2020 has been the Angel Hernandez of years. Just the worst.
Since the day sports stopped, there’s been no shortage of bad headlines, with the delay of the MLB season seemingly at the bottom of the list of worries. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be missed until whenever it does happen.
Today should be a happy Monday. In a normal year, we’d be gearing up for the start of the MLB season, which would be just a few days away. Unfortunately, 2020 is anything but a normal year and Monday, March 23, 2020, sucks more than any normal Monday should.
Sometimes, group therapy is the best kind of therapy — trust me, I’m a sportswriter — so let’s relive the things we miss most about baseball while we wait for the season to kick off.
Honorable mention: Mid-inning activities
Man, I don’t know how I’m gonna go a few months without seeing the presidents race at Nationals Park or the sausage race at American Family Insurance Park/Field/Stadium/Whatever, or watching The Freeze cook fools in the “Beat The Freeze” challenge in Atlanta. Throw in some T-shirt cannons and we’ve got all sorts of entertainment to keep you hooked before the next inning begins.
15. The bases
Baseball without bases is like a cheeseburger without patties. So, yeah, the bases are a good thing to miss.
14. The consistency
Baseball season means having something to watch pretty much every day for the next eight months. For all the time spent that your significant other makes you watch “This Is Us” or “Bar Rescue,” baseball is a very acceptable change of pace for evening programming.
13. The views
There’s really nothing like the skyline near baseball stadiums. Whether that’s a view of downtown Pittsburgh or the San Gabriel mountains, baseball stadiums across the country lend themselves to beautiful views.
Perhaps the best part of any activity pre-game is watching how finely tuned and manicured the field is 45 minutes before the first pitch. For me, watching a grounds crew work is a therapeutic experience; seeing how each foul line is carefully chalked down, how evenly water is sprinkled on the dirt, how the mound is raked and the infield is dragged. It’s all precisely executed, and it’s almost wondrous in and of itself.
Really, grounds crew members are the unsung heroes of MLB. How the hell do they mow those designs into the outfield? Black magic, that’s how.
12. David Fletcher? David Fletcher.
Fletcher had one of the more interesting, productive seasons in MLB in 2019. While he played most of his time at third base, he had over 100 innings each played in left, at shortstop and at second base, with 17 DRS total between all positions. He had a 4.5 bWAR (3.4 fWAR), and just six home runs on the season, but it’s unfortunate that we won’t get to see his continued growth in the majors just yet.
11. The first pitch
Baseball, for all of the patience it requires, toys with your emotions like a toddler with a cellphone.
That’s why that first pitch is such a weird moment of every baseball game. First pitch for a strike means your team is absolutely winning; first pitch for a ball means get the fire barrel ready, because you’re lighting your team gear on fire. If the first pitch is a ball, then that anxiety doesn’t waiver until there’s a called strike. It’s all a very brutal, emotional experience.
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10. Day games!
The day goes by so much faster when there’s an early start for a game. Whether you have the luxury of watching at home or listening on the radio, there’s nothing like day baseball. Really, there’s a lower stress level when watching day baseball, too, and it frees you up to catch up on your shows at night. All baseball is missed, but day baseball especially so.
9. The food
If you want to brave the elements and deal with the crazies fighting in Aisle 13 over the last roll of Charmin, maybe you can head over to the frozen section to pick up a tub of neopolitan ice cream in the process. But there’s a catch, and that’s this: The calories might be the same, but everything at the ballpark tastes better. Hot dogs, beer, chicken fingers but maybe most importantly, ice cream. Plus, you can get ice cream in a souvenir helmet, and who doesn’t want that?
8. Seeing your heroes at the ballpark
Whether its Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre, a young fan seeing a favorite player or this guy and SN’s Joe Rivera, seeing your buddies and heroes at the local ballpark is something that’s going to be missed while the season isn’t happening.
Role models come in many shapes and sizes, whether that’s a baseball player or a baseball writer, so not being able to congregate and witness the masters at work is something that’ll be sorely missed for the time being.
7. The dingers
Had we not seen a metric crapton of home runs hit in 2019, then this would be higher on the list. But there’s a tiny bit of long-ball fatigue right now, which means dingers, homers, slammalamma ding-dongs, taters, big flys, round-trippers, four-baggers, jacks, jimmyjacks and moonshots are still missed, but not as much as they would be in any other season.
6. The voices
Whether it’s solo Bob Uecker, the loaded booth trio of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, or any broadcaster in between, you probably listen more to these guys than you do your husband or wife throughout the year.
The voices of baseball are familial and inviting, as you spend most of your season with them. There’s a reason that baseball broadcasters are the most beloved among all the major sports — they’re in your ear for 140-plus games a season, so there’s little doubt you miss them as much as much as you miss toilet paper right now.
5. Francisco Lindor’s smile
There’s probably no baseball player who exudes pure joy, elation and love for the game more than Francisco Lindor. Those pearly whites are among the best set in MLB, and Lindor and his natural charisma are just so, so easy to root for.
So while the Indians suffer after deciding to move on from Lindor at some point — and another team will surely be happy to have them — we’re all suffering right now by being robbed of Lindor’s 80-grade smile.
4. The smells
Nothing tickles the olfactory senses quite like hot dogs, garlic fries and fresh-cut grass. More than any other sport, the experience of being at a game is so vital for baseball fans, and the aroma of the sport is one that attendees are going to miss.
3. The sounds
The crack of a bat. The popping of a glove. Jim Joyce’s Strike 3 call.
I’d say close your eyes and imagine it, but if you do that, you might keep them closed and then not finish reading this list. So, don’t do that.
In any case, much like the aromas of the game, baseball has its own unique sounds. A bat breaking, the sounds of slides, the roar of the crowd after a great catch, the whizz of a 98 mph fastball. They’re the sounds of the turning of spring and a soundtrack for the summer.
2. Mke Trout
We are living in unprecedented times. Not because of COVID-19, but because of Mike Trout.
Baseball fans usually know history when they see it, so seeing Trout’s season cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic is a punch in the gut — especially since we don’t know when that season is going to kick off.
But rest assured, whenever the season does get underway, Trout will somehow end up with a 9-WAR year.
1. Being there
Whether you’re a writer, player, fan, camera person, mascot or beer vendor, there are very few things in sports that match being at a baseball game.
It’s where you can be a fan the way you want to be. You can treat it like a day at the park or dress up like those Oakland A’s diehards with the green afros. You can act a fool in between innings on the jumbotron, or you can laugh at the drunks in Section 113. There’s nothing like taking in a nine-inning game on a warm summer night.
Despite all its warts — ticket and concession prices, locale — getting out to a baseball game is something so worth the experience. That we won’t be there for a long time is a real downer.
But hey, it’ll be back before you know it — and we’ll hopefully all appreciate it all the greater.
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