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R-MWC scholar outlines cultural impact of baseball’s woes

LYNCHBURG, VA. — While recent developments in professional baseball’s labor negotiations may have given the game some reprieve and fans some hope, the possibility of a work stoppage still looms large, a possibility that frightens Randolph-Macon Woman’s College’s Helen and Agnes Ainsworth Visiting Scholar of American Culture Julio Rodriguez.

“If the players do strike or the owners decide to lock them out, I’m afraid baseball would find out very quickly how far it has slipped in the American Pastime rankings,” said Rodriguez, a lifelong baseball fan and expert on the intersection of sport and culture in America. “Professional football, which by comparison is in labor heaven, is barely a month away. College football cracks open its season sooner than that. Whatever void the strike creates would be quickly filled by football.”

Rodriguez, who just finished teaching “Field of Dreams,” an intensive summer seminar dealing with the role of sport in American culture, pointed out that many fans were still bitter about the last strike less than a decade ago. “It took once in a lifetime events – like Cal Ripken’s record chase and the McGwire-Sosa home run battle – to bring fans back to the ballparks after the 1994 debacle and attendance numbers are still down.” Rodriguez also noted that given the growing anti-corporate sentiment in America, the muddled accounting practices and incomprehensible labor negotiations of major league baseball threaten to sour even the staunchest baseball fan.

“More than anything else baseball is about continuity,” he added. “A disruption to that continuity for the third time in less than a quarter century could result in the American pastime finding itself past its time.”

R-MWC’s American Culture Program is an innovative, experiential approach to American cultural studies. Through a combination of classroom work, guest speakers, and travel, students in the American Culture Program learn to both appreciate the diversity of the nation, and refine their own unique definition of what it means to be American. For more information on the program, contact Program Coordinator Emily Johns at 434-947-8480.

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