to change our email address and so it may have gone to the trash.

    I wish you the best on your recovery. It has been awhile since our last reminiscences and I really enjoyed them. I will have to look around for some more pictures. Did your son put together your life story yet? I would enjoy seeing it when it becomes available.

    Best regards, Roger

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