Today, my friends, is baseball's opening day. This means two things: my sleep schedule is about to get all kinds of jacked up, and OHMYFREAKINGGOD I THINK I MIGHT BE ABLE TO LIVE AGAIN.
I am, and just about always have been, a huge, obsessive baseball fan. When I was 9 years old, I discovered the game, and it.was.amazing. I doted on the Atlanta Braves since that was the closest team to me geographically. I collected (literally) thousands of baseball cards (which are still packed in my garage and ready to be sold when one of my kids decides to go to private school/needs a nose job/runs off with a boyfriend and has to be rescued from an airport in New Zealand--I'm looking at you, Big Al). I wrote short articles about important games and unabashedly sent them off to magazines--one of them was actually published in Beckett's Baseball Card Collecting Guide. One Christmas, my parents surprised me with real home AND away Braves jerseys (note: this is why having divorced parents was AWESOME) and I wore these as much as my mom would allow.
And, most importantly, I had a wonderful and amazing grandfather who taught me the history of the game, the artistry of it. We spent many a summer night watching the Braves on TBS while flipping through these huge baseball coffee table books that my mom picked up for me off the clearance rack at the bookstore at the mall. He loved to tell me about Stan Musial (who was his favorite, despite my grandfather being a Yankees fan--who hated Steinbrenner) and Thurman Munson (a close second). We watched The Pride of the Yankees at least three times, and it was actually the last thing we did together before my granddad passed away. It remained in my grandmother's VCR for at least a couple of years after that--no one really wanted to take it out and admit that he was gone.
I lost touch with the game for a bit after my granddad's death. I watched as the Yankees beat the Braves in the World Series in 1996, tears unexpectedly streaming down my cheeks for at least 4 of the 6 games. Those were the last games I watched for a while. I kept up with things through the Yankees' dynasty years, occasionally reading articles and books. But being a teenage girl (and a pretentious little twit at that) became more important. I attended a few high school games and surprised those around me with how much I knew about the game. In college, my apartment was relatively close to the college's stadium, and I would stop by sometimes before going home, taking advantage of my free student admission. I read a good deal of Paradise Lost with the sounds of the aluminum bats pinging in the background. The game welcomed me back, quietly and lovingly.
When we moved to CA, the influx of time without school work and a bit of extra income meant that I began to yearn for the thrill of the major leagues again. Matt and I thought it might be fun to take the kids to see a ballgame. We thought we would go a couple of times and eat hot dogs and drink a few beers (our favorite microbrewery had a stand at the Coliseum) and that would be it. Just for fun. He decided to take Gabby one night before he left on a two month long trip to Russia as a kind of daddy/daughter night out. I stayed home with Sam, who was little and a bit under the weather. When Matt did leave for Russia, I started keeping up the A's season so that I could tell him about it in our daily emails. Just little snippets of the American life that he was missing. And, thus, we both started our often depressing descent into being A's fans. When he returned from abroad, we rode the Bart out to the stadium and bought tickets for all the remaining home games that we could. And the next year, we bought season tickets. I taught Matt about the game, much as my grandfather had taught me. We found solace in it when our lives became chaotic, when the economy began to falter, when words, and joy, were hard to find.
I must add this, however. Being a female baseball fan is serious business. You don't want to be a "pink hat," i.e., a girl who comes to the games to look cute and flirt with male fans. You also don't want to go to see the good looking players (which, if you are interested in that, do yourself a favor and DO NOT become an A's fan. It is like watching the Garbage Pail Kids out there. Joe Mauer, my little croquembouches. It don't get much better). Being a girl means, I think, that you have to be that much more into the statistics--you have to know the numbers and apply them correctly. Educate yourself. You also have to wear your team colors proudly and happily. No cutesy prints, no pink. Straight green and gold, ladies. You can cut your tee to make it more flattering, but remember--this is not the time to worry about sexiness. This is baseball.
Today I came into my workplace and made sure to tell my employer (and my Facebook friends) that for the next 6 months, I will be a different person. I will be alternately ecstatic and depressed. I will say the words "Defense is what wins games!" and "YOU HAVE TO HAVE STRONG MIDDLE RELIEF!!! THAT'S WHAT WINS PENNANTS!" with abandon and at odd times. I will curse the name of Rich Harden AT LEAST 145 times this season. And, please, for the LOVE OF GOD, do not talk about the Boston Red Sox to me. For a reason that I can't quite elucidate, I hate the Boston Red Sox. I don't think I could hate them any more if George W. Bush played first, Karl Rove played third and the starting rotation was comprised of the members of Nickelback. I have said filthy, disgusting and embarassing things about Dustin Pedroia's MOTHER. Let's just not talk about the Red Sox, k?
So Happy Opening Day. May your team win, your enemies lose, and may your middle relief be strong. Unless, of course, you are a Red Sox fan.