Tuesday, June 27, 2006

OSU baseball win: More inspirational than Barry Bonds

By Elaine Shein

When past president Dick Severson was interviewing possible candidates for the new executive director position of Oregon’s Agri-Business Council on June 9, he started each interview with the same question: The one that he said was the most important question of all.

“Which state’s college baseball team is in the final for the College World Series?” he asked. Obviously, this was on the top of the mind of the farmer from Springfield, Ore.

It was also obvious that everyone around the table, whether it was the hiring committee or the job candidates, knew Oregon State University Beavers were the contenders against North Carolina’s team. Even when the temperatures hit more than 100 degrees this week, the hottest topic remained the Beavers.

On June 26, showing the heart and determination they have shown throughout the playoffs since they lost their first game so harshly, OSU won the final game in the three-game series and became the best in the nation.

Considering the last time a northern team won the College World Series was 1966 – and Ohio was the northern team that won — makes this win even more remarkable. Forget Barry Bonds and his home run record this season. This is an even greater victory and means more to the players and their fans. This is what baseball should be about.

Even during one of the busiest times of the year, farmers and ranchers took time to talk about — if they didn’t have a chance to watch — baseball. Even if there was no local farm boy on the team, that didn’t stop them from cheering on what they felt was their team. Even some fans that normally cheer on their beloved Ducks were caught cheering for their rival university in the state.

What is it about baseball that draws fans? It’s not as fast as basketball, doesn’t have the hard tackles of football nor the body checks of hockey.

But baseball is considered as American as apple pie. It’s the whole experience, the memory of kids and adults perhaps playing in their first ball game themselves with an old wooden bat, a tattered ball or a stiff new glove not quite broken in.

Or perhaps they recall their first live game in some ballpark as they listened to chants of those attempting to sell them hotdogs and popcorn — and desperately yearning to see a ball land near them in the stands and maybe seek a later autograph by the player.

Baseball is more than just a sport. It’s a tradition for many whether they play themselves, watch their kids play or settle comfortably on their living room sofas with chips and beverages. It’s tradition to yell at the umpires or second-guess the pitching decisions made by coaches. It’s tradition to hear Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Having a Corvallis-based team bring home the award for best college team in baseball makes the tradition even sweeter.

Hopefully this will inspire the next generation who eagerly try their new ball gloves and run out on dusty baseball diamonds even if today it’s a small town field somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

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