Janine Pipe returns to talk about her transition from Football to Baseball and wonders why they are so different.
A lot of UK baseball fans I have met, are sports fans in general. They are usually passionate about a variety of sports, and often they support a British football team.
I was raised on football, several members of my family worked for Charlton Athletic. Attending games at the Valley, Huish Park (I lived in Yeovil) and even Wembley were par of the course. I met players, managers and rubbed shoulders with celebrities I hadn’t even heard of, it was all quite normal. Once I left home and went to university, the Molineux (I studied in Wolverhampton) became my ground of choice for games, but soon I was only visiting there and the Hawthorns if Charlton were playing. I met my husband at University, he would go to various grounds to watch matches, but I would rarely bother unless it was a big game.
After we moved down to Swindon, my interest in football seriously dwindled. We had discovered a love for baseball whilst holidaying in Florida back in 2001. Tropicana Field was just amazing, and so much nicer than some of the arguably scruffy looking UK football grounds. The atmosphere was super family friendly. People were drinking alcohol, there were bars, vendors walking through the crowds selling Bud. There didn’t seem to be any aggression, this despite the fans not being segregated. I felt safe and at ease. People were having BBQs out of their trailers, everyone was high-fiving. There was a genuine sense of American good old family fun.
Football often seemed to me to be too aggressive, including players and fans. The more people drank, the louder they got. The more they swore. Good natured banter turned into full on rivalry and I would feel nervous for the away fans if they won. I have felt frightened at UK matches, seriously concerned for my safety. Baseball is far less confrontational both on and off the pitch. I have never feared for my safety whilst watching milk and cola bottles racing, yet half time in a working men’s club in England can be quite intimidating.
Whilst the newer stadiums are now built for multi functions and therefore feel more open and brighter, the smaller, older ones whilst feeling nostalgic to some, feel out-dated now to me.
I don’t like taking my nine-year-old daughter to the football. She has attended one game, a special family friendly day, aimed at bringing children specifically at the County Ground. She was bored stiff, despite enjoying kicking a ball about with the boys at school. However, we took her to the Trop on a trip to Florida last August and she loved it. Admittedly at Swindon Town, there aren’t rays to see, baseball cards to make or free DJ Kitty slippers to collect. However, I felt far more comfortable walking around the stadium, looking in the shops and talking to a very nice St. Petersburg cop than I would have looking for a pie and pint in England.
But it isn’t just the stadiums. I don’t know whether I have turned into a snob in old-age or whether my time as a police officer has affected my views on hooliganism, but there does seem to be a different type of fan who attends the baseball than English soccer. Perhaps it is the more laid back nature of the game? The fact an innings can last for hours and there are often breaks in play tends to attract a more relaxed spectator. For us, the sound of the ball hitting the bat and the announcers calm and collected voice is relaxing. We love the excitement and razzamatazz of the NFL games but ultimately MLB is far more accommodating for a more conservative and reserved British fan.
Until Swindon gets its own baseball team, I guess I will have to make do with the MLB Network and catching Caps Off. For me, they are far more interesting and entertaining than Match of the Day.