A Royal|s| Rant

I’m not a baseball fan… except, I really am.

Let me explain.

My dad is a HUGE baseball fan. And not even just a fan — my dad is totally and completely in love with the game of baseball and all that it has to offer (which is a lot, in case you didn’t know).

My brother and I grew up hearing stories of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, Ty Cobb (the good and the bad stuff), Buck O’Neil and the Negro Leagues, and my dad’s favorite player, Brooks Robinson.

We learned all the words to “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”

I remember my dad had a baseball bat tie that he wore with suits, until he gave it away to his mentor.

We listened to songs filled with metaphors about being on first and running toward “home.”

We watched movies like “8 Men Out,” “Field of Dreams,” and “The Natural.”

And… well, anyway, you get the idea.

THEN I married a man who loves the American pastime.

~~~~~

Each year at the beginning of baseball season I am inundated with a flood of mis-matched and mixed-up emotions.

(I suppose, metaphorically, this is an appropriate response to the complex, diverse, beautiful and exasperating sport).

It has become almost nostalgic to come home and hear a game on the tele. I find it comforting to sit on the couch and knit or work on my computer while being serenaded by the din of a game. I even get wrapped up in many of the games myself!

But then there’s this part of me that dreads the six months of regular-season play. And as all baseball spouses know, it’s … almost.every.single.day … for six.months.straight. And that isn’t even including the two months of post-season baseball banter that we get to enjoy.

(Like how I’m including other people who are married to baseball fans? You know what I’m talking about. I’ve thought about starting a support group. And I’m, like, 85% serious. Let me know if you’re interested.)

Baseball giveth and it taketh away. The game has often taken things that I love away from me, but I don’t resent it… much.

~~~~~

I’ve realized that people either love baseball or they hate it.

See, baseball is one of those sports that you have to give yourself over to. You can’t understand it in an hour, and you don’t fall in love with it overnight. It captures you. There’s a moment — a sound, a smell, a story — that defines your ‘moment’ with baseball.

And then forever after, you’re a fan.

Mind you, by ‘fan’ I don’t mean a screaming, painted, drunken plebeian. I just mean, now you understand and appreciate the game of baseball.

Now you get it.

And that’s exactly how I feel.

I understand (at least on a certain level) the intense longing that comes with watching your team play their hardest.

I feel a sense of nostalgia when I learn about baseball history.

I dig the life analogies made manifest in the game.

I love being at the ballpark on a warm summer night, surrounded by bright lights and noisy people, enjoying a cold beer and a hotdog.

I love the stories of men and women who have fought to play the sport that has epitomized so much of America’s history and culture.

I love the good and the bad, the excitement and the slow moments, the ugly stuff and the beauty…

I love baseball. I didn’t fall for it by choice, mind you, but that doesn’t really matter.

I love it now.

~~~~~

I lived in Kansas City for a few years; for my husband, KC is home.

Out there, baseball games used to be cheap and slightly boring events that were more about hanging out with friends than watching the Royals lose… er, play. Hell, five years ago tickets to a game at ‘The K’ (a.k.a. Kauffman Stadium) cost $5 for general admission, $20 for the good seats, and hot dogs were only $8 a piece.

And now!? Well, let’s just say that this Royals team has changed the course of history.

Little boys want to play baseball when they grow up, girls have mega-crushes on Eric Hosmer, people walk around with blue hair (for real), and ‘The K’ is packed out almost every game.

(Just to throw this out there — I miss “Country Breakfast.”)

~~~~~

I’d venture to say that there are two kinds of baseball fans.

You have folks like our Kansas City fathers who have been waiting for 29 years to see their team rise from the dead. They watched many grueling series, one after the other, and endured loss after loss. They withstood taunts, grew accustomed to an empty stadium, and tolerated condescension. And most importantly of all, they experienced this all while sporting their ’80s and ’90s style, powder blue and golden tees.

And then there are people like me…

Five, ten years ago I admittedly didn’t care a mound of dirt about the boys in blue. Then last year — when KC took the world by storm — THEN I was on the wagon. THEN I got a Royals hat and started following them on Instagram.

When the Royals won the ALCS to go onto the World Series, I cried. And I know that this has to do with the fact that many people that I love are the biggest Royals fans I know.

Admit it: for many of you other KC fans it’s the same story. I would be willing to bet that most current Kansas City Royals fans are bandwagon-ers, just like me.

BUT this is not a bad thing. Actually, it’s all part of the beauty of this crazy game.

The way I see it, baseball is always there for you to come back to. It doesn’t ask you where you’ve been, it just welcomes you back and then keeps on playing. Love it or not, baseball is imprinted on our American psyches just like the the color orange goes perfectly with fall.

I’m back in the game, so to speak, and I’m riding the Royals’ bandwagon.

~~~~~

Regardless how I feel about baseball in any given moment, it’s America’s first and most beloved sport. It’s always been there, and it always will be. I know of no other sport that holds such tenderness and integrity underneath all the prowess and grit.

We lose heart and sometimes we walk away when our boys ride a slump. But then there’s that glorious moment when they’re back in front, and it’s during that time when our love for the game is stoked and the flame returns.

It’s a beautiful anomaly.

Baseball is here to stay, friends, and ya know what? That’s just fine by me.

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