(Lisha Dunlap)

I have never been a true Sports Fan. I don’t follow a team, and I cringe every time I hear a fan refer to anything a team ever accomplished as “we.”

But in the summer, something changes. I don’t become a fair-weather fan. I don’t start following a particular team. Yet I do fall in love with the game of baseball itself.

Many of you are probably rolling your eyes. Baseball is boring; football is full of action. I hear it all the time. And I disagree.

For baseball lovers everywhere, baseball is exciting, and it has several unique qualities. It’s the only major sport where the defense has the ball, and the offensive action progresses circularly around bases as opposed to back and forth between goals.

Across the globe baseball is passionately viewed and full of twists — at least, and especially, from the seventh inning on. From minor league games where every moment counts for young players trying to make it to the show, to the major league moments like an unforgettable dinger from Big Papi.

Speaking of the latter, this year I made it to my first Red Sox game. Fenway Park. Man, there’s nothing like it. I have mocked people who’ve never sat through a game yet claim to be diehard Red Sox or Yankees fans (mostly because those teams are recognizable in conversation and make great ball caps). But as I’ve said, I will go to any park I have tickets to, and I just happened to score beautiful club level seats along the first base line in Boston.

Boston’s Fenway Park as seen from the street behind it. (Lisha Dunlap)

From the moment I came in sight of the Green Monster, I was in awe. I’ve been to games in Miami, Dallas, Phoenix, Kansas City and plenty of minor league locales, but this really was a sight. Yet as much as I was impressed by the classic stadium, it was also the people who made quite an impression.

I’m often spunky and foul-mouthed, so Boston may simply be a good fit for me, but I instantly felt taken in by the crowd. No one was impatient or rude; all were together for a common objective — to cheer on their beloved team as they faced the Houston Astros.

Seated next to me was the quintessential fan, armed with a thick Boston accent, a well-worn hat, a signed jersey, a cold beer and a scorecard. Seated next to him were his wife and children, and in his lap was his first grandchild. The man had probably been to hundreds of games over his lifetime, but he treated this game — and every one — as its own adventure. I instantly wanted to be part of his family, and he immediately welcomed me into their excitement. He told me detailed stories of who sat where during each major game he had witnessed, and I was glad that I would be part of his future stories.

As luck would have it, this game became one for the books. Stretching into 11 innings, Big Papi David Ortiz won the game with a walk-off hit, his 600th career double. He literally walked off with second base.

David Ortiz hoists second base over his head after a game-winning home run. (Lisha Dunlap)

It was baseball at its finest, building to a nail-biting finish. Granted, games don’t often end with quite this much excitement, but moments like these turn otherwise sports-averse spectators into lifelong baseball fans. It’s why baseball is described as romantic, passionate, timeless. One hit, one catch, one pitch — each of these can completely change the course or outcome of a game.

I’m certain the same can be said by fans of any sport, from golf to football, and, ultimately, that’s where I am heading with this article.

Our county is in a rough state, but I refuse to dwell on the negativity. That doesn’t mean I will allow myself to become oblivious to issues, but my favorite part of humanity is the will to persevere, to keep following our passions with strength and determination. It doesn’t matter to me where your enthusiasm is placed, be it sports or art or music, I just hope that you are able to apply the same joy and love to other facets of your life.

So enjoy a baseball game this summer, even if you get confused by the infield fly rule. Treat strangers as well as you would treat other fans of your favorite team, because we are all actually on the same team, trying to win at life.

Tim Robbins’ Ebby Calvin LaLoosh said it best in Bull Durham, my all-time favorite baseball movie:

“A good friend of mine used to say, ‘This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.’ Think about that for a while.”


Big 12 Baseball

How to heckle every team in the Big 12 baseball tourney by William W. Savage III