For Valentine’s Day yesterday, there was a story on Mets.com in which various players and other baseball people explained why they loved the game so much. I know I’m a day late, but the snow and the warmth of home made me lazy yesterday, so here is how I would answer the question, “Why do I love this game?” This is just what I could come up with off the top of my head at the moment. I’m sure if I saved it for a few days, adding to the file periodically as something else came to me, I could drag it out much, much longer.
I love that there’s history, nostalgia — that people care so much about what the game was in the 1920s, 50s, 70s.
I love that it’s the summer game, it’s part of what you do during those lazy, hazy days.
I love that people make a point to visit as many ballparks as they can, that they keep blogs and write books about their travels. Who brags about how many different bland NBA arenas they’ve seen or how many football stadiums they’ve entered? After Lambeau and Soldier Fields, is there a pull to a place because of where it is, not who it is?
I love the cool breeze in the concourse on a hot, humid summer day.
I love the minor leagues, the small-town ballparks — new as they are — with outfield berms, tiki bars, dizzy bat races and seats so close you can smell the pine tar from the on-deck batter.
I love those smells: pine tar, grass, hot dogs, peanuts.
As annoying and cliche as they may get, I love stadium traditions, like “Sweet Caroline” in Brooklyn and “Lazy Mary” at Shea Stadium.
I love balls hit into the gaps with runners on base and the anticipation that builds — will the runner score? Will the batter make it to second? Can he stretch it into a triple?
I love arriving when the gates open, of rushing into a nearly empty ballpark, of hearing the low music echoing off of the empty seats while the home team takes batting practice, their voices and laughter audible amid the crack of the bat and the pounding of gloves.
I love the uniforms and how the players wear those of their teams for the All-Star Game, rather than generic ones like those of hockey, basketball and football players.
I love that whenever I go on vacation between April and September, I check the schedule of the local team and plan an extra day to get to the park.
I love that I have friends who are always up for a game.
I love that I went to my first game in 1983, and I still feel the same excitement at least once a year on the way to the ballpark.