This World Series has real gamers

The Korea Times - - OPINION - By Peter Funt Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, “Cau­tiously Op­ti­mistic,” is avail­able at Ama­zon. com and Can­didCam­era.com. His com­men­tary was dis­trib­uted by Ca­gle Car­toons Inc.

MARYVALE, Ariz. — After 49 years, Bill Lee is pitch­ing again in the World Series.

Last time around, Lee, known in base­ball cir­cles as “Space­man,” was a brash 28-year-old lefty for the Bos­ton Red Sox as they faced the Cincin­nati Reds. Now, a few months short of his 73rd birth­day, his op­po­nents are among the 325 teams com­pet­ing in the Men’s Se­nior Base­ball League World Series in Ari­zona.

While his am­a­teur team, also known as the Red Sox, was at bat in the sixth in­ning the other day, Lee slumped on the ground in a small patch of shade be­hind the dugout, breath­ing heav­ily in 97-de­gree heat as he spoke with his wife Diana.

She: “Are you drink­ing enough wa­ter?” He: “I never should have thrown that guy a change-up.” She: “Your face is quite red, Bill.” He: “He lined it up the mid­dle! I should have stuck with the curve.”

She: “But you’re win­ning.” He: “Right. Three more in­nings. I’ve got this!”

It’s mildly in­ter­est­ing that this sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian is able to play com­pet­i­tive hard­ball. It’s far more in­trigu­ing to ask why. Why pay an en­try fee to be in a game you used to earn money play­ing (the Red Sox paid him $45,000 in 1975)? Why risk in­jury and em­bar­rass­ment?

His an­swer sounds well-re­hearsed but rings true. “When I’m on the base­ball field, time seems to stand still. For two or three hours I feel like I’m 12 years old. Why would you stop do­ing some­thing that makes you feel that way?”

But study­ing Bill Lee on the di­a­mond as he teaches and of­ten be­rates his team­mates, you re­al­ize there is more to it. Com­pe­ti­tion is in his blood. He has the rare abil­ity to el­e­vate ev­ery­thing he does to the max­i­mum level and to thrive on it. The am­a­teurs around him are oc­ca­sion­ally hurt by his harsh crit­i­cism but more of­ten they are in awe.

Also, there’s the fact that the

Space­man has a seem­ingly lim­it­less sup­ply of sto­ries. For in­stance, he speaks of the time in 1976 when the Red Sox and Yan­kees got into an on-field brawl dur­ing which, as Lee re­counts it, Yan­kees in­fielder Craig Net­tles wres­tled him to the ground, sep­a­rat­ing his shoul­der, and out­fielder Mickey Rivers sucker-punched him in the face.

After months on the dis­abled list, Lee re­turned to find a pack­age from the Yan­kees man­ager Billy Martin con­tain­ing three dead mack­erel along with a threat­en­ing note. By com­par­i­son, the am­a­teur games in Ari­zona are quite the pic­nic.

As Lee wrapped up his com­plete game vic­tory in Maryvale, a team known as the LS War­riors was cel­e­brat­ing a win at a field in Tempe. The War­riors, spon­sored by the Louisville Slug­ger bat com­pany, play with the same gusto that Bill Lee ex­udes. To them, ev­ery base­ball game is a cel­e­bra­tion of how good it is to be alive.

They are wounded War­riors, the na­tion’s only na­tion­ally spon­sored am­putee base­ball team. As Army vet­eran Carlo Adame ex­plains it, “This team means a lot more to me than just play­ing base­ball. I get a chance to play base­ball at an el­e­vated level along­side broth­ers that have fought a lot of the same phys­i­cal and men­tal bat­tles as I have.”

On this day the War­riors de­feated the Pirates from Wash­ing­ton, D.C. by a score of 25-0 — a feat aided by mod­ern pros­thet­ics and an old fash­ioned love of the game.

More than the great Amer­i­can pas­time, base­ball re­mains the great Amer­i­can metaphor. It’s mes­sage, some­times lost on the high-paid su­per­stars tak­ing the field in the Ma­jor League World Series: Do the best you can for as long as you can and, win or lose, be grate­ful for that.

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