This week I decided to do a rebuttal to the article written by GASN’s own Clint Switzer about why he feels baseball is the worst sport and why he hates it so much. Obviously, this is completely subjective to each person, but I have to do justice to what I believe is the best and hardest sport to play. Fans of every sport think their sport is the best and the hardest. There is no question that every professional sport is challenging in its own right, and has its own things that make it great. So without further ado, here are my top reasons why I feel baseball is the best and hardest sport.
I will start with why baseball is the hardest sport first…
1. Baseball while having the most paid athletes out of all sports when you figure in the minor league system, it actually has the lowest odds of actually successfully making it pro.
- Only 1% of all high school baseball players will ever play college baseball. Of those college players, only 1% ever makes it to the minor leagues. Of the minor leagues, only 1% ever makes it pro. And only 1% of all professional baseball players ever get selected to the Hall of Fame. These are insane numbers. You effectively have to win the lottery 3 times to ever play in the Major Leagues. And you have to essentially win the lottery 4 times to make it into the Hall of Fame. We are seriously talking about some of the most gifted athletes that have ever played a sport given these odds. About 1% of all high school is eventually drafted to play pro football. This means that to become a pro football player you only have to win the lottery once to make it to the pros.
2. Baseball is the most challenging sport to do from a skill level.
- So this can be debated in some aspects, as basketball, soccer, and hockey have aspects that make them more difficult than say playing defense in baseball, but the overall difficulty still goes to baseball simply due to hitting. Hitting is the most difficult thing a professional athlete can ever do. It is the only thing in sports where you can fail 70% of he time and still be considered one of the greatest to ever play the game. Hitting a major league level fastball is one of the hardest things any hitter will do. And interestingly enough these are the pitches most contacts happen on because these pitches travel the straightest. So let me put into perspective just how truly difficult this is. Imagine you are driving your car 100 mph down the highway and everything passing by is a blur. You can barely even make out anything that you are passing because you are moving so fast. This is what the baseball looks like to a hitter. Once a baseball hits about 80mph it starts to look more like a blur to the human eye as opposed to a baseball. Most major league pitchers throw a fastball around 95mph. When a ball travels that quickly you literally see the equivalent of next to nothing. Now try and hit this minimally visible white blur traveling 100mph with a round bat 2.6 inches wide. You tell me how much luck you have with that. Even suppose you make contact, the odds of it being fair or even crazier a hit are about zero without the hand eye coordination and reflexes of a cat. Over the course of a major league fastball’s trip to home plate, the ball drops at an overage of 1.3 inches. When facing a 95 mph fastball, a hitter has just .43 seconds to decide if they want to swing or not. This means that in less than a half of a second, the batter has to identify that it is a fastball, determine where the pitch will end up, and figure out if they want to swing. This doesn’t even touch on the difficulty of hitting breaking pitches, which while being slower, they also have tremendous movement to them to deceive the human eye. Michael Jordan who is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game, tried to play baseball and was humbled by it. He admitted that while he did make it to double A in the minors, his batting was abysmal and could not hit a breaking ball to save his life. Michael Jordan who had amazing hand eye coordination to be one of the best basketball players ever had to give up baseball and go back to basketball because baseball was too hard. Some of the best double sport athletes out there like Deion Sanders and even the great Bo Jackson were generally regarded as being better in football than baseball. Even Patrick Mahomes who’s father was a decent major league baseball player, chose to play football instead of baseball because he thought he could be better at it.
3. Pitching in baseball is one the most difficult things a person can do with their hand or their foot.
- Not only is pitching harder on all the tendons and joints than any other thing you can do in sports, it literally is more difficult to pitch successfully than it is any thing else. I know given how hard I just said hitting was you would think that would not be the case, but it truly is. So given just how hard I just explained hitting is, you have guys who are damn good hitters at the major league levels. To make it this far they have amazing strength and speed. They have quite possibly the quickest reflexes of anyone you have ever met. Now imagine trying to throw a pitch to that person and make it so they don’t hit it. It is extremely challenging. To be able to throw the pitch with the utmost accuracy is hard in itself, but to be able to throw it hard and fast enough that someone can’t make contact is an art. The closest comparison I can make in the battle between a pitcher and batter is that of two boxers slugging it out. There is a reason why boxing is called the sweet science. Boxing has more mental strategy to it than people give it credit for and pitching and hitting in baseball is even more so.
