I admit to not being a lifelong baseball fan. I admit that I don't know as much about the history of baseball as I do about the issue of steroids in baseball, which is quite sad as I'm sure I'm not alone (and in fact am probably in the majority). But I do know this one simple thing...the baseball itself may be one of the most perfectly designed devices in all of sports.
What makes me say that? I can't really articulate it well, but what I do know is it just "feels" right. I've played a lot of softball in the last ten years or so, and I've loathed the ball itself the entire time. Too big and strange to throw and catch. That's coming from someone with relatively large hands and the owner of a good glove, too. It's just all wrong. Even the ladies/youth ball is just too big.
Why am I just now noticing this? Well, I've always sort of known it, but recently I've been playing some catch with my boys and it's just sort of hit me. Those of you who know me know that I'm a HUGE basketball fan. I both play and watch. I have times when I haven't played in a little while (like now) when I can sit and daydream of what it feels like to shoot a jumper. I can daydream about what it feels like to execute that perfect crossover dribble. And lately, for some strange reason, I can feel that baseball in my hand.
That's what makes the baseball thing so profound to me. I grew up playing basketball. I still play a lot of it. But I played very little baseball as a kid (one year of coach pitch was it, and I was bad at that). But something just feels good about throwing a baseball. I think right now I could play catch for hours, and not just with my kids. With anyone. I sort of yearn for it, in fact. And it seems like it has a lot to do with that stupid little ball.
The basketball cannot compete with the baseball for best ultimate design simply because there are too many differences from one basketball to the next. Sure, any good basketball player can adapt to them pretty easily, but the fact of the matter is that you do have to make some changes from ball to ball. They feel slightly different, they have different weights to them, and worst of all, different levels of tack. College and pro football use completely different footballs in terms of dimensions, weight, and probably material. High quality baseballs are much more consistent. It is what it is and they'll all feel pretty much the same. This consistency is a key, but somehow the stupid thing is just pretty perfect and apparently has been for a looooong time.