Love & Baseball: How Players and Writers Found Their Love Through Baseball

Jeff Passan, John Means, Carlos Rodón, and others share their stories.

Baseball is a sport for romantics.

It’s for those of us whose love language is the pop of a catcher’s mitt, the crack of a bat, the opening chords and a stadium of voices singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in a gleeful semblance of unison. We know that, maybe seven times out of ten (if they’re lucky!), batters are destined for failure, but we live for those three moments where they line a two-out double off the right-field wall.

It’s a sport that changes us in unlikely ways: We become nocturnal to wait up for West Coast box scores, we root for rival starters when they’re tossing a you-know-what in the bottom of the sixth, and, if you’re as lucky as I am, you’re a lifelong Yankees fan who fell in love with a Twins fan.

My fiancée is a Minnesota native whose favorite player is Eddie Rosario; my family’s patriarch is my grandfather who lives in central New York and mostly succeeded in fostering Yankees fanhood in his grandkids. When Alycia and I started trading letters as pen pals and discovered our respective baseball allegiances, our conversations brimmed with banter during the series where our teams played each other.

She got me a Gerrit Cole jersey for my birthday the first summer we were officially boyfriend and girlfriend; during our first (but certainly not last) ballgame together — a June 2021 jaunt to the Twin Cities to see Jordan Montgomery square off with Michael Pineda — fans turned their heads at the sight of a Twins fan walking hand-in-hand with a Yankees fan, clearly in love. An usher who helped us find our seats half-scolded Alycia (kindly, jokingly; this is Minnesota, after all) for her choices. We got engaged last December, and when I called my Papa to pass along the news, he was over the moon.

But the timbre of his inflection straightened with a slight sense of severity when he said, “Boof, I just need you to do one thing for me.”

“What’s that?”

“Just don’t become a Twins fan.”

(They’re my second-favorite team now, we’re getting married in June, and I still feel like I’m holding up my end of that promise.)

Love is our national pastime, and someone to share it with. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a collection of real-life baseball love stories from folks around the game.

 

Caroline Stanley Means and John Means

 

Some couples’ stories are built on fairy tale-esque serendipity. That wasn’t quite the case for Caroline Stanley and John Means.

Caroline and John met at a New Year’s Eve gathering in 2015 at the residence of one of John’s friends, and the couple recounted the awkwardness of the get-together in a 2019 article on The Athletic. John called it a “brutal, brutal night,”; Caroline said John was super quiet and didn’t get her number before she and her friend left. Still, their friends were steadfast in the two of them working out.

What they saw in the pair’s dynamic, well, Caroline wasn’t positive at first, except for maybe trying to keep the good vibes going.

“I think first and foremost, they all selfishly were having a good time together, and didn’t want us to make the group dynamic weird, haha.” Caroline said in an email. “But, ultimately, it had to be that we both had such similar values. I’m still not sure exactly why it was so obvious to them at the time, because it definitely wasn’t for us.”

Days later, their dynamic clicked when they matched up as pool partners during a group sojourn to a bar. Their shared competitive streak has become a hallmark of their relationship: From heated Uno games incurring a semi-ban from Friday game night at a friend’s, to making up games around the house and often “bickering like two kids on the playground,” contests between Caroline and John will often spark from unassuming moments.

“We used to play ‘keep up’ with this plush baseball when I was pregnant,” Caroline said. “We would just smack it back and forth across the living room at each other, and one of the seams busted. I tried to sew it back together with red thread because my mom bought it for McCoy, and it says ‘my first baseball.'”

It makes sense that competition would be a common-ground focal point for Caroline and John: Caroline signed with Seattle Reign FC of the National Women’s Soccer League in 2015, playing professionally until her retirement in January of 2018. During that span, John was ascending the ranks of the Orioles’ minor league organization.

“It was weird playing three hours away from each other our first year dating.” Caroline said. “We don’t have a lot of days off in-season, and when you do, you want to relax. But we both took turns driving to see each other, and, at the time, that meant he was driving a lot more than me.”

