I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.
Sports: People either love them or hate them. Whether it's watching them or playing them, they either can’t get enough of it, or even a little is too much. It’s either a bonding activity, or it’s alienating to those who don’t know how to or can’t play.
My sport of choice is baseball. I understand that baseball is not everyone’s cup of tea, even for some sports fans. It has been labeled boring, ruined by steroids, fixed by its organizers, corrupted by segregation, and even to this day, is still only played at the professional level by men. So, why bother watching? Below are some reasons why I love the game and why it means so much to its fans.
I had a teacher in high school who once said, “I’d rather watch paint dry than watch a baseball game.”
Some people think it's too slow paced. An ideal inning for your favorite team can mean that the pitcher throws three strikeouts with no movement in the field or at bat.
It's the suspense that baseball fans love. Anything can happen at any time. There's no time limit. So, the players' performances decide how long the game lasts. It could be as short as two hours or so long that it goes into the wee hours of the morning.
Some fans keep track of every pitch and every swing. Others are just looking at the big picture. There's so much to observe no matter what's going on that a true baseball fan is never bored watching the game.
Baseball arrives with the warm weather, and in the northeast, that’s a big deal after a long winter. Opening day arrives with the spring thaw, and the bulk of the season is played at the peak of summer. Many summer activities can be accompanied by a game playing on the radio while sitting out on the back porch swatting at mosquitoes, waiting for a movie to start at the drive-in, or fishing by the lake.
As the days get longer, and the nights get warmer, fans can sit at the stadium under the bright stadium lights at night in shorts and t-shirts. Caps and sunglasses shield from the bright sun during afternoon games. Players wait out rain delays while the field is covered by a giant tarp. As the season winds down, so do the long days, folding in on itself until the World Series wraps everything up, and we go back inside to hibernate for the winter.
Uniforms and Equipment
Honestly, how many sports require their players to wear a cap and a belt as part of their uniform? There is a unique design to baseball players’ looks. The short pants and long socks give players a lean, lanky look. The shirts are loose and relaxed, and the cleats are tough and aggressive.
Catchers look like they’re ready to tame a wild animal with their wiry masks and protective padding. The first time I ever put on catcher’s equipment, I felt like I was going to fall over, but once that bat started to swing over my head, I was grateful to have it between me and the flying objects. The balance and strength that catchers need to squat the way they do for so many hours at a time is further proof of their athleticism.
The equipment can be as bare-bones as a bat and ball or as elaborate as major league-approved equipment. When I played backyard games, we used windows, trees, and fence posts as bases. We had one dented aluminum bat and a tennis ball as our game ball so that the fielders wouldn’t need to use gloves.
Still, there is nothing like buying your first glove. You try on dozens before you find the one that you want. It’s stiff and reeks of that musty, leathery smell. You pound your fist into its deep palm and tighten the knots on the laces. When you get home, you oil it, place a ball inside, and wrap them in a rubber band. The next day, it’s loose and form fitting and ready to catch flies and grounders.
Choosing a bat while on deck is another important decision. Feeling for the weight and swing of the perfect bat is like trying on shoes. No two bats are the same, and there is some unknown connection between the player and the bat they choose to take on the pitcher. For some reason, one bat just feels right, and the crack it makes as it connects with the ball, and that split second when you see the two objects collide before the bat launches it forward is the closest any person can get to slowing down time.
I love statistics. I like to know the odds, even though I'm not a gambler, and baseball is full of them. Every movement on the field is carefully recorded from how many times a player bats left versus right to how many strikes a pitcher has thrown in their professional career. I love how everything is recorded, cataloged, and referred to during the game as an interesting tidbit as well as an indication of how each play is likely to pan out for each player.
No one wants to be labeled, but in a game full of anticipation and suspense, statistics can help predict the future. We know which players are most likely to get hit by a pitch, how well a particular batter goes up against a particular pitcher, and how many games a team has won in a particular style of uniform.
Statistics also help to show how imperfect the players are in a comforting way. In our daily lives, we are constantly making mistakes, fumbling over ourselves, and fighting against our weaknesses. No fan is perfect, yet we expect our players to mirror perfection in their job.
No pitcher has ever thrown only strikes. There are more failures than victories, and that’s okay and expected. It makes the game more real, and it makes you appreciate the successes more. When a pitcher hits a home run, it's better than when a star player hits two in a game.
When infielders turn a triple play with the bases loaded, the crowd goes wild. Any time somebody beats the odds, it makes us all feel better about our own.
