I don’t mind watching baseball alone.
Amid the hustle and bustle, I’ve always found peace at the ballpark, pulling away from everything else for a few hours to gather my thoughts and watch live-action chess.
When I was really young, my mom and I would sneak into Jack Murphy Stadium after the fifth inning (when the ushers stopped checking tickets for entry) and perch on top of one of the ledges on the third-base line, where I soaked in a lot of baseball without much conversation.
My mom wasn’t the biggest baseball fan, but she appreciated my love of the game and she challenged me to reflect on the cerebral parts of the game (game theory, strategy, history) as they unfolded.
So I figured my drive up from Charlottesville to D.C. on April 14, 2012 wasn’t going to much more than that: I’d drive up early, go grab a $5 ticket (I’m cheap), get my Strasburg bobblehead, perch atop some open ledge on the lower bowl and watch a few hours of my adopted baseball team play... and then head back home.
Of course, it turned out to be so much more.
I walked around the right side of the stadium (after entering through the CF gate) and perched on top of Section 113 -- next to that pop-up beer stand whose name I really should know by now -- with a handful of unopened water bottles and my iPad out and ready to flipped between Twitter, Brooks Baseball, and Fangraphs.
Edwin Jackson was the starter that day (I don’t remember much from this game, but he somehow threw a two-hitter that afternoon), so I pulled up his Brooks Baseball player card, Fangraphs profile, and some quick tables on the Reds’ hitters to see how matchups lined up.
If Edwin Jackson was somehow going to dominate a decent Reds lineup -- well, it had Willie Harris, so maybe not that great --, I’d understand why, right?
In retrospect, I’m fully aware that my set-up then wasn’t particularly normal and was bound to draw some curious stares.
An older man to my right (and his group of Nats friends) eventually asked me what I was looking at, and I answered, diving into some sabermetrics concepts and explaining how all that info I looked at helped me understand the game better.
Soon enough, my conversations piqued the interest of some nearby ushers, who dived in and joined our debates about sabermetrics.
That game eventually came and went, with that group I chatted up wishing me well and the ushers telling me to come say “hi” the next time I dropped by the ballpark.
I would eventually move to D.C. for my first job out of college that fall, and Nats games have been a staple of my life ever since.
It’s pretty routine now: walk from the Metro (or Bikeshare station) to the CF gate, rounding about the third base line as I say hello to Yolanda (Section 108/109), then Sam (Section 109/110), then Albert and Luke and Danny and Jared.
Then as I crawl under the handicapped-section barrier in Section 113 near that beer pop-up whose name I don’t know, I’ll pass by Rick, the usher supervisor who on April 14 was curious enough to join in on my conversation about baseball and its nuances, and the “self-appointed GMs” led by Bob, who found me interesting enough to “adopt” and is now my friend.
And I’ll round about and say hi to a few other folks, like my friends and fellow SAS enthusiasts Mike and Laurie -- whose daughter dated Lombo (!) in high school --, fellow season ticket holders like Willy, and Terrance (!).
And eventually I perch in the top-middle of Section 114 and get set up with my iPad, alone with a comfortable five rows of buffer space in each direction, ready to continue learning more about a game I love.
Albeit never really alone.