It’s Baseball Season (And Why I Love it So)

I have plastic Oakland Athletics cups that I’ve had since before I got married 21 years ago. 

Does that say anything about how obses–I mean loyal I am to my team? I grew up in Oakland, Calif., and much of my youth was spent at the ball park or listening to games on the radio. Televised games were still a thing of the future. I have autographs from the glory days of the A’s of the 70s, and can still remember attending the celebration parades in downtown Oakland after a World Series win.

I even got to go to game 1 of the 1988 series between the A’s and the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. You know, the one where Kirk Gibson, gimpy as he was, came in against Dennis Eckersley in the bottom of the 9th. A’s fans thought we had it in the bag. Well, what did Gibson do? Hit one out of the park, over the right field wall if I remember correctly. I’ve never heard a place erupt as loudly as that stadium that day.

And I still have a VHS tape of the Earthquake game, in the 1989 series between the A’s and the Giants. What a sight that was.

Ah, those were the days.

My team hasn’t made the playoffs in a while, but that doesn’t dim my love for them. Players have come and gone, and I’ve been sad to see them go, but I usually end up loving the ones who replace them. What I’ve been asked by my kids, who have not inherited my love, is why I like it so much.

I actually have no idea, but here’s my attempt to figure it out:

There’s strategy and strength

I loved to watch Ricky Henderson steal bases. Now Jemile Weeks and Coco Crisp are filling that need. But I also love the beauty of a blast over the wall. The sheer strength it takes to hit a ball that far is completely beyond me, but Reggie Jackson, Frank Thomas–for the season we had him–and even the bash brothers, Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire, brought awe to the ballfield. Ever see a suicide squeeze in real life? You feel like your heart is going to burst right out of your chest.

It’s slow-paced, like summer

Some people would say it’s boring. I like the leisurely pace that allows conversation. Most baseball fans can talk about statistics and players with the best of them. I’m not for numbers, I just love the beauty of the game. With the advent of lights, baseball lost some of it’s summer-like qualities and became more of a money maker, it seems to me. Living on the east coast as a west-coast fan has been hard when the vast majority of games are at night. A reasonable 7:00 game on the west coast means 10:00 here for me. So I subscribe to MLB.TV and watch the archived game the next day, reliving my youth as it’s hot outside and I’m listening to the calls of “hot dogs! Get yer hot dogs here!”

There’s nothing like the intensity of two out in the bottom of the ninth, tie game, runners at the corners

OK, I admit it, when I’m watching a pre-recorded game I have been known to take a peak at the box score when the game is getting close to the end and the outcome is up in the air. I’ve got heart issues, remember? The hand-squeezing, heart-pumping thrill of batter against pitcher can be so intense, I’ve nearly had palpitations!

A baseball park is like nowhere else on earth

Whoever wrote the words to the 7th-inning-stretch classic, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was a true fan. “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. I don’t care if I ever get back.” Nowadays the fare is much fancier than just peanuts and Cracker Jacks. There’s nothing like a ballpark hotdog, cheesy fries, nachos. Whatever. It’s better at the ballpark. More expensive, too, but that’s another story. The sun, the smells, the hecklers: there’s nothing like it.

I don’t live anywhere near a ballpark anymore, and I miss it. On my bucket list is to visit every major league ballpark in one season. Don’t know if it will ever happen, but I’m hoping.

It’s spring. Baseball is in the air. Anyone want to go play some catch?

Thankful today for:

90. baseball

91. spring

92. mlb.tv

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