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Commentary: The reasons baseball is not our national pastime anymore

Commentary: The reasons baseball is not  our national pastime anymore
April 19
10:23 2018

The reasons baseball is not our national pastime anymore

“Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks, I don’t care if I ever get back.”

Those are some lyrics that I heard a lot growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Every boy in my neighborhood played baseball. We would play street ball in front of my house on Rich Avenue. In addition, we played organized baseball at Skyland Recreation Center.

When we played street baseball, it was usually with a rubber baseball and sometimes with no gloves. While we wanted to win, street ball was not that serious. There were no bragging rights to this brand of baseball. Now when it came to organized baseball, as I call it, we were pretty serious. I was a member of the Skyland Blue Jays. How did we get that name? Probably because we had a lot of Blue Jays in our neighborhood. We had official baseball caps and we had our gloves. We used 3 in 1 oil to keep them in good condition.

This “serious” baseball took place during the summer. Our team played other recreation centers like 14th Street and Kimberly Park. It was a home and away series and we wanted to win. The best player on our team was Billy McClain. He was our catcher, which I think is the toughest position to play. He was also a good hitter. He later went on to star in both basketball and football at Atkins High School. He was just an all-around good athlete.

Winston-Salem was a baseball town. Our city had a minor league team from the Boston Red Sox and later the St. Louis Cardinals. We also had the Pond Giants. The Indianapolis Clowns also made a yearly visit to our city. Our park was called Ernie Shore Field. When you walked into the ball park, you could smell the popcorn and peanuts. Mr. Earl would take his son, William and me. It was a great time.

It seems we lost interest in baseball. I am not sure why. My friends mainly played basketball and football. Is baseball too boring? Does it have enough stars who are recognizable? I think it is a little bit of both and perhaps some other reasons. However, if you are a baseball purist, you wouldn’t get bored if you were witnessing a no-hitter.

Many of my generation watched Hank Aaron, Wes Covington and Willie Mays. Later, Joe Morgan and Frank Robinson hit the diamond in a big way. Today in professional baseball, we watch Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees.

It is my opinion that baseball has a marketing problem, especially with young boys. The exception would probably be The Little League World series. However, there is one young man who is making his mark at the college level. His name is Ma’Khail Hilliard and he is a pitcher for the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge Louisiana. He has a 1.35 ERA (Earned Run Average), which is excellent. Clearly Hilliard is throwing some heat. One of his former coaches, Chad Raley, said, “He was just born with the ability to spin the breaking ball.” Ma’Khail Hilliard is pitching for all of us who grew up in East Winston. Let’s cheer him on as he has a bright future ahead of him.

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at ewers.jr56@nullyahoo.com.

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