By Peri Kinder
Baseball has been America’s favorite pastime for more than 150 years, followed closely by gun control debates, reality TV and overeating. There’s just something about sitting in a ballpark surrounded by drunk fans that screams ‘Merica!
The hubbie and I spent a weekend in Phoenix for spring training where teams get together for pre-season games and fans hope for a glimpse of a mega baseball star like Mike Trout or one of the racing sausage mascots from Milwaukee.
As San Francisco Giants fans, we sat in a sea of orange and black, surrounded by men who obviously missed their calling as ESPN baseball announcers. Their color commentary got slurrier and slushier with each beer they drank. It made me wish real ESPN announcers would drink on the job.
Whenever we walk into a ballpark, my husband turns into a 14-year-old boy. The crack of the bat, the smell of a leather glove and the roar of the crowd makes him absolutely giddy.
Hubbie: We’re at a ball game!
Me: I know.
Hubbie: Maybe I’ll catch a foul ball!
Hubbie: Do you think they’ll run out of players and call me up to play?
Me: You’ve been in the sun too long.
But it’s not just my husband, nearly every man there is reliving childhood dreams of baseball stardom, talking about games they watched with their dads or reminiscing about baseball legends they revered as teens.
I love baseball, but not in the way my husband does. A lot of my experience revolves around food (as most things do). At ball games, I eat food I’d never eat in real life. My 74-ounce Coke and foot-long Bratwurst was an appetizer for my shredded pork nachos, drenched in a fluorescent orange “cheese” stored in plastic buckets in the basement of the stadium. I ate French fries so salty, I actually pooped jerky.
Baseball is about tradition: team loyalty, peanuts, Cracker Jack, not caring if you ever get back, and yelling at the umps after every bad call. The drunker the crowd, the more hilarious the insults. “Can I pet your Seeing-Eye dog after the game, Blue?” “That’s why umpires shouldn’t date players!” “You drop more calls than Verizon!” And so on.
Then there’s the stats. Baseball statisticians use more abbreviations than texting teens. You have your standard 1B, HR, BB, SB, K, L and ERA. But occasionally, a stat will appear on the scoreboard that leaves everyone confused. “What the hell’s a UZR?” slurs a drunk ESPN announcer. We all scratch our heads until someone Googles it. (Ultimate Zone Rating, if you were wondering.)
Each game holds the opportunity to witness an unassisted triple play, a grand slam, a no-hitter, a perfect game or a squirrel being chased off the field by an octogenarian ball boy. Ballparks are national treasures, each one unique and representative of their community.
But my main reason for loving the game is this: baseball is a game of patience. There’s no time limit to a ballgame. It could last 3 hours or 5 hours; 9 innings or 13 innings. As our lives get busier, a ballgame is a reminder to sit in the sunshine, to talk to the person next to you and to order a hot dog without guilt as you root for your favorite team.
All you have to do is sit, eat and cheer someone on. Shouldn’t that be America’s favorite pastime?