As fans, we adore the idea and pure nature of the hometown discount.
The discount represents a badge of loyalty and dedication. For some of us, it takes us back to when we were kids playing for our Little League team, where the very idea of being on a team in search of hoisting that plastic trophy at the end of the season meant more than Christmas and birthdays combined.
Now, as adults, we watch from the sidelines, and yet, together with the players we root for, we too experience the team camaraderie, the locker room pranks and the legendary nights on the town. Spectators watch the game, while the true fan is “in” the game.
The crème de la crème of free agents are both first basemen from the same division. Both Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols will be free agents at the end of the season and general managers will be sleeping outside their respective doors in order to be the first suitor. Trucks displaying the pursuing teams' insignias will back into each of their driveways and dump amounts of money the average person couldn’t possibly wrap their head around.
Fans of the Cardinals and Brewers will cry out, “You don’t need more money! You have the team, the city, you have us!” Fielder and Pujols will arouse hopes by giving their soon-to-be former home a complimentary interest, essentially tantalizing our fandom.
But most likely, they will charge forward to greener pastures, MUCH greener pastures.
It’s natural for disgruntled diehards to pout about the player’s unceremonious exit, to question his evaporated integrity and lack of allegiance to the city. However, we can’t undermine the fact these men worked hard at their trade their entire life. If teams want to reward them a king’s ransom of cash, then who are we to criticize them?
Sure it’s easy to spout from our recliner chair that WE would play simply for the love of the game, but if we were in these mighty men’s cleats, we would be doing the same thing.
Not to throw out some cliché mushy poetry and sound like Terrance Mann in Field of Dreams, but baseball is the game we fell in love with as kids. It’s this love that makes it difficult to understand how “our guys” would go somewhere else. Would your Little League teammate switch teams for more Big-League chew? No way! Could ice cream after every game lead you astray from your friends? Not a chance.
As fans whose playing days ended years ago, we have to realize the hometown discount can be as rare as a T206 Honus Wagner card. Sure they both exist, but don’t get your hopes up.