Sunday, November 6, 2016

SSAD (Seasonal Sports Affective Disorder)

For more than a quarter century now, I’ve been writing and updating guidebooks on southernmost South America for several different publishers. In general, most of my work takes place from autumn (the austral spring) to the northern spring (austral autumn), so I’ve often joked that I leave California after the World Series and return in time for Opening Day. It’s not such a joke, though, that as the days shorten and the baseball draws to an end, seasonal affective disorder becomes an overlapping issue (with “sports affective disorder,” as baseball is the only spectator sport I find worthwhile).
Fortunately the longer days, filled with work, help me get through the winter - unlike the late Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby who famously said that "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."

Generally, I consider South America a sports desert, but there was a South American link to the end of the baseball season, though it didn’t turn quite as I had hoped. Last year, reserve outfielder Paulo Orlando became the first Brazilian ever to play on a World Series, as his Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Mets in five games (for non-baseball fans, I’ll state here that the first team to win four games out of a maximum seven becomes the champion). This year, reserve catcher Yan Gomes could have become the second player to do so, but his Cleveland Indians lost Game Seven in extra innings to the Chicago Cubs (Gomes began the season as Cleveland’s starting catcher, but a separated shoulder forced him onto the disabled list for an extended time).
Anyway, that’s enough baseball for a while, as I fly south to Santiago de Chile this coming Wednesday. I’ve seen baseball fields in Santiago, in northernmost Chile’s Atacama Desert (pictured at top), in the subtropical heights of Argentina’s Salta province (pictured above), in Buenos Aires (where I’ve played recreational baseball and softball), and even in steamy Paraguay (pictured below). I recently learned that there is baseball in Chile’s southerly university city of Concepción and also in the more southerly agricultural city of Los Ángeles (37° 28’ S latitude), whose team nickname is not the Dodgers but rather the Pumas.
It had never occurred to me to try to locate the world’s southernmost baseball diamond, but I’m guessing it might be in Christchurch, New Zealand (latitude 43° 33’ S). I’ll be asking, this time, as I drive south from Santiago, in hopes of finding one nearer the South Pole, on either the Chilean or Argentine side.


Before then, though, I’ll be flying farther south to Punta Arenas and then to the Falkland Islands, where I have seen locals with cricket bats. There, in the capital of Stanley, I once played catch with crewmen from a Japanese fishing vessel who were stunned that somebody in the Islands could throw them a curveball. I don’t expect that to happen again, but the memory will serve until I return home in February, when the days get longer and spring training starts. Pitchers and catchers report on February 13th.

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