Certain sports take a hold on people at a young age, while others develop a love a little later in life.
Most people can recall the exact moment that they fell in love with a sport or a team, and it is that moment that serves as the root for their connection to the sport/team.
For most "sports fans," we end up leaning toward a particular sport or team because our families have been supporting that team long before we were alive or they were actively involved in that sport.
We start out liking the sport for the little things; we like playing catch, or dribbling a basketball, or kicking a soccer ball, or making a tackle. There are no other distractions like statistics, annoying announcers, or stadium/arena antics to keep everyone entertained and interfere with the game, it's all about the game.
As time goes by, the sport fan starts watching their game on TV and usually has latched on to a particular team. This is where things become a lot more complicated.
There are all these things like commercials, the constant droning of announcers, replays of games past, and statistics that get in the way of just watching the game.
However, it becomes almost unavoidable to get wrapped up in those distractions the more a person evolves as a sports fan. The simplicity of enjoying all those little things that make the game so great slowly start to be forgotten.
As hard as it may seem, I cannot recall the moment that I fell in love with baseball. While I grew up a Yankee fan and played softball for six years, the majority of my childhood was occupied by playing soccer and basketball.
Once I got into college, things changed. I began to pay more attention to baseball and the daily occurrences of the Yankees. I went from only knowing the players on my team to having a wider range of knowledge. I had fallen hard for baseball, and I knew I had found something that I truly loved.
I'm not exactly sure what caused the change, but for the past six years, baseball has become a way of life. Unfortunately, I became just as distracted with all the other "stuff" as the rest of my fellow sports fans, and the simplicity of the game got lost in the mix.
My good friend Joe has been a baseball player/enthusiast for as long as I've known him. This year, he got the opportunity to serve as one of the baseball coaches at our high school. He'd been telling me how good the team was, and I was eager to check them out.
I got to a game about a month ago, and I was really impressed with how good the group of players was. There was no distractions going on, just a bunch of kids playing a game they loved.
However, it wasn't until last week that those group of kids gave me a reminder I needed badly.
The team had made it into the playoffs, and was facing our arch rival from the next town over the day after Memorial Day. The weather was awful; cold with spurts of rain the entire day. I told Joe that I would show up for a little while since it was such a big game.
A little while turned into a little longer, then just one more inning, until finally I was committed to stay to the end. I was cold, wet, and had no real ties to anyone on the team, yet I couldn't move from my spot.
Every time our pitcher threw his fastball it would make that great popping sound in the catcher's glove, and I wanted to hear it over and over again. The infielders were so slick with their fielding that I found myself eagerly anticipating the next double play they were going to turn.
They ended up winning and advancing to the next round of the playoffs. After a hectic, and what felt like a never ending day at work on Friday, I drove up to my high school for the next game.
I stayed for the entire game, and was again impressed by the stellar play of this group of kids. I was watching how our pitcher mixed his fastball with his change up and how he could put his fastball just about anywhere he wanted. The pitcher that came in and relieved him, was a lefty and I couldn't get over how good his stuff was.
What I loved most was how when they were in the dugout, everyone was on their feet cheering their teammates on. Every time someone scored a run, the entire team was out of the dugout waiting to congratulate him, and it was apparent how much they love playing the game together.
I found myself beaming every time they made a good play, struck out an opposing hitter, or scored a run. The game ended when our clean-up hitter hit a three-run home run to give his team an 11-1 victory and the first sectional title in almost 15 years.
Everyone jumped up and down at home plate, high fived, hugged, and cheered. It was positively pure joy. It was in that moment, watching that group of kids, that I remembered why I love baseball so much.
I love watching a good pitcher, I love slick fielding plays and stolen bases. I also love big hits, bunts, and great outfield catches. All the other stuff is really insignificant.
That group of kids reminded me all the reasons my love affair with baseball started, and why it will always be there.