Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Girl's Guide to Baseball

"I see great things in baseball. It's our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us."
--Walt Whitman

A friend of mine was recently complaining about the guy she’s dating being obsessed with baseball. So, in honor of the Nationals’ home opener, I thought I’d pass along what I’ve learned when it comes to boys and baseball. If you want something more official, check out this book.

At the tender age of eighteen, it quickly became clear to me that I needed to learn about baseball. In college, my boyfriend was a big baseball fan as were all his friends who we mostly hung out with. Growing up, I saw some baseball because my cousins played, and I dated a guy on the team, but it wasn’t anything too serious. Suddenly, Spring had sprung my freshman year, and it was all baseball all the time. Because I wanted to share in the fun, I started learning more about the game.

Here are some tips if you also want to start taking part in this national pastime:

Pick a team. Okay, you know how when March rolls around your boss makes you fill out a bracket and then all of a sudden you are screaming your head off for Kent State even though you have no idea where that university is located? Well, the same applies for baseball. I would recommend you pick the team you will be watching the most (like if your b/f is a rabid Red Sox fan) OR you could love your hometown team (GO NATS). Of course, if you do pick the Nationals you are in for a long season. When I picked my team, I was going to college in Missouri, which means I love the Royals. And, they suck (but I love them!).

Do some research. So now that you have a team, check out where they are in the whole of baseball. For example, if you chose the Nationals, a quick visit to the MLB (Major League Baseball) section of ESPN.com will show you that the Nationals are a part of the NL (National League) East. The league a team is in (it’s either in National or American—AL) will most likely start a conversation while watching the game. As far as I can tell, the main difference between the NL and AL would be the designated hitter. The AL rule says a pitcher (who is a very valuable part of the team) does not have to bat. In the NL, he does. You’ll hear a debate or two about this while watching the game. Also, the winner of the AL will play the winner of the NL in the World Series.

Pick some players: This really helps out because now you have someone to watch close and really get excited about when they bat. Again, you'll need to do some research. Many players have interesting backgrounds or have particular charities that they do work for that make them more interesting to you. But, I have found it's really the more you watch the players, the more you care. For example, I loved watching Johnny Damon when he was a Royal. A few years later, he was on the Red Sox and he grew out his hair and had this Jesus thing going, which was hilarious and awesome. I kept cheering for him even though I am primarily a Royals fan. And, I still like him even though he is a dreaded Yankee.

Also helpful are during games is when they some behind-the-scenes-type feature that goes more into a player’s life. You may find you start really liking a player over time, especially if he can hit those dingers. I personally like new pitchers, fresh off the farm and looking to prove something. Over time you'll find the type of player (talented, funny, hot, asshole, etc) that most appeal to you.

Look hot. After doing a little research, you’re going to need to get some gear. If you’re just watching the game w/ the guys, I’d suggest a cute (read: tight) tee w/ your team on it. Once you get more familiar with the team and have a favorite player, it’s extra cute to get a tee w/ the players name on it. For example, I love my Johnny Damon shirt my buddy got me in Boston. As you become even more confident in your gear, I’d start rummaging for some “old school” tee shirts. My Royals shirt it straight up from the 80s when they were winning with George Brett, and I love it. But that’ll take some time. Start small.

Get to a game. You cannot love baseball until you have been to several games. And, if you are going to a game, you need the shirt and cap. Look, I don’t care if you think you look like an assclown in baseball caps, wear it. You gotta sport one if you go to the game. Don’t be “that girl” who could looks like she’s going to hit 1223 after she leaves in the 7th. You’ve got to wear the cap, chug the beers and yell at the umps. And, don't do the wave. It's lame.

Lingo. This isn’t a huge deal to learn, but it also doesn't hurt to study up because it’s fun to not only shout “Derek Jeter’s a cheater,” but also “About time you got some heat on it.” It’ll be really cute.

Knowing when to ask questions. Obviously, there is a lot to learn when it comes to enjoying baseball. And, you should feel comfortable asking questions that aren’t totally stupid. Once you have a good sense of the game, it is perfectly fine to ask about players or how a team is doing. Dudes love to give their opinions about sports. I would not suggest trying to be super deluxe baseball girl and argue quite yet. Simple questions like “You think the Yankees bought a World Series this year with that payroll?” or “So you think the Cardinals will win it all?” should suffice.

