The baseball diaries

Nagging questions about America’s game — like, why no cheerleaders?

click to enlarge BUT WHAT ABOUT…? These people (photographed during the Rays/Rangers playoffs last fall) sure look like cheerleaders. - ROBERT AZMITIA
Robert Azmitia
BUT WHAT ABOUT…? These people (photographed during the Rays/Rangers playoffs last fall) sure look like cheerleaders.

A lot of people like to get philosophical about baseball. They talk about the sport’s balance of science, skill and artistry. They wax rhapsodic about its wholesomeness, its vibrant associations with summer, its healthy, character-building sportsmanship.

They consider it a metaphor for life.

I also used to consider baseball a metaphor for life. I thought that baseball, like life, was tedious, repetitive and uneventful to the point of torture, laden with pointless, arbitrary objectives and statistical minutiae in order to obfuscate its essential meaninglessness.

Then, last Sunday, I attended a Rays game for the first time in years. And, for the first time ever, I paid more attention to what was happening on the field than the shirts on the people in front of me in the beer line. I watched the home team trounce the Texas Rangers 6-0 in a delightfully brief contest, and I kind of enjoyed myself.

I still think baseball is like life. They’re both too boring, too often, and freighted with elements of frighteningly over-inflated importance. Upon experience and reflection, though, they can both be pretty cool sometimes, and occasionally downright thrilling. Also, baseball, like life, gets a lot more interesting when you actually become a part of it, rather than just watching it unfold on TV.

But I do have questions. Here are five.

Why do the Rays need a new stadium? I can actually answer this one: They don’t. There is nothing at all wrong with Tropicana Field, and a team that can’t fill the seats in downtown St. Pete is not going to be able to fill the seats 30 minutes closer to Tampa. That might be unfair, but it’s also true. The response to “we need a new stadium” should always be “win a freakin’ World Series, then maybe — maybe — we’ll talk.” Perhaps they just don’t like the rays tank. Which brings me to:

If the Rays are no longer the Devil Rays, as in the fish, and are now the Rays, as in rays of sunlight, why is there still a rays tank? Is it a structural necessity, a load-bearing rays tank? Does it distract baseball-ambivalent children for longer than, like, seven minutes? And what happens when a hit goes in there? Free $9 watery beers for everyone? The whole crowd stands up and does the “stingray shuffle”? PETA riot?

Why does the Dasani mascot in the mascot race look like a bottle of milk? Water is not white. MILK is white. I understand that we don’t possess the technology to create a clear mascot suit without revealing the person inside it (and that the person inside it probably doesn’t really want to run the mascot race, you know, exposed), but there are plenty of other ways to go than Milk White. Or just pick another beverage. I know, I know, but I was inordinately irritated by this.

What does the theme from The Addams Family have to do with baseball? Nothing, so far as I know. But we heard it several times during the course of the game, and even the busking saxophonist outside after the game played it. I suspect it’s only used because it inspires crowd participation with the whole snapping thing, but I didn’t hear “Jet Song” from West Side Story or Lil’ Jon’s “Snap Yo Fingers,” either one of which would’ve been WAY more awesome. If you’re going to incorporate inappropriate music, why not go all the way?

And, finally …

Where were the cheerleaders? Did I miss them? Does baseball not have cheerleaders? And if so, then WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND RIGHT DOES BASEBALL NOT HAVE CHEERLEADERS?

Read more Scott Harrell at and follow him @lifeasweblowit.

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