Sully’s note: This is the first article published on Hooking Foul not written by me. I’m very happy to have it be from Jay who, while he hasn’t written anything for the site until now, has been an integral part of HF since its inception and his influence can be seen everywhere.
It’s time to come clean, I love baseball. Yep…love it. Watch it damn near every day in season, take part in several fantasy leagues and proudly (well, somewhat proudly) wear a baseball cap nearly year round. While I realize that it’s wildly unpopular among the nerderati to take part in anything “sportsball” related, I just don’t give a fuck. While I’ve never been one to follow the crowd, I can’t help but find it incredibly tedious to have to defend my love of the game.
I wasn’t always a baseball guy. I grew up learning to program in BASIC when most kids were learning to hit off a tee or throw a ball. To this day I still lack any athletic ability at all, to the point that I’m going to have to outsource games of catch with my son.
My father was a hockey guy, so not only was that the dominant sport in the house, but it also lead to an under appreciation of baseball players as athletes. I’d watch Cam Neely take a stick to the face, go to the bench, and return 5 minutes later, soaked in blood and sporting 15 stitches. Meanwhile, I’d see baseball players (making 4x the money no less) go on the disabled list for 6 weeks with a blister or a sore toe. To an 8 year old kid, the winner was pretty clear.
It wasn’t until my late teens that I gave baseball a chance. I blame Sully, actually. At his place on lazy summer afternoons before or after band practice we would inevitably end up in one of two scenarios: hours of gaming (N64 mostly) or a Red Sox game. It started innocently enough. I’d make up nicknames for the players and mock them while Sully pretended I wasn’t obnoxious. Soon I found myself understanding the game and focusing more on what would happen next instead of nicknames and bad puns. Then it happened. I was watching by myself. Checking box scores. Saying things to co-workers like “Naaa, this team has no chance with this bullpen”. Uh-Oh.
It wasn’t long before I discovered “statistics” and my transition to the dark side was complete. Suddenly I wasn’t just watching guys in tight pants whack a ball around, I was watching a hitter raise his OBP. I was calculating matchups based on a pitchers WHIP or his K/BB ratio against left handed hitters in night games after August 1st when competing for a playoff spot. It was a sickness.
I didn’t attend my first baseball game until I was 23. It was one of the first “real dates” my wife and I went on. Curt Schilling’s first game in a Red Sox uniform against the Yankees. She loved baseball (even though she was afflicted with the illness known as “being a Yankees fan”) and it added another dimension to my love of the game. We’d watch games together and argue over who was better than whom. We lived in Boston during the 2004 world series run and watched kids from Northeastern pour out into the streets and march to Fenway. The city was electrified. Our apartment was only a mile from the ballpark, and we could hear the cheer of the crowd before the play happened on TV. Ok, the nostalgia is getting a little thick here, but the point is that it was a very special time in my life and baseball was a big part of it.
You see…baseball isn’t just “sportsball” or guys with beer guts getting paid fat stacks to stand around. It’s the promise of spring after the bitter cold of a New England winter. The hope of a new season, a new team, a new batch of stats. It’s knowing that if I have nothing to do, I have something to do, since there is baseball to be seen every night. It’s a game I can enjoy while doing something else. It’s a game of heroes and villains…of epic victories and heart breaking defeats…unexpected players providing surprising outcomes.
And it’s a new song! Well, not mine, but a new recording of someone else’s song! So here’s to another season of hope, Go Sox.