We’re in the middle of the first round of NHL playoffs, which, in my opinion, is the most exciting part of the NHL season, and it’s also the conference finals in the WHL, with two great series going on… but I’m here to talk about baseball.
I know, I know. There must be something seriously wrong with me if I’d rather watch a mid-week, meaningless game in April between the Blue Jays and the Indians than a first round playoff matchup between, say, the Blackhawks and the Blues. But it’s the truth, and hey, maybe there is something wrong with me.
Recently though, my love of baseball has been making me feel pretty isolated. Not just because my usual community of hockey fans thinks I’m crazy, but also because I don’t really feel like I fit in with baseball fans.
See, I didn’t grow up watching baseball. I don’t have Little League memories–hell, I don’t even have memories of learning how to catch a baseball, because apparently nobody ever taught me that. My most vivid memory of baseball as a kid is of my brother smoking me in the head with a wooden Trapper’s bat on the driveway. (It was an accident, of course… but I still have the scar to remember it by). So my love for baseball doesn’t make sense to people who don’t love it and it doesn’t make much sense to those that do, either. I haven’t loved baseball long enough, I haven’t paid enough dues.
I didn’t really start watching baseball until I got out of highschool. But that’s kind of been a benefit to me, because I remember every second of my love of baseball.
I remember the exact moment where I really fell in love with the game, when what was a passing enjoyment turned into an obsession that will last me a lifetime–AJ Burnett’s first game back at the Skydome, squaring off against Doc Halladay. Doc threw a complete game that day and he became the reason I fell in love with baseball. That was when I started loving the Blue Jays and really paying attention to the team that I had always considered my favourite, the Boston Red Sox.
I was 19 when I saw my first MLB game–Red Sox @ Mariners in September 2009. That ’09 Red Sox team is always going to be really special to me; I could probably still name the starting lineup in order of position and batting order. I saw Josh Beckett’s fastball and Jon Lester’s curve when I closed my eyes. I worshiped Jason Varitek like a God. I poured hours into the footage from the World Series wins, so many that I can still hear the calls and see the plays in my head. At the same time as this was going on, I started watching every Blue Jays game on the schedule with my dad–sometimes twice in the same day. I fell in love with hitters that year, too, Aaron Hill’s comeback season, going hit-for-hit with Adam Lind, both finishing with 30 HR, .300+, 100RBI.
I’ve seen 10 games now, 10 teams at 6 different ballparks, but it’ll never be enough, not even when I see a game in every major league park. There’s something about baseball in the summer, and maybe I’ll never know exactly what that something is, but I fell in love with it. It’s got me now. I spend all winter in cold and damp hockey rinks across North America: baseball is my vacation. Baseball is my reward.
I can’t explain the feeling I get when I’m at the ballpark on a beautiful day in those summer months. It’s the feeling you get when you just know that there isn’t anywhere you’d rather be, when you know you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. It’s the grass in the outfield; the sun on your face; the sound that comes from the ball hitting the sweet spot on a bat just so. It’s ballpark hotdogs and friday night fireworks. It’s Clayton Kershaw’s curveball and Jose Bautista’s home run swing. It’s even heartbreaks and rain delays. I can say a lot about hockey, too, because I’ve loved it since I’ve had memories, but isn’t there something special about falling in love?
I’ve been lucky to find someone who I trust to understand and share my feelings about baseball, so me and Becky are going to cross off some of our baseball bucket list items this summer with trips to see the Red Sox at Fenway Park and the Braves at Turner Field.
I know that there are a lot of people who might think that I don’t deserve Fenway yet. Honestly I’m not sure myself. But the moral of the story is that you should never, ever let someone else make you feel bad about the way you love something just because you do it in a different way. In fact, never let somebody make you feel bad for loving something, period.