Spring is in the air, which, for me, means allergies. I’m buying my allergy medicine at Costco in bulk quantities to try and get ahead of the pollen. The other thing that Spring means – at least at my house – is baseball. You don’t need to go to Costco to get baseball in bulk; with 30 major league teams and 162 games played by each in a season, over 2,400 games are played each year. I will admit I used to be one of the naysayers about this deceptively slow sport. I know you’ve heard the line, “I like going to a game, but I can’t stand to watch it on TV.” What changed my mind about America’s pastime was having a teacher explain the game to me. Here are a few things I’ve learned that have helped me to appreciate baseball:
- Statistics. You may have seen Moneyball starring Brad Pitt a few years ago, but the prevalence of statistics in baseball is not Hollywood fiction. To understand the statistics of the game – what counts for and against a pitcher’s stats, for example – helps make baseball much more interesting.
- Players. I grew up watching football, where players are covered head to toe with helmets and pads, and a team is made up of a 53-man roster. Baseball allows the fan to know the players much more intimately. Nine players rotate at bat, and you can see their faces many times each game. After watching just a few games, you get to know the players. The Oakland Athletics, which is the team of choice in my home, has a player named Coco Crisp. He is notorious for changing his hairstyle often. How fun is that?
- Individual Responsibility and Team Camaraderie. Baseball, more than football, seems to be a game where the individual role is on display each inning. The extreme pressure that is put on the pitcher is undeniable. The man at bat holds the team success or failure while he is at the plate. The fly ball – caught or missed – can change the momentum of the game. Still, baseball is a team sport. It is clearer in baseball than any other team sport, that the individuals each have an important role in the success of a team. Without each position playing well, the team will likely fail. And teammates look out for one another. One batter may hit a sacrifice fly – forfeiting his chance to run the bases so that another teammate can score. If a pitcher is on a streak, players will fight tooth and nail to keep the opposition from getting on base.
Win / Loss. My husband tells me that teams are expected to win 25% of their games and lose 25%. That is a given. It’s what they do with the other 50% that determines playoff hopes. I love this message – perfection is not necessarily the goal. The best teams will lose. The worst teams will win. The game of baseball teaches sportsmanship in a way that other, shorter seasoned sports fail to do.
Despite my reasons, you still may feel that watching baseball on TV is not your cup of tea. Well luckily for you, both major and minor league teams are in full swing (pardon the pun). And if you don’t happen to live near one of these ballparks, I guarantee that there is a tee ball or little league somewhere close. So pop your allergy meds, pack up a blanket, grab the peanuts, and hit the ballpark. Watch this great game at its purest – where children and young adults are learning how to shine while working together – and how to be great winners and losers.