Most of those people have one main thing in common with me: they are fans of baseball. Some are fans who have loved it since they were children and others are considered newbies to the sport.
So if are you one of those newcomers to baseball fandom, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
I’m part of the old guard of baseball fandom.
I’ve watched baseball since I was a little girl – back when I had no idea what I was seeing on the television screen – and in my admittedly myopic view of the world, I figured all baseball fans were like just like me, lifelong fans. It didn’t even occur to me that people could wait until their teens or in some cases adulthood to start watching the game.
I mistakenly thought the love of baseball was something engrained in you during your formative years. I was wrong.
There are people of all ages and from all walks of life who are new to the game baseball.
In some cases, they grew up watching other sports first. In other cases, they’re not from the United States and weren’t exposed to baseball until a visit to our Country.
And I’ll admit that there is a part of me that is slightly envious of the newer fans. They’re looking at the game in wonderment as adults and they’re just learning about a lot of the things I’ve known since I was a little girl.
I’m also envious of the newer fan because their memories of attending their first game are fresh in their mind. I attended my first game nearly 30 years ago and while I do remember some things about that day, most of the memories are a tad foggy.
Of course, that’s not to say I am not still learning new things about baseball. There’s so much to learn about the sport of baseball. Even the people who consider themselves to be experts are still learning everyday.
Personally, I am just beginning to get a tenuous grasp on sabermetrics. I’ve seen enough friends of mine write about stats and I’ve heard them talk about them that now I can actually contribute to some of the conversations and even have a clue what they’re talking about.
And after over 30 years of watching the sport of baseball, I’ve finally begun to write about it regularly.
In this piece, I decided to ask a few of those newbies about their introduction to the game of baseball, why they’re just learning to love it and what makes them love it. I have learned that there are many different reasons for those why’s and what’s.
I first asked if they were new to sports as a whole or just to baseball. In many cases, people tend to watch the sports their parents watch so if someone’s father is a big NFL fan, it usually stands to reason that their child would also grow up to love it.
This is the case for 22-year-old Ashley Varela who grew up a Seattle Seahawks fan.
“Growing up, Seahawks football was revered while baseball was lumped with golf under ‘Most Boring and Unwatchable Sports.’ So, while I was donning football jerseys at the ripe old age of seven, it was another twelve years before I even paid attention to baseball.”
Ashley not only fell in love with baseball hook, line and sinker, she now writes about it here at Aerys. And what made her fall in love with baseball? “The art of base stealing.” Varela continued, “In the first month or two of my baseball fandom, I vividly remember watching Andres Torres execute a double steal. That simple play stole my heart.”
For Jen Mac Ramos, Aerys’s San Francisco Giants head writer, it wasn’t necessarily a different sport holding her back, it was that it took until she was older before she became a rabid baseball fan. And what turned her onto baseball? In her words, “The weirdest mix ever: Bruce Springsteen and Conan O’Brien.“
You may be wondering about that so here’s what Jen said, “Springsteen had made a reference to the Phillies at a concert in 2007 and Conan was making jokes about the Mets that same year. So I decided to flip the channel to the NLDS when I couldn’t find anything else to watch and I was hooked.”
23-year-old Ruhee Dewji, a programmer/blogger who grew up a diehard hockey fan in Calgary, Alberta, said “[I] went through the full gauntlet of sports adoration and heartbreak before I paid attention to baseball at all.”
Dewji said her friends helped get her into baseball. “… friends of mine were really into the Jays and I finally started paying attention to what they were talking about. I don’t know what hooked me; the first game I watched was by myself on the couch in my parents’ house and we lost to the Yankees. It wasn’t exactly that exciting. But I couldn’t stop after that.”
Miles Tossie, 21, of Hutchinson, Kansas who grew up in a big college football household – both his father and brother played – said, “I played all kinds of sports growing up. But for whatever reason, baseball was just something I didn’t enjoy very much.”
And what really turned him on to baseball? Sabermetrics.
