Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sports I Love: Baseball

Unlike ice skating and basketball, I didn't really have a serious appreciation for baseball until relatively recently. Sure, I spent time playing Flies' Up1 as a kid, owned a glove, envied my neighbors' their tee-ball team, went to a Salt Lake City Trappers game or two, and embarked on a brief but intense baseball card-collecting spree (thanks to my future brother-in-law) during my teen years.2 However, I didn't really know, or even care much about the rules of baseball, or its history, or even its major teams. But when we moved to Boston in 2003, I began listening to Red Sox games on the radio as I drove our boxes of stuff from western Massachusetts. I clearly remember driving on Route 2 and hearing Bill Mueller hit grand slams from both sides of the plate--pretty cool stuff, even when you don't know much about the details of the game. I remember getting a baseball tutorial from my father-in-law (I think it was at a Friendly's Restaurant and the subject was types of pitches) and solidifying my knowledge by watching or listening to the Red Sox play at every opportunity. My brother-in-law bought us tickets to a game at Fenway Park seats that season, and we saw the Sox lose to the other Sox in the rain. It was strangely satisfying. I also purchased my first Red Sox hat in a long line of Red Sox hats. It has since turned from blue to some strange grey/brown hybrid, but I love it dearly.

The thing that solidified my love of baseball in general (and the Red Sox in particular) actually had very little to do with sports. I had taken what turned out to be a completely miserable job when we moved to Boston, and I was able to make it through each day largely because I knew that the Red Sox would probably be playing at 7:05 on the other end. I learned a lot about the game by simply watching for three hours a day, every day. It's amazing how much you can learn when you put that much time in to something. (Side note: I'd like to thank my partner for being extremely supportive of me during this time; hers is the baseball family, but I think every game is a bit much for anyone to muster enthusiasm for, if you're not using it as a coping mechanism.) 2003 and 2004 were excellent years to become a Red Sox fan, as well, with the agony of 2003 being swiftly refuted by the ecstasy of 2004. We happily joined the World Series parade route and honked around Boston after beating the Yankees. If anyone wants to tell me that I haven't experienced the full range of fandom because I wasn't a Red Sox fan before 2003, and thus do not understand the years of futility and anguish before the World Series, etc., etc., I will refer them to my status as a lifelong Utah Jazz fan. At least the Red Sox have actually won several championships.

One of the things I love about baseball is its easy pace. You don't have to pay attention during the entire game; the announcers don't even do that most of the time. Sometimes the more bored (ahem, imaginative) announcers start talking about a random topic like all the major league players in recent memory that went to Ivy League schools. As a television spectator, you can read your book between innings, or even between batters. You can be as fully engaged as you want to be, from checking the scores occasionally to filling out a scorecard during the game.  It's also one of those sports that is almost better on the radio than it is to watch live. I don't have the time I'd like, caught up in the full bloom of young motherhood as I am, to follow the Red Sox with the passion and intensity of my earlier years. However, I am still paying attention. I will watch when I can, and check the scores when I can't. I will make room for the important games, just as I do with all my other sports. Don't worry, there are other sports.

1  Um, do they have that out here? It's a game where one person hits the ball to everyone else, and if you catch it three times you get to go and do the hitting instead of the knocking each other to the ground part. It's probably called something else, isn't it . . .someone enlighten me.

2 The aftermath of which was a lot of Bobby Bonilla cards and a strange affection for that pink cardboard masquerading as gum that they included in each pack. That stuff is amazing.

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