There are moments in all team sports—except perhaps football—when the tension of competition is lifted, the sadness of players using drugs to improve their performance fades. These moments occur often in pregame warm up. Basketball players, as they stretch or shoot before a game, joke with one another. It’s the same in soccer; players leisurely jog, dribble, and pass the ball back and forth. Even hockey, a fast and furious sport, has its moments as the players glide around the ice before a game.
But no sport can match the idyllic comfort of baseball when players ready themselves for a game. It may be inherent in the sport. The summer game is played on a gorgeous green field that spreads out from home, the infield forming a graceful arc from sideline to sideline. No rigid rectangle here, no gridiron—the very word, with its blunt consonants, screams hardness and violence.
There’s another word that describes the carefree demeanor of two ballplayers having a catch: insouciance. Its soft consonants and soothing vowels whisper ease and grace. The catching of the ball flows seamlessly into the throwing motion. As the ball smacks the glove of the catcher, he slips it into his bare hand, lifts his leg slightly, and tosses it back to the thrower, now the catcher, who repeats the motion.
There’s a kind of mesmerizing beauty in this slow rhythm.