I love baseball, but I'm not so naïve to think it's simply a game I grew up playing on the sandlot.
I'm not blind to the changes that have taken place over the years: from the cost at the gate to the cost of stadiums being built.
So I know many of us watch professional sports and consider it a "business." We are reminded of that with every big contract signed, every manager fired, and every trade that takes place.
We often times scream, "Where is the loyalty?" both from a players and owners/fans perspective. As I've said before, I love the sport, but can't stand those who run it. There are some alternatives though and I have been fortunate to experience one each summer.
My recent vacation took me and my family to Cape Cod: the ocean, quaint towns, quality seafood ... and the purity of baseball.
Whenever we head East, I scout the Cape Cod Baseball League schedule to make sure I have time to check out at least one game. In case you don't know much about the league, it's filled with 10 teams around the Cape, and features the best college baseball players using wooden bats in a 40-45 game schedule.
Players live with host families and work jobs before and in between games. It is the game in its purest form.
Fans donate whatever money they can afford to attend the game. Volunteers announce the games, work the 50-50 raffle and search for a national anthem singer before every first pitch. Fans bring their own cooler of beer and food, while sitting in their favorite folding lounge chair. Players know the "regulars," and past players come back to visit and share their stories with families who have opened their homes for the summer.
I went to the Orleans-Cotuit game last week with my three sons, and often times caught myself looking around the grounds at families keeping score. Kids were running after foul balls and players were waving to fans, who are there to cheer their team on every night.
Don't get me wrong, not once did I wish I could be there rather than Comerica Park. No way. There's no better experience to watch baseball than here in Detroit. But it's nice to feel like a kid again, watching the game you grew up loving, in a setting that you thought never existed any more.
The Cape gives me that every summer I go back, and it's one of the primary reasons I keep going back.
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.