How to Enjoy Baseball for My Foreign Friends, Part 5: Traditions and the Experience

Over the last several weeks, I’ve tried to explain the ins and outs of baseball–the central drama, the basic rules, and a little bit of strategy. Today I’m going to shift gears and explain some of traditions and the history and atmosphere that surrounds the sport and amplify the fun of it all.

Ballparks

It may sound funny, but in Major League baseball every park is a unique experience, and many of them based on configuration and orientation have an impact on the game. Every stadium has a different experience for the fans as well.

The outlines of every MLB field.

Consider:

AT&T Park, with it’s incredible view of the San Francisco Bay, and the seagulls showing up in the 9th inning to pick up food scraps.

Fenway Park in Boston, with the Big Green Monster in the shortest left field in baseball.

Or Turner Field in Atlanta, which started its life as the venue for Olympic track & field.

Traditional Songs

Every single major and minor league ballparks sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the “Seventh-Inning Stretch” (the break in the middle of the the 7th inning). This song is so quintessentially American that nearly every schoolchild will learn this song within the first several years of elementary school.

In addition to Take Me Out To The Ballgame, individual parks often sing other songs: many will sing “God Bless America” before the 8th inning on Sundays; Fenway Park will sing Sweet Caroline, Yankees fans sing New York, New York, and Giants fans hear I Left My Heart in San Francisco as they head for the exits.

Umpteen other traditions

The catcher always throws the ball to third base after a bases-empty strikeout. The first baseman ball always keeps a ball in his glove in the dugout. Nobody steps on the baselines when entering or leaving the field. Fans throw home run balls back on the field when the opposing team hits them. Every player has a song they play as they walk up to bat, and many relief pitcher have music that plays when they come out to pitch. A VIP with throw out a ceremonial first pitch (including the President of the US!) This just scratch the surface of the many, many other traditions beyond just the game itself that make baseball America’s pastime.

Baseball, the constant

Baseball serves a really different role for me than any other sport. During football season, we sit down and watch games on Saturday afternoons and sometimes Sundays. There is little football during the week. However, baseball is always on, and when we’re just watching at home, it’s something to keep on in the background, checking in and watching a little bit here and there. Even at the park you can easily sit back and just enjoy the atmosphere and nearly lose track of the game going on.

Additionally, baseball is the one major professional sport left where the average person can easily afford a ticket–we could regularly get $10 – $15 tickets for the Atlanta Braves while we lived there, and as a result, we attended 5-10 games a season. For contrast, tickets for the Atlanta Falcons (the football team) cost a minimum of $50 each even for meaningless exhibition games.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series, and I hope when we next see each other that I can take YOU out to the ballgame!

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