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Why I Love Baseball

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So Major League Baseball is running a contest to pick some lucky (?) baseball fan who will spend an entire season eating, sleeping, drinking, breathing and blogging about baseball. They'll watch every game humanly possible, give interviews, write stories about it, tweet, blog, crack wise, sing, you name it. A friend sent me a link to the entry form. (I'm a devoted Yankee fan with two season tickets in the bleachers.) Then another friend sent me the link. Then another. And another.

I glanced at the rules and info and realized I would never get picked. I know a lot about movies and music and TV and a lot of other topics. I know a lot about the Yankees. But baseball in general? I'm no expert. I find it challenging enough to keep up with the ins and outs of one team. (Now tennis I could yabber on about....) But one of the questions on the entry form caught my eye: why do you love baseball, in 500 words or less? Why do I love baseball? I suddenly found myself waxing poetic (when I wasn't checking the word count). Nothing brings out the sentimental fool in a fella quite like baseball. So here's what I wrote. I could have gone on and on, but here it is in about 498 words. When you're done, tell me why you love baseball.

WHY I LOVE BASEBALL

My love of baseball -- and especially the New York Yankees -- came through the movies. I grew up in South Florida when there was no major league baseball team based there. Until I moved to New York City in 1991, I'd never been to a baseball game -- not little league, not softball, not the minors, not the pros.

But I loved the movies. And some of the best sports movies of all time have been baseball movies. Bull Durham. Pride Of The Yankees. Bang The Drum Slowly. Eight Men Out. Field Of Dreams. Fear Strikes Out. So I was primed to love baseball when I entered Yankee Stadium in May of 1991 and sat in the front row of the upper deck just past first base. I came back a few weeks later and then again. And then again.

The following season I went to about ten games and soon migrated to the bleachers. Year by year, the number of games increased. And this was when it took dedication to sit in the bleachers. They only sold tickets on the day of the game and if it was a popular one, you had to arrive very early or you'd be shut out. Suddenly, a game that already took three hours to watch was a six or seven hour event. But I was hooked.

First it was the excitement. But now it's the lulls as much as the hits and strike-outs, the chance to chat with lifelong friends I've made in the Bleacher Creature section (and who forwarded me an email insisting I apply). I call it urban fishing. You sit and relax and chat and show a little patience and every once in a while something happens. And this is the amazing part: time after time, you see something you've never seen before.

Until baseball, I never realized how much satisfaction you could receive out of cheering others on. I enjoyed watching sports but always preferred to play them. I never imagined I would be so obsessed with a team, feel such joy over winning a game or clinching a post-season berth. You don't say, "They won!" You say, "We won!" And you mean it.

The winning is sweet, naturally. But that's not why I go to 40+ games a year. It's the humbling awareness that I can study baseball all my life and still have more to learn. It's the mini-dramas that take place during every at-bat. It's watching a player grow and apply themselves and become a star. It's pinpointing the ones that don't apply themselves; the ones who drive you nuts by squandering their chance. It's raging at a move of the manager or a trade by the owner. It's insisting the moves and trades that do work out were ones you championed all along. It's high-fiving the person next to you when you've never seen them before and don't even know their name. It's starting fresh every spring training. It's baseball.

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It's available free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes. Link to him on Netflix and gain access to thousands of ratings and reviews.

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