A few weeks ago, a dozen of my friends and I took the Orange line from Rosslyn to Stadium-Armory to watch the Washington Nationals take on the Philadelphia Phillies. It was a perfect evening for a ballgame. The dying orange in the clear sky highlighted the sea of red jerseys and caps that greeted us as we walked through the gates at Nationals Park. The crisp air made the smells of popcorn, beer and crackerjacks overwhelming and wonderful. As we took our seats in right-center field, only about 100 feet from Bryce Harper himself, it didn’t matter that only a few of us followed MLB. That night, everyone was a fan.
With the Fall Classic about to get underway, I am reminded of this night and many others. As a kid growing up in Montana, I used to lie on my grandma’s living room floor and watch the Seattle Mariners. I still have a foam finger from the first Mariners game I ever attended, and I vividly remember another game at SafeCo Field where I sat next to Shia LaBeouf. Those MLB games are some of my best childhood memories.
My buddies and I used to spend our summer afternoons playing wiffle ball, stuffing our mouths full of Big League Chew and collecting foul balls for a quarter each at high school games. To us, those high school athletes might as well have been Derek Jeter and Roy Halladay. When I was old enough to play at that level myself, I was just as in love with the game then as I had been when I was 12. I loved the competitiveness, the physical challenge and the teamwork required to win. For a long time, baseball was my life.
Nothing gold can stay, though. As they say in “Moneyball,” “at some point we’re all told we can’t play the children’s game anymore.” I don’t get to hear my name announced on the loudspeaker as I jog out to the mound any longer. My purpose in life is no longer centered on tossing a shutout or hitting a home run. But while the focus of my life has evolved, so has my love of the game. If I had been asked in high school why I loved baseball, I would’ve said because I like to win. I still love to win, but that’s not why I love baseball now.
If I’ve learned one thing from my time at this Jesuit institution, it’s the value of reflection. Right now, we get to enjoy the pinnacle of the game, the World Series. We get to watch the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets put everything they’ve got on the line in search of that elusive title, world champions. As we get ready to enjoy this beautiful game, we should pause to reflect on why it is that we love the game and what it is that we value in it.
I love baseball because it unifies people. I love it because it teaches kids to work hard, to have fun, to play by the rules and to work together as a team. I love the game because it can bring a bunch of college kids together for a near-perfect evening regardless of whether they even like baseball. I love the game because it can bring a town together in a common cause against another town, but the two teams will still shake hands afterward.
I love it because it can bring a city together after a tragedy like the Boston Marathon bombings. I love it because it can bring a country together after a tragedy like 9/11. I love the game because of seventh-inning stretches and the respectful silence and doffed caps just before the national anthem is played. I love the game because of people like Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra and Ken Griffey Jr. I love the game because of its history and tradition.
These things, these people, they inspire and unite us. They cause us to dream big and to follow our passions. They remind us of both the limits of humans and the great heights that mankind can reach. When people ask me why I love baseball, this is what I tell them. This is the great value of the children’s game.
Hugh Ramlow is a sophomore in the College. The Zone appears every other Tuesday.
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