Baseball’s back, baby! Play ball!
I was raised on baseball. It’s a sport I can actually follow. Everyone takes his turn, and everyone has a specific job responsibility on the field. I can make sense out of it.
I was raised on New York Yankees baseball, actually. My dad spent many hours of his youth and young adulthood in Yankee Stadium, where he saw many of the legends play with his own eyes, and at 80 years young and more than 40 years after moving out of “the city,” they’re still his home team.
Later generations of our family have defected, though. My sister’s seven years living in San Francisco made her a Giants fan, which is one of the few points of contention she and her husband have. He’s an L.A. native who backs his own home team, but his true devotion – and that of their elder son – is to hockey, by way of his Canadian parents. As for my son – an avid reader of the sports pages since he was eight years old, fantasy-baseball player and sports blogger – he bought an official “Yankee Hater” baseball cap a few years ago, and in ultimate betrayal of his roots, he doesn’t despise the Boston Red Sox. But he has remained loyal to the team he still swears would have won “everything” in 1994 (when he was ten years old) if not for “the strike-shortened season” – they were the Montreal Expos then, and they have been the Washington Nationals for the last few years. I suspect that they were a factor is his decision to move to D.C. after he graduated from university two years ago. Eventually, as a Nats fan, he may come to understand the concept of “long-suffering” the way Chicago Cubs fans do.
I have a soft spot for the Cubs myself, even though I’ve never visited Chicago (not yet, anyway – wait until this July, though!). My own rejection of my Yankees upbringing has taken the form of becoming a general National League watcher, where my interest in particular teams has shifted over the years, and I’m now supporting my own home town team, which is the team my husband grew up with – Go Dodgers!
That support doesn’t extend to a compelling desire to go and see them play in person, though – watching their games on TV is fine with me. Major-league games belong on TV. If I’m going to see a game in person, take me out to the minor-league park and not the big-city stadium.
I was raised on Major League baseball, but most of the games I’ve attended in my life have been in the minors. During my first few years living in Memphis, the city was home to a AA franchise, and in 1998, the Memphis Redbirds began playing in AutoZone Park as the AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. My son has a July birthday which usually falls somewhere around the All-Star break, and even if we couldn’t do it on the day itself, his preferred place to celebrate while he was growing up was always the ballpark, and we were always glad to take him.
For my money – which I can spend much more slowly in the minors, by the way – the baseball experience in a minor-league ballpark can’t be beat. For one thing, they really are ballparks, not stadiums; the largest don’t usually hold more than 10,000 spectators, and the smallest Single-A parks may only have bleacher seating. That size makes it so much easier to see what happens on the field – there’s no JumboTron, and it’s not needed or missed. Because the fans are literally closer to the game, they can follow the action more closely and get more involved. Players can interact more with the fans – and yes, go ahead and get those autographs. You never know where someone’s career might take him. There’s more interaction between innings, too, with mascots, and silly games and contests. (You may find those in big-league stadiums too, but they just don’t have the same feel. It’s not their natural turf, no pun intended.)
My most memorable baseball moment occurred in the minors. My family had the opportunity to see Michael Jordan come to town with the Class AA Birmingham Barons during his brief fling with baseball in between his basketball retirements. He wasn’t much of a hitter, but if he got on base, he could definitely run. It’s probably just as well that he went back to basketball, though.
We live within range of three major-league teams here in SoCal – the Dodgers, the Angels, and the San Diego Padres – but there’s really no opportunity to go down to the minors. I miss it. One of the things I’ve come to accept about myself is that I’m really not the big-city person I always thought I was, and really wanted to be; I haven’t spent enough of my life living in big cities, and at this point there are certain aspects of city life that I just am not comfortable with (most of which concern driving: parallel parking, valets, unexpected one-way streets, and public transportation). It surprises me a little to realize that big-city baseball might be one of those things…but I’m beginning to feel like it is.
I was raised on baseball. I can’t imagine it not being part of my life. But when you take me out to the ball game, do you mind if we go to the minor-league park?
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