As an American studying in England, I expected certain things to be different such as phrases, traditions, and lifestyles. But one that I didn’t expect to make as much a difference to me was the lack of baseball.
I can understand why I’d miss baseball while in England for two reasons: The first being that I worked as a tour guide at the oldest ballpark in America, Fenway Park, which stands at 106 years old, and is home to the Boston Red Sox. The second is that September and October are the most exciting and important months in baseball, with the World Series taking place.
Growing up, I wasn’t much of a sports fan and even now, I’m not a die-hard fan. But because of the past two summers working in a ballpark, I’ve learned to appreciate and enjoy baseball, both historically and in the present day.
To my new British friends, baseball is a foreign concept, but the game itself is quite similar to rounders. The goal is to hit the ball around a diamond-shaped field in order to score runs and to prevent the other team from doing so. There are nine defensive players on the field. There are four bases at each corner of the diamond and a large grass outfield. There’s no time limit, so nine innings can often last three hours, four hours, or even longer. For some, this slow pace is painful to watch, as it can end with a score of 1-0 as often as it ends with the runs reaching the teens.
But for others the necessity of every single pitch creates a unique atmosphere. It feels similar to football, with emotions deep and intense.
In the 2011 film Moneyball, Brad Pitt’s character, Billy Beane, famously says “how can you not be romantic about baseball?” All sports tug at your heartstrings, all sports break hearts and yet make golden memories too. Baseball’s no different, and does so even more. The slower pace creates long-lasting effects on the big moments. A season that’s 162 games, from April to October, creates endless chances for historic moments. There’s something about watching a 3 or 4 hour game just for that one homerun, diving catch or strike out. One moment can define not only a game or season, but for so many, a lifetime.
And while these moments are often positive, there always has to be someone on the other side. When one team wins the World Series, there’s always another with broken hearts. As much as baseball lifts you up, it can tear you down. But that’s the beauty of sports, and baseball’s built on this paradox. Baseball is meant to break your heart one season, just to revive it the next. It’s a rollercoaster ride. It’s made so that that game isn’t over until the very last pitch is thrown. It leaves you with hands clenched, heart pounding, just so you can jump up in joy as you watch the white, red-stitched ball begin to fly at the crack of the bat and land over the fence.