Baseball can be many things for many people. For some, it is a place of solitude, an opportunity to step away from reality and watch a game you love. For others, baseball provides an outlet for fandom. You can don your favorite team's best player's jersey and let your loudest cheers rip with tens of thousands of people just like you. Still others love baseball for its history and pastime. For me, baseball has evolved and changed over the years.
I have been spoiled as a Cardinals fan. I started following the team in the early 2000s, just before the Big Three of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolen started a magical run for St. Louis. As a child, baseball was something majestic to me. These grown men were playing a sport that I, too, loved to play. They were larger-than-life stars to me. For every diving catch Jim Edmonds would make, my love for the game only grew. Baseball was also an outlet for me at this point. In 2003, I found myself in and out of Children's Hospitals with kidney issues. Baseball was consistent; it was something to watch with my parents in the hospital rooms. I was able to learn to love a game with my family.
Slowly, the sport became an obsession. Throughout the late 2000s, I would collect baseball cards with my relatives, and we would try our best to memorize the little numbers on the backs of the cards. It was also around this time that I started spreading out with my viewership. I began going to games in different cities and seeing how other fans adored their teams. I was able to go to the All-Star festivities in 2009 and see how MLB can put on a show for their fans and players. I also saw Kauffman Stadium after its renovations in 2009. Baseball was slowly becoming a major part of my life.
The 2010s is where I started getting more in-depth with my support of the Cardinals. I found myself reading article after article about the team's prospects, investments, and historical successes. If I wasn't watching the game, I was listening to it on the road to and from college. Football's opening weekend was seen as a hindrance to me since baseball games would be covered less by national media outlets. I was able to see Albert Pujols' return to Busch Stadium after departing for the Angels; I witnessed walk-offs, near-shutouts, and spectacular defensive plays. These years of fanhood pale in comparison to the next stage in my growth as a fan.
The best day at a baseball stadium came this year with my son.
All of this brings me to the main point of baseball: connections. I was able to bring my one-and-a-half-year-old son to a baseball game last week. Luckily, the Cardinals were playing the Pirates, a team with some exciting young players and legacy players such as Andrew McCutchen. We were also lucky enough to receive tickets in the shade, as it was a scorching 90 degrees at first pitch.
Through this experience, I think I learned the true benefits of baseball. It is a sport that is best when shared with those you love. Whether you know the person in the seat next to you or not, we are all at the stadium for a common purpose. That common purpose went a layer deeper last week for me. Whether my son knew it or not, a tradition started for us that day.
He has always been an energetic and exciteable child, but he took it to a new level at the ballpark. The fireworks made his face light up; the walk-up songs made him dance like he never had before; the cheers of the fans set him off on a clapping rampage. He didn't know where we were, why people were cheering, or what songs were playing, but he didn't care. He was having fun with his family in an environment meant for enjoyment.
My next era of baseball love has been extended. While I'll still go to games for quiet reprieve or to show support for a franchise that I've cherished for years, I now have the ability to share this love with someone special to me. My hope isn't that baseball becomes frustrating or disgruntling over the next few years for me; rather, I hope it becomes a time shared with those closest to me. Look to the youth to see true joy, excitement, and love for the things that we adults see as tiring.
My advice to the fans of the world: be a kid again. Remember the days with your family at the ballpark? Never forget why we love this game and spread the game to the younger generation. Baseball is a wonderful game, and it deserves to be enjoyed through the eyes and perspective of a child. I was able to re-learn this experience most recently, and it gave me a new appreciation for the sport that we all love.