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The New Season:  And So, It Begins

The New Season: And So, It Begins

by Tim Kabel

March 19, 2022

***

The Yankees played their first spring training game yesterday and lost 4-3 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Isiah Kiner-Falefa had two hits. Gleyber Torres and Austin Wells each had a hit, and Wells drove in a run. Hayden Wesneski pitched three innings, giving up two hits, one run on a home run, with one walk and four strikeouts. He reached 97 miles per hour on the radar gun. Anthony Volpe was 0-1, with a strikeout. I can hear the cries already that he should be traded for anyone and that he is overrated.

The baseball season is underway!

Before the game, the Yankees traded Luke Voit to the San Diego Padres for right-handed pitching prospect Justin Lange, who was the 34th overall pick in 2020. I have no idea if Lange will ever become a productive major leaguer but, Luke Voit had no role on this team and needed to go.

Voit stated that he is excited about his opportunity in San Diego, and I hope he does well there.

The Yankees are continuing to reshape their roster. They still need to address centerfield and should add another starting pitcher. I also believe that Gleyber Torres will be traded, as that will allow them to move DJ LeMahieu back to second base full-time. I don’t believe this incarnation of the team is the one that will open the season on April 7th. There are still moves to be made. However, the important thing is that we have baseball, and the season is underway, or at least the spring training version of it.

***

When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher, Mr. Williams, read the poem Casey at the Bat, by Ernest L. Thayer to our class at the beginning of the baseball season. I thought it was an excellent idea. The poem was written in 1888, and truly captures the essence of baseball and its place in America. Over the years, I have read the poem many times, usually at the start of the baseball season.

I thought I would take a break today from writing about the roster, analyzing statistics from the first spring training game, and discussing the pros and cons of Boone-proofing. Instead, to honor Mr. Williams, who as I write this, continues to reside in Fairfield at the age of 94, I will follow his lead, and share the poem. It is also a way to honor baseball, which despite recent efforts by the owners and players to tarnish its luster, is still going strong.

I present to you Casey at the Bat. If you have never read it, you are in for a treat.

Casey at the Bat

Ernest Lawrence Thayer – 1863-1940

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day: The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play, And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same, A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast; They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that— We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake, And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake; So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat, For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all, And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball; And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred, There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell; It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell; It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat, For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place; There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face. And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat, No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt; Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt; Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip, Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air, And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there. Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped— “That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar, Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore; “Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand; And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone; He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on; He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew; But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!” But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed. They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain, And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate, He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate; And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go, And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright, The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light; And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout, But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

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