I always loved baseball and I want to tell you how that happened.  There are five unique things that appealed to me from my childhood.

Keep Score on Your Own Scorecard

The scorecard allows showing what happened in each plate appearance, and for runners reaching base weather or not they came around to score. 

When I do see someone with a scorecard the person is usually older.  I always am inspired with a respect for that person.  He or she seems to be showing proper reverence at an important event.  I am also happy for that’s a person who gets the whole point of the game.  He or she also is not demanding to be entertained nor basing satisfaction with the experience on one preferred team winning.

Someone first learning to keep score will be learning about the rules and rhythm of the game.  They also participate in one of the time-honored traditions for fans and broadcasters. If you think you’d like to give it a try, see this online tutorial!  One of the difficulties can occur when a team “bats around” (more than 9 men come to the plate) because then some players will bat more than once in an inning.

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Completing this scorecard allows you to look back and be reminded of all that happened in a game.  It also will become a souvenir by which to always remember the occasion.   Situating the event in time allows looking back with a much clearer perspective.  Having the date on that scorecard can remind you of other events happening for the team or in your own life.  You might also bring that scorecard along if you ever should have a chance to get autographs from the players involved.

I recall only once when I kept a scorecard while attending a game.  It seemed like a distraction from watching each pitch.  I want to be ready in case the ball is hit to me.  After all, baseball is an audience participation sport!  That’s the point of the next section.

Game Comes to the Fans – Souvenir Baseballs

In no other sport do such a high percentage of fans go home with a ball that was used in the game.  This highlights two important facts:  the pitchers are very often preventing the hitters from making solid contact.  Every other ball that hits the bat is headed toward the spectator section, so it has always been important for fans to be alert for these flying objects! 

A fan who came prepared to the 2007 Home Run Derby at AT&T Park. Photo by Eric Molina, licensed for use by Creative Commons.

In recent years that has changed. The extensive use of protective netting keeps the most dangerous foul balls from reaching the fans.  It makes you think that much pain and injury was visited upon inattentive patrons at ball games before 2017. That was the year that saw a rapid expansion of protective netting.  I suspect that the related rash of injuries to fans was connected to increased inattentiveness. That was as cell phones and other distractions proliferated in the 2010s. 

Sitting behind home plate in the club level and having foul balls land close by gives an appreciation for the incredible amount of spin on these balls.   It gives you some respect for those able to make a barehanded catch!  Sitting in the outfield and watching fly balls approach gives an appreciation of how a well-struck ball will really sail. 

One thing was most striking at the live games I attended in 2021.  This was how much I enjoyed following all of the fly balls during their journey through the air.   Except for some of the replays with home run balls, television just can’t show the full flight of the ball.  You only see a view from behind the pitcher until the ball is hit, then a view of the fielder either lunging or waiting for the ball. 

For those who claim that baseball doesn’t have much action, I would urge paying attention to ALL the batted and thrown balls.  See the plays made by fans in the stands or the ball boy down the left field line. Watch how many pop ups reach the height of the third grandstand deck.  And think about how you’re going to react if one is hit in your direction!

Easy to Find Games to Attend

When you broaden your view beyond the 30 MLB teams, you’ll find that for six or seven months, baseball is everywhere.  While spring training in Florida and Arizona gets most of the attention in February, colleges are also playing late winter games.  Just before Christmas, the college teams released their 2022 baseball schedules and the starting date is Friday, February 18th— a week earlier than the MLB exhibition openers. 

For northern teams, this would be too early to play outdoors on their home fields.  Dozens of these teams migrate south for the first several weeks of the season.  The teams that have access to domed stadiums near campus (such as the University of Minnesota playing at US Bank Stadium) can head north earlier, around March 1st, with the team waiting until early April (and their 27th game) to play outdoors on campus.

Teams like Penn State in a little milder climate have their outdoor home opener in mid-March.  The minor league teams begin play this year in early April, returning to the typical schedule which was cast aside during the two-year pandemic.  Early May brings the start of the Independent Leagues, and the Summer Collegiate Leagues begin around Memorial Day.

The Radio Tells the Story

Baseball is truly a sport made for radio.  This is not a sort of backhanded compliment as if one were to say “This announcer has a face for radio.”  Baseball takes time between pitches, during pitching changes, during one-sided games, for stories to be told.  For explanation of strategies, rule changes, and close calls on the bases.  For interviews with team-related personalities and community leaders.  For remembering players who have passed on.

Rear Admiral David F. Steindl, commander of Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), speaking to Ed Farmer, Chicago radio play-by-play broadcaster during a White Sox game against the Toronto Blue Jays at U. S. Cellular Field. Adm. Steindl had administered the oath of enlistment to several dozen men in a pre-game ceremony.

Skillful announcers weave all of this delightful content into and around the game.  Yes, the game might plod along at a snail’s pace if the broadcast were limited to a literal account of the on-field action.  Instead we learn and remember a lot in addition to the events on the field.

When I was very young and rode in the car with my dad on short errands or longer trips, we often would have a baseball game on the radio. I have never considered radio to be inferior to television as a way to enjoy a game.

Because of their longevity, the announcers can become more popular than most of the players.  The play by play people really seem to enjoy their work, and helping the audience to better enjoy the games.  Ted Lightner recently retired after 41 years calling games for the San Diego Padres. 

While a broadcast tenure of forty years is impressive, Vin Scully may be the all-time record holder for longevity in sports broadcasting, having served in this capacity for 67 seasons with the Dodgers!  He holds the record for youngest person to call the World Series (age 25) and retired in 2016 at age 88. 

The Off-season Has Become a Season of its Own

Do you remember where you were when news broke of a favorite player being traded?  Torii Hunter came through the Twins minor league system.  In the late 1990s, that meant taking a path through the AAA team at Salt Lake City.  At that time, living in Des Moines meant opportunities for me to see Hunter as a visiting player, and realizing that we were seeing the Twins future center fielder.  For eight seasons Hunter played at an All-Star level for the Twins, with the end of his tenure announced on Thanksgiving night of 2008 when he signed a free agent contract with the Angels.  I still remember hearing the news on the radio in my bedroom that evening.

The off-season is fun because fans can see next year’s team taking shape during the winter months, as general managers work their plans.  This part of the year that we think of as being devoid of baseball, actually has a lot of interesting activity which fosters hope in fans.  Almost every team has a shot to be really good “next year” if injuries are few and the offseason additions play to their potential.  With card collecting and fantasy baseball becoming more popular than ever, the number of fans watching closely during the offseason is higher than ever before.

Let the offseason become your springboard to next baseball season as you pore over team schedules, special events, and decide on your travel budget.  Is there a stadium or team that you have always wanted to see?  Put it on your 2022 calendar right now and get creative. In making the upcoming baseball year into a winning season for you and your family both young and old can grow to love baseball even more!