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A View From the Bleachers

What Is It About Playing Catch?

Have you ever been bored one day and thought to yourself, "Man, I just need to throw the ball around?" It happens to me about once a week. Sure, it's activity; it's exercise. But it's something more, too. What is it about playing catch that seems so fulfilling? So relaxing? So fun?

As baseball season is just around the corner and weather all over the country is warming up, people are digging their gloves out of closets and heading to parks, fields, streets, and other wide open spaces with the goal of stretching out that arm of theirs with a nice game of catch. Friends, fathers, sons, and girls of all ages, too are heading out to play catch.

When I was a kid, my dad taught me how to throw a ball. When I was in Little League, he was the assistant coach and helped me work on my fundamentals. I remember very little about my interactions with my dad when I was a kid, especially since my folks got divorced when I was nine and I didn't see him a whole lot for a while after that. But for some reason, the times we spent throwing that ball around really stick in my memory.

I looked around online when the idea for this article came to me. Did you know that you get totally different results if you Google "have a catch" instead of "play catch?" That's the first thing I found out. Then there were the results regarding Field of Dreams, one of my favorite baseball movies of all time. Basically, that whole movie was about a kid and his dad playing catch one more time. On a deeper level it was about reconnection to family, faith, and redemption. But, seriously, you successfully resolve your film by having a father and son throw the ol' baseball around? There must be somethin' to that simple act.

While there isn't one firm reason published anywhere on the importance of throwing a baseball back and forth, I like to think that the beauty of it lies in the communication. Sure, two (or more) people talk to each other while they throw the ball but there's more to it then that. You're communicating with your eyes and your bodies. You're telling your partner, "Hey, this one's got a little mustard on it," when you take that extra moment to wind up. A parent can use catch to teach his or her child about coordination, timing, and the best life lesson of all: pain is a part of growing up... and then they can put some ice on that shiner.

There have been essays and books written about playing catch for the last hundred or so years and there's really no one right answer about why it feels so good. When you get down to it, it just feels human. Throwing a ball back and forth is so simple and so nice-when you focus on catching or throwing a ball a lot of your world outside of that tends to disappear. You're not worried about the water bill while you're tracking a fly ball and you aren't stressed about anything except maybe a bad hop. Maybe that's part of why we ballhawk-and maybe it's part of why people play the game of baseball and even more people watch it all around the world.

We've all got our memories about playing catch-either from years ago or just last week. Care to share?

It's just a few measly days 'til Opening Day 2010! Have a great season!

Matt Jackson is a contributing columnist to and also maintains a Blog.

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