KEN GRABOWSKI: The American pastime has a new look these days – Manistee News Advocate

A fan waits for a fly ball during batting practice before Game 2 of baseball’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Ken Grabowski
Ever since I was a kid, the Major League Baseball World Series is something that has intrigued me and caught my attention every year.
Once again this year, the World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros was fun to watch with plenty of excitement.
There were plenty of great plays by two very good teams.
However, what has been just as interesting to watch is how some things have changed in the game dramatically from the past, while others are still done just as they were in the 1920s.
Case in point is the stadiums where the games are played today. In the past they were ball fields plain and simple. They were designed quite simply for people to sit in a seat for nine innings and watch a baseball game.
In today’s game, it almost appears at times that the stadiums are there to entertain people more than the game. Some include mini-amusement type parks, play areas for kids, family picnic zones, restaurants, bars and big screen TVs everywhere including the restroom so you don’t miss a second of action.
It used to be that if it looked like rain, most fans would be nervous the game would be canceled, but now many come with retractable roofs so they can play in any condition. It can be a downpour outside, but the game goes on and when the sun is shining the roof is open.
Another thing that catches your eye is the food they serve in baseball parks today. Back in the early days it was similar to the old “Take me out to the ball game” song with fans being able to buy peanuts and Cracker Jack as the main staples.
Now some stadiums actually have high class restaurants located in their confines and little outdoor cafes/bars in the upper deck outfield where you can watch the game while dining on smoked salmon or prime rib. And the wine lists are as one guy who probably couldn’t tell the difference between a home run and stolen base said in a story I read recently, “to die for.”
Huh, remember when it was a novelty just to watch a Chicago Cubs game from the roofs across the street from Wrigley Field with a cold beer and bag of chips?
Today the “baseball elite” who watch the games from a private box may have a choice of a huge buffet in their box along with a full bar of drinks to wash it down. Even those sitting in the prime seats by the field get drinks, nachos and other things delivered by waitresses.
That’s a far cry from the day of the vendor tossing a bag of peanuts down the row to a fan who passed back the money. It’s kind of like going from the “Field of Dreams” image to “Dream Field.”
Another thing that has changed in baseball today is the number of playoff games. I am actually old enough to remember a time when only one team from the American League and one from the National League qualified for World Series. Now it takes three levels of playoffs on three TV networks, and the teams that win the most regular season games don’t always make it to the World Series.
However, television and the team owners do make lots of money in the process.
When you had just one team from each league it earned the name the October classic because it took place all in October. Now it spills over to November and if they add any more teams to the playoffs it may soon be the December classic.
What is also interesting to watch is the frenzy that takes place for World Series tickets. There are reports that some people paying as high as $1,200 a ticket from a scalper. What ever happened to the $3 bleacher seats?
Let me tell you if this guy is paying $1,200 for a ticket to a baseball game I am going to stay for every pitch even if my team is losing 15-1.
To get my money’s worth I may very well may stick around after the game to watch the ground crew put tarp on the field and the janitorial staff sweep out the stands. That price better also come with a courtesy post game hot dog at the concession stand similar to the complimentary breakfasts you get for staying at some hotels.
Something else that is interesting is how technology is mixing with old school tactics in today’s game. This year they showed a picture in the dugout of a hitter looking at an iPad to determine how he was being pitched.
Managers can also find out in mere seconds, using technology, how well a pitcher is against a particular hitter or vice versa. Today’s game even has instant replay to make sure the umpire made the right call on a close play. Wonder what Babe Ruth would think of that?
Yet at the same time you have catchers extending fingers down hidden by his glove to tell the pitcher what pitch to throw just like they did in the 1920s. Then there is the third base coach touching his ears, rubbing his shoulder and other such gyrations to give the hitter the signals.
The managers still even call to the bullpen on a phone that looks like it is from the 1960s to see if the reliever is ready and then hold up their left or right arm when coming out to make a pitching change. Couldn’t they have done that with technology?
And as for the hitters, everyone is trying to hit a home run like they are on beer league slo-pitch team. The defense will shift four players to one side of the infield where he pulls the ball and instead of punching a single to the open side of the field he will still swing away.
And the only thing resembling a bunt is when a hitter takes a mighty swing and hits a little dribbler in front of home plate.
Despite all the changes, it still is the American pastime and millions of fans like me will still hang on every pitch long after I see you again on Monday.
Ken Grabowski is the retired associate editor at the Manistee News Advocate who spent more than 36 years in the newspaper business.

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