Archive for June 23rd, 2013

Amish Baseball Player- Photo by Kurt WilsonThere was an article in The New Republic magazine a few months back titled The Boys of Lancaster from writer Kent Russell.   It is about the relationship between the game of baseball and the Amish community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  The article documents how the game, while forbidden to adults once they have been baptized ( the Amish are Anabaptists which means they practice voluntary baptism of members at an age when they can make their own decision to do so), is a big part of the  Amish boys and young men’s lives, especially during the period of Rumspringa, that sanctioned time when Amish youth basically sow their wild oats before making the decision to stay with the Amish way of life and religion or leave and live the modern English life.  During Rumspringa they often drive cars, drink alcohol, take drugs, have sex, listen to modern music, watch TV, talk on their cell phones and do just about anything else that any modern non-Amish youth might be doing.

This includes playing baseball.

There are fields and backstops scattered around the county and they play in leagues among themselves and against the English, the term used to describe all non-Amish.  The author describes their play as being unschooled but having a purity and consistency in its form.  It might not look as polished as kids who were in travel leagues and went to instructional camps but they could play.  He describes them as not being too self-conscious and having a centered confidence without being cocksure, traits that by nature  translate well to the game of baseball.  While the game is one of thought, those who play best have an ability to not be self-conscious and make each move on the field with the certainty of result.  Questioning your own ability and your movements make for poor play.  The Amish boys seem to have this required self-certainty and an ability to be single-minded in their purpose.

Amish Baseball Player- Photo by Kurt Wilson 2The author makes a couple of points that apply outside of baseball.  One was a saying from The Mental Game of Baseball, a book that is considered a must-read for big leaguers or wannabes,  that goes If there is no future, there is no distraction.  I immediately understood what it meant.  Focus on the now, on this very instant.  Block out what may happen in the future because it doesn’t really exist.  Just like the past.

Existence is always in the present.

This works in baseball.  The best players block out the past and all the failures or successes that came  before.  The future is not even thought of.  Those players that do dwell in the past or future, fail in the present.

It made me think of how often I find myself living in pasts and thinking of futures, how often I fail to take in the precious now.  I swing and miss,  striking out because of this preoccupation with the past and future, both things out of my control.  We may think we control our future but it is only the now that we can truly control.

Hmm.  The zen of ball…

Whatever the case, if you’re a baseball fan or a fan of cultural anthropology,  it’s an interesting read.


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