Why I Gave Up Professional Baseball

April 1, 2015 | Blog

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I remember the day, not the exact day, but approximately the day when I gave up professional baseball.

Now that I read that back, I need to clarify – I never played professional baseball. Never worked for a team. Never worked in a press box… I have a bunch of friends who works for teams. But personally, I just watched on television, listened on the radio, or sat in the stands and watched.

I work in motorsports. I travel around the country, up to about 25 weekends a year, doing graphics for the NASCAR big screen program. I’m employed by a radio network, which I’ve been a fan of since I knew what NASCAR was, but I work in television (hey, just go with it.)

I’ve been a NASCAR fan my entire life and when I (finally) graduated college, I almost immediately was offered this job. That was January 2010. Five years later… well I don’t dislike racing, I still consider myself a fan and I still get excited when I’m watching racing. But I need an escape – a hobby that doesn’t involve working on graphics or videos or something on a computer screen, which is what I spend the bulk of my day doing.

I have a podcast about fantasy racing. The show is in its third season – it’s pretty successful and it’s got a strong following and is a lot of fun. It takes me away from my normal day-to-day duties and allows me to talk about racing in a free and open forum.

I used to play golf. I say used to because once upon a time while playing golf I destroyed my knee. In the nearly four years since the incident, I’ve swung a golf club exactly three times. Putt-putt doesn’t count. Anybody can putt. Happy Gilmore finally learned how to putt after all.

College sports make me mad, specifically South Carolina athletics. I guess you could technically call Gamecock sports my hobby. Carolina has a history of being successfully mediocre. We’ve dabbled with greatness, only to have it thrown back at us because of the so-called, “Chicken Curse.”

For the record, I don’t believe in the Chicken Curse. I believe in bad luck and over the 120 years South Carolina has been playing football, we’ve had a skosh of bad luck.

And then there’s baseball.

Baseball. You know, that sport that they play a lot in the summer. Maybe baseball could be my new hobby?

But I gave it up. That’s the best way to describe it.

May 2010 or there about. I don’t remember the exact rhyme or reason, but one day I just up and decided I was done with professional baseball. Finished. Over. Insert other synonyms for giving something up here.

I used to watch professional baseball all the time. Growing up in South Carolina in the 1980s and early 1990s it wasn’t recommended but required to be a Braves fan and to watch them on the Superstation, TBS. I have stories…

I still dislike Kirby Puckett. I still dislike the city of Toronto. I loathe the New York Yankees.

I remember as a kid coming home from school one day and my dad told me my favorite Brave ever, Dale Murphy, had been traded. I remember that being one of the worst days ever. I was devastated.

I remember the jubilation of 1995… “BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN!” seems like a distant memory.

I remember another day when I turned on the news and saw the old Fulton County Stadium was on fire. A suite or something was burning. I was so upset because, as a kid, I thought the entire stadium would be lost. To see the stadium on fire was upsetting.

I had, after all, spent a great number of days at Fulton County Stadium in my youth. We would go to Braves games when visiting family that lived in the outskirts of Atlanta proper. For some reason they always played the Phillies or the Mets. Nobody else, just Philly or New York. Then a few years later The Ted was built (current Braves home Turner Field) and Fulton County torn down.

As I think about it now, it seems dumb for me to be so upset about something like that fire. I guess I didn’t realize that teams built new stadiums occasionally. Didn’t even process. Oh well, but I digress…

It may have had something to do with the fact that the University of South Carolina’s baseball team was in the midst of its greatest two-year run in history, culminating in back-to-back national collegiate championships. I had a limited amount of time to give to our country’s national pastime, so I chose my college’s team rather than a professional team to follow.

Or it may have been bad memories of having to call little league baseball games on the radio when I was in college. Days and days during the summer months I would spend at the ball park watching error after error or listening to random baseball moms and dads complain because I wasn’t talking about their kid enough.

I’m sorry ma’am, but if your kid strikes out at the plate 4 times during a 6-inning game or is swatting flies in right field while the ball goes over his head because he isn’t paying attention, I’m not gonna name him the next Babe Ruth.

Or maybe it was constant rain delays or fire ants crawling up my feet when I was sitting in a fold up chair behind home plate during these games.

Or maybe it was the fact that Atlanta Braves’ golden era was coming to an end…

I’ve been to exactly one professional baseball game in the last decade. It was 2013. I was in Kansas City for a race. Friday night I went to see the Royals play… somebody. I enjoyed my time at the park. I enjoyed the game. I enjoyed the experience of being there with other people who were Royals fans and watching them experience the game in person.

I’m pretty sure Kansas City lost that game – they were in the midst of an 11-game losing streak after all – but a good time was had by myself and the co-workers I went to the game with.

Before 2013, the last MLB game I went to was a Tampa Bay Rays game in June 2001. They were hosting the Phillies at “The Trop” that day (Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.)

I had just graduated high school and was in Florida with some friends for about a week. The game was fun and I was happy the Rays beat the Phillies that day because at the time Atlanta and Philadelphia were in a very heated battle for first place in the National League East standings.

Of course, this was when I liked professional baseball. This was when I would rush home from school at the end of the day, turn on TBS, open an ice-cold Coca-Cola and watch the Braves play. This was an everyday occurrence.

I would go out of my way to watch all the Braves games on television or listen to them on our local radio station in Camden when I was in high school and early in my collegiate career. I stayed up to watch a 10:05 west coast start game. I would watch double headers. I would… memorize player stats, lineups, pitching rotations.

I wore Braves gear. I could recite the biographies of guys like Smoltz, Maddux, Glavine, Jones (both Chipper and Andruw.)

I knew exactly how many times Braves manager Bobby Cox had been thrown of out games during the season. I knew Atlanta’s defensive lineup, hell I knew their entire depth chart.

But then, out of nowhere, I was done with it.

I would like to go back. I would like to be able to sit and watch highlights on television without instantly wanting to change the channel. I would like to be able to watch an entire game from start to finish without getting bored or wanting to binge watch something on Netflix or Hulu.

I would like to know the stats again and memorize the lineups for all the teams. I’d like to be able to discuss with friends what happened the previous day.

Baseball is a sport with a rich history. I’m a history nerd, majored in history at The USC. I would like to relearn the history of baseball; read about the historic names, faces, and places, and know who has the most career hits all-time or which teams have never won a World Series.

As I write this right now I’m watching the baseball channel and there’s a replay of a Phillies/Rays game on. I’m not entirely bored with it. Maybe that’s a first step? This may actually be the most professional baseball I’ve watched in years.

Would they welcome me back? Who knows. My family are all baseball nuts. My sister somehow has become a Yankees fan and turned my mom and dad into fans of the Bronx Bombers as well.

Would I get a strange look if I showed up one day with a Braves hat on? A Braves game just started. Maybe I’ll watch?

Why? Because apparently I need a new hobby. So maybe this will be my new hobby, watching baseball and blogging about it.

Or blogging about other things.

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