TP03: Fever Pitch
You know, I really thought it was that can’t-eat,
can’t-sleep, reach-for-the-stars, over- the-fence, world-series kind of stuff.
– It Takes Two (1995)
For Chris: May we teach
you the ways of one of the greatest games ever played.
I had a
conversation with someone last night who had never been to a baseball game. He had also never seen a game on television. At twenty-seven years of age, I couldn’t
fathom how he had not encountered at least one game at some point throughout
his life. I thought he was kidding at first, but I wasn’t sure why anyone would
joke about something like that. Born and raised in Vancouver and having only recently moved
to Toronto, I understood
that baseball is not on the forefront of sports culture out West. Of course, there is no Major League team in Western Canada but surely, baseball
isn’t popular in only Toronto. Granted, due to
my own experiences with the game throughout most of my life, it’s difficult to
think of living without encountering it in some way or form. After trying to
explain the basic rules of the game, the two leagues and divisions and how
people remain interested after 162 games, I began to wonder what I would want
to know if I unknowingly turned on a game of baseball or saw a game live at a
field for the first time. Now, thankfully he wasn’t ignorant to its existence
but because baseball was not a part of his life, it was just not something that
ever sparked an interest. Aside from my first experiences playing (read:
sitting on) third base at the age of four, I thought back to the stand alone
baseball memory in my past which really solidified my passion for the sport.
Think long and hard; what was that one moment that changed the way you looked
at the game? What was the moment that allowed every pitch, every swing, and
ever base to resonate within you and when did it become more than just a game?
Reflecting on my
life playing and watching sports, baseball in particular, there have been a lot
of home runs, all-star games, and championship wins as a member of the Wildcats
for three consecutive seasons during my pre-teens, that could very well have
been that moment. As a player, those memories stand out as being successful in
the game and not as a defining moment regarding my passion for the game.
Everyone is different and naturally that moment will vary from person to
person, but exists within us all even if it must be thought about for days on end. When
I thought about it long enough, I recalled a recent trip that really clicked with me
and it was in that moment that time stood still (in my memories at least) as I took in all of my surroundings.
Labour Day Weekend
2008, I flew to New York for the weekend
to catch the Jays take on the Yankees at Old Yankee Stadium. It was the last
time the Blue Jays would play on the field before the end of the season and
ultimately before they tore it down. We arrived late, making stops along the
way as it was my first trip to the Big Apple, but we made it just in time to catch the
singing of the anthems. I can’t describe my feelings to you, because it
happened so quickly but it hit every inch of me harder than anything I’d ever felt before. That moment
resonates within me every time I think about it. It felt right; the ambient
noises, the perfect mix of Jays fans taunting the fans of the Bronx Bombers, the constant
chatter, the echoing sounds of Bob Sheppard on a pre-recorded tape announcing
Derek Jeter as he walked up to the plate;* everything. Regardless of what team
you cheer for, when you’re engulfed by 50,000 other people who love baseball,
it’s hard not to fall harder for a game that takes a lot of flack in your home
and native land, where hockey reigns supreme and is held in such high regard.**
In baseball’s off season you could often times forget it ever existed
(momentarily) in Toronto, because
regardless of the season, hockey talk is what makes headlines. For baseball
fans in a country that is known in and throughout popular culture for hockey,
curling, and lumberjacks, what makes baseball stand out? It’s that moment that
you fall in love with a game, a moment which you could never completely
explain, but it makes sense and simply: you just know.
*Yankees Shortstop Derek Jeter, originally
from New Jersey, imagined walking up to Sheppard’s voice as a child. When Sheppard took a leave of absence in 2006, Jeter would
not allow anyone else to announce his plate appearances and requested a recording of the introduction. Jeter has said he will forever use the recording throughout his career.
**For the record,
the Jays won the three-games series, 2-1 over the Yankees that weekend.