I love baseball.
There is a myriad of reasons for my love: warmer weather, bat flips, web gems, and customized jerseys from the lower concourse gift shop. But it goes beyond that. More so now than ever baseball is beautiful because it is a game of stories. When every line is put down on paper, it tells our story. And this could be the best chapter yet. Why? Read on to find out.
Allow me to begin with the obvious. Because one major thing to love about baseball this year and most years involves all of us: we are allowed to go watch the games again. For the whole 162-game season. Less than a year removed from the nightmare that was 2020. Last year’s truncated 60-game season felt like a Disney+ series finale that left sixty loose ends untied. But what if I told you the traumas of last year were about to become a distant memory? No, I am not the new narrator for ESPN’s 30 For 30 series. I am just watching baseball and noticing the ways our oldest pastime is reclaiming the spotlight of the sports world. And why that’s a very good thing.
Like all major sports, popularity is dictated by the superstar. Think LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers, and Tiger Woods. Those athletes sell seats, advertising, and the promise of world-class entertainment. When they’re not around, their respective games suffer. Just look at the PGA Tour. Not only is Tiger the first name only kind of star every sport needs, he’s simply just more fun to watch than most golfers.
Baseball is no different. Players like Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge and Trevor Story demand your attention because even though they’re a few of the best hitters in baseball, they fail at least 70% of the time. But the other 30%? They could very well create a memory that becomes indelible for a lifetime. The new and next generation have pedigrees that suggest they could carve out some of these memories themselves. Take a look around Major League Baseball to find names that strike fans as more than just vaguely familiar to all fans from the casual spectator to the WAR-obsessed sabermetrics diehard. Young studs like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio of the Blue Jays, both with OBPs over .300, stand primed and ready to bolster their namesake’s sterling legacies. They’re not the only one with famous parents, keep an eye out for Mike Yastrzemski in Frisco as well. All three of these players are at the nascent of their careers. If they continue on as they have started, they could situate baseball in a place of prominence it has not seen since Boston shattered the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004.
Peak baseball. It sounds pretty good does it not? Oh, and did I mention that the 2021 season, barely two weeks old, has guys you didn’t know about, in the great baseball city of Detroit, writing a script the cast of Field of Dreams would look at and say, “wow this seems unlikely”. One of them Akil Baddoo, has attained instant legend status. At this point, the Tigers “Rule 5” slugger will either be a trivia question or the next Mike Trout. Here’s what he’s done thus far: homered on his first-ever MLB pitch, hit a grand slam against Cleveland, and scorched a walk-off single versus division rival Minnesota. His teammate, Casey Mize, was the best pitching prospect in Detroit’s farm system. With his first big league win in tow, he could end being the best. Period. More stories like this will emerge as the season advances, you just have to pay attention.
Stories are what connect all of us, an uncommon bond through generations which reminds us that we are not that different. Baseball is a game of stories. Just think of the way you felt the first time you passed through the gates of Fenway Park, picked up a program, and sketched your first single in the scorecard. Look around you and take in the sights, feel the presence of fans just like you at the other twenty-nine Major League ballparks, taking part in something bigger than a game… a tradition.