Some people will never understand why I love baseball so much. They say it’s a slow sport, a boring sport. They say baseball is for old people, while young, hip people follow cool sports like basketball and football. I think they’re wrong. As much as I love basketball and football, I think baseball is the sport of kings. I’ll admit it, baseball may be slow and even boring at times, but it features incredible individual battles wrapped in a team sport in a way that no other sport can match.
Baseball is a symphony of possibilities – most of which go unrealized until that magical crack of the bat when all the forces of skill, athleticism, and preparation come together in an enchanting moment of physics and faith that leaves its spectators gasping for more.
Baseball is the intersection between science and hope. Brilliant minds have spent lifetimes studying the effects of velocity, drag, and gravity on a small sphere of yarn and cork wrapped in leather. Hitters talk about the “sweet spot” of the bat, while scientists describe centers of percussion and coefficients of restitution. Fielders study angles and trajectories in ways that a billiards champion might admire. Pitchers talk of mechanics and rhythm, velocity and break.
Baseball is that loyal friend who calls you every day; not like those “other” friends who call you once or twice a week to hang out at a bar. Basketball and football teams play less often, making their games seem more like events. Meanwhile, baseball teams play almost every day, acting as a true friend who is always there for you. Through wind and rain, good times and bad, you can always tune in to a new game full of intrigue, mystery, and growing story lines.
Baseball is a metaphor for life. You step up to the plate, completely alone and with the whole world watching, not knowing whether you will get a fastball, curveball, or changeup. You feel the pressure knowing that your team is depending on you. Your muscles tense as you wait for the pitch. The world moves in slow motion and the crowd fades away. The pitch comes at you with blazing speed. No time to think. You only react. Plans and strategy no longer matter. You recruit every fiber of muscle and spirit in your body to swing the bat, knowing that you are no longer in control. The ball goes where it goes. You run as hard as you can, hoping God, or fate, or karma has placed the ball in a spot where no one can get to it in time. When you fail, you blame circumstance and continue to believe that if the wind hadn’t shifted oh so slightly you might have been a hero. When you succeed, you smile broadly, secretly not knowing whether you deserve your good fortune.
I’ve loved baseball since I was a gangly little kid who would practice fielding ground balls for hours at a time by throwing a tennis ball against the side of my parent’s house. Despite this love for baseball, I had gone my entire life having seen only one in-person game – a 2-to-1 Mets victory over the Dodgers at Shea Stadium featuring Doc Gooden when I was around 11 years old. Since then, I’ve come up with every possible excuse to avoid going to ball games. Either the cost was too great, or the timing wasn’t right; either I didn’t want to take time off of work, or I had to concentrate on my studies.
Three years ago I made a pledge to myself – I was going to see a major league baseball game at all 30 stadiums over the following five years. It wasn’t enough to catch a few games at one or two stadiums. I had to go to each and every stadium. I have a tendency to do things like this. When I set goals for myself, they are usually really big goals with nonnegotiable deadlines. I figured five years was a reasonable enough time to actually make it to thirty stadiums (I would need to average six stadiums each season), but not too much time that I would procrastinate for long periods of time.
I knew this challenge would probably get expensive and present logistical challenges, but I was determined to do it. Six stadiums a year had to be reasonable, I tried to convince myself. I got off to a quick start that first year by traveling to the home stadiums of the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, and Houston Astros. By June my baseball tour had stalled. Work had reared its ugly head and was consuming all of my weekends. I couldn’t get away for the rest of the summer. By the time my work load decreased in October, the season had ended.
The next year I had moved to New York. I took advantage of my new location by going to a Yankees and then a Mets game. Soon after I managed to squeeze in visits to the Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers. Again, my work schedule got rough and I wasn’t able to go to any more games. I had seen eight stadiums in the first two years, leaving me four stadiums behind my scheduled pace of six per season.
Last season I was able to visit five stadiums. I got a chance to see the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during a week-long trip to California. I then made trips to Texas to see the Rangers, Pittsburgh to see the Pirates, and back to California to see the L.A. Dodgers.
This season I have a trip scheduled in April to see the Oakland Athletics and then in May to Chicago to see the Cubs and White Sox. I’m not sure where I’ll go after that. Boston? Toronto? Miami? Atlanta?
I suppose it doesn’t really matter if I manage to see all 30 stadiums in five years. I know I will get there one day. And as long as I am sitting in a ball park somewhere, with the sun shining and a calm breeze blowing, I am happy.