Off-day scheduling was entirely out of their hands. Caroline rarely got to see John pitch, and John never got to be in the stands for one of Caroline’s NWSL games. While long-distance, Caroline would listen to John’s games without video feeds, trying to visualize the action. When the two were together, she’d listen closely to John’s phone calls with his dad in her effort to learn more about baseball. And, in 2019, she walked away both from coaching and the sport of soccer entirely.

“We were engaged and I moved to Baltimore, and I basically went all-in on baseball,”  Caroline said.

The couple tied the knot in Kansas City in November of 2019, although the MLB season that followed their nuptials was no honeymoon. Caroline calls the COVID-abbreviated 2020 campaign “the longest season”; she was pregnant, and a lack of information about the coronavirus early in the pandemic contributed to a sense of fear and anxiety.

Due to social distancing guidelines, anyone not playing had to stay away from the field, so Caroline and John ended up watching a lot of games together.

“I hope to never watch that much baseball with John on the couch until we’re at least 50,” Caroline joked.

A tumultuous 2020 ended with an early Christmas present for the couple: Caroline and John welcomed McCoy Alan Means to their family on Dec. 17. In a 2021 article on The Athletic, John scouted McCoy as “100th percentile in it seems like everything,” and although his first baseball required some sutures after games of keep-up around the household, Caroline says she loves being a parent. Even if John’s fatherly facial hair (he debuted an attention-grabbing dad ’stache) was a little more dubious.

“It is truly a bizarre experience every single day,” Caroline said about parenthood. “It’s tough to explain. But the dad ’stache is equally tough to explain my feelings about.”

At just four months old, McCoy was asleep for much of John’s outing on May 12, 2021, when he etched his name in the baseball history books by no-hitting the Mariners. Caroline wore the same sweatshirt she had on when Means tossed seven shutout innings against the Red Sox on Opening Day (a shirt that “has some good luck on it now for sure”), and though she’s not superstitious, she had a gut feeling the day was going to be a special one. She just wasn’t expecting, well, no-hitter special.

“I had a feeling during the sixth, the way he looked on camera in the dugout that he was just having fun. As an athlete, you just know that special zone you get into and I could feel he was in it,” Caroline said. “Once I saw that, I knew he probably had it.”

When the game ended, Caroline stood in the living room with her hands over her mouth in shock for about a full minute. It wasn’t until John had a headset on and started an interview that her tears began — but she didn’t cry as hard as she did on Opening Day.

John called shortly after; Caroline doesn’t remember the specifics of their conversation, except for the fact that they were both laughing uncontrollably. When the team plane landed around 2:30 a.m., the couple shared a little toast that night to celebrate, paired with a big brunch the following day.

“We’re low-key, that’s a celebration for us.” Caroline said.

During the offseason, Caroline and John have been taking “life limbo” (her name for the lockout) in stride. They’ve played catch, golfed, spent a lot of time with McCoy, and made the most of a move to Texas, which has allowed for more wintertime walks than the couple has been accustomed to.

“It’s been nice to be bored, it doesn’t happen often!” Caroline said. “So we are learning more about parenting and each other and reveling in the quality time before things start up. It’s been great time, but we’re itchy for baseball.”

 

Jeff Passan and Sara Rieke Passan

 

Being a national sportswriter isn’t a profession without its perils, and one of those is that every night out comes with an asterisk.

“As long as news doesn’t get in the way,” Jeff Passan, MLB Insider for ESPN, said in an email.

The baseball news cycle, in Jeff’s own words, “has no feelings, no clock and no concern for your plans.”

Jeff and his wife, Sara, have been married for 15 years (they tied the knot in January of 2007). They’ve never celebrated Valentine’s Day, since Jeff is covering spring training each year when the holiday falls.

“As much as we enjoy one another’s company, she (rightfully) prefers my employment over an evening out,” Jeff said. “It’s a made-up holiday anyway. Any day can be a day for your valentine.”

