The 7 Best Baseball Zen Shorts

Breathe. Here are the seven best “Baseball Zen” shorts.

If you watch MLB.tv-, you’ve surely experienced “Baseball Zen,” those 30-second spots that air during commercial breaks. The focus is on a single event or activity or person. Meanwhile, the outline of a baseball diamond frames the primary subject and is slowly filled with white paint. Sound is amplified, action is slowed, and the viewer is given a brief moment to breathe and focus before re-entering the frenzy of the game.

(If you’d like to learn more about how the shorts are made, Gordon Edes has the details.)

For the purposes of this piece, I wanted to focus on my favorites or at least the ones available via MLB Film Room. (This is not the complete canon.)

In ranking my Baseball Zen selections, I used the following criteria:

  1. A short had to focus on a single activity no cuts or edits.

  2. The sound should not be over-amplified no sounds that were too exaggerated or distracting.

  3. The mood needed to be, well, zen I needed to feel like I’d experienced something familiar in a new way.

Actually, let me provide an example of a Baseball Zen that doesn’t work because the creators don’t trust their subject:

I like this one so much: The corn, the action, and Tim Anderson being himself as the White Sox walk it off. The problem is that the editors don’t allow Anderson to carry the moment. Instead, they cut to fireworks. Look, this is Tim Anderson in an epic moment. TA is enough.

Now to seven that do work.

7. Baselines

This seems like a fitting place to start.

Why it works: Given that every Baseball Zen asks the viewer to focus on the white paint filling a centered baseball diamond, this one is perfect. This short provides an intimate perspective on a familiar task and re-contextualizes the central motif through all of these shorts.

6. All Rise

Coming off Aaron Judge’s record-setting 2022, it makes sense that Baseball Zen would call attention to one of the game’s superstars.

Why it works: Hitting a home run is an inherently violent act. In slowing down Judge’s blast, the clip allows the viewer to ponder the beauty of this violence. In addition, the clip emphasizes the sound of the ball off the bat, the clatter as the ball lands, and then the cheering of fans as they all rise. Batter and fans are connected through action. It’s physics as art.

5. Lindor Goes Deep

This short, however, provides a nice contrast with All Rise.

Why it works: The camera focuses on Francisco Lindor, his swing, the bat flip, and then the hitter flexing his arm while running by his teammate. All Rise is about the conclusion, the home run. The Lindor clip moves away from emphasizing the outcome to centering player and his teammates as fans cheer. The viewer need not need to be told Lindor has hit a home run it’s beside the point anyway. Instead, they are allowed to share in an intimate moment.

4. Wandering

To quote J. R. R. Tolkien, “Not all who wander are lost.” That is surely the vibe in this short.

Why it works: As Wander Franco takes the field, he’s deliberate, checking his look a fact underscored in the sound of his chain smoothing his jersey, making sure he’s ready. Attention to detail is essential when staying in the moment. Franco is the viewer’s model in this practice.

3. Super Springer

Baseball is, in part, about the ability of the human body to do amazing things. Here’s a case in point.

Why it works: The focus is on George Springer’s superhuman grace, his focus, and then, after the catch, the joy, here reflected in the face of his teammate Raimel Tapia. The excitement of the catch, then, is given a new context that asks us to pause the action and instead focus on the grace in the moment.

2. Peace

Baseball also happens in those moments in the dugout that show the individuals who make up the team. Take this clip of Nestor Cortes, for example.

Why it works: There’s nothing dramatic. Rather, the focus is on a pitcher watching the game, enjoying some bubblegum, looking at the camera, and flashing a peace sign at the viewer. It’s a reminder to appreciate this moment.

1. Crawford Ranges

If there’s a more exciting event in baseball than the double play, I don’t know what it is. Something that begins as an individual effort is transformed into a group act. A double play is the result of thousands of hours of focused practice. Here’s a case in point.

Why it works: This short details the delicate balance required to execute a double play as Brandon Crawford snags the hit and tosses to the second baseman. But rather than make this a high-pressure situation the mood generally associated with a double play during a game the clip shows the grace required by all involved. This short is a reminder to focus on the details.

Those are my favorites. You can find all of the 2023 “Baseball Zen” clips here. Browse through them to see what works for you.

And remember to breathe.

Renee Dechert

Renee Dechert writes about baseball and fandom, often with a focus on the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. (She's also an English professor, but the baseball is more interesting.) Follow her on Twitter (@ReneeDechert) or Bluesky (@ReneeDechert.com).

3 responses to “The 7 Best Baseball Zen Shorts”

  1. Mario Mendoza says:

    In defense of the cutaway in the TA clip, the way you can see him running on the field and then on the jumbotron is also cool.

    I like the Wander one because as it looks up at him towards the end, you see the stadium lights above, and you get the sensation of entering onto the big stage

  2. Alex McPhillips says:

    Any thoughts on the inexplicable clip of the guy in the gorilla suit ranging to his right?

  3. Phillip Maher says:

    The Crawford play is sweet, but it’s not a double play

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