Ron Fairly was right. About everything.
It’s not that I ever thought he was wrong, really, just vociferously repetitious. He used to drive me up the wall with those maxims that he repeated over and over and over.
“The hardest play an outfielder has to make is on a ball hit right at him.”
“You gotta keep the ball down. You know why I say keep the ball down? Well, when was the last time you saw a 400 foot ground ball?”
“Those lead off base on balls will come around to kill you.”
(Turns out Ron Fairly was a moneyballer before we even knew about moneyball.)
Once you’ve got a grasp on the game, these maxims become annoying and you roll your eyes at the sheer obviousness. In hindsight, I’m realizing that Ron Fairly saw right to the heart of baseball and was able to talk about it in such a simplistic, straight to the point, way that it became easy to dismiss.
But all those years of listening to Ron must have drilled his baseball proverbs into my skull because they get loose and rattle around in there from time to time.
Whenever an infielder bobbled a ball, he would talk about how important it was to stay with the play and not give up after the bobble. The words that seeped into my brain on summer evenings in front of a televised game tap me on my shoulder on a sunny spring afternoon while watching a high school game.
We often forget how easy major leaguers make baseball look. Even the errors aren’t all that egregious. Because I forget this, high school baseball was eye opening in a way I hadn’t expected.
First of all, these kids are good. A little league game, this was not. They made acrobatic plays and hit the ball hard and ran out ground balls (so, it wasn’t exactly a Major League game either).
Then, they’d mess up and I’d be reminded that I wasn’t watching professionals, I was watching high school kids. (Also, they don’t sell beer at the games. Lame.)
I watched a shortstop struggle to get a handle on a ground ball and I’d remember that Ron liked when players stuck with the play. I finally saw the whys and the hows behind everything he said.
I was watching the building blocks of baseball. The players were good enough to make it look easy, but not so seasoned that they didn’t trip over the fundamentals from time to time. Each time they tripped I understood baseball a little better. Each bobbled play I got a little closer to baseball’s soul.
The beauty of baseball is in its easy simplicity. I was surprised to learn that Ron Fairly understood that better than I did.
While pondering Ron, I found that this still exists on the internet, a relic of my Anglefire site. Please forgive the comic sans font. It was the early 2000s and that sort of thing was acceptable then.