Baseball is a part of many lives, but in recent years the popularity of a slow-paced game in a fast-paced society seems to have lost some steam.
I remember my wife asking me once what would happen if we have a little girl someday that would rather play with dolls than a baseball. I said it would be fine, but she’d have a KC Royals hat, a glove, and would know how to play catch as well.
Baseball is a beautiful thing in that it knows no limits. It can be loved and hated simultaneously by anyone, typically dependent upon how their favorite team is doing. It is a sport that is loved by young children and adults, girls and boys, and is shared by friends, families, neighbors, and even rivals.
In recent years, though, talk has surfaced concerning the decline of baseball popularity. As other sports rise and players of those respective sports receive more attention, baseball seems to get the short end of the stick, seeing less and less attraction.
There are likely a number of reasons that many could provide accounting for this declination of support, but it would be difficult to determine that actual causing factor. Still, fans can’t ignore the fact that having baseball at the forefront of sports would be nice.
I’m sure most have their opinion on what to do different within the MLB, but for this writing, the argument is simple, it is up to us as fans to keep the spirit of baseball alive. Now, please allow me to get personal for a moment and share my baseball experience.
My introduction to baseball came at a young age; young enough that I don’t remember it. I have found plenty of pictures, though, of myself as a child wearing KC Royals gear like a loyal fan. Baseball was a part of my large family and remains a part of it to this day.
I remember multiple times during my childhood where I would get to attend Royals games with my father, a pastor. There were times when he would receive tickets from a friend or church member who had tickets and were unable to attend a game. I didn’t always get to go, as I have plenty of older sisters who also enjoyed games, but just attending 1 game was a life-changing experience as it is for many children.
One of my best memories of attending a game as a child, as it is when I know I really started paying attention, is from September 5, 2008. While there were plenty of names to remember from this game, the two that stick with me are Kila Ka’aihue and Devon Lowery.
While it may seem strange to focus on these two names in particular, who had short careers, the memory comes because I witnessed a debut from Lowery, consisting of a scoreless inning with 2 strikeouts and a first career hit and run from Ka’aihue.
Knowing that I got to see these players do great things for their careers and wondering if they would make it to the top provided a sense of amazement and adventure, and strengthened my love for the game.
Baseball became a bigger part of my life and has grown more and more over the past decade as I researched player stats, minor league prospects, and analytics of baseball. Baseball also became a large part of the relationship with my parents.
My father and I were different in many ways, but very similar in that being an introvert comes naturally. My father was a talker to most, but to me, he was the quiet reader in his recliner. We didn’t ever have very long conversations, but when we did, they typically consisted of 3 things, money and future planning, war movies, and most of all, baseball.
He always wanted to know who the new prospects were but also had his own analysis on how the Royals were doing and which players seem to be having good years. For some reason, baseball was easy for us introverts to talk about.
While my mother didn’t talk as deep about baseball, it still became a part of our relationship as well. She enjoyed watching the games and would often stay up later than usual to finish late-night games, especially when Whit Merrifield playing well. When she was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, baseball was one of the many things put on the back burner.
While I was always able to fill her in on what happened with the boys in blue and her favorite super-utility man, I could always tell a difference when she actually got to watch a game. Her mood was different when I talked about it with her. I remember her telling me how much she wished she could see a game at the beginning of the 2020 season, but unfortunately, we all had to wait.
On April 21, 2020, my mother finished her battle with cancer. While a lot happened in just a few days after my mother’s passing, I somehow managed to play more catch than I have in years. If I had a moment, I grabbed a friend, a sibling, or my 6 year old nephew- whose arm is much better than I thought- to throw the ball around. It may be odd to note that playing catch was what I leaned towards, but it provided a break from everything else and provided some comfort.
In the weeks following the loss of my mother, I spoke more with my father about the possibility of an upcoming baseball season, even with COVID still causing issues. Both of us being “Royals Optimists,” we hoped for a season to start, and felt the Royals could really make a move for contention this year.
On May 27, 2020, my father unexpectedly passed away. Some of the last conversations I had with him were about baseball, and neither he nor I would have wanted it any other way.
But what does my personal story time have to do with keeping baseball alive? Maybe for some, it doesn’t, but for me, it shows the path of passing down the sport and how it impacts lives in multiple ways.
Had I not been introduced to baseball by my father, it’s unlikely I would be as engrossed with the sport as I am today. I didn’t have baseball at my small rural school growing up, and I played on no little league teams. I learned what I learned from watching and being given the chance to attend games with my father who knew and loved the sport.
Because baseball was a part of our lives, it allowed us moments of relief. When time was needed to gather my thoughts during the difficult months of April and May, baseball was there. Through writing, stat searching, or playing catch with friends, sisters, a nephew, I was able to find a moment of peace.
In watching the games that she loved, my mother was able to take a break from her suffering and find some joy and entertainment that didn’t come as easy to her anymore.
In talking about baseball, my father and I, who often allowed moments to pass without words, were able to communicate about something we both loved.
Baseball was passed to myself and my sisters at a young age, and I never would have imagined it would become so important.
Baseball is for everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, etc. It is a large part of the sports world, (typically) spanning from February to October with plenty of news breaking in-between.
But, without us, baseball is nothing. Players can play and the commentators can continue to tell their stories, but without the fans, baseball would eventually fall into nothingness. Fans are an important piece of the puzzle that keeps baseball alive and well.
So please, pass baseball on to your children. Pass it onto your friends, family, and neighbors. Attend games with others, have parties to watch the game, or in the time of this pandemic, maybe watch a game over Zoom with friends.
Build a collection of memorabilia and stories to pass along that will continue to be loved by family, friends, and fans for years to come.
Build the love of baseball with those who have not yet experienced the beauty that is born in 9 innings or more of pitching matchups and home runs.
Do what you can to keep baseball alive.
Because baseball is important.
Have some fun, enjoy a game, and keep the spirit of baseball alive.