Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am one of the most loyal Texas Rangers fan there is out there. I mean, I was a fan before I was even a blip on the world’s radar way back in ’72 when my parents were just starting to date in college and the Rangers went 54-100 in their inaugural season! But in all seriousness, I have struggled through some painful below .500 seasons before reveling in the recent “glory days” that have turned the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex into just as much of a baseball town as it is a football town which, is a tall feat in a state where football reigns supreme. When I saw the above picture from the Rangers’ home field after a rain storm I was entranced. I can’t necessarily describe to you what I felt, but there was definitely something out of the ordinary going on. I love The Rangers because they have always been my home town team, but I simply LOVE the game of baseball. So, I asked myself… why do I love baseball so much? Why did this simple, yet beautiful, picture captivate me so much?
As I started jotting down thoughts on my love for this sport I had an enlightening revelation. All of the sudden I stopped to read what I had written and realized that I had over a page of notes. I didn’t even realize that I liked baseball that much! As a disclaimer to this post, I DO date a baseball player and a pitcher at that. For those of you who know how baseball players are, you know that pitchers are a breed of their own (god bless the pitcher girlfriends out there). Adam has certainly helped my love for the game flourish by explaining the intricacies of the game that a casual fan may not have the pleasure of understanding, but my baseball love had been growing long before I met my man who wears a glove, throws a ball 95 MPH and has a mean farmer’s tan. Anyways, back to my notes. My list continued to grow and my mind kept racing. So much so that I thought to myself “What the hell is going on? I need to put these feelings together into a somewhat organized piece.”
Not only is the game America’s Favorite Pastime, but for many families some of their fondest memories of being together is loading up the car and heading out to the baseball field. There is something about a father taking his son (or daughter, hello!) to his first baseball game and seeing his innocent eyes glimmer with anticipation. I remember going to a Rangers game with my dad and I was dying for a game-used Todd Zeile bat that they were selling at the gift shop. I silently pouted until the 7th inning when my dad finally gave me permission to go get it. I was ecstatic! For some reason that became a great ballpark memory that stuck with me (the bat is still in my room). My first experience at a park other than the Rangers’ field which, I had already visited several times, was also memorable. My family and I were in New York and went to a Yankees game at old Yankee Stadium when I was probably 8 or 9. It was an afternoon game in the middle of summer, blazing hot, and we happened to have seats right near the opposing team’s bullpen. When the Yanks’ starter began to tire in the summer heat several relievers started to loosen their arms and warm-up. Then, all hell broke loose. The hot, sweaty New Yorkers in the outfield seats that were bathed in sunlight were ruthless with their verbal attacks on the bullpen guys. I think that might have been my first time hearing an F-bomb, and let me tell you, I heard it A LOT. I’m still not sure that to this day I have heard such a filthy monologue… except maybe on a particularly intense episode of The Sopranos. But I LOVED IT! The intense competitive atmosphere was electric and I will never forget exploring the historic stadium with my parents.
It’s a sport of power, finesse, and perfection. The backdrop of the game allows for social interaction with friends and family without deterring you from the action on the field. It is simple enough for young children to understand but complex enough to keep even the oldest of fans craving further understanding of the most minor details. There are so many games in a season that you know the players have to love the game. The outcome of the game legitimately cannot be determined until the final out is made. Both teams have an equal opportunity to score every game. It’s one of the only sports where the defense controls the game. You can be successful 3 out of 10 times and consider yourself on the positive side of the spectrum. Baseball is physically inviting to boys and men of all shapes and sizes; there is not a “dominant” body type like, perhaps, height in basketball. The constant mental battle between the pitcher and the batter; the pitcher trying to outsmart the batter and the batter trying to pick up on pitch sequences. The excitement of “free baseball.” The fact that there is no clock, you could be at the field for 2.5 hours or 6. Baseball players never really seem to grow up; they make fun of each other, make up secret handshakes, and create their own language, similar to small children at recess. The antics of a rain delay. The smell of the grass, hot dogs, and beer. The constant non-verbal communication happening on the field. The unselfishness of the game itself. Sacrificing your own at bat to move someone over or bring someone home from third base for the good of the team. The unspoken rules of baseball. If a pitcher hits a batter (not unintentionally), you had better expect that someone will have a ball up near their ear the next inning. The camaraderie of a team. OCTOBER. Your season hanging in the balance while a cool fall air whisks through the stadium. The equilibrium of the game. Ninety feet have always been 90 feet. Sixty feet have always been 60 feet. The tradition of the game that meshes generations. The ever-changing yet consistent nature of the game. I could go on forever, but you get the point. Plus, boys running around in baseball pants is never a bad thing!
What I think baseball boils down to is its uncanny ability to mirror basic everyday life. One of my favorite aspects of the game that simulates life is that the main goal of baseball is always to come home. You methodically move around the diamond until you end up where you want to be, at home; if you don’t end up successful you know that you put in your best effort to get there. Isn’t that everybody’s goal at the end of the day, to come home? Home is a place of comfort, relaxation, and love which, are things that everyone strives for to some extent. The game is easily relatable to the daily back and forth, up and down, success and adversity… and you can experience that all in one game! You can fail miserably one day and be the hero the next day. Just like life, no matter what happened the day before you wake up the next day with an opportunity for redemption. You have to be able to accept that the past is the past and you need to be able to look forward with optimism. Slumps will happen, but you always have a chance to hit a game-winning grand slam the next day.
The baseball field has become a place of tranquility and friendship for me. A sacred place where I can set aside the rigors of young adulthood. A place where I can catch up with friends while enjoying a game that I love. A place where the whole world at that moment seems to hang on every pitch. There’s just nothing like it. I hope some of you feel the same way. And now I am going, going, gone…
Some of my favorite recent-ish baseball moments and a hysterical video of an extended collegiate rain delay: