The number one question I get asked these days is how I became such a big baseball fan that now I write and speak on it regularly. So, here are the top ten reasons I love baseball:
10. It makes for great movies and songs. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a baseball movie I didn’t like. For Love of the Game is my favorite, but Field of Dreams, The Rookie, and A League of Their Own are close contenders. Then you’ve got songs like Centerfield, The Greatest and, of course, Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Name a great song written about football or basketball or hockey. There are none.
9. It Brings People Together. Whether it’s family, neighbors, coworkers or friends, baseball brings us together. Just ten days after the terrorist attacks in 2001, the Mets and Braves played the first sporting event in NYC following the devastating attack. It brings people together in other ways too. I love this quote, which perfectly illustrates my point:
We are very possessive of our ballparks. Our own homes are just four walls with a mortgage, a shell we’ll gladly sell to move to a place with extra storage and a better school district. But a ballpark? That’s sacred land. Not only because of a stadium’s place in our personal memories but also because of its importance to our collective memory. Ballparks are one of the last remaining places — and perhaps the only place — where we truly come together as a community for a shared experience. We won’t exchange words with the passengers next to us during an entire cross-country flight other than to ask if they’re going to eat all their pretzels. But put us in a stadium and soon we’ll be hugging, slapping high-fives and orchestrating the wave with everyone in the section as if they were fraternity brothers. ~ Jim Caple
8. Souvenirs. At every baseball game, souvenirs are thrown, driven, popped up and otherwise deposited into the stands. And unless you’re at a Division III baseball game where they can’t afford to lose balls (like my alma mater), you get to keep the ball!
7. Batting practice. I love that teams let you in to watch batting practice. Personally, I like to get to the game when the gates open and relax and enjoy batting practice while I grab something to eat. I find it so peaceful to sit there when the stadium is fairly empty and take it all in. For other sports, I simply arrive right before game time.
6. Ballparks. This is similar to #4 below, but more about the stadium itself and not the field of play. I love that ballparks like Fenway and Wrigley have been fought for as historic landmarks. I also love that each and every ballpark has it’s own special something. Wrigley Field has the rooftop seats on the surrounding buildings, AT&T Park has the bay with all the boats out waiting for homerun balls, Monument Park at Yankee Stadium, and the stingrays at The Trop. My favorite thing about The Ted here in Atlanta is the way they honored the old ballpark by retaining part of the structure, the wall where Hank Aaron hit #715 and the basepaths and bases in bronze out in what is now the parking lot. Essentially, you can still walk around in the old ballpark, which I love. This is not a complete list, but you get the point. Every ballpark has something that makes it unique, which I guess is why so many baseball fans embark on trips to visit all of the ballparks.
5. Fan Tradition. I love some of the fan traditions in baseball: the Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium, John Adams at Indians games banging on the drum, Sweet Caroline being sung by the crowd at Fenway, throwing back opposing team homeruns at Wrigley, lighting up The Trop orange when the team wins and, of course, the tomahawk chop at Braves games. Again, not an exhaustive list, but just ones off the top of my head.
4. Home Field Advantage. I love that there really is a tangible home field advantage in baseball. No two parks are the same in terms of shape or distance to the outfield wall. I love that you can have a ladder or a flagpole in play, a hill in centerfield, or a wall in left field that is over 37 feet tall.
3. Spring Training. I love that every March, fans from all over the nation make the trip to sunny Florida and Arizona to watch their team shake off the winter stiffness and get ready for the season. In no other sport do fans flock to preseason training. I also love that every single fan there has hope for the season, whether they’re a Yankees fan or a Royals fan.
2. It Allows for Failure. There are so many examples of baseball allowing for redemption, come-from-behind stories and victories by the underdog. A successful hitter in baseball only gets a hit 3 in every ten at bats. A guy who’s 5’9″ can win the MVP award. A 9-game losing streak in April means nothing when you get to June and you have the best record in the National League. You can even come back from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS and reverse the curse. I love that you can be a star in baseball without having to be perfect, but that a perfect game is possible. Baseball is full of second chances and unlikely heroes, and I love it!
1. It is Everywhere. I love that no matter where I’ve lived, there has been baseball. I grew up in Atlanta rooting for the Braves…back when they were really bad in the 80s. Luckily, they went on their 14-division title run throughout my school years, so I’ve had a taste of what it feels like to cheer on a winner. I went to college at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, and I practically lived at the baseball field every spring. Then I moved to Columbia, South Carolina after college and University of South Carolina was at its peak and going to the College World Series, so I became a Gamecock fan (which I quickly abandoned when I went to law school at University of Florida). Next I moved to Orange County, California, where I regularly attended both Angels and Dodgers games and even managed to catch a few Padres games. Attending law school at University of Florida made me a Gator fan, and it was so convenient that the baseball field was right next door to the law school! I moved back to Atlanta after law school, and next thing I knew they were relocating the Richmond Braves to Gwinnett, where I grew up. And when I travel, I try to plan my trips around the stadiums I can visit. I’ve been to 10 of the current ballparks and 3 that are no longer in use. No matter where I’ve lived or gone, some kind of baseball has always been there, like an old friend just waiting to welcome me!
I want to hear from everyone else…what is your favorite thing about baseball?
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