Tuesday, April 2, 2013

20 Reasons Why Baseball is the Best

So, I realize I haven't updated this blog in about a year. I don't really have any reason for that, but I decided to begin posting more regularly for this 2013 season. About five minutes ago, a link to a story titled, "20 Reasons Baseball Is the Worst," was retweeted on my timeline.

So naturally, me being the psycho, crazed, obsessive fan that I am, was a little bit upset at this. I've decided to write a rebuttal. In no particular order, here are my 20 Reasons Why Baseball is the Best:

20. Web Gems

By John Munson, US Presswire
They can come at any time, for any player, against any team. It can be a catch that preserves a perfect game or a catch to win the game. It can end an inning or kill a potential rally. Whether it's a diving, sliding or hey-I-just-flipped-over-the-fence-and-somehow-survived catch, it will always garner "OOOHs" and "AHHHs" from me.

The web gems that always tickle my fancy are the diving catches in the outfield. Anytime I see a player lay out and land flat on their stomach to catch a ball, I'm just amazed. How do you recover from that? How are they able to jump back up like they didn't just belly flop on solid ground? Who are you people?!

19. Walk off wins

There is nothing like the satisfaction of watching a hard fought game that ends on a single swing for your favorite team. On the other hand, there is nothing as painful as watching a hard fought game that ends on a single swing against your favorite team.

But that's what makes baseball so great. There is no timer. You can't run out the clock. Who cares if it's 8-0 in the bottom of the 9th inning. It's not over! The home team still has a chance to put up that nine spot to win it. And the craziest part? It happens. It happens all the time.

Buzzer beaters are cool. Last second touchdowns are fun. But nothing can touch that moment when a player is barreling around third to beat a throw to the plate to win the game. Nothing comes close to a ball that leaves the park, landing in a sea of crazed fans as they celebrate a victory. Nothing is like watching a group of grown men beat each other up in a dog pile out of pure joy.

This is me on Opening Day in 2008. It was freezing.
18. Opening Day

I don't want to sound like I'm comparing baseball to other sports, because that would be silly. All sports are different and great for their own reasons. But let's be real here. Nothing comes close to baseball's Opening Day. Nothing. It's a holiday. Sure, it's not officially a holiday yet, but give it some time. It will happen. (My friend Marcus tackles that topic here, you should read it).

Opening Day gives every fan a feeling of hope. It's a new start. You know what it's like? Say you just had a bad breakup, or lost a job, or something else that involves things not working out your way. Then think of that moment of clarity when you say, "Hey, I'm going to be just fine. There's greater things waiting for me." That's what Opening Day is like. Forget what happened last season. Forget what happened in spring training. It's a new day. A new season. Every team has a fighting chance.

17. Pitchers' Duels

A wise woman once told me, "When two pitchers can go for nine long innings, matching each other pitch for pitch and embarrassing the opposing offense, that's when you know you're watching something special."

That wise woman was me. I told myself that. Just now.

It's true though, isn't it? It is special to watch a real, true duel between two pitchers. These are Major League hitters. Really, really good, professional, All Star hitters. So when you get to see pitchers who are also really, really good, it's something to enjoy. Of course, not when it's against your team. Bad things against your team are never good. That's why they're called "bad things."

But knowing that a single hit can change the outcome of a game because the two pitchers are lights out at the exact same time? That's what baseball is all about.

16. Late nights at the park

I love myself a day game, I really do. Sitting in Comerica Park with the sun beating down on my face is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Awkward sun burn on the top of my thighs? That's what baseball season looks like.

Kauffman Stadium. Photo by Mark Whitt.
But for me, night games are where it's at. You do get some daylight for about four innings, depending on the pace of the game. Then when the sun goes down and the lights are on, there's a certain magic. I mean sure, I think anything and everything related to baseball is magic. Night games though. Night games are different. The grass is so green and the lights are glowing, sometimes I don't realize we're actually sitting in the dark until I look up at the sky. I love how the scoreboard is a little brighter, the crowd a little louder. Everything just seems more magnified during night games.

15. Rich history

I think the phrase "Nothing is like..." has become a recurring theme in this post, but COME ON. There is nothing like baseball's history. I can't even begin to think about all of the amazing players, moments, coaches, games and stories that have unfolded over the years without getting emotional. Yes, I get emotional over baseball. Yes, I get emotional when I think about events that I was not even alive for but still impact me.

Because that's what baseball does. It impacts people. Do you know why 2006 has been my favorite year of life so far? Because the Tigers went to the World Series for the first time in my life that year. I remember what happened in certain years of my life based on what happened in baseball during that time. Am I sorry? Absolutely not. That's just the way it goes with me.

