It’s Thursday afternoon in March, I’m sat at the desk in the standby room at my place of work. On the desk is a laptop, a half drunk cup of coffee and some podcast notes. Next to me I can feel the gentle draft of a fan keeping the room slightly cooler than normal. In the background on a large television I hear the crack of a baseball bat hitting a ball and the shouts of the reasonably well attended Spring Training game between the Braves and the Yankees.
The game is a re-run, but because I’m on standby for work I can sit and do other things whilst having the game on in the background. It’s fantastic being able to sit and enjoy baseball, without trying to fit a condensed game into my day or only watching the 2-4 minutes highlights package.
But why do I choose to watch baseball? It’s a question that kept being asked on our recent season preview podcasts, I keep coming back with the same answer.
I used to watch a lot of Test Match Cricket, in person, live on television, highlights, whatever was available I would watch it. I loved the length of the game, the endurance required to partake in a single sporting event that is spread over 5-days — Rob Manfred thinks he has a pace of play problem, huh? –, the patience of the batter, the determination and relentlessness of the bowler and the minor fielding adjustments of the captain to try and outfox the batter and send him on his merry way. Moments like these just make the action on the field so appealing to me. Then we shift to the community of fans that go to these events with their hampers of food and drink, exchanging tales of other test matches or county cricket matches they have attended, exploring new elements of society and backgrounds, trading off opinions of players, based on the eye-test and the stats you have memorised for moments such as this.
Baseball mimics Test Cricket in so many ways. The battle between the pitcher and the hitter, long shadows during day games, familiar noises of the ballpark, be they the crack of a bat, the thud of a ball hitting the catchers mitt, the rattle of bats being tidied away, the gentle rumble of the crowd talking the similar subjects of a cricket game, a sudden roar as a hitter smashes a home-run or a pitcher hurls another K. Majestic, poetic, all better described by better writers than I.
As my workload increased and my pregnant wife became more pregnant, the urge to state “England are playing India today, if you need me I’ll be on the sofa for seven hours.” became less urgent.
Then late October ’14 happened, my daughter Olivia was born.
Soon I realised that days weren’t days and nights weren’t nights, the time was just a number on a clock and the amount of hours sleep my wife and I experienced in a 24-hour period did not matter. It was all about survival.
While spending hours awake during the night, I quickly realised that I could watch plenty of night time baseball come spring time.
Alas, it was not to be. My daughter began sleeping through the night just five months after she was born. She would usually sleep from 7pm until 7am the next day. Perfect for our broken sleep pattern, not so good for watching Test Cricket during the day, as our days became filled with coffee breaks, cake stops, visiting family and friends. Overall, there was very little opportunity to have those seven hours on the sofa watching Alistair Cook work a single down the leg side.
However, there was plenty of time to watch a sport after my daughter had gone to bed at 7pm. If you aren’t aware, day baseball games usually start at 6:05pm here in the UK, so once my daughter is asleep, the baseball is on.
The time at which baseball is played is a critical reason as to why I watch, I can enjoy the whole day with my wife and daughter and still watch live baseball when the day is complete. I’m well aware there is night football/rugby/T20 cricket, but none of them compare to the beauty and majestic nature of baseball.
Now, if the great Night Test Cricket experiment works, we could be in for a whole new set of blogs and podcasts. But in the meantime, this is why I watch this fantastic sport.