My relationship with baseball started the way any great love story does – with a crush. The infatuation would later rival the affection I had for Mike Piazza; yet it was the kind of love that got me all the way to Flushing on a school night. Prior to the spring of 2001, my acquaintance with baseball was limited to what I’d seen in movies like “Angels in the Outfield”, “Rookie of the Year”, and the first two films of the “Major League” franchise. I had only been living in the US for a year and a half, so an interest in America’s pastime was not one I easily embraced. I remember attending school on the day of the Yankees championship parade in 2000, marveling at how many students were missing in my music class. “All this over a baseball game?” I had no idea that I would soon get swept up with the masses in the exhilarating process of becoming a baseball fan.
The crush came about two summers before and was one of my first encounters with teenage boys after spending three years at a Catholic high school in Jamaica. I remember the date, where I was, what I was wearing: I had it bad for this guy. If my brother had not invited him to that Mets game, I doubt my courtship with the team would have ever begun. My father had gotten four box seats for two games from a client and I declined his offer to attend the first game. I was weighing my decision to go to the second game, a Thursday night match versus the Marlins, against the two exams that were scheduled that Friday. After one of my brother’s other friends had to back out, he asked the boy I liked, sending me into a tizzy for the next two days. I spent a good chunk of math class that Wednesday writing a pro/con list, with the object of my affection leading the charge toward ‘yes’.
Cut to Shea Stadium on May 24 where, despite getting there during the fifth inning, I quickly became enthralled with the action as my dad explained elements of the game. I didn’t understand why Tsuyoshi Shinjo wasn’t out after fouling off three pitches – “Three strikes, you’re out, right?” Total noob. My dislike for the Marlins runs back to that first game where they trailed 7-2 by the time we reached our seats. The main goal of the evening had been to spend more time with the boy I liked, but the mission was scrubbed in favor of finding out more about Mike Piazza. The place went nuts every time he was called to bat. I was unaware that these Mets were the reigning National League champions and that their starting catcher was a big deal. I think my dad paid $5 for the player pennant that I still have on my bookshelf today. I loved that there was music, fanfare, and the opportunity to scream as loud as we wanted. The boys spent most of the game down near the dugout, so I remained with my dad for what was the best night of my life at that point. Baseball is still one of the few things I can discuss with my father. The final score of 11-3 cemented my newfound adoration for the team, which only grew in the days ahead.
I was alert enough the next morning to pass my history test, but slept through the one in biology later that afternoon. I like to think that F affected my G.P.A. enough to keep me out of the top three students who spoke at graduation the following year, so I have no regrets.
After that game, I tuned in to day games after school and tried to learn as much as I could via the Internet. I had the Mets to comfort me after my awful SAT scores arrived in the mail and I spent prom night watching a game on TV. This team was the closest thing I had to a boyfriend in high school. If it was up to my parents, it would have been the Yankees. Much like their hopes for my future husband, the Yankees are the stable, successful suitor with the storied legacy, while the Mets are the persevering, praiseworthy paramour with untapped potential. I enjoy sharing my love of the game with the people I care about and baseball has played a huge part in where I am today. It’s not always fun and I don’t always agree with the calls, but this is a passion that runs deep even when I can’t stand to watch games on TV – a feeling that rises up most often in late August. Around the tenth anniversary of my first game at Shea Stadium, I was so happy to return the favor to my dad for his first game at the new ballpark.
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a handful of days and I’m already looking forward to basking in the sunshine radiating from my television. This time of year is always full of hope without the thoughts of wildcard standings affecting my enjoyment of that day’s game. I pray for another mild summer with limited rain delays and meaningful games in September. Thankfully, every team is scheduled to play in October.
I no longer let the game results affect my mood the following day or put off vacations because of the playoff schedule. The admiration has evolved into one that adds to my summer but does not consume it. My high school crush eventually faded yet, despite lulls in my devotion, my friendship with baseball endures. I am extending virtual candy hearts and cookies to my favorite team and wish all my loves health and success in the new season.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
*I’m not cool enough to use the term ‘bae’ in real life, but “before anything else” applied to my feelings about the sport at one time.