If MLB wants to fix what’s wrong, all it has to do is watch the college game

College baseball offers the excitement MLB lost years ago

University of Virginia players crowd the mound in celebration.
University of Virginia players crowd the mound in celebration.
Photo: AP

Dallas Baptist University is playing the University of Virginia in a win-or-go-home Super Regional game right now, and something I haven’t seen in a while just happened — a runner got on first, stole second, then the batter hit a fly to deep right that allowed the runner to move to third. What is this? Actual baseball? Like, with base running and small ball?

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Baseball as a whole is a game that doesn’t know how to market itself, but college baseball is evidently even worse than MLB at this aspect of its existence. This game has been fantastic, and has been everything about baseball that I’ve been missing.

This is a child’s game. Baseball is a game that should be fun, lively, full of personality and chatter. While the professional level of the game is currently sucking wind and preparing its final will and testament, college baseball offers a breath of fresh air.

These college players bring me so much joy. The hair flow, the wrist bands, the eye black, the chatter from the dugouts — this is what I remember and loved about the game as a child. I love seeing the players standing against the top rail of the dugouts, chirping encouragement to their teammates. I love the way they’re playing the game. I love the selflessness, the willingness to sacrifice and move runners over. I love the threat of base running.

DBU’s Glenn Jackson launches one, and admires it, in the third inning.
DBU’s Glenn Jackson launches one, and admires it, in the third inning.
Photo: AP

In the seventh inning, in a one-run game, a batter got all of one and dropped a major bat flip on a deep fly to center field. The center fielder, Chris Newell, wearing a chain around his neck and with the top two buttons of his jersey undone, adorned with sunglasses, made a leaping play and robbed a home run. He flexed, pounded his glove with his hand, and screamed “Let’s Go!”

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I just saw a properly executed sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning. This is baseball. This is gold. This is pure baseball gold.

In the big leagues, there are currently half as many sacrifice bunts per game as there were in 2012.

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Dallas Baptist has never made a College World Series appearance in their 51-year baseball program history. If they win this game and this series, they’ll get there for the first time.

Dallas Baptist University after being eliminated.
Dallas Baptist University after being eliminated.
Photo: AP
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The University of Virginia’s Kyle Teel, a 6-foot-1 freshman who bats third and hit .320 this year, hit a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh, giving his team a three-run lead. The dugout erupted and poured over the railing and celebrated at home plate. Virginia fans in the stands broke into a “UVA! UVA!” chant. Teel was jumping and screaming and overcome with excitement as he rounded the bases. Baseball as it should be.

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Teel’s four-run big fly would be the deciding factor in the game. The UVA bullpen shut down Dallas Baptist over the last three innings, securing the UVA win and their first College World Series appearance since 2015, when they won it all.

When I watch Major League Baseball, it leaves me feeling empty and bored. The continuous, seemingly-nightly threat of a no-hitter has dulled the game and stripped it of its excitement. This game, this college game between UVA and Dallas Baptist, made me feel love for baseball again.