Most people would assume that hockey is the sport of choice for every Canadian. As much as I enjoyed playing and watching hockey, baseball is my sport of choice, and many factors contribute to this.
Growing up, I never had the privilege of attending a Toronto Maple Leafs game at Maple Leaf Gardens, but on several instances was fortunate enough to see the Blue Jays play at Exhibition Stadium and Sky Dome. This was my first exposure to professional sports in person, and I have many fond memories of those trips.
As I was going through school, a lot of my friends played baseball in the same league as I did, so we often played against and with each other, and many friendships formed out of this sport. My father coached me on several occasions, so to share a sport I enjoyed with him meant more time together as father and son.
As I got older, other sports, like hockey, basketball, and football I enjoyed as well, but there was always something about baseball, with its three-hour games and sometimes slow-pace, that kept me engaged.
At the time I could not figure it out, but reflecting now, I can. Like football, baseball is the ultimate team sport. There are so many nuances to the game that only passionate fans may pick-up on: how deep the outfielders are, is there a shift on, is the shortstop or second basemen in position to cover on a steal attempt, is this a hit-and-run count, does the hitter possess the speed to bunt, etc. The list goes on and on: how players are positioned, who is pitching and hitting, the situation, and much like football, so many other little details that have to be honed in order to compete and win.
Another great aspect of baseball is the way a home run brings a crowd to their feet as does a strikeout. Two opposites – in that a home run is the ultimate excitement for a hitter as is a strikeout is for a pitcher. A well-scored game could get the same appreciation as a well-pitched low-scoring game, as baseball fans love both ends of the spectrum.
There will always be those skeptics who say baseball is a slow paced game with no parity and in need of a salary cap. Maybe they are right, maybe not. But those skeptics should head down to their local ballpark on a sunny afternoon, grab a beer, and watch the game of baseball. I dare say nothing is better.