Newman: Amid coronavirus and MLB’s bitter dispute with players, my love for the game has intensified, and simplified, in the best ways

As millionaire players and billionaire owners inch closer to officially ending their embarrassing public dispute over MLB’s return to play, I have spent the last several months contemplating the sport I love.

Having basically no live baseball at any level this spring made me relish the game more. And though watching MLB do damage to itself with a posturing contest with the players amid a global pandemic has disappointed me as a baseball diehard, I’m as amped as can be that the sport is beginning to resume on a local level.

With coaching my son’s tee-ball team as one of my emotional bookends, and my journeyman men’s league career as the other, the pandemic and its negative effects on big-league ball (and my job covering it) have somehow rolled off my back. While the pros struggled to figure out how to stop sniping at each other and get back on the field, my love for the game deepened and correspondingly simplified in the best ways possible.

My son’s team of 4- and 5-year-olds, the Castle Rock Rookies, fired its season up last week. One game in, the squirts are already learning how to properly run to first base (instead of chasing after the ball when they hit it) and that defense doesn’t mean the entire infield fighting over every groundball. My assistant coaches include my dad, who coached me when I was young, as well as my 11-year-old daughter and my best friend.

Our sole focus is to cultivate a love for the game that will keep the kids coming back to the diamond forever, initially as players, yes, but then as fans and eventually as fosterers. The fundamentals of throwing are important, as is making sure they understand the concept of hustle. But nothing is as important as cultivating the glint in a young ballplayer’s eye, and I saw many glints as the Rookies madly rounded the bases to close practice Monday night.

Meanwhile, my wood bat men’s league team, the Colorado Cutthroats of the Denver chapter of the National Adult Baseball Association, has been ramping up with “spring training” scrimmages the past couple weeks. Our season is set to start on Sunday night under the lights at Long Lake Ranch in Arvada. In my 25th consecutive summer of playing baseball, the game is still an ongoing education for me in discipline, mental toughness and prioritizing process over results — all tenants I try to duplicate in my everyday life.

Through those two outlets — and surely the most trying season MLB has faced in modern times — I’ve emerged with a greater appreciation for baseball and the peace it can bring one on an individual level, regardless of whether the Rockies are playing.

As a baseball lover I’ve now vowed that whatever happens with the growing divide in MLB between players and owners, and with the looming fight over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement following the 2021 season, I won’t become angry at the game. If anything, the nightmare of a non-MLB season so far has emphatically reminded me that a ticket and a television are far from the best ways to seep in the seams.

MLB should be getting into action soon enough, with a 60-game schedule expected and the regular season projected to start around July 24. While the league and players figure out logistics, don’t worry about this sportswriter worrying. I’ll be just fine between the lines with the Rookies and the Cutthroats, grabbing every handful of dirt and turf I can get.

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