Today is Opening Day! And I am stoked. Most of my friends know that I have been counting down since, well, last October.
I love baseball. (Duh.) But that hasn’t always been the case. When I was a kid we would go to baseball games as a family, but that for me was pretty much just a fun reason to get new clothes, eat hot dogs, and yell, “CHARGE!” as loud as I could.
When I was a teenager some of my closest friends were baseball players, so I would go and watch them play. One time their teams played each other, and a large group of us went to watch. We sat behind home plate and created a pretty big spectacle. I know that we all loved being there. I never asked the guys how they felt about it.
But I am going to be honest here… when I was a teenage girl I was not going to those ball games because I loved baseball.
And then I met David.
David is a baseball fan. Yeah, if you could see me right now you would know that I can’t even say he’s a fan with a straight face. He says he’s an appreciative student of the game. I say he’s obsessed.
Ever seen the movie Fever Pitch? Well David sees absolutely nothing strange about Jimmy Fallon’s behavior in that movie.
But about a year into our relationship, I realized that I had two choices: I could resent baseball and let it become a huge obstacle for us, or I could embrace baseball. Since I had no previous baseball loyalties, I embraced baseball – and the San Francisco Giants – as fully as I could. I watched the games, learned the history, and received a number of lessons on strategy, pitching form, and why it really isn’t that annoying when the pitcher keeps throwing back to first base. Oh, and why intentional walks aren’t “the lamest thing ever”.
When we had been married for about five years I fixated on one particular player. He could hit pretty decently, but his defense was amazing. He was the first baseman, and he had a reaction time that was unbelievable. He would dive for the ball, get back to the base, all while chewing gum and blowing huge bubbles.
After several games that season I finally announced the decision David had been waiting for: My Favorite Giants Player. I told him that after careful observation and consideration, I had selected none other than JT Snow to hold the coveted title (okay, not really coveted, but work with me here).
David looked at me and said, “Oh, come on. You only like him because he’s dreamy.”
“Yeah, you know he is.”
Now – for 100% true – I had never realized that JT Snow was dreamy. I had chosen him purely for his athletic ability. Once David had me take a good look at Snow’s face, I realized that he was in fact pretty dreamy, but since it was all about the athleticism, it was all good. In fact, David allowed our oldest son to be given the initials JT and didn’t even raise a question.
As our family grew, the kidlets became baseball fans as well. The final pitch of the first World Series the Giants won during our lifetime was watched with our entire family (including the Debbies) standing inches in front of the TV. We celebrated in the streets – and since we lived in Northern California we were not alone.
The second World Series the Giants won during our lifetime was much the same way, except without the Debbies. And we lived in Tennessee. Our street celebration was viewed as very, very strange behavior.
So today it starts. 6 (okay, 7) months. 162 games – and then the playoffs.
But, believe it or not, I love baseball for reasons other than my disturbing competitive streak.
First, every day is a new game. Babe Ruth once said, “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” In baseball, as in life, players can’t let their past successes – or failures – define them. Every day – every at bat – they have to put the past behind them and give 100%. I like that. A lot.
Second, baseball truly is a team sport. A couple of seasons ago Giants pitcher Matt Cain pitched a perfect game – one of the rarest achievements in baseball. Over 300,000 baseball games have been played and there are only 23 perfect games on record. But during that game, Cain wasn’t alone. His catcher, the Great Buster Posey, called the pitches, and Cain threw exactly what Posey told him to throw. Two of his other teammates made incredible defensive plays to keep the perfection going and the team also scored 10 runs to ensure the win. Baseball is a spectacular picture of individuals doing their very best to help the team succeed.
Finally, baseball has history. Having started in the early 1800’s, baseball has been part of the United States culture, and by studying baseball you can better understand the country. Look at Babe Ruth and his lifestyle, and you get a picture of the Roaring 20’s. Jackie Robinson is symbolic of the Civil Rights Movement, and even the Steroid Era players (yes, Barry Bonds included) give a picture of the cultural mentality at the time – do whatever it takes to get ahead, no matter how harmful it may be to yourself or others. I love the fact that my son can sit and talk baseball with people 70 years older than him. Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, and Joe Jackson are discussed alongside Tim Lincecum, Freddie Freeman, and Clayton Kershaw. It’s a beautiful thing.
And so here we go. We will watch the games – on television and in person. We will hold our breath, cheer, and at times mutter (fine, yell) at the screen. We will be excited, disappointed, frustrated, and surprised. And we will eat more sunflower seeds than we ever should. And the next day we will do it all over again.