I met a man the other day who didn't know baseball

BravesCenter's Bill Shanks has met a lot of new people on his book tour. But a gentleman that knew little about "Scout's Honor" or anything else baseball-related got Shanks thinking just a bit. What do people who don't know baseball actually do in their life?

I met a man the other day that didn't know baseball. It was incredible. I almost forgot there are people in the world that are like that. For someone like me that can only remember life with baseball, whether it was playing it as a kid or watching it on television, someone not knowing a lick about the game is amazing to me. Now I realize baseball is my life, so I'm probably a little extreme, but meeting this man that had blank stares at my questions about his baseball knowledge got me thinking a bit.

What's life actually like for people who don't like baseball? What do they do in their spare time? Are there other interests in life that I've just missed for the last 28 years, the time I've spent loving this game so much?

It's just hard to believe someone could have no idea the feeling that we fans have when our team wins a game - especially an important game. How about the feeling you get in late August, or September, this time of year, when your team is in a pennant race and have a big game with a division rival that night? If you really love baseball, you count down the hours until that big game.

So much of being a fan of the game is the anticipation - whether it's of a season or a game. We can't wait for the season to start, so we engulf ourselves in any offseason news we can digest. There's nothing like the winter, checking the Internet everyday to see what trades have happened or what free agent has signed. And the rumors - oh yes we baseball fans love the rumors.

I first became a trade rumor freak - well it was when I started watching baseball. I used to sit in class and make fake trades all the time. Between that and looking at my favorite female classmate, no wonder I had trouble in science class. I'd run to the library to check the transactions, or even the city library, where they had The Sporting News.

As a fan of a team that was horrible (remember this is the late 1970s and 80s), trades were about the only thing I could hang my hat on, at least until 1986, when I realized our farm system was actually producing something of value. But until then, I was trying to trade for anyone on the Yankees, Red Sox, or even the hated Dodgers, the teams that were always good in those days.

Even in the early 90s, when I was in college at the University of Georgia, I remember going to the library to read the Sunday Boston Globe. Rumors were aplenty in that fish wrap, especially from some geeky guy who was also starting to pop up on ESPN once in a while. Heck, I even remember videotaping Peter Gammons' Diamond Notes on SportsCenter. Anything to get me my rumors!

Of course, the Internet has changed all that. Now we know of the trades even before the players do. The immediacy of news makes it even more fun, but instead of out getting a little exercise, we're stuck to our chairs hitting refresh every 60 seconds - just in case that latest trade has finally gone down.

Then there's February 1st. How great is it when the Super Bowl is over and you know there's something special coming next. When I was a kid, that first sign of spring was when CNN Sports had video from Dodger Stadium. Before there was any ‘Camp Leo,' the Dodgers used to be the first team to work out. Even though they were (and are) hated, it was good to see baseball players doing what they do.

Then the countdown….two weeks until pitchers and catchers report. One week. Three days. One day. Today. When you finally see those players on the field, some out of shape and others thinner than the summer before, there's this feeling of euphoria you'd feel. It's finally here. That anticipation is incredible, and to see players preparing for the real deal is unexplainable.

Since my birthday is in March, it's always been a special month. But after the 13th, you know there's something else more important than turning a year older: the season is only two and a half weeks away. And of course, there's nothing like Opening Day. It should be a national holiday.

May just flies by, and before you know it, the All-Star Game is here. It used to be the day the Braves would be officially eliminated from contention, but now it's just a regular three-day break.

And what in the world would we baseball fans do without late July? Yeah, you know what that's all about - the trade deadline. Rumors make us baseball fans crazy. I used to think it was just me, but the Internet has eased my fears that I was the only nutty person on the Earth.

As a reporter, I've kind of lost that feeling I had when I was a kid and would walk into Fulton-County Stadium. We could hear Marshall Mann's voice from the parking lot, booming out like the voice of God: "And to fill out your player of the game form, please visit the customer service booth at aisle one-nineteen." You would wait in line for tickets at the little boxes, and only peek at the seats through the concourses. And then, once you went through the turnstile, you'd slowly walk up to your section and see this sea of red and blue seats. It would give you chills every time.

When I think of the friends I've made because of baseball, it makes me wonder if I'd have any friends at all if I didn't love the game. When you're a kid, you seem to flock to the people who also play. You might have not even known a kid, but if he came up to your field with a glove or bat in his hand, he'd wind up being a friend for life. And whether it's through a fantasy league or just rooting for the same team, the camaraderie between baseball people is strong.

What do people who do not like baseball talk about with their friends? Politics? The old reliable weather? Imagine if you didn't like the game for a minute. What would you do? What would be your interests?

I wonder if people who don't love or watch baseball live longer? I've often been concerned with my blood pressure - thinking that the stress of all the late inning games must do damage to my system. I know it would be better for my fingernails to not love baseball. They've been long gone for years. And my language? There's no doubt my mouth would be cleaner if I didn't watch this game we love so much. It drives me crazy sometimes, and I am occasionally worried the neighbors might call 911 to report my verbal outbursts.

But I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's ok that I schedule my life around Braves' games. It's ok that my house looks like a mini-Turner Field. It's ok that it's 1:01 in the morning and I've got to check the standings one more time to see where the Braves stand. It's ok because I'm a baseball fan, and I'm sure those who aren't just wouldn't understand.

Yeah, I met a man the other day that didn't know baseball. Ain't he missing a great life?

Bill Shanks will continue to meet more folks (hopefully baseball fans) on his book tour promoting Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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