14. It's unpredictable

It's become predictable that something unpredictable is going to happen in baseball every season. We just never know what that unpredictable thing is going to be, therefore we can't predict it.

Photo by Kim Klement
Teams play 162 games in a season. 162 chances to get to first place and stay there. "It's a marathon, not a sprint." That's probably the most common quote you hear during the first month of the season. But what happens when it's the last week of the season, and it's time for teams to sprint? What happens when after 161 games, you still don't know which teams will be playing in the postseason?

Oh, that's right. Baseball happens. In all its glory, it gives us something like Game 162 in 2011. It gives us Dan Johnson, a guy whose first hit since April 27 came in the form of a pinch hit game-tying home run to send the Tampa Bay Rays to extra innings, where they eventually went on to clinch the Wild Card.

Would anyone have predicted that at the start of the season? At the start of the game? At the start of the inning? Nope. How can people say baseball is boring when you don't even know what's going to happen next?

13. Strategy

Baseball is more than just someone walking up to the plate and swinging a big wooden stick. It involves matchups. It involves timing. It involves knowing when to go and knowing when to put on the brakes. It's about trying to have a guy steal a base while the batter tries to get a base hit at the same time. A successful hit and run is one of the most beautiful things a fan can see.

Strategy comes from all over. The catcher, manager and third base coach are among the anchors. It's such a meticulous game. One wrong step - or one wrong pitch - can change the entire outcome.

12. "This is a real family"

Is there a better way to ask someone to Opening Day?
Admittedly, Fever Pitch is one of my favorite movies of all time. It has everything I want in a movie: romance, comedy and baseball. And Jimmy Fallon. I always want Jimmy Fallon.

Fallon's character, Ben Wrightman, is basically the male version of me. This particular quote stands out to me every single time:

They're here. Every April, they're here. At 1:05 or at 7:05, there is a game. And if it gets rained out, guess what? They make it up to you. Does anyone else in your life do that? The Red Sox don't get divorced. This is a real family. This is the family that's here for you.

I love baseball for many reasons (hence, this list). I've loved it my whole life. This quote just about sums up why. The Tigers were consistently bad for pretty much my entire childhood. But did I care? Well, yes. I did. I was pretty bummed about it. But it only made me a bigger fan. Weird, right? I realized that I loved this sport so much, it didn't matter if the Tigers could hit a beach ball off a tee or not. They were still there. I could still root for them, good or bad, because they were there. Growing up, I couldn't ask for much more.

11. Baseball movies

Speaking of Fever Pitch, let's talk about the movies that have generated from this sport. Field of Dreams, The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, Bull Durham, Major League, Angels in the Outfield, Moneyball, The Natural, For The Love of the Game, A League Of Their Own and many, many more.

Personally, I think all movies should be baseball movies. Just make all films from here on out about baseball. Every last one of them. Because then quotes like these will be in my life. Quotes that say how I feel, but much more eloquently and beautifully:

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
Gosh darn it Field of Dreams, you make me weep!

10. It's diverse 

When you look at any baseball roster in MLB, you see a melting pot of cultures. It is a game for people from all over the world. Players ranging from Cuba to the Netherlands and everywhere in between are able to come together because of their love for this game.

Photo by Mike Blake
Can I be cheesy for a minute? Okay. I will. Not every player on every team speaks the same language. There are some barriers which I imagine make it hard to communicate. But you know what? Baseball is one language that all of them speak.

As a society, I think we can learn a lesson from this. Don't be afraid of people who are different than you. See? That's baseball. It's more than just a sport.

9. It brings people together

Going off what I said above, baseball is a sport that bonds people together like no other. Baseball fans get it. We understand each other. I can tell when I'm talking to a casual fan and when I'm talking to someone who really gets it. When I was in Arizona for the MLB Fan Cave and surrounded by 29 other baseball fans, I was with people who got it. These were my people.

And just like that, I became best friends with fans from all over the country. Do I hate the White Sox? Of course! Do I want the Indians to win? No way! But guess what? Two of my best friends from that experience ended up being a White Sox and Indians fan. Seriously. This isn't a joke.

But once again, that's the beauty of baseball. Did I ever think I'd have something in common with a Rockies fan? Or a Cubs fan? Did I ever imagine myself watching cartoons with a Yankees fan? Sure, we all root for different teams. But in the end, we're baseball fans.

These are all really cool people.

8. The voices

No, not the voices in your head. We'll talk about that later. I'm talking about the voices of baseball. The voices of summer. The voices that raised us. Ernie Harwell, Vin Scully, Russ Hodges, Harry Kalas, Bob Uecker, to name just a few.

These voices have defined some of our favorite baseball memories. Baseball is about the audio as much as it is about the visual. You don't just watch baseball, you listen to it. You listen to the stories. You listen to the way they describe each play, almost like they're painting a picture.

