I love baseball. I really do.
My father grew up in Conneaut, Ohio – the furthest northeast corner of the state. His mother worked in a diner, his father worked on the Nickleplate Railroad and ran for democratic office. They loved baseball. My grandfather shared that love with my father who shared that love with me. I think this is why I am obsessed with baseball. In fact, I attribute anyone’s baseball’s obsession to the simple, beautiful fact that it is a game that is passed down from generation to generation like a revered family heirloom.
For some reason, when the love of baseball is given to us by our parents, we feel as if we have been given something that is secret, yet uncommonly public. When my father took me around the country for three consecutive summers to visit baseball parks, I felt as if I was gaining admission to a club of which only he and I were members. It was on these trips that I learned how to drive in Conneaut, Ohio and learned how to shave in Manhattan.
I grew up in Atlanta with a reverence for the Braves of the 1990s; arguably witnessing the best pitching squad to ever be fielded. I grew up with a similar reverence for the Big Red Machine as (and any baseball fan will tell you this) a love of baseball often trumps the love of a team. This separates baseball fans from fans of other sports. Baseball fans love the GAME and their team. Fans of other sports love their TEAM and then the game. I suppose that’s why baseball attracts me so much – it feels like a community.
My mother was raised in Norwalk, Ohio. As a result, she also grew up with a love of Ohio baseball. When I was a child, her mother gave me a ball signed by the Big Red Machine. I still have it, but it is quite faded. Regardless, it is still the prized piece in my collection of baseball memorabilia.
When I moved to Cincinnati in 1997, it was quite easy for me to adopt the Reds as my Home Team. In fact, the very first park I ever went to with my father outside of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was Riverfront Stadium. After the game I bought a “Third Bass” tape on fountain square (remember “Pop Goes the Weasel?”).
Katie and I are proud season ticket holders for the Reds. And I thank my lucky stars every single day that, from my seat on the balcony of our condo, I can stare at Great American Ballpark all throughout the year. Admittedly, I get a little down come January knowing that I still have a couple months until I can see the boys take the field.
I have formed numerous relationships over the love of baseball – much in the same way I have over the love of music. Baseball is fun, yes, but it is much more than that. A love of baseball requires a love of paying attention – a love of the small things – and a love of strategy. Every single motion in baseball matters. From the on-deck routines to the choice of reliever.
Another thing that makes baseball so easy to love is that the action never stops unless it is an organic part of the game, i.e., the end of a half-inning. Even those breaks matter.
Organic – Strategic – Deliberate – Attentive. This is baseball. Incidentally, it is also how I go about living my life and making decisions. Maybe that’s it – maybe the flow of baseball mirrors our daily routines and interactions – maybe that is what is passed down to us from our parents – maybe baseball truly is in our genetic code.