December 18, 2018

Baseball Beliefs

August 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

This past month I’ve taken a lot of time away from the computer and television and spent it outside, mostly at ball games trying to enjoy the real elements of baseball. Coming back to internet and technology was bound to happen and in fact got hard to avoid. But, while it was away I enjoyed the non-communication that factored in to the change. I went to a lot of ballgames by myself and reconnected with a game I felt I was starting to lose.

My decision to try this stemmed from a book I read a while ago, called The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence S. Ritter. Over a year ago when I first started this blog, it was the first book review I posted. The book encompasses purity of the game. It’s full of first person narratives from some of the legends that have passed through this game. My favorite chapters are at the beginning – Fred Snodgrass, Rube Marquard, Al Bridwell… the men who epitomize the very reason baseball is so important to me. To them, baseball was the only life they knew.

After watching a season so dismal from my hometown team, the Chicago Cubs, I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. I never want baseball to be something that angers me and I never want it to be something I resent. The combination of bad play and frustrated fans was slowly starting to affect me. Game after game I sat through with my friends – the commentating, heckling, analyzing… the negativity… I couldn’t stand it. I’d sit there and listen to the man behind me ramble on and on about how so-and-so needs to be fired, how this-and-that guy don’t care about baseball and just want to be paid. It made me sick. Too much talking… too many opinions. Too much complaining. What happened to watching baseball? I started losing it… the one thing in this crazy world that saves me and now I can’t even think straight and enjoy it while I was there. I had more than enough – of the media, of casual fans, know it all fans, bloggers, everything – and I decided to channel my inner 1900’s soul and do baseball the only way I knew how…

My first game solo this year was a Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field versus the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was a challenge for me because my friend had free tickets and invited me along but I had this idea and I was sticking to it. I did things the way I envisioned a game day for a fan should be. I did everything I normally take for granted. I drove down to the ballpark early for batting practice, scalped an upper deck ticket for $5, walked in Gate K on Waveland, headed for the third base line terrace seats, walked about 4 rows back, and sat down in the 4th seat from the aisle. At this point the ballpark was only about a quarter full, with most the fans in the bleachers or down near the field trying to snag an autograph or foul ball. I sat back, kicked my feet up onto the back of the chair in front of me, closed my eyes and took in a big breath of fresh Wrigley air. I kept closing my eyes- listening to the clamor of conversation ensuing around the park and sound of the ball making contact with the bat… I remembered my very first time at Wrigley Field. I remembered the first time I sat down in one of those dark green seats and watched Kerry Wood mow down hitter after hitter. I remembered seeing that number “34” and felt it, even then, being ingrained into my memory. Oh, how often that number has crossed my mind since then. It has graced every jersey I have ever played in, its on just about every one of my college notebooks, and its framed on jerseys around my house. That number symbolizes everything I believe in to this day, and there is was when I re-opened my eyes and watched a little kid in a large faded Wood t-shirt walking past me with his father.

That was part of my goal that day- remembering the past. I wanted to relive baseball the way I did when I was a kid. It was coming close to the start of the game and the players were rumbling about in the dugouts. I got out my scorebook and wrote off the names as they were being announced. Once the game started, and I was keeping score it all just started to roll.

I made friends with just about everyone in the surrounding seats. Of course, at most of these games I attend by myself, people are shocked that I’m there my myself, but when I’m at a ballpark I don’t ever feel alone. I’ve come to a point where I feel like the ballpark is my home and everyone is over visiting. I’ve been asked if it feels awkward to be by myself at a game. A completely understandable question – being solo in a social setting can be uncomfortable. But, I’ve never felt that way at the ballpark.

When I go to a game by myself I have an opportunity to sit there and watch the game, feel the sun, hear the cheers while not having to entertain someone else who may only be there for the social aspect. But, over this season I have met some of the most baseball minded people I have ever come across in my life, and for that I am thankful.

About a week or two later I went to a game on a Monday night, scalped another $5 ticket in the upper deck, wound up 17 rows behind home plate by Todd Hollandsworth while the Cubs mobbed home plate on a walk off win.

In May, my friend Andrew and I decided that after 30 games so far in attendance this season we needed a whole day completely devoted to baseball. Him and I are on the same page when it comes to baseball. I met him at Wrigley a few years ago and kept seeing him around and eventually it turned into a great friendship. Well on May 16th, we did the greatest double header I have ever experienced. We started off sitting in the sun, 2 rows off the field at Wrigley for Cubs vs. Pirates then we drove 90 minutes north immediately following the game and sat in the 3rd row off the field at Miller Park for Brewers vs. Phillies Sunday night baseball on ESPN. It was the most incredible baseball day of my life. We both kept score at both games and those sheets I have should be frame someday.

On a Tuesday in June I sat 20 rows behind the visiting dugout at US Cellular field and watched my Rangers put up 5 runs in the 6th inning to break the game open against the White Sox. Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, Vlad Guererro, Josh Hamilton… I used this game to study each of their batting stances. I had no one there I had to entertain, I tuned out the rest of the chatter around me and I just zoned in on their feet, their shoulders, their hands. I watched each different stance turn into pretty much 3 strides of the same swing, besides Vlad of course. He’s the only one who’s flail at the outside corner turned into contact up the middle. It was incredible. It brought back baseball for me. Real baseball.. The baseball that consumes my life. I was officially back into my world.

For me, the alone time at the games was like a session at the spa or a class of yoga. It calmed me. Being able to watch the game with no distractions or conversations of gossip, led to me a place where I felt completely tuned in to the elements around me. It was like a really good massage; its just that out of body, calming sense of clarity. Instead of chatter filling my head with noise, I was able to focus on the movement of the game. I saw everything and I felt everything as the baseball gods smile down on the field.

I don’t like the negativity in baseball. Call me an optimist if you’d like but you’d be wrong. I am a realist, in a sense… I’m a realist of the early 1920’s. I believe in the power of baseball. I believe that any life lesson can be learned from a team in uniform working towards a common goal. I believe in the soul of baseball. I believe that each time I walk into a Major League ballpark I better damn well watch where I walk and what I say, because the baseball legends that came before me have once passed through those very gates. I believe in respecting the game and passing it down from generation to generation. I believe in studying the game of baseball and understanding the physics and the human element. And I whole-heartedly believe that baseball is a game to be enjoyed… no matter the slump of a team or what you feel are shortcomings of a few players. I believe that baseball is a beautiful game and I maintain the persona that Baseball is Life.

The Baseball Life,
-S

www.TheBaseballLife.com

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