i've got a tendency to make lists in my life. i generate massive lists of ideas for my manager. i make list after list of potential songs. i make grocery lists, lists of friends to call back, lists of appointments to keep. lists make me feel in control. they help my form-less, self-employed days take on a more formal shape. they help me figure out my priorities. my brain never stops spinning, so lists keep that spinning moving forward, instead of zipping willy-nilly all over creation.
on the list of Important Things I Like to Do With My Time are such activities as play music, exercise, read, and be intimate with people i care about. i dont tend to rank activities on this list for the most part, but this time of year, i am reminded again and again what is the indisputable top of that list. baseball. i would rather talk baseball, listen to baseball, watch baseball, go to a game, throw a ball, or swing a bat, than anything else. come february, when pitchers and catchers report, my life starts to lift a little. when spring training games begin, i smile more and take myself less seriously. and when opening day rolls around, i am positively euphoric. baseball is here!
i grew up going to games with my dad. we usually went once a year, on father's day or sometime close to it in june. the first games i can remember going to were at the old memorial stadium in baltimore. once, when i was 7 years old, i had broken my collarbone at gymnastics. my left arm was in a sling. my dad still took me to the game. we went down to the field after batting practice to get autographs. the orioles big slugger then was eddie murray- often a grumpy and irasicble man. but on that day, he smiled at me and signed my sling.
when the orioles built their new park, camden yards, of course we were there. what a step up from the shabby concrete of memorial! my dad and i used to love sharing a heaping plate of boog powell's BBQ and cheering on what were then very good orioles teams. you can't do this now, but in highschool, i was able to bring my fieldhockey stick to the park with me. i elbowed my way down to the field again after batting practice and leaned over the rail, waving my stick. cal ripken, my second favorite oriole after brady anderson, came over and took the stick from my hands. he held it like a bat, testing its weight. he took a few golf-like swings with it, then he signed it! believe it or not, i played the better part of two more seasons with that stick. i covered the autograph with layers of tape and prayed my stick wouldnt splinter.
as an adult, i have continued the tradition of going to games. my dad does too. we'll be traveling for business and find ways to get to ball parks. he mostly goes to the rangers in arlington, but he's also gotten to see st.louis and the nationals. i took my parents to fenway when i was in college and the redsox weren't very good. through touring, i've been to wrigley several times, fenway, old yankee stadium, shea, the metrodome, camden yards, and plenty of minor league parks. i was even able to see the better part of an orioles game before WALKING to my gig and hopping straight onstage. last week, while in seattle for a music project, i added a new park to my list, safeco field.
i like baseball because it is slow. i like baseball because it is rarely violent, but incredibly entertaining. it's unpredictable. it rewards individual performances, but is ultimately a team game. i like its rules and quirks. i like that every park is different. i like that there are two leagues with vastly different styles and strategies. i love the long season, with all its slumps and tears.
but by far, the biggest joy of baseball for me is listening on the radio. i stream games on the internet at home or in my dressing room, i have satellite radio in my van so i dont miss a pitch. from march to october, the background noise in my life is always baseball. i like watching games on TV every once in awhile, i love going to the park for atmosphere and friends (and safeco was MAGNIFICENT), but for the pure game, it's got to be on the radio. there's something about the emotion and description that the announcers bring. i love the matter of fact narration punctuated by crescendos of action. i clap my hands and shout out-loud when something good happens. i turn off the radio in disgust when my team is sucking, only to turn it back on a few minutes later, hoping for an improvement. i cry at home-runs and two-out, bases clearing doubles.
baseball lets me talk to anyone, anywhere. i cant tell you how many times i have sat in random sports bars and airports and AirportSportBars, all over this country, and had wonderful conversations with people i would never ever talk to otherwise. traveling during the playoffs is especially fun. just like an election, everyone is tuned in, and our collective consciousness is pointed in the same direction. yes, the business of sports is faulty. yes, mainstream sports is biased toward men's games. my favorite pastime is imperfect. but put aside its flaws and imagine the tension of a close game, between teams you love, listening or watching with friends who share your passion. you cant keep the smile off my face or the tears from my eyes.