Diamonds in the Rough: A Stolen Legacy
In the lead up to the Olympics I wanted to be angry. I wanted to not care, I wanted to be grumpy.
The problem was finding an appropriate reason for my anger. I wanted my anger to manifest itself in such a way that it wasn’t our absence that was disappointing but rather that it was tragic that millions of people wouldn't be impacted by our sport. I wanted to do more than whinge.
However, over the last two weeks I’ve not been angry but instead envious. Envious of the people who were participating and of the exposure they were receiving. I was taken in by the Olympics more than I had expected and my anger dissipated. By the time Kenneth Branagh's Brunel-cum-Caliban had talked of Sounds, and sweet airs my about-turn had begun. I really got into the spirit of London 2012 and was seduced by the positive vibe that took over the city, explaining to friends that “London is even cooler than it usually is.” Perhaps envy was to be expected while dozens of other sports received wall-to-wall coverage for two weeks.
It’s no exaggeration to say that LOCOG and company hit one out of the park with the 2012 Olympics. It’s there however that my anger resurfaces. Prior to the games, Lord Coe had this to say when addressing concerns over security:
“We were dealt a curveball, and we acted quickly and decisively to fix the problem.”
I find it ironic that baseball terms are being used by those involved in an event at which the sport has been excluded. I would bet that other Olympic officials have used baseball terms when speaking about the games. An activity I use when introducing baseball to new audiences is to pull words and phrases derived from the sport out of the participants, showing them that baseball is more ingrained in their society than they had thought. Everyday we touch base with colleagues, deal with issues that come out of left field and estimate ballpark figures. At the end of a date we might get to 1st Base – or we might strike out. Baseball is all around us and language is just the beginning, so it was disappointing that the only presence of a baseball bat in the games was to depict an offensive weapon in the organising committee’s list of items prohibited from Olympic venues.
It irks me that despite being so present in our world, especially in London (spot the New York Yankees hat), the sport itself wasn’t welcome.
So to those IOC-ites who’ve ever uttered a baseball phrase – can we have our language back, please?
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It wasn’t until the closing ceremony that I finally found my more-than-whinging reason to be angry, as the frequency of the usage of the word “Legacy” soared.
As enquiries rain down on the clubs and governing bodies of sports that were contested during the games, the phones at BaseballSoftballUK are no busier than usual. And there begins the tragedy of stolen Legacy.
Children are missing out because they don’t know they have the opportunity to play baseball. And it’s not that they won’t be able to go to Rio, a chance that other sports can certainly provide. It’s that their lives won’t be positively impacted through exposure to the sport.
I’m biased of course but I think that no other sport provides opportunities for so many, and no other sport teaches life lessons so well.
While there is of course a massive difference between the shortest gymnast and tallest basketball player who competed in London 2012, I’m not sure that there is such a variance in the mental and physical attributes found among the members of a baseball team. In the next four years rowing, cycling and swimming coaches will be identifying prospects for Rio. They have a profile of an athlete who can medal in 2016 and beyond. Many children and adults will be taking these sports up but ultimately the profile of a rower, cyclist or swimmer and may other athletes is pretty narrow. Baseball requires all sorts of specialists, and so the coach doesn’t have a profile for the sport as a whole but one for every position.
The Olympic Legacy would have been dramatically enhanced though the presence of baseball, with opportunities for the child who runs or throws or hits or catches. Boston Red Sox 2nd Baseman, Dustin Pedroia, is listed at 5’8” and 165 lbs. CC Sabathia, pitcher for the rival New York Yankees, is listed at 6’7” and 290 lbs. Between them you’ll find players of every height and weight, each possessing a set of skills that enables them to contribute to the greater good of the team and providing them with a sense of satisfaction and achievement.
So, to the child out there who’s not yet found their place in this Legacy, perhaps it’s in baseball. Regardless of where you’re from or what you look like, there’s a place for you on the Diamond.
Liam Carroll is London’s Regional Coach & Club Development Officer for BaseballSoftballUK, and the head coach of the GB 23U national baseball team.