Editor’s note: A recent reddit post — this one to be exact — really stuck with me. The author is an Irishman who’s looking to get into baseball and, not knowing where to start, he asked for help. Well, this week at Infield Fly, we aim to help everybody’s who’s just getting into the game. If you’re a new fan, if you’re interested in becoming a fan or if you know somebody who think would love the game and you want to point them our way, hopefully this week will have something for you. We plan to cover the how and the why for new fans.
Today, we have a guest post from Ruhee Dewji of Double Switching. She’s been a ball fan for just over a year now and she’s sharing what she loves about the game and why she’s hooked. If you’re on the Twitter, give her a follow. She’s cool beans.
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“I’ve written this before: I never argue with people who say baseball is boring, because baseball is boring. And then, suddenly, it isn’t. And that’s what makes it great.” – Joe Posnanski
“It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.” – Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), Moneyball
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When I first started writing this post, in order to prove that baseball isn’t boring, I made a mundane list about all the exciting things I like about it. Crazy running catches in the outfield. Walk-off hits. That breathless moment just before the pitcher’s windup in a close game in the ninth, when the game could either blow wide open or fizzle out sadly, and nobody dares to move.
Then, belatedly, I read Joe Posnanski’s blog post about September 28th, 2011. The greatest day in professional baseball, ever. Arguably the greatest day in professional sports, ever. And he said this:
Baseball, like life, revolves around anticlimax. That’s what you get most of the time. You stand in driver’s license lines, and watch Alfredo Aceves shake off signals, and sit through your children’s swim meets, and see bases loaded rallies die, and fill up your car’s tires with air and endure an inning with three pitching changes, a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk.
But then, every now and again, something happens. Something memorable. Something magnificent. Something staggering. Your child wins the race. Your team wins in the ninth. You get pulled over for speeding. And in that moment – awesome or lousy – you are living something you will never forget, something that jumps out of the toneless roar of day-to-day life.
That something changes everything.
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I’m a Blue Jays fan. I started watching baseball a year ago, and last season I went to five games. One of my favourite memories of those five was on Labour Day against the Boston Red Sox; it was blustery and freezing, and the game, scoreless through nine, stretched on into extra innings. All three games I had been to before this one had been losses. I was not optimistic.
In the bottom of the tenth, Sox reliever Jonathan Papelbon took twenty-four minutes to throw twenty-seven pitches. It was the slowest half-inning I had ever seen. We booed him for everything. Adam Lind came up with the bases loaded and two outs; we held our breaths, hoping for magic, but he struck out. The rally fizzled. The game rolled on.
Then, after another shutdown half-inning from Blue Jays relievers, Brett Lawrie stepped up to the plate. Nothing felt particularly different about this at-bat – Lind’s had felt more like it could have been on the cusp of greatness, ready to blow the roof off, but it had gone nowhere.
Lawrie, with two outs, swung mightily at a pitch down the middle. The entire stadium was on their feet before I had even figured out what was happening. Even before the ball had cleared the wall, it was pandemonium, loud and incredulous; Lawrie, brimming over with energy, almost crushed his teammates when he got back to home plate. It was a soaring, joyful mess, and I – as if there had been much doubt – was thoroughly convinced.
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When you love baseball, you don’t love it because it’s fast. I grew up a hockey fan, and hockey is go-go-go all the time – sweaty, loud, and usually bonkers. I reveled in the speed and the aggressive plays that unfolded like fireworks. It demands all of your attention.
Baseball, though – there’s a lot of nothing. When people want to make fun of baseball, they imitate dudes standing in the outfield scratching themselves in uncharming places and spitting onto the grass. (This isn’t entirely inaccurate.) But it’s true: it’s hard not to be romantic about it. Baseball is made up of all of these great moments that are sometimes huge – Lawrie’s walk-off shot, Longoria’s home run to beat the Yankees and knock Boston out of the playoffs – but sometimes tiny, like a little almost-wasn’t infield single that drives in the winning run, or a dropped catch in the outfield that sets up a rally, or even a walk-off walk. You never really know.
And that’s the beauty of baseball: that you don’t know. You have no idea, when that batter gets up to the plate and stares the sixty-and-a-half feet to the pitcher’s mound, what is going to happen. Before each pitch, you are – even just a little – on the edge of your seat. And nine times out of ten, nothing exciting happens – but you don’t know which of those pitches is going to be the tenth. And that tenth pitch, when it comes, makes everything worth it.