This time of year – playoff season – baseball acquires some temporary bandwagon-jumping fans. But they’ll be long gone by the time the confetti is swept up from the World Series parade. Baseball has none of the flash of college hoops’ March Madness, none of the big money spectacle of NFL football. Instead it has Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, Wrigley and Fenway, Little League and spring training, and the seventh inning stretch.
With its 162 game season, baseball is a constant companion to the summer (and through the fall, if we’re lucky). On most nights, I can turn on my TV and find my team playing. Seasons are built slowly, game by game. Players go through ups and downs, hitting streaks and pitching slumps. I follow along, wondering if this is the night Rollins will break out of his rut, or whether Hamels will find the strike zone again.
Despite the comfortable routine of following the same team night after night, it’s exciting. Time doesn’t matter on the diamond. Those nine fielders out there are in limbo until the final out. If my team is up by three runs in the 9th, I can’t relax in the knowledge that they can just burn the clock for the last 2 minutes. As long as the other team is batting, there is taut tension, each pitch crackling with excitement. I don’t exhale until the final out is recorded.
DiMaggio, Williams, Mantle – names from a half century ago are as familiar as those of today. Many nights I call my dad and the first thing I say is, “You watchin’ the Phils?” Usually I hear something along the lines of, “Those bums. Ryan Howard has to learn how to hit in the clutch. Yeah, I got the game on.” And I know he does. I can picture him turning off his TV and taking his radio outside to listen to the Phillies, enjoying the game just the way his dad did years before.