One week from today, the long MLB season will begin. This probably doesn’t make most people happy, but for me, it is intrinsically tied to my mental health. Emily has observed many times that she knows the depression is really bad for me when I’m not even watching baseball. It’s part of the landscape of my life.
Baseball is a game of rhythm and poetry. It’s about the pauses, about what doesn’t happen, just as much as it’s about the beats and what does happen.
It’s often referred to as a sport rooted in the relationship between a father and a son, which is an inaccurate oversimplification, while also managing to be sexist: double whammy!
The truth in what they are saying is that catching the passion for baseball is a learned behavior. It often happens early in life, being around someone who loves the game, then it burrows down into your bones, grabs hold and never lets go.
The feedback loop of baseball is one of increasing returns. The more you watch and learn, the more nuance you see, the better you get at seeing the game, which helps you watch more closely, which makes you fall deeper in love, and on it goes. I know this is true of most things people love, but it’s even truer of baseball. It’s a game of secret languages, of deep minutia and hidden layers of meaning in every facet of the game. There’s a reason why “inside baseball” is the turn of phrase to describe a detail-oriented description requiring specific knowledge to follow the argument.
During the regular season, baseball is ever present. If you have a favorite baseball team, they play nearly every day. 162 regular season games over the course of six months, followed by the playoffs, if you’re so lucky.
Baseball is for people who enjoy a slow burn, it is for people who need to have a constant stream of content to interpret, it is for people who enjoy watching closely, seeing incremental shifts that only mean something if you know what you’re looking for.
Baseball has been my favorite sport my entire adult life. I feel more at home watching a baseball game than I do in most contexts.
To the disgust of many, the Yankees have been my favorite professional sports team since before I have memories. I have a vague recollection of my first sporting event — the Yankees played the Royals at Yankee Stadium. Don Mattingly hit a home run in this memory, but that seems a little too perfect, so that may be the apocryphal inventions of a child’s imagination.
Anyway, every year, Emily and I find a bar or restaurant to watch the first MLB game of the season, which is always on a Sunday. This year, that first game will be played by my Yankees, a team that probably doesn’t have the pitching to compete this year, but who will still be fun to watch thanks to a bevy of youngsters — Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge to start the year, with more on the way soon –getting a chance to try and join the epic list of Yankee legends and fan favorites.
As I write this, there are 6 days, 14 hours, 26 minutes remaining until the first game begins. I’m ready.