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“Dad, Let’s Go! Dad, Is It Time to Leave Yet?”

Do you have a similar memory? I remember the days when I used to get so excited at school because I knew that afternoon, I was going to a baseball game with my family. It was almost like I couldn’t stand being in class because the final school bell was the only thing between me and the game ahead. I just couldn’t wait to get home to change my school clothes in the afternoon for an evening game. The happiest words were when my dad would finally come in and say, “Let’s go!” Now dressed in my jersey, with glove in hand, I couldn’t get into the car fast enough. As the car would make that last turn around the corner on a ride that seemed to take forever, I could see the stadium in front of me. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and into the stadium to our seats. As I would go through the turn styles, I could see the field in front of me with the smell of fresh cut grass in the air, I could hear the crack of the bat during batting practice. I would enter, hoping and praying that the baseball gods would allow one of those balls to land in my lap during the game. I would beg my dad for a soda, hot dog, and some peanuts, with no idea the expense of that as a little kid. At the time of the National Anthem, I knew the game was about ready to start, it’s the thing I’ve dreamt about all day. I hear those magic words, “Play ball.” As the game progressed, I would day dream about being the guy out on the field, taking the at bat, throwing that strike to the batter, hitting the home run, and hearing the crowd roar for me. These are the things that some little boys and even some little girls dream about. For me, it all started in the early 80’s at Anaheim stadium.

My mom didn’t want me to play a contact sport, like football or hockey, but felt it was okay to play baseball. So, the funny thing about that first professional game I attended, a ground ball was hit to the shortstop, the shortstop threw into the runner, and the runner and first baseman collided, both having to be taken off the field in stretchers via ambulance away from the stadium. Of course, they returned the next day fine but it was a scary moment. I was a little kid thinking, “Mom, I thought you said this sport was safe!?”

In those days, names like Carew, Grich, Boone, Jackson, Wilfong, Sutton, Pettis, DeCinces all played for the Angels. The Dodgers had the likes of Garvey, Lopes, Russell, Cey, Baker, Yeager, Valenzuela, Reuss, Monday, Guerrero. As a kid, these players seemed larger than life. They seemed like they could do no wrong. They were bigger than Superman, Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, and Batman all combined, in my mind. These were the people I dreamed about being around and being like.

Over the years, I lived in close proximity to Angel’s stadium and Dodgers’ stadium, which allowed for me to attend about 25-30 games a year. Every single game that I attended felt similar to that first time I ever walked into the stadium. There is something to be said, even as an adult, about the sound of the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, a stale over priced hot dog, the smell of the grass, and the players with their names on the back of their jersey.

I will never forget a time when my dad got tickets to an Angels game and was told not to take me because it was a school night. But he did. The game went into extra innings. I had to see every pitch, and the Angels won with a walk off single by Don Baylor. What I didn’t understand as a kid, was when I woke up for school the next day, arriving home well after midnight the night before, why my dad was sleeping on the couch. As an adult, I can figure it out but as a kid I just thought dad fell asleep watching TV. My young mind just couldn’t wait to get to school and brag about staying for all of the innings at the game the night before and seeing my heroes play. The sweet innocence of a young boy.

Now I know those of you that are reading this, have had similar experiences. It’s what makes baseball America’s favorite past time. We never forget the first time we attended a game, the love that we have for our favorite team, and the desire to continue to go as often as possible. One of my favorite questions to ask people when I do a podcast is where did their love for their favorite team start? More often than not, I get the answer about a family member taking them to a game, sharing peanuts and popcorn, and talking. What baseball does for an adult, is it allows us to enjoy life, escape the cares of the world for a couple of hours while enjoying our heroes as they play a game that we still dream about playing. Let’s face it, how many times did we dream about being up in the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs and the bases loaded, down by two runs? Baseball is what makes life easier and more manageable. So, with all of that being said, Spring Training is right around the corner, as is Opening Day. Once again in a new season, we get to feel like that six-year-old kid, seeing that grass for that first time, getting a hot dog with the family, listening to the crack of the bat with the roar of the crowd and not worrying about another care in life. I say bring on baseball season.

Bill Perkins, Top Fan Rivalry

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