I went to my first baseball game when I was three years old. I’m not going to claim I remember anything from it, but I am going to claim I remember the rest of the seventeen years of my life I spent regularly going to Giants baseball games with my family.
Baseball has a bad rap. Whenever I bring it up or it’s mentioned in conversation, in the US or the UK, I’m told it’s boring. It’s a long sport and one that doesn’t require any athletic ability. But with this year’s World Series fast approaching, it’s time to go through why baseball has been considered the American pastime for so long and why it should continue to be so.
No extreme physical traits are required to play baseball. While hand-eye coordination is necessary, baseball is a game where practice and intelligence are what matter most. Unlike swimming or basketball where height could make or break your career, Baseball lacks inherent discrimination.
The typical stereotype is baseball is a boring sport that goes on forever and ever. The truth is: between home runs, nail-biting no-hitters, managers storming the mound over a bad call, or fights breaking out because of a hit-by-pitch, baseball has plenty of drama, it just isn’t necessarily drama fans of other sports are used to. In 2010 the San Francisco Giants were incapable of scoring runs. When they won games it was in the bottom of the ninth by one run. The fans called it Giants Torture where every pitch, every base-runner, everything, mattered.
As a perfectionist I have to say, one of the best things about baseball is perfection is possible. It is possible to throw a perfect game: no walks, no hits, no errors given up, to go four for four at the plate, to hit one pitch so perfectly it goes out of the park. It’s not a sport where you have to strive to be better than your competition or yourself. It’s a game where you can literally doing everything correctly and be rewarded accordingly. How many sports can say that?
Half of the jokes about baseball are that it’s pointless and easy. It’s hitting a ball and running (slowly, with no athleticism required), around some bases and getting a run. Baseball is an incredibly difficult sport. Pitches can be thrown up to 100mph, ground balls can hit the base and, with one wrong move, end up in the outfield and a runner can score. For reference: Michael Jordan, arguably one of the greatest athletes of all time attempted to play baseball when he wanted a break from basketball. He only made it as far as AA. He was 6’6 but couldn’t hit with power and any pitch with a break on it thoroughly confounded him. The overall game could be explained sequentially as hitting a ball and running around some bases, however, the execution of these actions is much harder.
Baseball fans are serious about two things: their sport and their rivalries. From a young age, I was brought up to hate the Los Angeles Dodgers (the rivals of the Giants) and to keep score on scorecards. I learned how to fill out a score sheet (more complicated than you might think) so I could keep track of even the littlest statistics of the game just like managers on the bench. You’ll see fans with tattoos of their team or their hair dyed team colours. Baseball caps with logos are worn like badges of honour and what happened at the game last night is often discussed at water coolers or on the train ride to work. The sight of mutual team apparel means you’ve just become best friends with the person sitting across from you on public transport. Adults that catch foul balls inevitably give the prized possession to children around them. Baseball is a family experience that is both relaxing and fun all at once.
Cracker Jacks, hot dogs, salted pretzels, Ghirardelli ice cream; baseball fans know the best foods to eat. Perhaps because baseball does tend to take a bit of time, the fans bring their friends, grab some great food and watch the game while catching up. It is a sport that can be concentrated on as much or as little as you like. You can watch every move, analyze how each hitter is doing and track their progress, or you can focus on how incredibly good your cotton candy tastes. Either way, a day at the ballpark is always the way to go.
So whether you watch at the ballpark or on your TV, there are always reasons to love baseball. My childhood was spent sporting my overly large jersey’s of my favourite players, collecting baseball cards and discussing whether or not I wish Barry Zito had stayed with the A’s instead of being traded to the Giants (boy do I ever), and those are some of the best memories I have. Baseball allows you to befriend random people wherever you go and feel like you’re home when you set foot in your ballpark and see your team run onto the field. It’s a sport you can get fired up about and learn every statistic imaginable, or, if you want, memorize the menu at the local hot dog stand. To some, two and a half hours may seem too long for a game but when it’s your favourite player’s turn to bat, your best friend by your side with an ice cold lemonade in your hands, time tends to fly faster than a fastball.