A week or two ago I was recovering from a nasty stomach bug and wound up on the couch watching movies on TV. For some reason that I couldn’t figure out, there were lots of baseball-themed flicks on, including A League of Their Own (1992), Field of Dreams (1989), and Bull Durham (1988).
Maybe it was the illness-induced delirium, or the shiny all-American overtones in the movies or all the the baseball mysticism spouted by Susan Sarandon’s Annie Savoy, but I now think that of all sports baseball might be The One for me.
“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology.” – Annie Savoy, excerpt from the opening narration of Bull Durham
Soccer, hockey and football are alright, they make my friends happy and excited enough to participate in fantasy leagues and the like but none have truly captured my heart. Then these movies were on, some of them quite terrible (Field of Dreams for example), and I realized that there were a few elements in baseball that could make me a believer: players taking turns at the bat, the one-on-one nature of a batter staring down a pitcher on the mound within the context of a larger game, the tension of players waiting on the bases, the relationship between the pitcher and the catcher and the coded language they use, the individual psychology and stats of each player and then that of the whole team, the beauty of the baseball diamond which is so differently laid out than the previously mentioned team sports, the potential to read a book during the game while enjoying a beer and hot dog…
I’m excited about my discovery but my spirits are dampened by another knowledge: the Montreal Expos are no more. I’d been to some of their games with my Dad and later with friends or with Mike and hadn’t ever truly appreciated the game and was only sad about their demise in a Montreal-wounded-pride kinda way. Now I find myself a bit blue that they won’t be my hometown introduction to the sport. My sense is that I could effectively slip into the baseball season by studying such a team, building a fan’s relationship to them by caring about the players and forming my own conclusions and expectations. Alas.
So, I’m not sure what’s quite next in my newfound appreciation of baseball. I’m sure I will be playing the role of the locker room nerd among the incredulous who question my non sportiness, defending myself and secretly amassing too much baseball trivia than could ever make me cool at school. But I think that will be the kind of game I’ll end up playing and that I might love baseball in a way that suits me best: a leisurely book-in-hand-beer-in-the-other approach not ever to be awarded MVP but perhaps, one day, Best Team Spirit.