The non-stop nature of baseball reporting is a taxing one, Jeff said. When he writes late into the night — which happens often — the next morning’s duties fall on Sara. When he’s traveling, she’s mom and dad. When he’s home, but busy, he can feel “more like an apparition than a spouse or co-parent.”

“If she’s not who she is — endlessly selfless, habitually understanding, unimaginably loyal — I am not who I am,” Jeff said. “The reason I’m able to do the work I do is more because of her than anything.”

Early in their relationship, Jeff recognized that Sara couldn’t care less about baseball — “unless the Royals are good, of course, as any dutiful Kansas Citian would” — and he knew better than to evangelize on behalf of the game. (Sara also has a soft spot for the rare genre crossover of baseball and animals; she loved a 2005 story Jeff penned about a feral cat that lived in old Busch Stadium.)

Finding commonalities that don’t involve the sport that consumes much of Jeff’s time has played an instrumental role in Jeff and Sara’s marriage. Their younger son, Jeff said, cares even less about baseball than his mom, but is a “damn fine” piano player. But baseball is growing in the Passan household: Their older son, 14, is playing travel ball for the first time this summer.

“On one hand, seeing your child work, learn, grow and achieve is the pinnacle of parenthood,” Jeff said. “On the other, every time he pitches I feel like I’m going to throw up, and I wind up pacing the baselines far enough away that the umpire can’t hear what I’m muttering under my breath.”

Jeff acknowledged that “another Passan’s world revolving around baseball is antithetical to the sort of life we aspire to lead,” but anticipates that Sara’s investment in the sport will grow this summer now that it’s become part of their son’s identity, too. The stakes hit home.

“It wasn’t forced. It wasn’t necessary,” Jeff said. “It just happened, I think, because baseball is eminently lovable. And on a day like today, that’s something worth cherishing.”

A brief, ridiculous, and vital postscript: Of course, like just about everyone else who’s heard it, Sara has thoughts about the Elmo voice Jeff debuted to a national audience on The Dan LeBatard Show in 2019.

“Immediately after I hung up — and I remember this vividly — I walked into our room and said: ‘I just did Elmo on the radio,'” Jeff recounted. “First she asked, ‘Was it the appropriate one?’ — because the Elmo voice started with me using it to say wildly inappropriate things to our boys. Her follow-up was equally warranted: ‘Are you going to get fired?'”

 

Ashley and Carlos Rodón

 

Growing up in her native Midwest, baseball wasn’t Ashley Paddock’s first love. Not having a local MLB team to cheer for played a role; but an affinity for home-state football felt like a prerequisite.

“In Indiana, you were ride-or-die Peyton Manning.” Ashley said in an email.

Hunting was also a core tenet of Ashley’s background — she’s the daughter of Chuck Paddock, a regular on Open Season TV — and it’s that outdoorsy background that helped introduce her to her eventual husband, Carlos Rodón. Ashley spent the summer after her first year of college working as a nanny, and a mutual friend had brought Carlos over to pick up a compound bow from her boss.

“Carlos has tranquil confidence,” Ashley said. “He never has to be the loudest guy in the room. This was and is one of my favorite things about him.”

Of course, when Carlos found out Ashley grew up hunting, he did talk her ear off. “We have been stuck together like glue ever since,” Ashley said.

Which hasn’t been without its ups and downs: Since Carlos was drafted, he’s been through two surgeries, the couple planned a wedding, got married in 2018, had fertility problems before finally being blessed with children (daughter Willow was born in 2019; their son, Bo, in early 2021), and built a home together: All of this while making four moves a year.

“Sometimes, I think to myself now, how the heck are we still sane?” Ashley said. “So, truthfully, I think we expect the unexpected.”

Ashley’s love of the game has grown and deepened during seven years in Chicago. There’s the familiarity of seeing the same security guards en route to her seat, the season-ticket holders coming over to give her high-fives, the superstitious luck of her go-to playlist, the other staff and player families who blossomed into best friendships. But her favorite part is Willow screaming “Go daddy” at the TV when Carlos pitches.

