What says April more than baseball and Haiku?

April is National Keep America Beautiful Month, International Guitar Month, National Welding Month and Stress Awareness Month.

It’s also National Poetry Month, which probably explains why tomorrow, April 17, is National Haiku Writing Day. Those preoccupied with managing stress, keeping America beautiful, and/or strumming their just-welded guitars may not know that Haiku is a major form of Japanese verse consisting of three lines that contain, in order, five, seven and five syllables.

Traditional Haiku typically employs multiple allusions and/or comparisons to nature.

Amateur Haiku, however, merely requires random thoughts condensed into 17 syllables.

Let the games begin!

Baseball: National pastime?

Or now a niche sport?

Midway through the 20th century (and coincidentally just before the rise of America’s preoccupation with video screens) baseball was the undisputed king of American spectator sports. Professional football and basketball were non-factors, and except for a precious few revenue-producing football programs, collegiate sports were contested by actual student-athletes.

University athletic departments were run by career administrators with athletic backgrounds rather than media-savvy CEOs primarily concerned with filling every seat in the taxpayer-funded palaces where their teams perform. Today baseball vies (often unsuccessfully) for headlines with college basketball’s Final Four, the Masters Golf tournament, the NFL draft, professional basketball and hockey playoffs, horse racing’s Triple Crown, and weekly NASCAR races, and until mid-June America’s once-unquestioned national obsession is often as not relegated to the inside of the sports section.

And then there’s the problem of keeping track of the teams.

Marlins? Mariners?

Diamondbacks? Rays? Rockies?

These are baseball teams?

Baseball fans of a certain age are beginning to understand how their parents felt when the major leagues expanded from 16 to 20 teams in the early 1960s. “How can you keep track of all those teams?” my mother, a casual Brooklyn Dodger follower before that franchise’s move to the West Coast in 1958, used to ask. Now that there are 30 nominally major league squads, many people her children’s age are wondering the same thing.

Once upon a time, genuine national heroes played baseball for a living.

Not just ballplayer

American Freedom Fighter

Jackie Robinson

Of the man who broke Major League Baseball’s “color barrier” in 1947, columnist George Will said, “There’s no doubt the most important African-American in {America’s} history was Martin Luther King. There is similarly no doubt the second-most important, and not second by much, was Jackie Robinson.”

Local rooters have a couple of major league field managers worth pulling for this year.

Redmond, ex-Sea Dog

Is big-league field boss of:

Marlins. Good luck, Mike!

 

Fredi Gonzalez

Is Atlanta Braves’ skipper.

His outlook: Better.

Mike Redmond was a Portland Sea Dogs catcher for parts of three seasons in the late 1990s; Fredi Gonzalez was the local professional team’s field manager in 1997. There aren’t two finer individuals in baseball; during their time in Maine, each mixed work ethic, inherent decency and an inclusive sense of humor that invited others to enjoy life around the ballpark as much as they did. Neither man ever created or derived entertainment at the expense of others. Both deserve success, although the odds of Redmond achieving it this year with his stripped-down Miami team are considerably longer than those of Gonzalez, whose Atlanta Braves’ pitching staff might be the game’s best.

Jeter, A-Rod out

Granderson, Teixiera, too;

Uh-oh, Girardi!

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi is faced with the task of keeping his expensive, aging team afloat while some of his team’s best and highest-paid players, including the aforementioned Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixiera, are sidelined with injuries. At least the late George Steinbrenner, the “boss” who demanded perfection (and subsequent improvement), is no longer in charge of the Bronx Bombers. If he were, the team’s skipper would likely be checking the “Help wanted” ads by now.

Guillermo Quiroz

The ultimate journeyman

Have mask, will travel

Quiroz, a 31-year-old Venezuelan catcher, has amassed 259 at-bats over nine big-league seasons. During that time, he’s hit two homers (for the Orioles in 2008), stolen one base (for Toronto in 2004), gone hitless for an entire season twice (0 for 2 for the 2006 Mariners and for last year’s Red Sox), and hit .400 (4 for 10 for Texas in 2007).

This season, Quiroz has landed a spot with the San Francisco Giants, and after appearing in two of his sixth big-league team’s first 13 games, he’s got a walk and a single in two plate appearances. Anyone still in the majors after eight previous seasons of averaging 32 at-bats per year deserves congratulations. Anyone doing all that and hitting 1.000 for last year’s World Series winner deserves some serious ink, but until something better comes along, the above three-line, 17-syllable bit of poetry will have to do for Guillermo.

— Andy Young teaches high school English in York County. In his Babe Ruth League playing days, he was a base-stealing threat, but presently it’s unlikely he can outrun Fredi Gonzalez or Mike Redmond, let alone Guillermo Quiroz.



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