Fantasy Baseball. Okay, so you notice that your man is suddenly spending EVEN MORE time on the Internet? He talks to his “friends” a lot about “RPIs, GIDPs, ERA and BALKS.” It’s because he’s in a fantasy baseball league. This is where him and his buddies draft players and play each other based on points each of their player get during the week from his performance in real games. Okay, that might not make a lot of sense, but just know that it’s kind of complicated and it means that he now cares about how many times really random players bat and get out at first and stuff.

Baseball Parks. I think where the game is played is one of the most interesting aspects of the game. Each park has some history and character that is unique to its team. I think Kauffman Stadium is the best one out there. You may be a bigger fan of Camden Yards or Wrigley Field, but it's important to understand the ballpark as you are learning about the teams.

A couple small points: Yes, the announcers on TV are (generally) as annoying as they are stupid. Yes, all the baseball players say the same thing in different ways. Yes, it can get a little boring, but the more you love it--it becomes less and less boring.

Baseball is an important American tradition. Most people who like it take it very seriously. It’s a fun excuse to hang out with your guy and his buddies, drink some beer, eat some junk food and root, root for the home team. And, like most things, the more you learn about it the more you will love it.

And, rent Bull Durham. Now.

Here's the opening narration from Annie Savoy, a baseball fan in every sense of the word:

I believe in the Church of Baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there's no guilt in baseball, and it's never boring... which makes it like sex. There's never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn't have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I'd never sleep with a player hitting under .250... not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle. You see, there's a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I've got a ballplayer alone, I'll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. 'Course, a guy'll listen to anything if he thinks it's foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty. 'Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball - now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God's sake? It's a long season and you gotta trust. I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.


Blogger dn said...

Nicely done. One quibble would be "Bull Durham", which is probably no more of a baseball movie than "A League of Their Own". "The Natural" is good, and features the dreamy Robert Redford, so that's cool. "Field of Dreams" is great, but a little heavy for a newcomer. The obvious conclusion is to recommend "Major League", starring Charlie Sheen (in his hooker phase! er, "phase"). "Major League" has it all. It's flawless. Rent that instead.

2:16 PM  
Blogger DC Cookie said...

THIS is why I adore you...

I pick...the Toronto Maple Leafs. Oh shit, that's hockey... ;-)

Perhaps I have recently been converted into an Orioles fan, provided they're not playing the Jays.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love going to baseball games! We should make a trip of it one day.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

"Baseball is the only major sport that appears backwards in a mirror."
-George Carlin.

Nice post man. As for the ballparks, the WORST is without a doubt the one in Minneapolis. Metrodome I think it's called. Don't ever go there. Indoor baseball is heresy. I think Canadians invented it.

4:07 PM  
Blogger V said...

Dn: I know I should like The Natural more, but Bull Durham is so much fun to watch...and certainly the cinematic greatness of Major League cannot be overstated.

Cookie: Aw, I'm here to help...indeed after chugging GG w/ Angelos' boys in a limo, I am a much bigger fan than before.

4:14 PM  
Blogger V said...

Chase: Agreed. Maybe a Sunday game at JFK?

Sean: I haven't been there but I must say the Mets also have a real stinker.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

Yeah, Shea isn't so great but it's outdoors plus upon leaving you're not surrounded by people straight outta' the set of "Fargo".

Heck d'ya mean?
bullet in my brain please....

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Sally said...

I'm going to the game tonight, Sup now!

Watching baseball used to rank right up there with "eating glass", but I find as I get older I have the patience to watch and pay attention to a whole game. Beer helps too.

9:58 AM  
Blogger V said...

Sean: Funny. My fav "Ya, now we're really in the sausage grinder"

Sally: Hell yeah. I might be going tonight, too. We must agree that if one of us goes on the jumbo screen, she will flash the crowd.

12:11 PM  
Blogger V said...

Sean: Funny. My fav "Yah, now we're really in the sausage grinder."

Sally: Hells yeah. I might be going tonight, too. We must agree that if one of us goes on the jumbo screen, she will flash the crowd.

12:12 PM  

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