Have you ever felt like a square peg in a round hole? I often feel that way with my love of baseball.
Living in Australia, I am surrounded by a sport’s mad culture. Relative to its population (currently just under 23 million), Australia packs a mighty punch on the world sport scene, particularly in relation to non-winter sports. We are one of only two countries that have competed in every summer games of the modern Olympiad, having won a total of 444 medals.
Our national games are Australian Rules football/ rugby league in winter and cricket in summer. In some parts of the country it is almost mandatory to introduce yourself by which footy team you follow… “Hello my name is Joe and I am a Sydney Swans supporter. It has been three weeks since I last entered a football ground” and to speak “footy tongue” so you can converse with shop keepers and cab drivers. For years Australia dominated world cricket – all forms: test cricket, the one day game, the world cup, we were the force! The force at the moment is “consolidating” – the wonderful euphemism used by cricket lovers who are in denial and refuse to use the “s” word, or “slump”.
Me, I’m a baseball lover. That good old square peg in a country that dotes on cricket.
I am not sure how much you know about cricket, but the long form or test cricket is a game that is played over five days… as in five whole days! The usual result is a draw, pushing keys into the grass to test the pitch is considered normal, commentators count the number of seagulls present on the pitch to stay awake and players stop the game and take tea in the afternoon. All I can say is please point me in the direction of the national paint drying championships right now!
Baseball has a small following in this country and is played if you know where to find it. But you have to look! Kids as young as five can sign up for the sport and there are clubs scattered throughout the country, although nothing as comprehensive as America’s Little League. We have a Major League baseball nursery on the Gold Coast and talented players are scouted and signed to Major League baseball teams at the age of seventeen. There have been about thirty Australians who have played in the Major League, about a dozen of whom are currently active. Our highest profile player is probably Grant Balfour, currently with the Oakland Athletics.
The Major League baseball season has just started in the States and all is right with the world again. I am always slightly conflicted this time of year as it means winter is headed our way, but thankfully we have the baseball to warm up and bless our little cotton socks. Baseball is generally played in the States in the evenings so it means we get the coverage during our morning – usually when school or work gets in the way. The best thing that has happened for us starving Australian baseball fans is the internet. We can now stream live baseball games and get the play-by-play in real-time, complete with American radio ads.
So this is how to spot an Australian baseball fan:
- they desperately scour the internet for snipets of major league baseball news and happenings
- they have lots of American friends
- they know what a walk off homer is
- they linger at social venues with ESPN just to catch a glimpse of play at lunchtime
- they know that any cricketer who wants to know how to throw a ball needs to train with a baseball player
- they pine for Autumn because that’s when opening day comes around and know that winter is baseball season
- the will pay a scalper a bomb when they are in America to get tickets to a baseball game
- they stand up to stretch in their lounge rooms after the end of the sixth inning
- they spend summer and winter watching their children play baseball and have an all year around baseball tan
We are knee-deep in our football season at the moment and I have my head buried in the Boston Red Sox (when not blogging, of course). Thankfully, my blog has had a better start to the season than the Red Sox, but I live in hope.
And my ultimate home run? My family visit to Cooperstown and Fenway Park last year. Da da da datta daaaaa…… charge!