“I love the game because of all the happiness that comes from it,” Ashley said.

And there was a lot of happiness to go around in the 2021 season. Ashley says watching Carlos “go out there and kick explicit language,” having been through previous tough days and nights together makes that success so much sweeter.

“I love that the game has become fun for him again,” she said. “The more he loves it, the more I love it.”

 

Robert and Sara Stock

 

“You can’t plan anything in baseball.”

That’s an adage from Doosan Bears pitcher Robert Stock, no stranger to the tumultuous shifting of teams and levels of professional baseball. But, really, you also can’t plan just how first dates go, either, and that’s a lesson Stock learned during 2014 spring training as a member of the Cardinals organization.

Robert’s roommate in Palm Beach had matched with a potential Tinder date, who was on spring break with a friend. That friend was Sara Krutewicz; both were Cardinals fans from St. Louis. Robert was called in from the bullpen to round out the foursome.

Sara and Robert recall their impromptu first date as an offhand affair, spent talking, laughing, and generally having a good time. Sara’s first impression of Robert was that he was a “cute baseball player” and also a nerd. The two hung out for a few more nights before Sara returned to school.

They saw each other again in June. Robert started the 2014 minor league season in High-A ball; both the Cardinals’ Low-A and Double-A squads were closer to where Sara was attending college. They were hoping, obviously, for a promotion within the organization’s ranks, but when Robert was reassigned to Low-A, well, it was only two hours away from Sara.

“It was the most fortuitous demotion,” Robert said.

Robert and Sara were long-distance year-round at first, but after a campaign away from affiliated ball in 2016, where he pitched in a league-record 52 games for the New Jersey Jackals of the Can-Am League, they moved to Phoenix in the offseason.

“She could have preferred for me to hang it up, but she’s always believed in me,” Robert said.

Sara helped raise Robert’s profile by taking video of him throwing 98 mph heat; the footage circulated on a Facebook group for professional baseball players, and Robert signed a minor-league contract with the Reds.

As Robert returned to the nomadic life of a minor-leaguer, Sara adjusted to “getting comfortable being uncomfortable,” as long drives and road trips became routine occurrences. The offseason that followed was a storybook one: Robert played in the Mexican Winter League, notched triple-digits on the radar gun in December, signed a deal with the San Diego Padres, and, in February of 2018, proposed to Sara at Griffith Park. That June, Robert got the call to make his big-league debut.

It was as a member of the Padres bullpen that Robert pitched in Sara’s native St. Louis in 2019, making his first appearance against the organization that drafted him. Even at Busch Stadium, Sara wore her San Diego gear proudly the entire time.

“I didn’t pitch that well,” Robert recalled.

“He pitched okay,” Sarah returned.

Robert added that, while position players are afforded opportunities to glance around the stands to look for family, his attention on the mound always belongs to his next pitch. Sara boasts 80-grade social media presence when it comes to cracking wise about baseball, and seeing fans supporting her husband online has led to some fun interactions, even if “you learn to stay off Twitter after games,” she joked. During the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, where fans and families alike were kept away from the ballpark, Sara said she watched Robert’s games on mute.

The most recent leg of their baseball journey saw Robert and Sara stamping their passports for South Korea after Robert inked a deal with the Doosan Bears in January. The hard-throwing righty will start games for his new squad, and Sara joked that now she’ll have to worry for six or seven innings at a time instead of the shorter relief outings she’s been accustomed to.

“It was the best move for my career, and Sara didn’t think twice about it.” Robert said.

The game is not without its ups and downs — Robert’s journeyman career has seen him have his successes and struggles in the majors and minors, flirtations with indy ball and playing in Mexico, and, now, a new team on a new continent — but it’s a sport both he and his wife are eternally grateful for.

“Baseball brought me my husband,” Sara said.

