The thrill of the grass, the roar of the crowd, it can mean only one thing! It’s baseball time in America and you’re bound to have to talk about it. Whether your home team is awesome or terrible, people on trains and elevators will make small talk about it and bar TVs will have a constant stream of it playing in the background. You might even lose a significant other to the game for the season.
Besides knowing that there’s no crying in baseball, here are 8 things to remember that will help you manage most baseball fans and impress even the most knowledgeable of baseball geeks.
1. Take me out to the ballgame
Go to a game or watch one on TV. Since there are 30 Major League Baseball teams all playing on any given day, chances are there’s probably a game on right this very minute. Pay attention and listen to the commentators. If you live in a city with a major league team, go out to a game. There are some great stadiums out there. Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are some old classics, but San Francisco’s AT&T Park and Pittsburgh’s PNC Park have some stunning views.
You may live somewhere with a Triple A Minor League team like the Savannah Sand Gnats or the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. These teams are “farm teams” for the majors, which means you get to see the stars of tomorrow before the head up to the big time. Watching a few games is the best way to get to know the sport. But to be honest, the basic rules are pretty easy (we’ll get to the that); the real test is remembering names of players on all those major league teams.
2. Take me out to the crowd
If there are 30 teams and up to 25 guys on each team’s active roster, that’s a ton of players to know about. Start by knowing one guy from each team or a couple of guys from your home team. Here are a few boys of summer whose names you should absolutely be familiar with for the 2014 season: Derek Jeter, short stop (Yankees),; Hanley Ramirez, short stop (Los Angeles Dodgers); Prince Fielder, first base (Texas Rangers); Ryan Braun, right field (Milwaukee Brewers); David Ortiz, third base (Boston Red Sox); Cliff Lee, pitcher (Philadelphia Phillies); Mike Trout, center field (Los Angeles Angels) and Miguel Cabrera, first base (Detroit Tigers).
3. Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks
When you go to the game eat the food, it’s part of the experience! My mother hates baseball but loves a good hotdog and beer. Forgo your healthy eating for one afternoon and get a hotdog, get a beer or soda, enjoy the whole baseball game package. If a meat isn’t your thing, peanuts and crackerjacks are classics and will do the job just fine. With foodies invading every corner of culture, some parks offer newer takes on the old classics like the mac and cheese dogs at Camden Yards in Baltimore or the carne asada fries at Petco Field in San Diego. Or at places like Safeco Field in Seattle, you can go completely outside the box and get world-class sushi.
4. I don’t care if I ever get back
A baseball game consists of nine innings played without a clock. That means that a normal game can last up to three or four hours…and that’s a fast game. If the score is tied at the end of the ninth inning, you go into extra innings. The longest recorded baseball game by innings was a 26-inning game back in 1920. The longest game by time was a 7 hour and 14 minute game played between the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets in 1974 that lasted 25 innings.
5. Root, root, root for the home team…
Unless you already have a team that you love. If so, by all means stick with them, I’m very much in favor of team loyalty (I am a Cubs fan, after all), but it’s easy to gain knowledge about a team that is always in the local news, radio and papers. The roster will become familiar and you’ll know tons about the star players. Plus, it is always fun to go to the games when your favorite team is the home team. Trust me, rooting for the away team in places like New York is no fun… especially if you’re a Red Sox fan. Right now I live 10 minutes from Dodger Stadium in LA and as much as I love my Cubbies, it’s hard not to become a Dodger aficionado. If I do fall to the Big Blue, I will justify it by saying that they USED to be in Brooklyn, NY, where I lived for 11 years. Of course, the Dodgers haven’t been in Brooklyn since the 1950s, but that isn’t important.
6. If they don’t win it’s a shame!
I feel like baseball is fairly predictable. You can predict that the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals will be in the playoffs almost every season (almost) and that my beloved Chicago Cubs will not. The Cubs, for those of you that don’t know their storied losing streak, have not even been to the World Series since 1945, and its been over 100 years since they won the fall classic. This season, though, there are a few teams that haven’t been in contention in a while. Look to the Detroit Tigers and the Pittsburgh Pirates to do well in 2014. Also, I should look no further than down the block at the Los Angeles Dodgers for the team that most analysts are saying already could go all the way to October.
7. For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out….
So that is the most basic of the rules of the game. The batter gets 3 strikes or chances and the pitcher gets 4 balls (pitches out of the strike zone). If the pitcher pitches 4 balls, the batter walks. The batter then becomes a runner and a runner on base can steal other bases by running after the ball has left the pitcher’s hand to home plate (yea, ya gotta be fast to do that). These plays are usually hotly contested and until this year have not been subject to replays by umpires. But now, if a manager contests the call, the umpires can actually go to a replay to make their final call. And it automatically goes to replay on any play at home base.
8. At the old ball game!
Major League Baseball has been around since the Civil War, it is, in fact, an old game. It has a fascinating history. It’s been through wars and social upheavals. Baseball has been on the forefront of change in this country. It is a part of our past. Honestly, the best way to sum up the relationship between America and baseball is with this speech from Field of Dreams. Take it away James Earl Jones!
Ready to play ball? Check out these sites and blogs for the latest news on wins, losses, injuries and trades.
Major League Baseball – obviously the site to read about everything major league
Bleacher Report – previews, predictions and history of all the teams
MILB – The official site for minor league baseball – see who’s up and coming