Tuesday, February 24, 2009

For the Love Of The Game

RT Staff: The following was written by a writer that only identifies themselves as L.E.M.S. We liked it and therefore felt compelled to re-print it. Enjoy!

The beauty of the game - and why some women love the men who play it.

Since I can remember baseball was a part of my life. I had three cousins living with us when I was a year or so, and I credit my two older boy cousins for rubbing some of their youthful roughness and competition off on me.

For some who may not believe that I had my own understanding of the game by the ripe age of 2 take my father's college graduation into account. Me, all dressed up like a perfect princess, but standing on my chair in the crowd chanting as loud as I could, "let's go Mets, let's do it again!' Okay, to give myself some credit it was a large crowd (very stadium-esque) that I was in, and how many 2 1/2 year olds really know where they are all the time? But yes, this was proof that I had learned a lot from my Uncle's 1986 Christmas card video which was highlights of the glorious 86 Mets season.

I lived for baseball... for playing it, and for the season itself. I was child of summer. I had a larger collection of baseball cards than most boys I knew- and next to my Mark Paul Gosselaar and JTT posters in my bedroom was a giant Nolan Ryan poster. I loved Doc Gooden too- but after my cousins broke the drug scandals to me in the early 90's I had to hide my adoration. He wasn't a good role model according to my parents.

I played softball like it was the greatest skill I had ever learned. I had to, they forced once the town I lived in split into girls and boys leagues. Pitcher, shortstop, 3rd base, 1st base and then the outfield after we discovered that I had a wicked arm. I loved going to professional games, but I loved playing in my own even more. I went to Mets games with my Uncle, the one credited with teaching me all the chants and the most die-hard Mets fan I know to this very day. I guess I fell in love with the game before I even knew what love was.

Half the fun of being a baseball fan was having one side of the family as Mets fans, and the other as Yankees fans. The bickering and trash-talking always amazed me, and still to this day does. By the time I reached high school I had been to four professional baseball stadiums and one minor league one. I played softball all through high school, and even entertained the idea of playing in college.

I ended up going to college in the Hudson Valley far enough from home, still close enough to the city. That's right, the only city in the world that I love - New York. I was thankful I was still so close to see games whenever I wanted. I credit my college boyfriend for restoring much of my faith in the game after I lived in agony over the 2000 Subway Series.

As a Red Sox fan he taught me the true art of dedication. I knew disappointment as a Mets fan, but not to the extent he was living in. I learned so much that I eventually developed a bit of a dedication to the Sox (and to Gabe Kapler's beautiful arms in right field and Derek Lowe's farmer-meets-surfer looks). After deciding it wouldn't make me a traitor to have a favorite NL and AL team, I accepted my Red Sox t-shirt he bought me for my birthday. Because yes, he refused to buy any other MLB merchandise than the Sox. Hey, at least we spent Valentine's Day in Cooperstown one year.

Somewhere along the way my love for the game grew to a love of those who play it. I know it's partially out of awe and admiration- I envy them for playing a game for a living. I admire them for having a job that they are so passionate about. I know I always liked ballplayers, and that I've always gotten along better with athletes in general. They understand that aggressive, competitive gene that I have in me.

Before the summer of 2005 the only ballplayers I knew were my friends from home and the few I knew in college. Professional ballplayers and I had never been a part of the same social crowd. Until, my internship in the minor leagues. Blame the chubby relief pitcher for turning me into a giggling stupid school girl while he asked what hats I liked better that we sold in the store.

A lot of ballplayers believe girls chase after them for the uniform, which yes, is partially true because it's part of the deal. But there's another part that is often overlooked, the part that honestly means more than whatever size paycheck they earn. Maybe minor league players have the best, because they haven't reached that status in the press, they don't worry about all of the off-field antics, they live to play the game, and hope that they do it well enough to make a living. They have a passion for the game like they're still kids playing little league. Really, they're just a bunch of 7th grade boys with overactive sex drives. Or so the 2005 South Atlantic League taught me.

I love the game for its innocence, for the feeling I get when I'm in a stadium watching what is truly a work of art. Maybe I like ballplayers because they remind me that people still follow their dreams. Because they prove to us that heroes aren't always perfect but we can still learn from them, and love them. Maybe I love how I don't have to explain why I'm a bad girlfriend during baseball season, because they get it. Because for the players, baseball also comes before everything else. They get my love for the game, my dedication for the whole season without a lengthy explanation.

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