Baseball fandom was fermented in my personal play as a Detroit Tigers fan.
Baseball is one of the most iconic things about America. it unveils an opportunity to step away from the clock; It connects neighbors and it humbles the hubristic. Baseball has been etched permanently in our country’s culture from Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson to Sand Lot and Field of Dreams.
My appreciation for the analog nature of baseball in a digital world is not how I became a fan, though. Like many skills in life, baseball is easier watched than done. I am guilty; I have perked up off my couch with a loud, “Why would you swing at that?!” a time or two. The reality is baseball is difficult–and put in that same situation, I know I would not fare better. This realization is how my appreciation for the game and for the very best players began.
Growing up, I was often active one way or another. During these years, baseball was more of something to do over a sport I loved. My first year of organized baseball was at the age of four playing t-ball with a squishy ball and a plastic glove. Our sponsor was Tiffany’s Pizza, a local pizza joint still in my hometown today (fun fact: they also own Mootz Pizzeria in Downtown Detroit). Photo day was possibly the most embarrassing; as the photographer forced me into an awkward pose with a bat before a forced smile. I didn’t have the courage to tell her I was left-handed.
I could not begin to share much of anything about the games themselves, which gives insight as to where my head was at the time. The next year, I made the decision that I did not want to play baseball. I didn’t hate my first year, but I felt I could make more out of my summer outside of practices and games. Credit to my parents on this, who honored my choice and who I know would have been perfectly okay if I never decided to play again.
I would never skip of year of baseball through my senior year of high school; many years playing on multiple teams. As my skill grew, my love for the game grew. I started to gain some ground at the catcher position where I would play almost exclusively until age 12 (not too many lefty catchers in the game). Because of my position and the era I grew up, I became a prodigious fan of Pudge Rodriguez, who was fresh off a World Series victory with the Florida Marlins in 2003.
The Tigers had my attention before, but when they signed Pudge in the off-season heading into 2005 season, my Tiger love took off as an 11 year-old; then their World Series appearance in 2006 cemented it.
Going to Games
Attending a baseball games were some of my summer highlights growing up and remain as something I look forward to each year. This was another instance in which my own play would influence my perception of the game. My first game I attended was in 2001, where my elementary school would haul us to Comerica Park to watch the Tigers take on the Red Sox. Our gym teacher was notorious for sports trivia and would reward us with candy bars (crazy, right?!) and I recall scoring a Snickers when I knew that Pedro Martinez was scratched from the start he was scheduled to make when we attended.
I cannot recall important plays or final scores, but I do recall being in wonder not only at the size of the park (these were the days of the flagpole being in play in left-center), but also just how hard the players threw and the effortless nature in which they threw it with. Watching games on TV hides this subtlety well. The pitchers’ camera angle is almost perfectly vertical, while fielders only get a brief shot before the cameraman follows the ball to its destination. Watching the velocity and accuracy of each throw was top on the list of highlights for me as an impressionable first-grader.
Without the connections I was able to make between playing and watching, I am not sure I would be the fan of the game I am today. How did you become a baseball fan? Please share–I would genuinely love to know.