(This image provided by Samulli.)
It's official!! In places like Goodyear, Arizona, and Winter Park, Florida, pitchers and catchers reported to spring training this morning, signalling the official start of Major League Baseball. So for this week's Thursday Thirteen, I give you:
13 Reasons I Love Baseball!
- Cleveland Indians: If you don't know by now that I love Cleveland Indians baseball, you obviously haven't been paying much attention to this blog. :)
- History of the game: My earliest memory of baseball is watching a game on TV with my grandpa and trying to figure out the concept of balls and strikes. I love the fact that when I watch a game, it's really not much different than what generations of Americans have been watching. There has been some form of organized, professional baseball in this country since 1857, and I think that's pretty cool. (For the record, the Cleveland Indians began in 1901, but there's been professional baseball in Cleveland since 1869.)
- Tradition: I love the tradition of the game...the ceremonial first pitch, the Seventh Inning stretch, and of course, singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
- Food: Of course, you can always get peanuts and cracker jacks at a game. But I love stadium hot dogs! And I often get nachos, peanut M&Ms, ice cream.......you get the idea.
- Sounds: This might sound strange, but I love just listening to the sounds that fill a baseball stadium. There's music and cheering, of course, and the vendors hawking their wares. But I truly love the sound a ball makes when it slams into a player's glove. Or the crack of the bat when someone makes good contact with the ball. Even the calls from the umpire add something to the symphony at a stadium.
- Stadiums: I love the fact that every Major League baseball stadium is different. Sure, the infield is the same...90 feet from base to base, and 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate to the pitcher's mound. But the outfield is fair game. For example, did you know that Minute Maid Park (home of the Houston Astros) has both a 30 degree uphill slope and a flag pole within the field of play in center field? I'd love to some day see a game in every MLB stadium.
- Rivalries: This might sound strange, but there are just certain teams that I love to hate. I do hold grudges agains the Braves, the Marlins, and the Red Sox, but I really need one of those T-shirts that say "My two favorite teams are the Indians and whoever's playing the Yankees."
- Mascots and Entertainment: I love that a lot of the teams have fairly entertaining mascots. The Indians have Slider, the Phillies have the Phillie Fanatic, and the Rockies have Dinger the dinosaur. I'd also love to see the sausage race at a Brewers game someday.
- Heroes: Over the years, a number of baseball players have been given almost heroic status for things they accomplished. The best example is probably Pittsburgh Pirate Roberto Clemente, who was killed in a plane crash. The plane he was on was headed to Nicaragua, full of relief supplies for survivors of a terrible earthquake.
- Suspense: A lot of critics of baseball say that it's boring. I say that it's filled with suspense. With every single pitch, almost anything can happen, and that keeps me on the edge of my seat.
- Comebacks: On August 5, 2001, the Cleveland Indians trailed the Seattle Mariners, 14-2 in the 7th inning. The Indians ended up winning that game, 15-14, in 11 innings. I love watching a game when a team comes back from a deficit to win.
- Anything is possible: It ain't over till it's over. Ever. This might mean a single game, an entire season, or an entire franchise. In 2007, Tampa Bay was the worst team in baseball. In 2008, Tampa Bay was the 2nd best team in baseball and won the American League Championship. Anything is possible for any team, any time.
- Baseball is a survivor: I know...this sounds strange. But the sport of baseball is a survivor. Professional baseball in the U.S. has survived 2 World Wars. It has survived gambling controversies such as those surrounding Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose. It has survived the Barry Bonds/Roger Clemens/Mark McGwire/A-Rod drug scandals. I know it doesn't have quite the following that it used to have, but baseball has survived a lot. America's Pastime isn't going anywhere.