Baseball players are also admirable in their ability to make mistakes in front of millions of people and shake it off. A pitcher may give up a home run and then has to get right to pitching to the next batter and hope that their nerves don’t get the best of them. A second baseman can miss a dive to stop a ground ball and keep runners from advancing on base, but they have to be ready to catch a fly ball on the next pitch if necessary.
Many of us need a minute after we trip and fall in our daily lives. Baseball players don’t get a minute. If a player strikes out to end the inning, they have to run to the dugout, get their glove, and hope that they can at least aid in defense.
One advantage is that they play almost every day and don’t have to wait long to make a comeback in the next game. While playing baseball isn’t as crucial as performing heart surgery or putting out a fire as in many professions, it’s inspiring to watch players continue to do their jobs under such pressure.
Non-Violent but Still intense
While not a contact sport, baseball can become violent, scary, and even deadly. Balls and broken bats can hit the crowd and other players. Players can tear muscles and break bones sliding into bases, running into walls, or awkwardly hurling a ball in play.
The worst is when someone gets hit in the head or face. I’ve seen blood gush in the stands and players doubled over on the field.
Storms are always a threat. A bolt of lightning can send the entire stadium running for cover.
And occasionally, the rivalry gets so heated that the dugouts clear, and the two teams start pummeling each other. Hopefully, though, that’s not why you watch.
Baseball has always been a family-friendly sport, and every game is an event for the fans sitting in the stands. From door prizes and giveaways to dance cams and player introductions, there is a game show atmosphere in the stadium.
In place of cheerleaders, there is organ music and chants. T-shirts are shot out of cannon launchers. Everyone stands in the seventh inning to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame." These things give you something to do besides watching a pitcher warm up and grounds crews smooth out the field between innings.
What sport is more American than baseball? It’s a sport that is ours, and it’s a sport that has endured wars, attacks, controversies, and other controversies. Many have fought for their right to play, and many have proven themselves worthy of the game.
Some of the most popular and beloved sports figures in the world are baseball players. Everyone knows the names Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Hank Aaron. Even non-sports fans can point out a New York Yankees cap or knows that Wrigley Field is in Chicago.
Now, people have gone from collecting baseball cards to choosing their fantasy teams. They’ve gone from sitting on bleachers to sitting on folding chairs. They went from paying a few cents for a hot dog and cotton candy to shelling out $20 for a bucket of wings or a few beers.
The culture changes around it, but the field remains the same, the rules don’t change, and the game itself is preserved so that it’s understood by every generation still living on this earth. That's a nostalgic and comforting thought.
Baseball in Film
Many of the best sports movies ever made are baseball movies. It’s a very photogenic sport that utilizes its sounds, sights, and anticipation factors to create great films.
Watching the kids of The Sandlot hit home runs while the fireworks explode on the Fourth of July or seeing the women in, A League of Their Own slide into third base in a skirt are iconic moments.
Baseball is a sport for everyone, and everyone in the movies does play, from angels to dogs to housewives to scrawny kids. While it takes skill, there are a number of different positions, and everyone is bound to be useful in at least one of them, from pitching to catching to batting to even coaching. Every strength is harnessed, and the many strengths work together to achieve a win.
Questions & Answers
Question: What is your, the writer of this article, favorite baseball team?
Answer: The Pittsburgh Pirates for sure because they're my home team.
Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on June 10, 2015:
Definitely. Thanks for the comment!
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 10, 2015:
Beautiful! Football is my first love, but I love baseball too. Some people just don't get the sport. Yes, it is slow, but if you just watch, you see some of the most amazing things over the course of a lifetime.
Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on May 28, 2015:
Thanks! That was my intention with this piece, not to make the non-fans fans but to show them why the fans love the game.
FlourishAnyway from USA on May 28, 2015:
I am not a sports lover by an stretch but you have made an excellent case for this sport.
Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on May 19, 2015:
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 19, 2015:
On your behalf, I hope that baseball will always be around. You express yourself well about why you watch it, and I appreciate you sharing your reasons. Good job!
Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on May 19, 2015:
Awesome! Thanks for the comment.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2015:
It always has been and always will be my favorite sport. I'm with you all the way.
Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on May 18, 2015:
Me too, but I really have no other basis for comparison, besides Three Rivers Stadium. ha ha
Connor OShea on May 18, 2015:
Exactly! Baseball is great, especially at PNC Park. One of my favorite stadiums in the majors.