Author's note: This post is actually from my fiancee, who'd been exposed to some baseball but never connected much with it until we met. Slowly but surely, I dragged her into the world of being an Orioles fan in exile (we live in Texas). She's sat with me through numerous evenings in front of MLB.tv, and eventually we made it to Baltimore to visit my family and take in an Orioles game. She wanted to share her baseball journey through this particular lens.
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I would never really consider myself a true baseball fan. I don’t have the dedication, the attention span, the statistical wherewithal, the heart, or the drive required of a real fan. It is really stressful when you start to care about a team! Even with my limited exposure, I find myself yelling at players (who cannot hear me) when they mess up easy plays that cost them the game. I can see myself dividing my friends into people who I can really count on, because they root for the right team, and those who I cannot. I picture myself only wearing certain colors during the baseball season for good luck. As a social worker, I don’t need that extra stress in my life; I am having a hard enough time trying to change the world!
However, I can say that I have had true fan moments: when you let everything else go and lose yourself in a baseball experience. Those moments are glorious. A few of mine came when I was younger. I grew up in Atlanta and one of my first baseball memories was learning the Tomahawk Chop at a Braves game at Fulton County stadium. That was the first time that I connected with a large crowd and felt pride in a team. Another came when the Braves won the World Series (I know. Sorry, Orioles) when I was in elementary school. The next day, we all came in wearing our Braves pride on our sleeves. I was part of a community.
I had my next big fan moment a bit later when the Boston Red Sox reversed the curse to win the World Series in 2004. (Again, sorry!) I was in college at the time, and my school was near Fenway Park. After the Red Sox victory, thousands of people poured into the streets and ran to the stadium. Everyone was screaming and cheering and crying; perfect strangers were hugging. It didn’t matter what school you went to, how old you were, or where you were from. Your Red Sox fandom superseded all of that. We were a united Red Sox front, and it was amazing to be a part of.
My latest experience with a fan moment was last September at Camden Yards, home of the underrated and full of potential Orioles (yay!). I was meeting my boyfriend’s extended family for the first time, and I was super nervous. Before the game, I kept thinking about worst-case scenarios. What if I trip and fall in front of them? What if I say something wrong? What if they decide I'm not good enough for their family? What if they hate my sense of humor? What if I eat the wrong thing? OH MY GOD THIS IS GOING TO BE TERRIBLE.
And then the game started. All of my angst fell away as plays started happening and we started cheering. For nine innings, we could bond over being a part of the baseball community and rooting for the greater good of the Orioles. The probing questions and personality assessments could wait. Baseball took precedence.
That is the beauty of the game. You can lose yourself in the action, the team, and the community. You become one with the people around you as you cheer and celebrate or boo and cry. I envy people who can live in that world, the true fans. You have something special. I will cherish the few glimpses that I have gotten into that world, and I hope that someday I will have the tenacity (and the blood pressure medication) to join it. In the meantime, I will live vicariously through Ryan, a true O’s fan for life.