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.
Read the first instalment, a basic stats primer, here. The second instalment, a quick guide on how to get the most out of watching the game, is here. The third piece, a new fan’s perspective on why the game is great, can be found here. The fourth instalment, a player’s perspective on the game, can be read here.
Today we feature a guest post from Navin Vaswani. You can find his work at NotGraphs and, occasionally, at the definitely-worth-adding-to-your-RSS-feed Sports and the City. If you’re on Twitter and you’re not following him already, shame on you.
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When Chris asked me to write a guest post for Infield Fly on why I enjoy baseball, he noted that I could bring a unique perspective to this week’s series because I’ve been to 30 Major League ballparks, all of them except for the Marlins’s new home. He’s right that I have been to all those parks. I did it a couple of years ago. Thirty-one ballparks in 55 days. The Baseball Road Trip of a Lifetime, as I called it, one I didn’t finish writing about after being diagnosed with depression. But I don’t think that my trip — my insane trip — has given me any special insight into baseball, into the game, and why one likes it, and watches it. I think I learned more about America, backpacking through the country, than I did about baseball. Let’s face it: You’re going to love baseball, whether you’re a new fan, or someone returning to the game, because you love baseball. Not because of what you read here, or anywhere else, for that matter. I think what I’ve learned over the past few years, as I’ve become more of a baseball enthusiast, as compared to any other sport, is that baseball isn’t for everyone. And that’s OK.
Would I recommend the trip? Absolutely. A few months before I did it, I was engaged, and working full-time, before I called the wedding off and quit my job. Credit cards paid off, and with some money to burn, I set off to explore India, the Motherland. Two months later I was back in Toronto, about to make my fantasy of visiting every ballpark in baseball a reality. For two months, baseball and travel consumed me. Looking back, how could it not be one of the best times of my life?
Why I like baseball is a difficult question to answer. But at the same time, it isn’t. I think baseball can teach a person a lot about life. That’s why I love it. One of the reasons I enjoy baseball is because there’s no game clock. It’s one of the few moments in life when time doesn’t matter; when a rigid schedule doesn’t apply. It’s going to take as long as it’s going to take. To some, baseball is slow, it’s boring. To me, it’s methodical, indeed the thinking man’s game. Every play and every pitch is strategic. So much of day-to-day life feels like a race against time. Baseball’s the opposite.
Earl Weaver once said about baseball, “This ain’t football, we do this every day.” And I love that from the beginning of March until the end of September, day after day, there’s baseball. It’s a long season, the longest, but, just like life, it seems to pass you by in an instant, until it’s gone again. Baseball’s about the day-to-day grind, a lot like life. Ups and downs. Don’t get too high, don’t get too low.
I love baseball because there isn’t a better way to spend a summer’s night than at the ballpark, under clear skies and bright lights. Walking up to the box office on a whim, buying a couple of tickets that won’t break the bank, and enjoying some sweet potato fries and baseball is about as religious an experience as it gets for me. I guess that makes the SkyDome church.
I love baseball because there are multiple ways to enjoy the game. You can be acronymed to death using baseball’s statistical analysis. It’s remarkable, really, when you take a step back, how every facet of the game is quantified, and analyzed. At the same time, there’s a romanticism to baseball that I, and many others, find fascinating. Kerry Wood ending his career with a strikeout on that sunny afternoon in Wrigley Field is just another example of why the romance will never die.
Finally, I love baseball because failure is such an inherent part of the game. There’s a life lesson in there, too. You don’t always get the girl, or get the job, or make the right decisions. You stumble, slump, and fail along the way. But you step back into the batter’s box, you trust in your abilities, and you try your best to hit what comes your way. You step back on the mound and try to paint that outside corner one more time. That’s baseball, and that’s life. I’ll never forget the line in Ken Burns’s Baseball: “And yet the men who fail seven times out of 10 are considered the game’s greatest heroes.” I think in life, we’re all trying to hit .300. Hell, .400 even. But the older I get, and the more I think about it, .275 will do.