Baseball is a communal game. As George Carlin pointed out, baseball is played in a park. The players themselves are interdependent on one another. Even as opponents, the batter relies upon the pitcher to some extent. This was much more pronounced in the early days of baseball when the pitcher’s job was closer to that of a tee than their modern function of out-getting, but it still remains true that the game itself is one of a connected experience.
Certainly that applies to our role as spectators as well. Say what you will about “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” but it’s sort of amazing and I’d think, comforting, that there’s still this event that happens 81 times in every team’s stadium where everyone stands up and sings a song together. Where else do we have that experience in modern life? Churches, maybe. Or when a really good song hits the jukebox at the right time at a bar (not too early as to be empty, but crowded enough to be convivial).
Many of us came to baseball specifically because of that communal or familial aspect of attending a game. We were taken by our parents, or grandparents, or went with friends. I don’t propose we lose any of that. What I am suggesting though, is this: go to a ballgame by yourself.
Don’t buy tickets in advance, so you can pick the perfect day with ideal weather– whatever your preference, it should be the kind of day that you think to yourself “it’s perfect outside.” That’s when you should think “I’ll go to the ballgame today. By myself.”
Get your ticket wherever you want to sit. You’re no longer buying tickets for multiple people or dealing with ticket splitting or Venmo, so splurge on yourself, wherever you feel like sitting. Maybe that’s close behind home plate where you can see the pitches better, or maybe you want to sit in the outfield because it’s where you used to sit with your mom.
You buy your ticket no more than 4 hours before the start of the game, and you just go.
Feel how nice it is to be outside and not have to be anywhere else. There are no neglected chores to be done here, and you can’t possibly produce anything of value here. There’s only the game unfolding in front of you.
You don’t have to shut yourself off from others here (though if you got tickets high up in the bleachers for a Wednesday getaway game where you can stretch out over a couple of rows, I won’t hold that against you). If you find yourself next to another fan and they want to complain about today’s starting pitcher, nod and smile in polite agreement and maybe add an excoriation directed at the team’s self-imposed budget and what it means for their competitive window. Appreciate that even by yourself, you’re not alone, and then return to being at the ballgame by yourself.
Enjoy the game as it begins. Anything could happen today! Why, you could witness a perfect game! No, wait, there’s a walk to open the game. Well, a no-hitter then.
You may find your concentration begin to wane, and you’ll be tempted to take out your phone to check your fantasy team’s score (that first walk certainly didn’t help, you think). I beg you, don’t do it! Instead, find something else to concentrate on. You’re here by yourself, and you paid for the privilege. Get your money’s worth! Follow the shortstop for the inning and guess where he will position himself for this next batter. Where would you position yourself if you were out there? Try to guess what each pitch is, and then check the scoreboard or radar gun to confirm if you were right. That one was 85 mph. Is he throwing a slider now, or? No! Don’t go to check Statcast. You can do that at home. You can only be at the ballpark by yourself right now.
It’s such a nice day it’ll be tempting to take a picture from your perfect vantage point that you’ve selected for yourself. Resist! Research suggests that you’re less likely to remember this moment if you take a picture of it.
You may want the picture to share the euphoria you’re now feeling with others, or to send to a loved one to let them know you’re thinking of them in this perfect moment you’ve created for yourself. Instead, think of how impressed others will be if they find out with your cool casualness that you went to the game on a whim instead of seeing your Instagram post about it.
When your co-worker that kind of knows you like baseball the next day commiserates with the starting pitcher being pulled after one and two-thirds innings after multiple home runs allowed, you can say “yeah, I actually went to the game, it was rough.”
“You went to the game? Yesterday?”
“Yep, I just decided to head to the game and took it in, it was a great afternoon!”
“Wow,” your co-worker will think if not say. “What a self-assured, centered individual that really likes baseball! I’d like to get to know them better.”
You’re not at a ballgame by yourself to impress anyone, mind you. But if people can’t help but wish they too could relax spontaneously and joyfully, that’s not your concern.
By no means are you confined to your seat during the game by yourself, either. This isn’t a grumpy diatribe for baseball “watch the game” purity, simply an encouragement to spend sometime by yourself. Walk around and take a different seat for an inning, or stand behind the outfield railing. The ushers won’t mind (probably). If it’s a ballpark that’s new to you, do a full lap and see all they have to offer. Their team Hall of Fame says Adam Dunn played here in the minors. They sell a bacon cheeseburger here, but the buns are instead grilled cheese sandwiches. You don’t order it, but you’ve learned something new.
The game is nearly over now, and your team has lost. Sure, a different outcome would be preferable but what a day. Don’t you often wish you took time for yourself and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon or evening out, just for the sake of appreciating its pleasantness? Congratulations, you just did. You’re that kind of person, now.
You look forward to the next game, one with your family, friends, or the new friend you made at work. There you’ll half watch the game, and half socialize, and in the duller moments you can check your phone real quick for that important work email you were waiting on or to see how your starting pitcher in fantasy is doing (nuts, rocked again).
Maybe in between all that, or while you’re passing out the beers you brought back for your group from the concession stand and trying not to spill and figuring out who still owes from the last round, you’ll remember the great day you had at the ballpark a few weeks ago, by yourself.
Photography by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)