So I warned you that this 31 day challenge might take all sorts of twists and turns. Here it is Day 3 and I’m already going to do a random post about baseball. But honestly I really love it. The funny thing is that this is a love that I really found in my mid- 20s.
I went to games as a social thing when I was growing up but the game didn’t really interest me. Of course it didn’t help that the closest stadium was Dodger stadium and we sat in the nose bleed seats- you’re so far up it’s hard to figure out what’s going on. ( I remember going to my first Angel’s game as a teenager and feeling like I’d never been to a game before! BUT I digress.)
Then my husband’s family introduced me to the Washington Nationals. I went to my first Nats game in 2008 and they were awful. I mean just TERRIBLE. But that first game I could sense the love of the fanbase for their team. In the 5th inning the announcer calls on all the fans to “Stand and pledge your allegiance to your Washington nationals by waiving your cap”. My sarcastic self who wouldn’t be caught dead in such a public show of group activity looked around shocked to see jaded Washingtonians, some still in their work gear leaping up to wave their red hat in the air in time to the music. I was hooked. Of course it took several years before I too would jump up and waive my cap- old habits die hard- but in that moment, deep down I knew that it was only a matter of time.
There’s something wonderfully simple about being a baseball fan. From Spring training in March to the Postseason in October you have a ready topic of conversation. Being a fan is full of ups and downs and if you’re familiar with the Nats you know that I’ve had my share in the past few years! But we share them together as a community.
Over the past 9 years I’ve been to countless games and have many fond memories. When I moved away from DC several years ago I kept my connection to the community intact through my Nats fan girl Twitter account where I do some gentle trolling and fan-spamming with the best of them.
Recently I’ve also started reading books about baseball history as well. This was a big step for me since moving into reading about the game in general and other teams gets you passed the “yeah I watch games” to “OMG I LOVE baseball”. But really it was more of admitting what everyone already knew. A few I’d recommend (because I’m sure you’ll ask)
- Ladies the Gentleman the Bronx is burning by Jonatan Mahler – about the 1977 Yankees and NYC
- The Best Team Money Can Buy by Molly Knight- about the Dodgers
- The Cubs Way by Tom Verducci – about the making of the 2016 Cubs
- The Game by Tom Pessah – a rather disturbing look at the 1990s and the overall business of baseball
Learning to be a baseball fan has taught me some very valuable lessons. I’ve learned that there’s always another game- even if you have to wait until spring training for it, that everyone’s replaceable and a trade that feels like the end of the world can end up being the best thing for the club. I’ve seen first hand the importance of leadership and how certain people can be great players but not-so-great coaches. Ultimately I’ve seen that there’s a value to team culture- when the clubhouse is humming then things are going to be good on the field but when there’s bad blood, which you can sense as a fan, then no matter how talented your players, it’s all going to fall apart.
The point of this post isn’t to convert you to liking baseball- many people say it’s too slow or they just don’t get it and that’s fine. I, for one, am completely at a loss to understand American football (and no- that’s not an invitation to try to explain it to me- I’ve made my peace with this). Rather it’s to reflect on what a simple hobby with no practical value has given to me when it comes to insights in leadership and human nature.
Sometimes I worry that in the hustle-focused culture particularly in the tech industry, we can forget about the importance of having these types of simple experiences- like watching a baseball game. There’s so much more to life than the daily grind. The truth is, being a baseball fan has made me a more well rounded person. And yes, if you’re sitting next to me at a game I will proudly be participating in all the chants, hat waiving, jumping up and down and various other traditions that being a fan entails. I’m Suzie and I love baseball.