The news these past few months has been depressing. What should be a light, fun activity has turned into all the things we turn to baseball to avoid. But it isn’t the end of enjoying baseball, much less the end of the world.
Major League Baseball has decided to that the players and owners aren’t done arguing over the big pot of money they make off us, the fans. They are taking their ball and going home for a while. Don’t worry, they’ll tell us when they’re ready to take our money again. And we’ll shell it out to them. At least I will.
I’m in no way giving up on Major League Baseball. Baseball is part of the fabric of my life in a rather unique way. It is something that binds my family. I talk baseball with my Nana, learned how to keep score from my mom. Baseball is something I shared with both my grandfathers.
Baseball on the radio is a staple of farming life and I’ve spent years of my life driving tractors and listening to games. I used to sit out there and dream of one day having season tickets and for years now I’ve had a ticket plan. Yes, I love baseball. And Major League Baseball is the best baseball there is.
Oh yeah, I’ll be back. Probably on Opening Day. Whenever that is.
However, the things that truly make baseball such a great part of my life aren’t confined to Major League ballparks. Last weekend I took my family to a Long Beach State game. The smile on my 4 year old son’s face as he bit into an ice cream cone was just as big as ever. Family, fresh air, ice cream…that’s what is important.
Each year I drone on and on about Spring Training being my favorite time of the year. The fans are great, the stadiums are small, and you can put on your GM hat to see if you can spot a future star. Baseball is a big part of it but what I really love is the time with my Dad and some friends. Does it get better than a day game with Dad?
I’m keeping baseball in my life during this lockout whether it lasts a week or a year. And I’m keeping all of the most meaningful parts of baseball during this lockout. I just won’t include Major League Baseball for a while.
In the era of streaming I can watch a ton of college games on TV. Thanks to the 4 year old I have the Disney bundle which includes ESPN+ and I started watching baseball last weekend. Not quite the same thing as knowing all the players and who I like and don’t like, but enjoyable.
College ball is also a bit of a different game that I find exciting. There are fewer strikeouts in college baseball. More balls in play. A little more action on the base paths. And just like Spring Training, a chance to put on my GM hat to look for that future star.
For us diehards, having a game in the background just makes life better in a way that is impossible to describe. It just feels right somehow. A college game on a Saturday afternoon will do for now. At some point I’ll want the real thing, but it is March.
Yes, I’m fortunate to live in Orange County and have several top notch college programs to follow. And I plan on visiting all of them. But if I wasn’t, I’d be back to attending minor league games like I did as a kid growing up outside of Bakersfield. Minor league schedules kick off in about a month and there’s probably a team near you.
Smaller stadiums, mascots, family friendly atmosphere. There’s a lot to like about minor league baseball. If I lived near any of the California League ballparks that’s where I’d head. In fact, I’ll probably hit one anyway when we visit friends out in Murrieta.
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of sweating at that park in Bakersfield. Me and my grandma in the stands, my sister and younger cousins playing on the playground at the end of the stands. I know I saw Piazza, Karros, Martinez and a host of others. I don’t remember the games much, but I remember what was important: sitting next to my Grandma. I’d give anything for another one of those days.
So I’ll make one of those days for my son. Maybe some nieces or nephews.
Look, I can’t wait to see the greatness of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout on the field again. I can’t wait to see Thor blaze a fastball by a hitter. But I can’t control when that will happen.
What I can control is how I move forward for the time being and what I do with the time I’m not spending at the Big A. I’m the Dad who loves to take his son to a game, the uncle who brings his nieces and nephews, the son who loves sitting next to his parents for an afternoon at the yard, the friend who uses time at the ballpark to catch up and bond. And I love all of it.
I can be all of those without Major League Baseball. And until it returns I will be.
The truly important parts of baseball aren’t locked out. And I’m going to enjoy them.