It’s October. As a lifelong fan of a baseball team plagued by a lot of loss and eleventh hour collapses, I’m used to my team’s season being over by this point and having moved on to occupying my time with football. Not this year. This year my beloved Mets have actually moved on to some post-season baseball.
I couldn’t possibly be more excited about it. Baseball has always been imbued with this anything-can-happen mentality. It’s magical. We believe as kids that anything is possible. Baseball is something that allows me and anyone who loves it to retain a little of that magic long past our adolescence. As I sat the other night in the freezing cold watching game two of the National League Championship Series with the biggest (slightly frozen) smile on my face, I thought about all the ways that loving baseball has contributed to who I am as a person.
Being a sports fan has nothing to do with gender
My father began bringing my brother and I to baseball games as well as all other sporting events from a very young age. I quickly decided that I loved baseball, liked basketball and hockey and football could sometimes hold my interest. There were no boys to impress, just my young mind and short attention span making up its mind as to what was exciting. And baseball just seemed like so much fun. A belief that has only grown stronger as I became an adult.
It can be a real family bonding experience
As I mentioned, my dad was the one who introduced me to the game of baseball. As a kid I would also watch him play in a recreational men’s softball league and he was a great pitcher. If I had been slightly more coordinated, I know I too would have aspired to become a pitcher. The position that controls the game that I love. At major league games in person or on television my father took special note of the pitchers no matter what the team, remarking on their delivery or competence in certain types of pitches. The reason baseball bonding is so important to me is directly related to the fact that my personality and my dad’s could not be more different. He’s quite traditional and quiet, and if my voice was an electrical current, I could probably talk enough to light up all of New York City. But you ask my dad about baseball and he’ll chat for hours about games he went to as a kid, player stats, which teams look good this year and most importantly what his hopes are for his team. Our team. The New York Mets. And it’s been our gateway to other father-daughter conversations.
Don’t take it all too seriously
I have jumped up and down. Shouted at the television or in person at the stadium. Gotten angry when an altercation happened between one of my team’s players with another one. But as my dad has repeatedly said, baseball is known as the national pastime. A pastime by definition is meant to be enjoyable and take you out of your every day life for a moment or two and give you something to be excited about and to which you can look forward. It’s not supposed to incite anger or cause added stress to your life. It’s a game and there will always be another one, which is a pretty good metaphor to consider when you’ve had an absolutely terrible day at work. You have to shake it off and start fresh tomorrow. It’s an important lesson to remember.
Learning to do good by others
There is fairly extensive list of baseball players on whom I will admit to having crushes. And they’re not only Mets players. There’s Buster Posey, David Wright, Curtis Granderson, Jacob DeGrom, Jake Arrieta, C.J. Wilson…okay you get the picture. But like a teenager flipping through a magazine voracious for information about an actor heartthrob, I read about players I like and their philanthropy projects. David Wright’s Foundation focuses on multiple sclerosis and children’s causes. Granderson has the Grand Kids Foundation for “positive youth development via education, physical fitness and nutrition.” It was through my fascinated interest of these players that I found one of many causes that I take great joy from participating in myself. It is the Winter Wishes program for New York Cares , where I can volunteer to basically play Santa by signing up to answer letters from underprivileged kids and send them gifts for.
You’re always looking forward to the next game
Baseball is a kid’s game that if you love it, you gladly carry it over and embrace it well into adulthood. And when you’re a kid, you’re full of hope and excitement for what the future might hold. Also a byproduct for me personally of rooting for a team that has rarely made it to the playoffs in my lifetime requires an endless well of optimism and “we’ll get ’em next year” attitude. Something that’s not a bad outlook when it comes to any disappointment in life. When you love something or someone, you don’t give up on them, no matter how much it or they might try your patience. That’s loyalty. You stick and take the good with the bad. And the late great Yogi Berra said in 1973 when he was managing the Mets, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
[Image via Columbia Pictures]