I grew up playing baseball. Many may not find the sport all that fascinating, but I love it. It was the very first thing I’d ever fallen in love with in my life. I impatiently waited to go to baseball practice every day after school. I practiced in the winter months on the weekends when my friends were going out. I played every summer from the age of three, I played in high school, college, up until I turned 22. This past summer was the first time since I was two years old that I hadn’t played baseball in the summer due to my new career, but every spring when the first baseball game is on TV, I remember why I love this game so much.
I went to Arizona for my vacation which means I went there for spring training. The Chicago Cubs play at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona and I was able to attend three games. They played the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers, and the Padres. The aura of a sold-out stadium is unforgettable. The freshly cut grass on the manicured field, the warm sun on your neck, and the copious amounts of sunflower seeds, Gatorade, and Big League Chew all tie together along with the crack of a baseball off a wooden bat to create the unmistakable atmosphere of baseball season.
I was never a mathematical mind, but growing up, I loved baseball statistics. Batting averages, On-Base Percentages, ERAs, all of it. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep up with it like I once did but many of my friends still do. I watched almost every Cubs game and when they weren’t on, I watched whoever was. I was in love with the game.
Baseball is a game of chess that still remains in a world where people’s minds only have the attention span for checkers, which I believe is why many don’t like baseball. Don’t get me wrong, my second sports love is hockey for its fast-paced action, heavy hitting, and technical dekes, but baseball is the only sport that you can’t run out the clock. You have to give the other guy his shot at winning. You can’t play keep-away until the ref calls it. You have to throw a pitch near the strike-zone. The intricacies that are all set in motion by the pitch are abundant. The pitchers and pitch types are numerous, the types of hitters, fielders, runners, base-stealers, the weather, the sun, the grass length, everything has an effect on the game. The littlest decisions and inches can be the difference between a strikeout and a home run.
In the course of those three games I attended, I saw home runs, triples, doubles, double plays, strikeouts, and so many other aspects of the game that many sports can’t match. It is also a game where you can’t be a fan and not absolutely love it. You’re either into it or you’re not.
The community that baseball has in unlike any other. A love that is fostered from when you’re a kid you carry with you through adulthood, baseball is a sport where even the little guy can have a big impact. Where Mark McGuire can drop bombs but so can Dee Gordon. It’s a sport that doesn’t just exist outside but dwells within every person who loves it. From the three-year-old kid who experienced love for the first time on the ball field to the seventy-year-old man who can recall the utter adrenaline and excitement of hitting his first home run sixty years before, baseball includes any and all who can share in the atmosphere of the freshly manicured grass, the sunflower seeds, and the crack of the ball off the wooden bat.