Apparently, I didn’t always appreciate baseball.
According to family lore, I was 4 or 5 years old when my dad took me to my first Orioles game. Everything was going along just fine until I learned one earth-shattering tidbit. The conversation went something like …
Dad: “So, David, are you having fun?”
Me: “Yes, but … when do I get to play?”
Dad: “David, we’re here to watch the professionals play.”
Me: “What? Then why would you tell me to bring my glove? … I think I want to go home.”
Eventually, I came to grips with the reality that my illustrious Little League career would not begin at Camden Yards. I have savored baseball ever since.
I’ve attended hundreds of games, and — win or lose — found enjoyment in practically all of them.
That’s why I balk at the notion that baseball is boring. If you tell me you’d rather watch paint dry than take in a baseball game, then I’ll tell you you’re simply watching the game the wrong way. There are so many nuances that make baseball fascinating. So much study and preparation go into every single pitch.
Shading a second baseman a few more feet up the middle can turn a clean base hit into an inning-ending double play. A curveball that breaks just a few more inches down and outside can be the difference between a swinging strike three and a 400-foot home run.
These subtleties take place on every pitch and with every at-bat. Fielders are constantly shifting and hitters are making adjustments on the fly. Anyone who watched the Orioles playoff series with the Yankees last fall can tell you, the pressure mounts the deeper you get into the game.
Baseball also has its quirks.
It’s the only sport where the dimensions and the makeup of the field are different depending on the venue. The distance to, and the size of, the outfield fences, the amount of room in foul territory and the thickness of infield grass are all elements the home team can modify at its discretion.
There’s the 37-foot-high Green Monster in Boston’s fabled Fenway Park. Houston’s Minute Maid Park features a small hill in dead centerfield. In Tampa Bay, catwalks attached to the roof in Tropicana Field are
The game’s heroes are unpredictable. In basketball, you know the star player is going to get the ball in crunch time. New baseball legends are created every year because there’s no telling who will be up to bat when the game is on the line.
I’ll concede that watching on TV is in no way equivalent to actually being at the game, where you can truly hear the crack of the bat of a well-timed swing or the sizzle of a fastball smacking into the catcher’s mitt. The collective roar (or groan, depending on the batter) when the crowd recognizes a home run is enough to give you goose bumps.
Baseball is a beautiful game, especially once you get over the fact that you’re a fan — not a player.