For the past four years I’ve written many articles all over the internet about baseball, almost all entirely analytics based. I’ve played, I’ve coached, and this past year I had the privilege to intern for Inside Edge. I’m currently waiting to see if I received an interview with the Twins.
Seven years ago, if you would have told me my family lives in Texas and I go to the University of Minnesota, I wouldn’t believe it. The past seven years I’ve taken up permanent residence in all of Michigan, California, Texas, and Minnesota. Relationships have come and gone, and I’ve matured both as a burgeoning adult, and a writer.
This morning I was asked to attempt to write a recap about last night’s 13-12 game. Someone was gracious enough to pick up one of my shifts at work this afternoon, and I just finished up some of the most tedious work you could imagine. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it gave me a lot of time to think.
Objectively, over the past few months, I am in the 99th percentile for amount of baseball watched. And if you read Six Man Rotation, and especially if you write for it, you’re probably in that 99th percentile, too. In January I began the screening process for Inside Edge, and after a successful interview received an immediate offer. I didn’t have a car, and I made/make substantially less than my peers, but I accepted nonetheless.
In March, training began, and we watched old games from last season to practice. There were roughly twenty interns and then some returning guys, as well as some full-time guys. It was fairly uncomfortable at the beginning, as it seemed like everyone was a different age, and everyone seemed to be from a different part of the country. But as soon as we started to discuss certain plays, and really anything baseball, we all connected.
April began, and quickly gave way to May. Eric Thames looked like the front-runner for MVP. May turned into June, and we were about to see one of the best regular season runs ever from an incredible Dodger team. Little did we know it wouldn’t even be the best run of the season. July came and some players switched hands. The dog days of August began with Justin Verlander still on the Tigers, and ended with him on the Astros. Cleveland was able to string together an impressive few games, which gave way to September and winning more games, and they were able to beat the record for wins in a row in the regular season. The Twins clinched a Wild Card spot after losing 103 games last year.
My coworkers and I had grown remarkably close over the course of the season, and everyone really started to click near the end of April. I was taking seventeen credits at the time and balancing another job, on top of running for president of my fraternity and trying to make sure my relationship didn’t fall apart. The last day of the semester, I sprinted from my final exam to my car (I eventually drove it up from Texas), and drove to work. Everything was always stressful until I got to the office. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to type that again, and I’m not sure how to ever put my appreciation into words, but I hope I accomplished it through my time and effort.
The final day of the season, I had the absolute atrocity that was the Pirates v. Nationals game. We had all hands on deck October 1st because many interns and part time guys returned home, many without saying their goodbyes because it was just understood. I was the last in the office and had to say goodbye to every person, and not just a “bye, see you next season”, but with the understanding that you’ll never see some of your closest friends ever again. It hurt the most to watch everyone leave, and I hadn’t ever considered that one day we’d all be gone. For the first time in my life, I was left by everyone else and not the other way around.
I had always loved baseball, and baseball had always loved me. And from the moment I could start playing baseball outside in the spring in Michigan, you couldn’t get me to stop playing until it snowed. Tournaments, league play, whiffle ball, you name it. It didn’t matter to me. It wasn’t unheard of to play 40+ games while I could.
What makes baseball special is that there are 162 games in a season. You never realize how many games that is until you actually sit down and watch, probably, 162 of them. Every day one teams’ fans have to win, and the other teams’ fans have to lose. Some know loss better than others, but it’s not the outcome that matters to them. It’s the fact that, if you lose the first game of the season, you have 161 more opportunities. It’s 161 more days you get to turn on the TV and know you get to watch the Yankees, or the Reds. And for some fans they got to turn on the TV, or the radio for sixty-seven years and hear “it’s time for Dodger baseball”.
As cliche as it sounds, life is a journey. I’ve been through break-ups, I’ve gotten laid off, and the past two months alone have thrown basically everything they possibly could at me. But when I get home and go to bed, I always have a west coast game playing softly in the background. I always like the blowouts because then even the announcers sound lethargic.
You don’t get this level of comfort and attachment through football. There’s only sixteen games in a season, and it always feels like an event you have to plan around, and go out of the way for. If you miss a baseball game, don’t sweat it. There’ll be another one on tomorrow. You can choose how passive or involved your engagement is because you’ll be rewarded either way for different reasons.
As I referenced earlier, the past two months have been incredibly straining for me in all aspects of my life. I like to think of myself as a confident and outgoing person, I’ve always felt good enough about my writing to publish it online, and I’m generally a very good public speaker. All my confidence plummeted and I began to develop very severe anxiety, which brought on constant panic attacks. I came back from work late one night, and I almost couldn’t drive because there were more cars on the streets than I was used to.
One particular night I was watching the Red Sox, as I am wont to do. Andrew Benintendi hit a double to tie the game and I almost started to cry. It wasn’t a particularly meaningful double, or a meaningful game, and it’s not like I run the Andrew Benintendi Fanclub. But it was at that moment I realized how much baseball meant to me, and how much it meant to all the people watching it, and how much it meant to all the people playing it. Because we’ve all found comfort in baseball in some way or another. It’s helped me deal with a lot in my personal life recently, because two months in a probable eighty-year lifespan is just a blip on the radar. It’s like dropping two games in a row in June.
Cubs fans were obviously sad when their team was eliminated this year, and that was the culmination of a few things. Sticking with a team through 162 games is tough, and losing in October is heartbreaking. But, a year ago they broke a 108-year championship drought. And on the night they were eliminated, I guarantee almost every fan was reminded of the happiness they felt last year. Loss is important because it reminds us of the joy we felt.
So, why is October important? After October, baseball season almost perfectly gives way to winter. This year will be a cold Minnesota winter, and yes, there are different degrees of how cold the winters can get here. It’s going to hurt to breathe and I’m going to slip on black ice more than I care to admit. But winter reminds me of the joy I’ll feel in spring, when my yearly calendar starts up again. We get baseball during the best months, and we get a little taste of every season every year.
There are only two potential days remaining of baseball this year. One team will feel the pinnacle of happiness, and the other team will wonder if it was all for nothing. As a fairly neutral fan in this series, baseball season being done will feel like an enormous release, whether or not you want it to be. It just is. But you grew a lot during this season, we all did. We reached milestones in our own lives, experienced the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows, but baseball was always there.
The reason October is important is because we all have expended our passion, our energy, and our tears, in some way during the season, and it’s a beautiful representation of what we’ve created as fans. We all have friends and family who passively watch baseball, and this is our opportunity to show them what we’re so proud of.
I’ve never really tried my hand at a subjective article, but I hope you’ve all enjoyed it. Baseball is romantic because of your investment in it. We experienced history last night, but to so many of us it was just another game we sat down to watch. Last night we created so many new fans who will create memories through baseball, whether playing or watching. They’ll learn about heartbreak before they have to, and experience some of the most euphoric victories both in baseball, and in life. Because they learned not to sweat the small stuff, and that loss doesn’t need to be viewed as punishment, but an opportunity. It’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen these next two days, but the most important part is that baseball will be there, and that’s all it needs to be.