What baseball and Lyndhurst’s Medieval Times have in common – NJ.com

Baseball season is done. The urge may strike to visit a ballpark, but you’ll find them empty, waiting for the action to return in spring.

As always, I conclude my column for the year with a recommendation to help you get through the winter and satisfy that longing for mano-a-mano action while cheering for your favorites during the frosty days to come.

All you have to do is pay a visit to Lyndhurst. There you’ll experience the same thrills — not in a field of dreams on a grassy diamond, but on a sand-covered arena inside a European-style castle.

Medieval Times, which has been in the Meadowlands since 1990, features armored knights on magnificent horses doing battle six days a week in front of rapturous crowds.

While there are no Gary Sanchez homers or Jacob DeGrom fastballs, what you will see at Medieval Times are athletes at the top of their game participating in contests that date back thousands of years.

Hollywood has made the connection between that era and modern day sports in recent years, with popular films such as “A Kid In King Arthur’s Court,” “Black Knight,” and “A Knight’s Tale” mixing anachronistic depictions of baseball, basketball, and football with stories of legend. Medieval Times brings it all to you live.

There is, in fact, a connection between contests of the middle ages and our national game. Baseball has been cited by several historians as a direct descendant of a sport with origins in the 12th century.

“Stoolball” was played by knights in tournaments, often around Easter time. The object of the game was to protect a milkmaid’s small wooden milking chair from being hit by a tossed ball. The “pitcher” would throw the ball at great speed toward the stool. The knight who was “batting” would stand in front of it, slap the ball back towards the field with his hand or a stick and then run around a series of crudely laid out bases.

For each base gained, he was rewarded, either with points or with romantic favors and kisses from the milkmaid herself.

Thanks to William Shakespeare, who mentioned stoolball in his 1634 comedy, “The Two Noble Kinsmen,” the game quickly became associated with amorous overtures. This is where the term “getting to first base” was introduced into the English language — with lusty connotations beyond an innocent ballgame.      

The knights at Medieval Times don’t play stoolball, but they do carry on the rugged tradition of one-on-one matchups that are also unique to baseball. A quality pitcher facing a hot hitter is one of the great attractions in sports. That same tension and drama is replicated each time a knight at the castle readies his lance and shield to face his opponent in mortal combat.

There was no photography or mass media back in the Middle Ages. A Knight’s fame and reputation grew based not on his name or face, but on the colors he and his horse wore in battle, and the logo on their banners. Even when a knight was injured, left the kingdom, or aged out, another could easily take his place and don the colors, allowing generations of fans to root, root, root for their home team.

Being a knight back in the 1100s was serious business, a profession that required dedication and training. The knights at Medieval Times are just as committed, spending time each day developing hand-to-hand combat skills, artistry in horsemanship, and dauntless courage for battle. They live by the code of chivalry and are some of the finest and most focused athletes you’ll see, on par with modern day baseball warriors and shining knights like Paul O’Neill, Matt Harvey, David Wright and Derek Jeter. 

So when it’s cold outside and you miss baseball, wanting to gather with a group of like-minded fans to support your favorite champion, you can easily fill that need by taking a journey back to the past at Medieval Times.

Enjoy your winter, friends. Remember, there are less than 100 days until pitchers and catchers report.  

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