Playing ball

Something strange has happened to me over the last six months. Something I always swore would never happen to me. Something vaguely shameful for a thoroughbred Brit whose very masculinity is defined by an overwhelming desire to eat pie, chips and gravy before watching a footballsoccer match.

Reader, I like baseball.

I have no idea how this happened. As far as I was concerned, the only game with a bat and a ball that was worth its salt was cricket. You know, the game that takes five days and generally ends in a draw. That doesn’t mean there’s no excitement in cricket though. As a kid, I once broke a school mate’s nose playing cricket, accidentally swinging my bat backwards into his honk in flamboyant search of a boundary as he stood too close as wicketkeepercatcher. I managed to turn around in time to see his nose explode with the explosive power of a November 5July 4 firework. Paul Connell, if you’re reading, I’m truly sorry.

Our closest thing to baseball was rounders. With a shorter bat, and generally a tennis ball instead of a hard ball, rounders is to baseball what Joey from Friends is to Laurence Olivier. The only real memory I have of the game is the fact that, on seeing a player hit the ball far enough to allow them to get around all bases, it seemed to be compulsory for all participants to chant “rounder, rounder, rounder, rounder.” Trust me, there’s no greater sound in the world.

I always thought that baseball was a ridiculous waste of time, with far too many games every season to be taken seriously. And to be fair, rarely can so many out of shape men been employed as professional sportsmen. My dog can run faster than most baseball players, and she’s been dead for ten years.

But strangely baseball got its claws into me. Maybe it’s the endless statistics, or maybe it’s the fact that the backpages of the New York tabloids constantly splash on baseball stories. But however it happened, I’m hooked and there seems to be no way back.

I’ve only ever been to one baseball game, at the very start of this season with Brit Out Of Water Sr and The Eldest. That titanic struggle was between one of the most famous names in international team sport, and the side that has finished last in its division for nine of the last ten years. And was the worst team in the whole of baseball last year.

Needless to say, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 6-3 that day, went from strength to strength during the season, and are currently playing the first game of the “World” Series. If you need your rubbish side to become useful, my father, stepson and I are all available at the start of next season to attend a game and support the opposing side.

I hate to admit it, but I’m actually going to miss baseball for the next six months. I’ll be savouring the World Series for all I’m worth, and hoping that the Rays come through to win over the next seven games.

If it comes down to the last game next Thursday, and a Ray hits a winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning, I want to hear the entire crowd on their feet shouting a lusty chant of “rounder, rounder, rounder, rounder,” OK?

10 thoughts on “Playing ball

  1. Silverback

    Cannot get ‘into’ the game myself but I do enjoy NFL footy.

    Living here about an hour from Tampa means getting 101% tv coverage like you’ve never seen. It’s like living in Barnsley if they were in the FA Cup Final. (I’ll leave Man Utd references for now !).

    The Rays didn’t get off to a winning start last night so it’ll be interesting to see how the locals put a spin on that. Maybe our news programs will actually show some news now.

  2. Brit Out of Water Snr

    The thing I remember most about that game was the almost funereal silence of the crowd. Just before the game began, there was about two minutes worth of chanting from the bleachers, but after that……..practically nothing! The hot dog vendor was probably the noisiest person in the whole stadium!
    Spend a couple of hours on the Stretford End (Sorry, West Stand) and you can hardly hear the bloke standing next to you.
    At Yankee Stadium I was glad to get out if only to be away from the noise of that bloody clock ticking.

  3. LB

    Welcome to the dark side! Baseball is brilliant. No really. Just like Mike says, it’s all about nuance. A good ‘at bat’ can be almost like watching federer v nadal in a wimbledon final too – all the emotions are there and the tension really builds in such an amazing way….

    It also has a good spattering of luck to it, which most American sports have tried to surgically remove. Obviously, the Rays are good, but they have been lucky on occasions too – and that’s what makes baseball much more of a Brit-friendly sport in my mind. The chance for the underdog etc etc.

  4. Expat Mum

    As a diehard Cubs fan (oh, damn I’m crying again) I also love the game. You should get yourself off to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It’s a great trip.
    With a husband and two kids who are fanatical, I can’t really not like baseball but the history, the traditions and Wrigley Field within walking distance. Oh my.

  5. Chunks of Reality

    I used to be married to an Englishman who came here to live in the US and absolutely fell in love with baseball. His favorite team was the Atlanta Braves. He never thought about it before moving here…he was all about football.

    I think it’s because the American culture isn’t that big into football and so what are you to do? Baseball is better than basketball, that’s for sure (in my humble opinion).

    Have fun being out of water…if I had my pick, I’d live in Scotland again and get out of the States.

    Great blog design!

  6. Trixie Trouble

    Hey it’s more of a sport than watching those pumped up noncy jocks in swaddling clothes run for two minutes before taking a break . .. ain’t nothing but poor mans rugby!

    Ha! Ha!

  7. Jan

    Perhaps when you played rounders it was with a tennis ball, it wasn’t so in my day, and it isn’t in the real game.

    The ball in rounders is very hard, something on a par with a cricket ball, believe me I’ve been hit with them enough times to know. Just thought I should set the record straight. Rounders is not for wimps, and I was only aged 9 or 10 when I used to play. Sans padding, I hasten to add. We were tough in them days.

    Sorry, I’ll get me coat, I can feel a Monty Python sketch coming on. 🙂

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