Thursday, 05 July 2012 10:44

Some Baseball Theology 101

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“Eric hasn’t given up a hit yet, eh?”


“What are you doing!? You can’t say that!”
“Why not?”
“You just can’t. It’s going to upset the baseball gods. He’s not going to throw a no-hitter now because of what you said. You wrecked it!”
There is one entity that almost all baseball players are wary of: the baseball gods. Most try diligently to please these baseball deities by not acting in a manner that is disrespectful to the game. Some players will go to ridiculous levels to appease the baseball gods by remaining silent during a no-hitter, not speaking aloud in regards to ongoing streaks, and preparing for a game in exactly the same way if it had produced a win in the past.
The entire atmosphere of superstition in baseball is grounded in the belief of these holy baseball beings that supposedly watch over every player’s movements before and during games.
The existence of the baseball gods is frequently discussed by the brains of the Swift Current Indians’ bullpen as we observe games from our designated seating area.
So how exactly does me muttering a few words in the bullpen have any affect on a game that I am not even playing in? The skeptic would say: how do I, so removed and uninvolved, have even the slightest influence on a baseball game?
The baseball atheist contends that the hitting streak would have ended anyway and that the no-hitter would have been wrecked regardless if someone had pointed it out or not. Believers just want to attribute failure to someone, or something beyond their control, rather than accept the chaotic, harsh, and meaningless nature of the game of baseball.
The believer has an endless list of examples in which the baseball gods have enacted their omnipotence over the game.
These pious baseball players cite instances where audible announcements of streaks and inappropriate phrases have seemingly altered on-field occurrences. Surely, these cannot all be coincidences.   
What it seems to boil down to, for me, is belief. If you believe a few words have the ability to end a hitting streak or cause a hit in a game, then it might as well have already happened.
If you believe that discontinuing a trivial pregame routine will make you go 0-4, you will probably go 0-4.
I do not wish to go on some ‘power of positive thinking’ rant here, however the role of mental toughness and thought control in sport has become better understood by experts today.
One would think that in a game that is famously 90 per cent half mental that we would realize the role the mind plays in baseball.
There is no right path in baseball when it comes to the believer and the skeptic. We are often quick to pass the blame for an unfavourable outcome to some external entity or player. Although it is fun to believe and attempt to avoid committing baseball blasphemy, the ball ultimately rests in our own hands.

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Alex Tufts

Alex Tufts is a pitcher with Swift Current Indians of the Western Major Baseball League. His column will run every week during baseball season.