Whenever I meet someone new the subject of baseball always seems to come up. This might be because every piece of clothing that I own seems to have an Arizona Diamondbacks logo on it somewhere. Their first question is, “So you are a Diamondbacks fan?” If my wife or one of my kids are with me that usually results in laughter so hard that milk comes out their noses.
The second question is normally, “How many games do you go to?” That’s an odd question but what is even odder is after I reply, “Oh around 81 a year” these people look dumbfounded. They typically reiterate my answer; “You go to 81 games every year?” The tone in their voice is as if I just uttered he-who-should-not-be-named (Pete Rose). Well yeah I go to 81 games a season. I’d go to more but that’s all the home games they have and my wife seems to think travelling to see more baseball is insane. The conversation then turns to how I could possibly watch that much baseball and why would I?
The thing about baseball is that a true fan never gets tired of the game. Some try to suggest that the game is slow-paced and too boring for that much dedication. In a society where instant gratification is the norm and social media interaction is now confined to 140 characters or six seconds of video I should not be surprised at their answer.
Baseball has multiple layers of complexity that match the fan’s interest level meaning there is a little bit of something for everyone. For those immediate gratification types there is the home run. People want to see balls flying out of ballparks and players rounding the bases then going back to the dugout.
As you dig deeper into the game you begin to realize there are other aspects each a little more cerebral than the last. Pitching match-ups vary as the game goes on. In the National League especially there are strategic moves that change the dynamics of the game.
Should you stay with a starting pitcher or go with a pinch-hitter in the middle innings if your team has a chance to break the game open with a hit? If you do pinch-hit will that tax your bullpen not only for the current game but also for the next several games, as relievers would not be available?
More observant fans that become closer to the game will take it even further looking at situational pitching and how a pitcher is doing. Is he getting ahead in the count throwing first pitch strikes or is he pitching from behind? Where are his pitches located when they are getting hit and what type of pitch is he throwing?
Its always fun to sit next to a fan as they evolve over the season or a course of seasons; some of these transformations come from very unexpected places. In our family I go to just about every game. Alongside I will typically take one of my kids or my wife. As the kids have gotten older they are busier than when they were younger and despite their upbringing some are not as big of baseball fans as I would have liked. When they cannot or don’t want to go it falls on my wife to tag along.
Usually she is content at watching the game and is interested in the score highlights of the game itself. This season though I have seen a change. Now she is closely monitoring pitch count and I’ve caught her on several occasions opening the MLB At Bat app looking at pitch FX data to look for trends.
It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye as you see the lights go on and see someone really begin to understand the game. I’m not suggesting that everyone will reach baseball geek level in game comprehension. To some that is more than they ever want to know but for some it is a path that leads to greater understanding not just of the game but how baseball can be a metaphor for life.
On the surface our lives may seem boring from an outsider’s perspective but as you get to know someone you realize they are much more interesting than you would have otherwise have imagined. These levels strengthen your friendship and help you to understand who they are and why they are that way.
It would be unfortunate if we went through life looking at someone and dismissing them immediately because they looked boring. Instead take the time to use your observation skills to sense who they are and how amazing their lives are once you get below the surface.
Baseball gives us the perfect vehicle to hone these life skills and along the way you might just find out that there is a bit of yourself in every game. That’s when you realize that baseball and your life are intertwined and you wouldn’t have it any other way.