Sports commentary: Large thoughts

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Baseball is getting big. I mean the players.

By Mike Forster

  Baseball is big.

The sport has big games, big excitement, big stadiums, big drama, big defensive plays and big hits.

It also has big players.

As I watch this year's World Series, I am struck by how large are the men who are playing in it.

The Tigers have behemoths such as Prince Fielder (275 pounds), Miguel Cabrera (6' 4", 240) and Delmon Young (6' 3", 240).

Relief pitchers Jose Valverde (6' 4", 254) and Octavio  Dotel (6', 230) provide heft from the pen.

The Giants are no pikers, either.  Third baseman Pablo Sandoval weighs in at 240 pounds.  Right fielder Hunter Pence stands 6'4" and weighs 220.  That's a middle linebacker disguised as an outfielder!

About 5% of all the players at the World Series stand under 6'.

This is good news on two fronts.  The first is that baseball is drawing stronger athletes.  The second is that guys can stop muttering and dreaming.

You see, baseball used to be the one sport any slightly-built guy could look at, shake his head and mutter, "if only."

That's "if only" as in:  "If only I'd stuck with baseball instead of (choose one:  played football, chased girls, took up the guitar, discovered video games, took a job at the Apple Market), I could have made it in the major leagues."

The vast majority of guys only have this regret with baseball.  That's because these guys (myself included) know that even in their wildest fantasies, they'd never have made it in the other sports.

-You have to be at least 6'4" to make it in hoops.

-You have to be incredibly huge or incredibly fast (or both) to even be considered for the NFL.

-You have to have learned to skate before you learned to walk in order to make it in the NHL.

-You have to be under 120 pounds to make it as a jockey.

-You have to have an incredibly thick skull to make it in professional boxing.  

But baseball's history is chock full of remarkable players who were not remarkable physical specimens.

"Pee Wee" Reese and "Wee" Willie Keeler, for example, are both in Baseball's Hall of Fame.  So is "Little Poison" Waner.  They were small guys who did well.

Being possessed of a large body did not matter in the not-too distant past.  Those that were large were usually found playing first base.  Guys like Boog Powell, Frank Howard and  Willie McCovey all lined up at first base, primarily because their talents did not include the ability to run fast.  In fact, those three could easily have played professional football:  They were that husky.

The rest of the field players, on the other hand, looked like everyday Joes when decked out in their street clothes.

So, we everyday Joes, seeing that baseball players were not that physically different from us, would dream of what might have been.

Of course, we never accounted for the other things we might have lacked:  the ability to hit a curve ball, the nerve to face a 90 MPH heater, the willingness to practice year-round or the savviness to run the base paths.

No.  What we did was look at the television and say to ourselves, "I could do that."

Correction.  We USED to do that.  With the advent of the abnormally large ballplayer, the days of our baseball fantasy (as opposed to fantasy baseball) are numbered.

Just as you could not make the case in your own mind that you could play fullback for the Redskins, you must acknowledge that you don't have the God-given physical tools to play third base for the Orioles.

I think that the passing of this dream is sad.  Life is full of "What ifs," and now our chance to engage in one of those exercises has been literally muscled aside.

So, my fellow middle-aged dudes, you can retire those dreams of summer glory.

But all is not lost.  For example, have you ever noticed that NASCAR drivers look like regular Joes when decked out in their street clothes? 

I have.  I've also noticed that professional golfers look just like you and me.

The dream remains.  Only the sport is different.