“In 2010, I experienced a kind of Renaissance as a sports fan. I stopped watching football and and started following basketball and baseball because they had a well developed advanced stats community.”
22-year-old Jenny Lonussen of the Netherlands is the fan who lives the furthest away from her favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lonussen grew up a soccer fan and always enjoyed watching team sports.
When I asked her why she became a baseball fan, Jenny said, “It’s a turn off for some but I like the pace of the game. I love how important context is in the sport, the amazing history it has and how it still finds its way into the game. That is what sold me and got me watching, I wanted to know what my American friends were talking about and what all these amazing stories meant.”
And how did she become a Dodger fan? Lonussen explains, “One night I decided to watch the American Sports Channel and a baseball game was on. I started to root for the home team (the Dodgers), they won and that was it. I started to follow them and it became impossible not to root for them.”
For Tossie, it was geographical circumstance that led to him rooting for the Kansas City Royals. Though he did admit, “Truthfully, I enjoy following players more than I do following teams.”
Seattle resident Varela chose to root for the San Francisco Giants at first, “Although I live in Seattle, I couldn’t bring myself to support the Mariners and risk disliking baseball because of their poor record. Instead, I adopted my ex’s favorite team: the San Francisco Giants. This year, I finally warmed up to the Mariners. Once my love for baseball had been established, it seemed only natural that I test the tenacity of my affection by following the M’s.”
Not only did freelance writer Varela warm up to the Mariners, she has been able to cover some amazing moments this season – namely Felix Hernandez’s perfect game.
There’s nothing like being at a baseball game. Sure, watching a game on TV can be cool but to be able to experience live baseball with thousands of strangers makes the experience really special.
I have seen no-hitters, triple plays, playoff series clinchers and many walk-off victories in person. I’ve given high fives and have hugged complete strangers at games. It’s a uniting force being a sports fan. It makes you have something in common with millions of people.
And going to games is easy for me, I just hop in a car, drive a half an hour and take the subway 15 minutes to get to Yankee Stadium. Jenny Lounssen traveled all the way from the Netherlands to see her Dodgers play.
“The first time I saw a baseball game in a stadium was amazing. I was excited for months before I got to go. I went to the Stadium early to take it all in, have a chance to go through the stadium shop and record everything I saw via video or photographs. I felt like a little kid all over again, I was excited and I marveled at everything.”
“Dodger Stadium has (in my humble opinion) a beautiful location. And the view of Elysian Park, Down Town LA, the Think Blue sign in the San Gabriel hills are sights to behold. I was in complete awe of the stadium, the location and the ceremony before the game. It was a truly special experience that trumped any live sporting event I have ever attended. It was fun to participate in all the chants with the rest of the crowd – opposed to all by myself in front of my laptop. And for a European it’s especially fun to see how wonderful American baseball games are.”
Lounssen continued, “One thing that made it even more special was getting an autograph from one of my favorite players (Ethier) and making some small talk with him before the game. They won that game too, by the way against the Rockies. The only downside was that my trip overlapped with the final stages of the McCourt era last summer, that took away some of the excitement but nothing could’ve killed me enthusiasm or wipe the smile off my face that night.”
Back in 2003, I took a friend of mine who was visiting the States from Japan to his first Yankee game at the old place. It was the Sunday Night Game between the Yankees and Mets in June of that year. I figured what better way to introduce Shiro to the craziness of the Stadium than a Subway Series match-up.
My favorite part of the night wasn’t the game itself – the Yankees won. It was my friend’s face when he walked out of the tunnel and looked at the field for the first time. For the first time in a long time, I saw the Stadium through his eyes. He looked around at everything, the crowd, the Stadium itself and the field in amazement and couldn’t wipe the smile off his face – just like I did 20 years earlier.
Varela, had the same kind of experience when she first walked into AT&T Park during the 2010 season. “I’m sure I had the most idiotic smile plastered to my face watching Lincecum shag fly balls, Chris Stewart’s first major league home run, and each of Madison Bumgarner’s 10 strikeouts. It was not unlike my first visit to Disneyland as a kid: pure magic.”
