In the lead-up to the settlement of the Major League Baseball lockout, I saw a lot of grumbling in the Twittersphere about how fans were contemplating bailing on the big-league teams, their greedy owners and some pouty players. Minor-league and college baseball were offered as strong alternatives because, well, because they are.
Anyone who lives just about anywhere in the United States has close or at least fairly close access to minor-league teams, even as MLB does its darndest to eliminate as many farm teams as they can. College ball is even more ubiquitous, and it’s thriving.
I love baseball at all levels, and I’ve become partial to the college game in recent years with an affiliation through the athletic fellows program at Princeton University. I was at Clarke Field yesterday for a portion of the home-opener doubleheader against Yale, and even thought the Tigers fell twice to the Bulldogs and a storm blew in during Game 2, it still made for an entertaining day.
It’s good to have the Tigers at home. Like other Northeast baseball squads, they start the year in Southern states with warmer weather and drier fields. As I write this post about two hours before the first pitch of the final game of the series, the forecast calls for wind and rain with temperatures in the low 40s — in other words, great weather for Milwaukee!
Even with challenging weather, the Ivy League games I get to watch are compelling. As I looked into the Yale dugout yesterday, I looked at one player on the bench whose facial features reminded me of an Eli pitcher years ago, Ron Darling.
That’s one of the attractions of watching college ball: you never know if there’s a future major league star on the field. But it’s the game itself that draws me in. The young men in the Ivy League and occasional non-conference games I see are solid, skilled players who execute well and get even better as they learn under the leadership of coaches like Princeton’s Scott Bradley, himself a former major league player.
Members of the players’ families come to the games, and I’ve been pleased to get to know a number of parents in recent years. Best of all, I’ve gotten to know many of the players. With COVID having knocked out last year’s season and all but a few early road games the year before, I’m looking forward to connecting more with the players in 2022.
Princeton’s baseball games (as with women’s softball) are open to the public and free of charge. Come out and catch one of the games — at Princeton or whatever school is nearby — and watch for love of the game, without the greed.