Today, I am wearing an “Atlanta Braves World Series Champions 2021” t-shirt that my fella brought me from his latest trip.
When I saw it, I made a noise I didn’t even know existed. It was like my entire being knew I wanted a shirt celebrating the Braves’ latest victory, but my brain hadn’t caught up yet.
So I guess that culmination is the sound that escaped my body when I unfurled the shirt.
Let me explain. (I say this a lot, don’t I?)
Baseball’s always been a pretty big part of my life.
Since we moved to Georgia, at least. That’s when I remember going to Braves games regularly as a family. (Don’t get too excited, though, by regularly I only mean like once every year, if we were lucky and the tickets were cheap enough.)
Not to watch baseball, though, but to watch the concerts afterwards.
See? When my baseball love started blooming, the Atlanta Braves SUCKED. Like, one of the worst teams in baseball. So, as a way to increase attendance, they would throw concerts following the games.
I saw The Beach Boys at least 4 times this way. Once with an appearance by Stamos! Woah, mama, indeed.
Even though we went for the concerts, I took to the baseball immediately. We’d get a program every time because I liked to read things… and after the first few trips to the ball park, I also loved keeping score.
There was something really satisfying about keeping track of the balls and strikes and runs and outs. As I got deeper and deeper into baseball, I also found a lot of comfort in the player and team statistics. Particularly the odds at playoff time. I loved trying to figure out who still had a shot at the end of the season.
I mean, it’s obvious to me now that it was the OCD.
Eventually, the Braves famously went from worst to first, so the games because a little bit out of our budget.
Plus, I didn’t like going as much with giant crowds who fake-supported this team that I spent my childhood falling love with.
Then, my dad introduced me to minor league baseball. I went deeper into the baseball rabbit hole, madly researching (and research was difficult back then cause there was no Internet!) all the players in the Braves farm teams that might come up to the majors soon.
So I spent a few years accompanying my dad on his summer business trips and hitting up whatever minor league game was local in the evenings. The bulk of our games were viewed at the Charlotte Knights stadium.
I got to see Javier Lopez before he hit the majors this way and, while I don’t remember the game or even being there, I remember how excited I was. And even how more I giddy I got when I watched him soar in the majors.
Yes, I had a major baseball card collection. I still do, in fact. It’s filled to the brim with mid-90s cards, with an emphasis on the Braves, Mariners, and Royals.
This is embarrassing, but I have an entire binder dedicated to a single player with every baseball card, magazine and newspaper clipping I could find in my “high obsession” years. I even have a signed ball and a porcelain card.
Maybe one day I will tell you which player it is. If you know my lucky number, you can reverse engineer it in case you get bored one day.
My dad passed away in 1997 and I took a hiatus from baseball for a lot of years after that.
I still don’t watch it on TV, but I have strong feelings about many of the teams and I will say them if you ask, but only if you ask, because baseball is one of those topics that, once I get started, it’s like this well that just keeps bubbling up and I don’t know how to stop until your entire being is drowning in my “too much”.
But it will only be about mid-90s stuff and the feel of being at a game.
Which is something I recently rediscovered.
A few years ago, my fella and I planned a trip to Colorado with my friend who I am 99% sure is my long lost sister. We didn’t have any big plans aside from a Weird Al concert at Red Rocks (which was an experience!) and, you know, hunting down local neat stuff.
On a whim, I thought I’d see if there was a game happening while we were there.
On my birthday.
And it was Star Wars night.
So, we went.
And in the first inning, they hit for the cycle. It was like I was a kid again. I can’t remember being happier than I am at a baseball stadium. I don’t remember who won or who lost, but it didn’t matter, because I was there and it felt like home.
I had forgotten how much I missed it and right then and there made a decision to try to hit a baseball game everywhere I travelled.
Then, the panini happened. And I didn’t travel anymore.
Mickey has spent almost the entirety of the pandemic travelling for work. When he got this job, the plan was for me to travel with him, but it seems pointless when I can’t really adventure anywhere.
Over the summer, things calmed down a bit virus-wise, so I tamped down my nerves and double masked and joined him midway through a trip to Dallas.
I had no goals other than walking through museums that were new to me and hanging with my fella who I missed.
The hotel was super-close to the baseball stadium, though. So one day I just walked up the box office (by myself!) gave them my budget and asked for the best seat I could have that was also away from a lot of people.
I ended up on the third base line, bought some nachos and a stadium drink in a souvenir cup and put in my beans.
My beans is what I call my headphones. They are copper colored and look like, well, beans!
I listened to Kanye the entire time and the entire experience was transformational for me. I’m not used to being on my own or doing things on my own. Well, at that time I wasn’t. I am an old pro now. It seems like that’s all I know nowadays.
So hanging out at a ball game where I didn’t know a single soul was a big deal for me. But it also felt like home.
The highlight of that game for me was the final inning… the Rangers tied it, then won it all with a home run!
So, I guess, when Mickey gifted me this shirt the other day, that loud weird noise I made was just decades of baseball love bubbling up to the surface.