 

Eric Gilde and Ellen Adair

 

Baseball has been woven into the fabric of Eric Gilde’s life for as long as he can remember. The native of northwest Iowa recalls days spent outside with friends, their bikes (some still with training wheels) circled around them as they swapped baseball cards, discussed the merits of team logos, and developing a longtime affinity for Wade Boggs solely due to how cool his name was. Thanks to geography, the Puckett-and-Hrbek-led Twins were his first — but not his last — team to follow.

“Here baseball was, already being a part of my life in a meaningful way, even if a lot of even rudimentary aspects of the sport were still a bit outside of my grasp,” Gilde said in an email.

It only makes sense that Gilde would find someone to grow his passion for the game with.

While working at Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Theatre Company in 2009, Gilde met fellow actor Ellen Adair: Adair was in performances for an ongoing play, while Gilde was rehearsing for an upcoming production. The two first encountered each other during an intermission for Adair’s show and a break for Gilde’s; Gilde was “quasi-introduced” as a fellow actor momentarily blanked on Adair’s name, saying: “This is . . . this is, um . . . she played my wife!”

Adair broached the topic of baseball during a potluck brunch that weekend, following up with the all-important inquiry of Gilde’s favorite team. He’d started following the Red Sox after moving to the east coast for college in 2000, and it was an answer that satisfied Adair. (Gilde guesses that most non-Yankees responses would’ve been acceptable, although Adair had lived in Boston for seven years, and the Sox were her “American League paramours.”)

While the Red Sox might’ve stolen Adair’s American League affections, her baseball heart remained with the Phillies, and Gilde’s growing fondness for the Mets (thanks to his proximity of being in New York and an unshakeable faith in underdogs) meant a battle for allegiance among NL East squads. Well, sort of.

“As a rule, I root for the Phillies when they aren’t playing the Mets, and Ellen wishes the Mets well so long as they aren’t playing the Phillies,” Gilde said. “This does not always work as well for Ellen because her loyalty to the Phillies is so intense, but my Mets fandom is not in proportion to that and so it’s not hard for me to roll with whatever is happening.”

Baseball has become one of the big organizing forces in their lives, and a shared love for the game has interwoven and dovetailed for Gilde and Adair in equal measure. The two began going to a lot of games, played in fantasy leagues together, try to visit a new major or minor league stadium (usually both) each season, and, as Gilde puts it, “talk baseball pretty much every day.” Adair’s interest in analytics and the minutiae of pitching mechanics has magnified since the two met; Gilde’s fascination has been pulled toward baseball history.

“Whether it’s a question of labor, politics, history, aesthetics, or whatever else, we seem to have a found a way to scratch these itches in ways that also pertain to baseball,” Gilde said. “It’s really become a core element in our relationship, and we wouldn’t have it any other way!”

The duo have also integrated their passion for the game into their free-time pursuits: Gilde has spent a lot of time with the baseball card and fitted hat communities, and Adair has penned pieces about the sport, and, as an accomplished artist, devotes time to drawing baseball portraits. But one of the projects they’ve found most meaningful is one they’ve collaborated on together.

Adair and Gilde reside in Jackson Heights, the “epicenter of the epicenter” for some time during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sirens howling to and from nearby Elmhurst Hospital ushered in stark uncertainty that soon enshrouded the baseball diamond. Postponement — if not outright cancellation — of the 2020 MLB season felt well within the justifiable realm of possibility, and Gilde said “we were sad not to have that little sliver of joy to look forward to in the midst of all the chaos.”

Of course, there was no shortage of fictional baseball to watch. Adair was tasked with watching a series of cinematic classics for a podcast pitting baseball films against each other, bracket-style, so she and Gilde marathoned through a half dozen movies in short order. It was after one of those when Gilde turned to her and said: “This would be a great podcast.”

And, with that spoken-aloud thought, it was a whole new ballgame for Gilde and Adair. More specifically: Take Me In To the Ballgame, an endeavor predicated on assigning scouting grades to baseball movies. What started as watching Major League, firing up Audacity, and yelling into Gilde’s computer (at least for the first handful of episodes of the show’s run) became “a bit of an oasis for us during dark times,” Gilde said.

