This post is mostly for my old roommate, Christine; Carrie and Henrik; and my little buddy, E. The rest of you are welcome to read it, though, since I decided to post it here! I watched a lot of baseball with them in the past, and... well.... read on!
As you know, in the past, I haven't really loved baseball. Now, I've never hated it, and I've enjoyed going to games, but it hasn't been my favorite sport to watch on TV. I'd never choose to stop and watch a game as I flip through the channels. Just about any football game is great with me, and high school or college hoops are pretty great (especially in person), but baseball I could take or leave.
Early this spring, as the baseball season started, I decided to take a look at my feelings on baseball. Why didn't I enjoy it as much as other sports? Why is it that so many other people do? Why can I LOVE baseball movies like The Rookie, Fever Pitch, A League of Their Own, The Natural, and of course Field of Dreams "Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa!", but not really love the sport itself? Well, I figured a few things out.
First of all, I realized my bottom-line issue. I love team sports. I love everything about working on teams: pulling together in adversity, having unity, and giving up one's self for the betterment of the team. I started to watch a few baseball games to figure out why I felt like I did, and in the very first game I realized that I viewed baseball as a one-man sport. Now I know there is a whole team in the outfield working together, but they are all working against one person, the hitter. It didn't seem fair to me! All the other guys on HIS team were just sitting on the bench, not even always watching to see how he did! He looked pretty alone out there, and there was a lot of pressure for him to do well -by himself!
Secondly, I realized quickly that I don't know a lot of the ins and outs of the game. I enjoy football and basketball better because I understand what's going on and what some of the strategies are. I don't know many baseball rules, or why teams choose to do certain things.
Well, realizing my two issues, I decided I needed to make a change! I decided to CHOOSE to like baseball! I started watching more and more Twins games, and it quickly became a great thing to have on TV while I was trying to pack.
I also decided that I needed to learn more about specific players, since I really love the personal side of sports. I caught a late-night show on ESPN about Joe Mauer, and this was even before I knew he was E's favorite player! It helped to learn more about this guy who grew up in St. Paul, played three sports for one of our local schools, and came from a baseball family. It was great for me to put a face to baseball!
On August 17th, as I was driving back from visiting the Nilsen's in Iowa, my dad told me that he and my mom were going to the Twins game that night. With my new-found enjoyment of the game, I asked if I could go with! I figured we'd have nosebleed seats somewhere in general admission (where I usually sit at the Dome!), but it turns out that one of her doctors bought everyone tickets, there was an extra ticket for me, and they were GREAT seats! We were in the 17th row along the third-base line!
When I went with Carrie and her boys to the zoo, I showed E these pictures then, but I promised to get them posted sometime so he can see them whenever he wants. Here you go, E!! Here are some of the players before the game. See how close we are?!(click on pictures to make them bigger)
Here is Joe Mauer after warming up.
And Casilla, Cuddyer, and Punto before the game.
In the 7th inning, Nick Punto struck out with the bases loaded. We were sure hoping for a grand slam!
He redeemed himself with the last play, though. We were tied up with the Rangers and had gone into the 10th inning. Punto hit a single but the Rangers made an error and he made it all the way to second base (if I'm remembering this right!). Here you see that Mauer came up to bat, but when the pitch bounced off the catcher towards the backstop, Punto ran to third and then Mauer waved him home!
You would've thought we just won the playoffs by how much excitement there was! The fans went wild, Mauer lifted Punto off the ground, and the rest of the team ran into a huge huddle! It was a fun game to be at!
One of the best parts of the game, though, was just before it started, when the 1987 Twins were on hand to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of winning that World Series. It was great to see them together again! I will never, ever, forget the crisp fall day when my mom took Julie and I out of school and brought us downtown for the ticker-tape parade after they won. I will never know what I missed in school that day, but I will ALWAYS remember being around all the excitement of celebrating with the whole city! There were people leaning out of windows, rolls of TP floating down from the tops of skyscrapers, and masses of people watching as the Twins rode by on the street.
The players on this team were the ones I felt like I knew personally. People like Kirby Puckett (my favorite), Kent Hrbek (who I met at the State Fair!), Gary Gaetti, Bert Blyleven, Jeff Reardon, Frank Viola, Greg Gagne, and Dan Gladden. Obviously there were others, but those are names to me that will always symbolize baseball.
At the game, I tried to really pay attention and learn a few more rules or strategies so I'd understand it better, but mostly it was just fun to be there. And one of the great things was to realize that I was REALLY HAVING FUN! At the beginning of the summer I wasn't sure how my determination to like baseball would go, but now that it's been a few months, I've really had a change of heart! There's still a lot more to learn, but now I have to say I'm looking forward to getting the chance to learn it all!
Baseball: What a GREAT All-American Pastime!