Baseball is a funny sport. Obsessed with numbers, it encourages its players to also adopt obsessive behaviors. If Nomar Garciaparra picks up one more ritualized activity at the plate chances are the number of innings in a game will be cut to accommodate the length of time it takes for him to walk, strike out, or -- as is the case recently -- hit a home run or some other impressive bat connecting ball thing to drive in runs. He is truly a role model for those of us who have our own collections of rituals to enact before leaving the house or the kitchen or the office of the car. He reminds us that sometimes we, too, will hit home runs.
Aside from the obsession with obsessions, baseball and its players sometimes -- not very often -- but sometimes get to behave in just the opposite manner from society in general.
In society, a person is generally avoided when hard luck has come his way. Lay offs, lawsuits, divorces, illnesses are often events which leave us feeling alone and lost. Not so in baseball. The person who is on the verge of amazing accomplishment is the one shunned.
Take Hiroki Kuroda who Monday evening almost but not quite pitched a perfect game. At the beginning of the game he was a popular guy in the dug out. His team mates sat next to him and even spoke to him despite the fact that he doesn't speak or understand much English. Then as the game went on things began to chill a bit in the dug out until by the fifth inning no one got near the guy. He sat alone with the nearest teammate at least four feet away. And he sat in absolute silence. This happened because things were going so well for him.
Of course, when that insensitive guy on the other team got that hit into right field, things changed for Kuroda. He got a little more popular in his own dug out. Even Russell Martin, his catcher, got a little friendlier and sat a little closer. And by the end of the game, which was a shut out -- incredible enough to pull off -- instead of a perfect game, people were once again speaking to Kuroda.
All of which just goes to remind us that sometimes when the people we know seem to shun us, maybe they're just trying to help us stay focused and give us encouragement. Either that or they have mistaken themselves and us for major league baseball players.