“Although it is not without any number of stresses and frustrations, getting to work with Ellen on the podcast is probably the best thing that’s happened for me in the last two years,” Gilde added. “And you know, it’s just fun to talk about your favorite things with your favorite person, and that’s really been enough for us as far as this endeavor is concerned.”

More than 50 episodes deep and coming up on two years of their podcasting project, Gilde credits Take Me In To the Ballgame as a great outlet for “both the actor and nerdy researcher part of ourselves.”

“It also gives us the chance to learn new things from and surprise each other in the moment,” Gilde said.  “Which I think makes for a more interesting episode, but on a personal level is also pretty lovely.”

 

In Their Own Words

 

My S.O. and I have bonded over trips to Phillies games, although one particular experience sticks out. My first trip to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia was with her, a few months into our relationship. It was early in April (and the beginning of spring), but the weather didn’t cooperate so well. So there we were in the nosebleeds behind home plate, sitting there and freezing our butts off. My toes started to go numb in the fifth inning, and I couldn’t feel my fingers. We searched for a vendor with some hot chocolate, but our efforts were for naught. I didn’t want to be the one to chicken out on the game, especially because I was the one who wanted to go in the first place. So, I sat there, frozen, trying to keep my mind on pretty much anything but the temperature. Eventually, though, I gave in.

“I’m freezing and I’m ready to go home,” I said to her.

“Finally,” she responded. “I saw you were freezing and was ready to go home a while ago, but I wanted to see how long you would wait before admitting it!”

We spent the subway ride home reviving our poor fingers and toes from frostbite.

From then on, whenever we’ve gone to Phillies games, we have always prepared for the worst kind of weather. We always know, thanks to that first experience, that the upper decks at Citizens Bank Park are 10-15 degrees colder than the weather app tells us it is. No matter the time of year, we start off our gameday experience with something nice and warm (some hot chocolate or soup), then head to the stadium, and have ourselves some cheesesteaks from Ashburn Alley and some crab fries from Chickie’s and Pete’s. By the time the game starts, we’re warm (usually, a little too warm, from overdressing for the cold) and have plenty of junk food. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

— Adam Sloate (Pitcher List staffer)

**

I’ve long thought baseball games make the best dates. You can talk, unlike at a movie, but also it’s fine to just sit and kind of stare into space if you’re out of things to say, unlike at dinner. So, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a group of friends attending Marlins games in the mid-2000s became a regular thing for one of my best friends and I, and that became a regular thing enough to where we started dating.

That stadium was objectively terrible sitting high up in the football stadium upper deck seats, leaving Miami at 5 to make it all the way up I-95 for a 7 p.m. start (and then sometimes not even making that), and the sweltering temperatures in July south Florida but I’ll always have fond memories of watching Dontrelle Willis with that high leg kick as I better got to know the friend who would become my girlfriend, who would become my wife.

We’ve since moved away from Miami, but, still, one of our favorite things to do together is going to the ballpark to take in a game. It’s been a long time since we could show up on a whim on a Friday night and get $6 nosebleed seats (or, with how the Marlins were doing in those days, free voucher tickets). So we’ve traded the spontaneity for a much more fulfilling experience, where we now go together, but also with our daughters.

Leaving my daughter’s first professional football game at age 4, as we buckled her into her car seat she asked, “Can we listen to baseball?” I can’t help but think about how that started from a middling team in a football stadium so many years ago.

— Henry Dale (Pitcher List staffer)

**

So, my boyfriend and I don’t really have that much of a baseball story, but I have definitely grown his love of baseball and fantasy, which I’m pretty proud of. He went from barely ever watching, to this year, where we have half-season tickets to the Nats, and last season, he finished second in our family fantasy league. So I’m excited to see how our relationship, and our relationship with baseball, both continue to grow! Also, I know it’s easier said than done, since I don’t live in Chicago, but I am still a MASSIVE Cubs fan and it’s my absolute DREAM to get engaged at Wrigley!