Please, just listen. Thank me later.

7. The stadiums

From classic, historic parks like Fenway and Wrigley Field, to a modern stadium like Target Field in Minnesota, each home for baseball is unique and different in its own way. Each place has something different to offer, something that they can claim as their own.

I've been to seven parks in my young life (Tiger Stadium, Comerica Park, Progressive Field, Rogers Centre, Great American Ballpark, Turner Field and Chase Field) and I can safely say that each one was different from the last. My goal, like most baseball fans, is to see a game in each stadium. It'll happen one day. And when it does, I'll report back to this little ol' blog and confirm the fact that each park has its own personality.

6. It's every day

I think that's why it's easy to get so attached to baseball. It happens every day. Each series is usually three or four games (with rare two-game series popping up every now and then) so each day is a chance for you, as a fan, to be either really happy or really bummed out.

But it's also a chance for each team to have short term memory. Unlike football, where a team has a week to mull it over (or sometimes two, depending on if it's a bye week or not), in baseball, they have the chance to fix what they did wrong the very next day.

162 games is a long season. Playing nearly every day for 6-7 months is also very long. But as I said above, sometimes even that isn't enough. Each game matters. That phrase is never more true than it is in this sport.

5. Comebacks

Photo by Todd Gannam
Whether the comeback comes in the form of a game, a player or a team, there's nothing like redemption in baseball. Oh look, there's that phrase again. Nothing like it.

Remember 2003? When the Tigers record was 43-119? No, that's not a typo. That is an actual record. That's an actual thing that happened. But then remember 2006? Three years later? When Magglio Ordonez hit a walk off home run to send the Tigers to the World Series?!

Because I remember it. I remember it like it was yesterday. That's a comeback. That's a team that came back from losing an American League record just a few years before.

Or what about Rick Ankiel? You remember that story. Here's a guy who left the league after failing dramatically as a pitcher. Seven years later, he's back as an outfielder with the St. Louis Cardinals and then goes on to SMASH the ball for the rest of the season like he had been doing it for years.

4. Statistics

Of course, every sport has statistics. That's how you measure who's great and who's not so great. But no sport's statistics are more debated and more discussed than that of baseball.

Photo by Chris Buck
Do I even have to mention the Trout vs. Cabrera debate of yesteryear? Because I'm pretty sure that's what you were all thinking as soon as I said "statistics" and "debated" in the same sentence. There's advanced stats, traditional stats, fun stats, weird stats, pointless stats, stats and stats and stats.

(I just realized "stats" is a palindrome. I love palindromes.)

I'll forever scream that the win/loss statistic for a pitcher is overrated. If you ever judge a pitcher based solely on their wins, I'll probably judge you based on your judgment. But see? That's why it's so fun.

3. Trade deadline and winter meetings

July 31 is almost like a holiday. But it's not the same kind of holiday as Opening Day. No, this holiday is a bit different. But much like Opening Day, anything can happen before the trade deadline. Surprise deals, no deals, any deals at all.

Fans and writers come up with crazy scenarios. Twitter is constantly abuzz with the latest news and rumors. And this is all happening while baseball is still being played. It's pure chaos.

And the winter meetings help hold people over until spring training begins. Favorite winter meeting memory? When the Tigers traded for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Unexpected, huge and left me speechless. That's baseball.

2. The fact that I can even talk about it like this

Seriously. It's almost 4 in the morning and I'm writing a short novel about why baseball is amazing. I love sports. I love them all. But I could never, ever feel as passionate and as strongly about those sports as I do about baseball.

1. It's personal

I love baseball for more than just the game itself. I love what it symbolizes. I love the traditions that I've started because of it. I love that because of baseball, I have a career path that I know I want to take.

It all started with my Paw Paw. I watched every single game with him from when I was about five years old until the last day of his life. He was in hospice, and the last thing I did with him was sit and watch a Tigers game. It'll always bring comfort to me. Every time I watch a game, I think of him. I think of what he would say during certain situations. This is my second season watching without him, and it's not something I'll ever get used to. But it's just one more way that I'm able to keep his memory alive.

Baseball is much more than just a sport, and it's much more than just a game. And that's why it's the best.

To be fair to the article from Bleacher Report, he does end it by saying that he continues to love baseball in spite of all the things he listed. But still. The reasons that make baseball the best will always outnumber the rest. (Ended with a rhyme. So clutch)


  1. absolutely love this post! I'm so glad that I found your blog. Can't wait to get to know you this year.

  2. I totally agree about baseball and family. My grandpa was such a huge Tigers fan, and I'll never watch a game without thinking of him. Now, I'm passing on the love to my own kids, and it's so much fun taking them to games. Go Tigers!