Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why Can't I Run The Bases?

I didn't realize I wanted to run the bases at a major league stadium until four weeks ago. April 18, to be exact. I was in Toronto, watching the Blue Jays play the Atlanta Braves at the Rogers Centre. The home team won the game on a walk-off home run in extra innings. Very exciting.

Afterward, the Blue Jays invited fans to line up in several sections around the ballpark for an opportunity to run the bases. I was really excited. I'd never run the bases on a major league diamond before. I'd never run the bases on any sort of baseball diamond before.

I did sprint across a Little League outfield once, when I was 14, but the groundskeeper yelled at me, and I was so scared that I hopped a fence and never returned. That experience crushed me; I believe I could've played baseball in the pros had I received a little more encouragement from that groundskeeper. He soured me on the game for a long time.

I was soured on the game again at the Rogers Centre, after I discovered that only fans ages 14 and under were permitted to run the bases. I was crestfallen. Have you ever had a dream that went unfulfilled because of unfair regulations set by a major league baseball team? If so, you understand how I felt at that moment. The Blue Jays ruined a dream I'd had for five long minutes. Maybe more.

The Blue Jays are not the only team that excludes adults from "run the bases" promotions. I Googled the phrase "run the bases" and the results contained the websites of numerous major league (and minor league) baseball teams that explicitly stated that only kids, typically between the ages of 4 and 12, can take part in these promotions. Even my beloved New York Mets won't let me participate in their "Dashes." After all of the losing seasons I've suffered through, the least they can do is let me dash on their infield dirt.

(You know, we cater to children far too much at sporting events. I'm amused when I listen to dads complain, "It costs too much to take the family to a game nowadays. Not only do I have to buy tickets for myself and my kids, but I have to get them food, programs, memorabilia." No you don't. You're not obligated to get them anything at the stadium. You are more than welcome to attend a game and not make any purchases while you're there. I've done it many times. Granted, I'm not a father, but if I were, I'd make sure my kids were well-fed before we left the house. I'd then ply them with Twix bars in the car, pick up free schedules for each of them as a souvenir, and treat them to more Twix on the ride home. Seems simple enough to me.)

Why do these teams refuse to allow me to run the bases? What is the reason? As a fan and as a customer, I have a right to know.

Are they afraid I might risk injury to myself? I will concede that that is a possibility. At the age of 34, I am past my prime in baseball years. And I haven't run, under any circumstance, since I took the physical fitness test in high school gym class. When the president of your country orders you to run a mile, you do it. Otherwise, I'm fine with walking.

Or maybe -- this is the real issue, I believe -- the teams are worried I would show up the kids by outrunning them on the basepaths. To that I'd say, of course I would. If I were to be given the chance to run the bases on a big league field, why would I not give maximum effort? I wouldn't take it slow; I'd want to move from base to base as quickly as possible. If I have to pass dozens of kids to do it, so be it. Would their feelings be hurt? Probably. But there's no crying in baseball.

I'd like an explanation from major league teams regarding why I can't run the bases. And I'd also like the NFL to tell me why it won't allow fans my age to try out for the Punt, Pass & Kick competition.