Poor Jen Mac Ramos was late to her first ballgame, “I remember I was a little irritated, because we had arrived late and I missed three innings. But after the initial irritation wore off, I began to enjoy the rest of the game. Justin Duchscherer was dominant, throwing a perfect game into the 6th and taking a no-hitter into the 7th — fascinated that I was seeing this live, somewhat annoyed because I had gone to see the Sox.”
She continued, “I chuckled when Ryan Sweeney hit a home run off of Josh Beckett. Duke and Huston Street combined to throw a one-hit shutout and I fell in love with dominant pitching. Looking back on it, I think this game sparked my love for analyzing pitching sabermetrics. I remember it being the opposite of the experience I had expected from being at my first live baseball game, but it shaped my fandom the most.”
Ruhee Dewji was a bit ‘lost’ when she attended her first baseball game, “Actually, the first time I went, I barely knew what was happening at all. I had an amazing time, but all I remember was that the Jays lost 10-5 and Yunel Escobar hit a home run. And most of those five runs were scored late in the game. I had to ask what “fielder’s choice” meant and I didn’t understand why sometimes runners would advance and sometimes they wouldn’t. I had a long way to go.”
And now she writes about it on her blog called Double Switching. Like most fans, Ruhee’s still learning new things about baseball everyday and you can catch her on Twitter picking the brain(s) of other baseball bloggers, trying to find out as much as she can about her new love, baseball.
Mile Stossie’s first game was a bonding experience for father and son, “I saw my first baseball game live in 2008, it was a Royals/Red Sox game. Neither me or my dad were that into baseball at the time, but we had to go to Kansas City for a doctors appointment and Dad decided to make it more fun than that. The Royals lost the game, but that didn’t matter because I had a blast. I got to spend the whole day with my dad, which is something I don’t get to do very often, so it was an awesome experience.”
So now that they’re fully engrossed with baseball what do they like the most about it? As much as the answers varied from person to person, a few of the answers were similar. While stats and sabermetrics have played a big role in bringing in a new kind of fan to the world of Baseball, the chance of witnessing history being made is just as important.
Stossie likes nearly eveything about baseball, “Homeruns. Nasty curves. Beautiful sliders. Great catches. There are lots of things about baseball that make me smile. I mean hell, even a walk can make me smile.”
For Dewji, it’s a mixture of stats and the human connection to the sport that makes it worth following, “I actually like the nerdiness of it. I’m trying to get more and more into advanced stats/sabermetrics and really understand the ebb and flow of things in the game. I like that the nature of the game involves a lot of one-on-one (batter vs. pitcher, etc) so it’s possible to quantify and analyze situations.”
She continued, ”And I like how romantic people get about it. More than any other sport it seems like baseball just hearkens back to a simpler time for everyone — just wipes everything away for a while and lets you immerse yourself. I really love that.”
Lounssen speaks of the history of the sport, “The opportunity for heroics on the field: a diving catch, a walk off hit, double plays, records, streaks, etc. And off the field [think about] guys like Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, etc. And as a Dodgers fan anytime you get to hear a game called by Vin Scully is an opportunity to smile.”
Ramos appreciates the play on the field, “Strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out plays; a good knee-buckling changeup; striped, stirrup high socks.”
I tend to agree with Jen on the knee-buckling pitches and stirrup high socks myself. One of the best pitches of that kind that I can remember was thrown by Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals who froze Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets on a nasty curveball called strike three for the final out of the 2006 National League Championship Series.
And for Varela, it’s the chance of witnessing history, “Rare moments. First home runs, perfect games, walk-off hits, and grand slams. I love knowing that any game has the potential to change MLB history.”
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been attending games or how brief your journey has been, everyone has a place in the world of baseball fandom. So welcome aboard, grab a seat, make yourselves comfortable and enjoy the crazy ride.
Many thanks to Ashley Varela, Jen Mac Ramos, Ruhee Dewji, Miles Tossie and Jenny Lounssen for answering my questions and sharing their experiences with me.