America’s Pastime has a lot of charm. There are old, quirky ballparks and rain delay antics. In between innings, fans enjoy traditions like the presidents race in Washington or the sausage race in Milwaukee. Don’t forget bat flips! High socks! Superstitions! I could go on for longer than anyone would want to read about the cool, little things in my favorite sport. Instead, I’ve picked the top four.
Players doing the unexpected
Whether it’s a position player pitching or a pitcher hitting homers, there is nothing I find as delightful as someone doing what they statistically shouldn’t. There is a certain child-like joy in baseball and when you see a player do something improbable, it’s most likely something they haven’t done or done well since they were a kid. It’s an underdog story in one play: all logic says they shouldn’t be able to do this thing, and yet you’re watching it happen.
3 days into the 2018 season and we’ve got a….
( (> PLAYER
<) )> PITCHING
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— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 1, 2018
While I’m writing on this topic, I’m going to allow myself a brief tangent on the designated hitter: I! Don’t! Want it! I understand the thought that having one league with it and one without is not working, but I will never forgive MLB if they adopt the DH in the National League.
Obviously, I love seeing pitchers get hits. I also love the chess match of managing a game. Don’t deny us the joy of moments like Max Scherzer getting a pinch-hit single and coming around to score the winning run in extra innings. (Yes, he could still pinch-hit in a game with the DH, but do you think he would if he was never getting other at-bats?) If Bartolo Colon can get hits off MLB pitching, your pitchers can learn to be complete players. Stretch out those hammys and let’s go.
Walk up music
The song a player takes the field to sets the tone for his performance, like Mariano Rivera and “Enter Sandman.” It can also show a little bit of his personality, as Anthony Rizzo did when he walked up to Taylor Swift for at least a year. Given that MLB has decided to take a page from the NFL regarding uniforms, it’s nice that the players still have one avenue to express themselves. It’s also funny when the home ballpark trolls opposing players by playing different music for them.
Walk off celebrations
As long as my team didn’t get walked off, I can’t help but smile at a game winning hit. There’s the emotion from the hitter when he realizes what he just did and the bench guys hopping over the dugout railing to celebrate. If it’s a dinger, there’s a helmet toss and a dog pile.
— Mariners (@Mariners) June 14, 2018
It seems more indulgent than last minute wins in other sports and maybe that’s because it happens at a slower pace. As a fan, you usually wait out a few pitches on pins and needles. Then you have to wait for the play to unfold. Will the ball clear the fence? Can the runner make it from first or second base? The excitement of a walk off makes all that worth it.
Someone gets a big hit on a momentous occasion
Big plays in powerful moments happen in other sports, but it feels special in baseball because things like homers or shutouts don’t happen in every game. This season, we saw Stephen Piscotty homer in his first at-bat after returning from bereavement leave following the death of his mom. Freddie Freeman also homered this year on the anniversary of losing his mother. And who can forget Dee Gordon’s first inning home run after the death of his teammate, José Fernández, in 2016? Gordon hit one home run the whole season and that was it.
In the wise words of “Moneyball,” how can you not be romantic about baseball?