Spring is a wonderful time. It melts away the icy snows of winter and replaces it with green grass, the enveloping warmth of the sun and its fresh morning air. For hundreds of thousands of people around the world, spring means the return of the familiar crack of the ball against the bat, the sound another ball hitting the leather of a glove.
It all begins in the middle of February, pitchers and catchers start to report to camp first. Suddenly, there is a certain excitement in the air; you start counting the days until spring training starts. Meanwhile, your team’s Instagram starts posting clips of players arriving in camp, of pitchers hurling a ball towards a catcher. You get a first glimpse of the offseason’s acquisitions interacting with the team. There is a warm, feel-good feeling to all this as if you just woke up from a long winter hibernation.
Baseball is filled with those small moments that make me, and so many people love it. As the spring training gives way to the regular season, the “daily grind” starts to take over. Every day, for each of your team’s games, the stats need to be checked (FanGraphs is open almost constantly). For many people, baseball is a solace after a long day at work, a way to kick back and relax, like a faithful dog that would be waiting for you at home.
Baseball can be as simple, or as complicated as you wish. For the general public, following a game on TV is more than enough (forgetting about the occasional rant against the umpires or the manager). For them, baseball is a sport that should be played and not thought about, the old-school baseball if you will. But dive a little deeper, and you meet the stat-heads like myself. We like numbers, we like to analyse pitcher trends, and Statcast is a gift from the baseball gods. We know what BABIP, xWAR, wOBA, wRC+ mean and we might flaunt it in your face. Whatever your preference is, you will always find something to your taste.
Baseball is a world of tradition and history. You might use its sayings: “three strikes and you’re out!”, “it came out of left-field” or “reaching first base.”
At 150 odd years, it is older than all three other main North American sports (American football, hockey, basketball), and has been an integral part of US history. Soldiers during the civil war used to play baseball to take their minds off of the atrocities of war. Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the colour barrier was one of the most significant events in the fight for equal rights. What’s more, there are names that, even for someone who has never even seen a baseball, still mean something: Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays and of course, the one and only Babe Ruth who, by himself, exemplifies the far-reaching power of baseball.
And finally, baseball is a sport that unites. Short, tall, skinny, fat, man, woman, black, white; baseball does not segregate and does not judge. It is a sport that anyone can enjoy and play. So if you ever thought that you were not athletic enough, or not quick enough, get those thoughts out of your mind, and give it a go, because you might just fall in love too.
Chris Atkins is a guest writer for Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisAtkins9157