4. Mental Fortitude in baseball is off the charts!
- Baseball is the most mental sport there is. You have to have the mental strength of Yoda to make it to the Pro level. I realize that may sound nonsensical but allow me to explain. So lets say I was going to offer you a job doing whatever you want it to be. The only caveat is that you have to fail at your job 70% of the time, but continue to go back up there and do it over and over again. That kind of failure weighs on a person. You get down on your self and begin to suspect you are a failure in everything you do. Hitters struggle constantly with funks and just getting in their head too much. It is hard to imagine, but you have to try and do something that requires constant psychological games and analysis equivalent to Chess or Poker, but have to try not to think to much or risk getting in your head too much and not relying on your instincts and reflexes. The entirety of hitting is constant mind game between the pitcher and you as well as against yourself. The mental side of baseball is probably one of the hardest things to explain to someone who hasn’t played and the hardest for someone to understand. A strange and famous quote from the Hall of Fame Yankees Catcher Yogi Berra says that, “Baseball is 90% mental and the other half if physical.”
Okay and here is my reasons why baseball is the best sport…
1. Baseball is the only sport that the winning team has to keep playing.
- Every other sport has ways that the winning team or athlete can try to ice the game in some way. Baseball has no such thing. It isn’t over till it is over. This is why baseball has some of the most historic come from behind victories of all time.
2. The 162 game schedule.
- This one thing people often complain about. Much like Clint complained about in his article. However, I think this is actually a strength for baseball. For one, the fact that there are so many games it gives fans more opportunities to make it out to the games with their busy lives today. It also makes the games cheaper. The more games, means more opportunities to sell products, which translates to cheaper prices. It is simple economics that makes it better for the fans.
3. Egalitarianism – The pursuit of equality for all people.
- Every sport has equality in that everyone has a chance to play the game. But baseball like no other sport has the most equal representation of all types of people. You see near equal representation of Latino, Asian, African American, and Caucasians playing the game. It is also the only sport where you can see wide diversity in the size and shape of the athletes. It’s not a game of outlandish physical proportions. You don’t have to be 7-feet tall or weigh 330 pounds to play it. If you can run, throw, field and hit with distinction, they’ll find a place for you. The beauty of baseball is that it’s still a game where the 5’ 11”, 180-pound athlete can not only compete, but excel.
- There is no other team sport where it is as easy to see who is accountable for the mistake or problem. When a short stop muffs a groundball, everyone knows it. When an incomplete pass happens in the NFL, it can be hard to know if the receiver missed his route or if the Quarterback made a bad throw. Baseball is very much a team sport, but is also very much and individual sport. No other sport has personally accountability at the heart of a team sport quite like baseball does.
- Baseball unlike any other sport holds itself to incredible standards to obtain perfection. Football, Basketball, Hockey, are frantic and often times sloppy. All the turnovers can make you wonder just how good those players truly are. In baseball you will sometimes see errors committed, but it is seldom. If you indeed see a game with 2 errors it is considered a sloppy game.
- Baseball makes a lot of sense, so much so that it is one of the easiest sports to understand. Unlike football with arbitrary penalties take away big plays, or having star players having to come off the court for too many fouls like in basketball; baseball always makes sense.
So while I understand that being in tremendous physical shape is a challenge in itself like we see in sports, there is more that makes a sport challenging than your physical shape. Skill has to be regarded when truly making a fair assessment of the difficulty of the sport. Baseball does that better than any other sport. While being in good physical shape is important in the game of baseball, it does not determine your successfulness like it can in other sports. Sometimes you hear about guys drafted pretty high in the NFL Draft because they are extremely naturally gifted athletes who they hope to teach the game of football in a couple years. That is impossible in baseball. While someone can be physically talented it takes years and years of training in the sport to even begin to approach anything resembling decent at some of the most difficult parts of the game. When all of this is taken into consideration it becomes pretty clear why baseball is far and away the most challenging sport. The accountability, inclusiveness and insane expectation levels of baseball makes it incredible to watch and admire. It is easy to follow and understand and with the long season fans can easily find time to get out to a game without dropping a weeks salary taking the family to a game. Our busy lives in this day in age it makes it hard to be die-hard live and die fans of teams anymore. This is partially why football is losing popularity and viewership. This is something that will play well into the hands of baseball, as people are able to follow and keep up with their teams and not feel left out or too far behind if they don’t watch every game. Baseball is the sport for the modern era just as it was the sport of our past time before the days of die-hard fans and 24-hour sports news. People don’t have time for that these days and the day of the die-hard fan is slowly dying. Enjoy a relaxing summer day at a baseball game; life is chaotic enough as it is.