— Mary Ankenbruck (Pitcher List staffer)

**

So, we were both servers at Olive Garden in New Jersey in 2016. We met in February of that year and we went on the first date in August. She didn’t have too much interest in sports in general, but I was gifted tickets and wanted to go with her, so I was able to convince her to give a baseball game a try.

I’ve always thought it’s a great first date — warm, sunny weather, a very relaxed and chill atmosphere while sipping on a beer, and can easily have a conversation while the game is going on and not have to, like, scream at each other, haha. Plus, to a non-sports person, you can seem like a psychic when you “boldly” predict a red-hot Gary Sanchez would swing at a 2-0 pitch.

But, yeah, it went very well. The weather was gorgeous, and we definitely enjoyed it. I’m a Yankee fan, and she really only became a Yankee fan because of me. We try to go a couple times each year. Since COVID, we haven’t gone, but we’ll definitely plan on it this coming season.

— Sparks (PL+ member, on their first date with their fiancée at Yankee Stadium.)

**

I am turning 29 in March, and I wasn’t a baseball fan until my adult life. I hate and reject the narrative that baseball is losing fans rapidly. It makes me sad, because I feel like I arrived late to the party and people are talking about how great the beginning of the night was, but not it kind of stinks and everyone’s leaving. If you catch my drift.

I hate that because I want people to feel what I feel when I walk into the ballpark. The anticipation pulling in the parking lot. The lights whirring on as the sun starts to set. The jittery feeling during the national anthem. The little pit in your stomach when the first batter comes up. It’s magical. There’s something to be said about having a physical place to escape to when life gets tough. We can all escape to our devices, technology, our life we live on the web, but there’s really something about being surrounded by strangers and cheering on a team. Making small talk and sharing that moment with strangers, or loved ones.

I didn’t care about baseball at all growing up. So it’s never too late. There are people out there searching for a community, a hobby, a passion, and I just urge them to give baseball a shot. Ask your grandparents if they watched growing up and take them back out to a game if you can. As a baseball significant other, I feel closest to the fans because I’m in the stands with them, feeling all the same things they feel. Frustration after a loss, sadness when a guy gets injured, elation after a walk-off, the feeling of ownership over the team in a small way. So I just hope that when the big boys all get this figured out, people will let life slow down long enough to make it out to the ballpark.

— Caroline Stanley Means

**

The Phillies were hosting the Dodgers, and this was a game that went 16 innings. We were there with good friends and had lovely seats. And it had drama! It had SEVEN free innings of baseball! It had position players pitching!!! (I desperately wanted Kiké Hernández to get to Rhys Hoskins, because I was prepared to shout out “The Kiké wheel gets the Rhys!” and then probably the game would stop and people would carry me around the stadium on their shoulders.)

All well and good, but what puts it over the top was seeing what happened as the top of the 12th came to an end. Manny Machado launches a ball into left field, and Rhys Hoskins catches it on the warning track. Rhys trots in, and Ellen has been cheering him on all night from our seats behind the home dugout. He sees her and tosses the ball that Manny slugged to him, and Ellen can’t quite get to it. We’ve got a loose ball rolling around in the seats a row or two in front of her (now largely empty because we’re about to go into the bottom of the 12th), and a few other people who decided to stay start closing in on it.

There are not many times I have seen Ellen act with the level of ferocity that I saw in that pursuit of the ball and general intimidation of those who might stand in the way of that goal. It was incredible. Maybe not a super meaningful game in a lot of ways, but what a great night!

— Eric Gilde (Take Me In To the Ballgame podcast, on a memorable game at Citizen’s Bank Park in 2018)

 

Photos by Doug Murray & Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter and Instagram)

Erik van Rheenen

Erik van Rheenen is a Syracuse University alumnus, aspiring novelist, Yankees fan, live music enthusiast, and a believer in long-winded lists and the Oxford comma. You can find him on Twitter @therealvandyman.

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