Strike 1 ‘Nothing Rhymes with Orange’
My journey with baseball began back in 2014. I was idling away the days in the lead up to starting my first term of university, it was mid-September and unusually hot outside. Having burnt myself out on course preparation, and running out of video games to play, I found myself sat in front of the TV, mundanely surfing through channels. This usually didn’t cure my boredom, until one particular afternoon I flipped to Sky Sports at just the right moment. The uniforms caught me first – one team sporting spirited red, and the other bright orange – both with pinstripe trousers. The San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks, an afternoon replay of last night’s game. I felt drawn to the bright orange, so I decided I’d quite like it if the Giants won. At the bottom of the first, Hunter Pence stepped up to the plate, and on a 0-2 count literally threw his bat at the incoming pitch and successfully drove in a run. I was immediately hooked.
Strike 2 ‘Boy meets Baseball’
For as hooked as I initially was, life soon took over with university, part-time jobs, and joining a band, I had a lot less time on my hands and my peaked interest in America’s pastime fell onto the backburner. Fast forward to spring 2019 and oddly enough, it was bingeing the Disney classic, ‘Boy Meets World’ that reignited my spark for the sport. At the very beginning of the show, Corey Matthews is a 12-year-old middle schooler living in Philadelphia and he has exactly three interests: baseball, baseball and (you guessed it!) baseball. Seeing Corey’s pure excitement and unconditional love for the game reminded me of the exact feeling I had four years earlier watching Hunter Pence literally throwing runs on the board. Baseball had indirectly pulled me back in after all this time – I had an itch to scratch, and I needed to watch some games as soon as possible.
After discovering that most Giants games took place in the early hours of the UK morning, I decided that I would keep tabs on them but ultimately opt to support a non-West Coast team.
Enter: the Chicago Cubs. Blue has always been my favourite colour and boy did the Cubs wear some sweet blue uniforms! It was an extra bonus that they happened to play a lot of day games. After claiming my new team, I hopped onto the Cubs subreddit for some advice. The love and community within the fanbase was immediately clear – one fan even took the time to break down the entire core line-up for me; highlighting each player, their position and giving a brief look into the distinctive personalities that made up the team. It was the warmest of welcomes. I lived and breathed Cubs baseball all summer – anytime I wasn’t waiting tables, I was watching the Cubs. I studied up on their recent history and re-watched the moment they cliched the world series in 2016 countless times – that final call still gives me goosebumps.
Strike 3 ‘Summertime Gladness’
By spring 2020, I was on the ball. I had become accustom to the Cubs – and more accustom to baseball than ever. I had favourite players, I knew the sport’s biggest names, I had secondary teams I rooted for – and teams I irrationally disliked. I’d developed, and still have a particular fondness for double plays (for lack of a better term, I simply think they’re awesome.) I’d grown to appreciate the lulls in the game and cherish the action.
I couldn’t wait for my second dedicated season with the sport and as Opening Day rolled around, it truly felt like a light in the darkness. With the Opening Day at Home initiatives MLB headed up on social media, I felt more connected to like-minded fans than ever. During a summer spent inside, when the world had mostly come to a stop, immersing myself in baseball was just what I needed to get by.
I’m immensely glad I found this sport and the community that comes with it. Over the past three years it’s brought me a lot of joy, and, as someone who was never really a sports person, it feels like it’s opened up an entire new world.
Moral of the story? Next time you’re ideally flipping through channels, maybe keep that random game on. You never know what you’ll stumble into.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Tyler Constable @tycnstable is a guest contributor for Bat Flips & Nerds.
Make sure you download the superb podcast featuring John in conversation with journalist, author and storyteller-extraordinaire, Ben Reiter.