In October of 2011, I started following the St. Louis Cardinals in their pursuit of an eleventh World Championship, and I’ve never looked back. I became an active Cardinals fan, as well as a huge baseball fan, because of that remarkable year and postseason run. And while I don’t play the sport (softball, in my case), I still find it to easily be my favorite. In fact, it’s the only sport I follow loyally – from Spring Training in February and March to the cold nights of late October. I proudly wear red not just during the warm summer months of the season but also on the coldest days of the year, when baseball season is still so far off. Then there’s the stressful offseason, filled with trade rumors and enormous contract talks. Baseball is yearly. And there are a million reasons to love it.
For one, it’s a game of science. You can watch baseball from childhood on and still learn new gimmicks and theories sixty years later. Not many people outside of baseball (fans or franchises) understand this. They see a ball thrown to a batter, who hits it into the stands. Baseball fans see a hanging breaking ball or a fastball that missed its location – the possibilities are endless, really. That one mistake – that one missed pitch – may change the entire game. Maybe they see a runner leading off. That runner is calculating his odds: to run or not to run, to attempt an extra base or play it safe. He’s studying the pitcher and the catcher, wondering if he’d be able to steal that base under their watchful eyes. Let’s not forget the statistics, either – on-base percentage (OBP), average (AVG), runs batted in (RBI), among many others. They tell a story. Baseball is a game of both mental skill and numbers.
Secondly, baseball knows no clock. A team can’t just run out the clock to diminish any chance of the opposing team making a comeback. Baseball is democratic. Each team gets twenty-seven outs to win, if not more in the case of extra innings. Forget clocks; if a game goes on until midnight or even later, so be it. I will watch all of it. Baseball is timeless in that sense and in the sense that it’s truly American. It pulled the United States through wars and economic depressions; it has filled many with hope when everything else has failed. It’s peanuts and cracker jacks. It’s a boy, filled with dreams and hopes to become like his hero, playing alongside that hero years later. It represents everything that is right in this country, and for that reason, it has lasted for generations. From lifelong fans to young children going to a game for the first time, baseball has become a constant in the lives of many.
And most importantly, it has taught me lessons about life. I’ve learned to never give up. I’ve learned to be eternally hopeful, especially when a team is down to its last strike. And heck, I’ve even learned that you shouldn’t pitch to Allen Craig with runners in scoring position, leave your seat in the midst of a no-hit bid by Adam Wainwright (learned that the hard way), or attempt to run on Yadier Molina. It doesn’t end well.