My journey to baseball enlightenment was a long one. I’ve never been what you would call a “sports enthusiast.” I played basketball in fourth grade but could never locate the “key” everyone kept talking about and I never understood why I couldn’t just hold the ball and run. That would make the game a whole lot easier, wouldn’t it? I played softball in a rec league in middle school with similar results. I spent most of my time out in left field picking four-leaf clovers and hoping the ball would not come my way, because I couldn’t throw a ball back to the infield if my life depended on it. I just wasn’t any good at sports and it made me start to resent them.
I decided to give up on sports as a category and just avoid them as best I could, which is hard considering that I work in an industry that devotes approximately one-third of its product to sports coverage. I felt doomed to suffer in silence through the perplexing sports talk and constant fanfare around me for the rest of my life. That is, until I discovered baseball a few years ago.
Baseball is one of the few games I enjoy. The rules are straightforward, it goes at a nice pace and it has just enough suspense to keep me interested. Plus the game is much more fun when I’m not the one playing it. I’ve never had a favorite baseball team, but at least it’s a sport I really like watching. That seemed like progress to me.
Last year during spring training my boyfriend and I were in a store looking at baseball hats. He wanted me to pick a team to root for, just for the sake of saying that I have a favorite team. So I picked a Giants hat and told him with full confidence that the Giants would win the World Series that year. It didn’t make me a Giants fan, it just meant that I placed an imaginary bet on the Giants. And lo and behold, they won.
Picking a team added a whole new element to the game for me. It actually gave me a reason to care who won or lost. I found myself checking scores and stats online, listening to games on the radio in the car, and feeling a sense of pride when the Giants won.
It became a joke that I could predict the results of the World Series. During Spring Training this year I decided to pick the winner of the 2011 World Series. I picked the Cardinals, at random, from the MLB website and placed another “bet.” The odds were not good, and my boyfriend jokingly told me he would buy me a Cardinals shirt if they made it to the playoffs. My shirt came in the mail just in time for game four of the Cardinals vs. the Brewers series.
Does wearing a shirt make me a Cardinals fan? I think most “fans” have some sense of loyalty to a team or the team’s home city. I’ve never even been to St. Louis. But picking one team during spring training and sticking with them throughout the season has shown me what it’s like to be a fan. When you care about a team you feel their ups and their downs, you feel a sense of anxiety at that moment when the game is tied in the bottom of the ninth and “your team” is at bat. It made me want to find a nice team and settle down for life some day. I’m not saying it will be with the Cardinals because I’m trying to keep my options open.
But for now I’m having fun playing “baseball psychic” and trying to guess who will win the World Series. Who is my pick for 2012? You’ll just have to keep reading my columns to find out.
Andrea Goodwin is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.