A Transformation of my Baseball Fandom

As of September 23rd, 2012, the Miami Marlins are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and are involved in relatively little that I would be interested in writing about. Sure, I could discuss possible front office changes in the upcoming offseason, I could ponder variable position changes and lineup voids to address, but I like staying positive. Even when it is necessary or entertaining to discuss negative issues, it soon gets old. And given the current status and recent history of the Marlins’ organization, it has been old…and for a long time.

So I will address the renaissance of my baseball experience as a result of the MLBlogs network, as well as some personal achievements of my baseball life, which, unlike the Marlins’, I am largely satisfied with at the present moment.

In 2008, Nationals Park opened, and for the first time in my 11-year-old life I had a baseball Stadium I called “home.” I began to regularly schedule outings to games. At that point in time, I thought the only pre-game fun I could have at baseball stadiums was to plead players for autographs. In my first year of doing this, I garnered signatures from Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, and Luis Gonzalez.

That same year, on September 24th, the Marlins visited D.C., and I arrived to the ballpark earlier than normal. I noticed players were tossing balls in to the stands and from that point forward, a whole new dimension existed in my life of baseball fandom. I caught two balls at that game, each thrown by a Marlins player, but I failed to record their names.

In 2009, I was not concerned with catching baseballs, but I was still able to amass four of them at a September 5th game. In 2010, my dad was generous enough to let me convince him into taking a Spring Training trip. Over four days, I saw three games in Jupiter and Viera, Florida. The atmosphere was incomparable, and I witnessed a whole new side of baseball.

Last year, my baseball life was forever changed when I started this blog. At first, I thought I would only be writing about the Florida Marlins, a lowly baseball team overshadowed by a vibrant city, rich in Latin American culture. I did not realize it at the time, but that would soon prove to be a difficult task as I had a tough time brainstorming original ideas regarding the team. In fact, it was only a coincidence that I started the blog just months before the team transformed into the Miami Marlins. Thankfully, that provided a manifold of prompts for me to work with, and I successfully chronicled the team’s busy offseason.

But mainly, in 2011, I was introduced to the blog of Zack Hample. I had heard of him before, in the sense that I knew there was an obsessive baseball fan who had accumulated thousands of balls and could beg in a thousand languages just to get another. Actually, I had seen his 60 Minutes story years prior. But the situation did not completely come to light until an extremely strange coincidence transpired when I visited the University of Virginia last spring.

I was in the bookstore, and naturally, since I do not care for novels or textbooks, I wandered to the Sports section. Sitting exposed on a shelf was a book called The Baseball with a, you guessed it, simple baseball pictured on the cover with a plain black background. I flipped through it and read a few notable pages. One of which mentioned milestone home run baseballs that were sold for inordinate prices. I did not bother taking notice of the author or anything about him, but I thought the book looked interesting.

A few days later, I was fooling around on MLBlogs and saw the latest leaders list. Atop which was the blog of he, Zack Hample. I visited the site and quickly connected the dots. He was the obsessive guy I had heard about and it as it turned out, he was the author of that book. Very soon after I started reading his blog, I realized the sky was the limit for my baseball aspirations.

I began daydreaming about catching a milestone home run. For instance, I wanted to catch Matt Dominguez’s first career bomb, but that didn’t happen. I even wrote on this blog that I was going to catch “Mike” Stanton’s 500th career blast. I realized the Marlins were going to use commemorative baseballs in 2012, and I even (literally) dreamed about catching one. I wanted to go to the first ever regular season game at Marlins Park, but when that fell through I settled for an exhibition game.

These were really high aspirations, and may have seemed excessive. But within the last year or so, I accomplished things I never would have assumed possible the year prior. In July of 2011, I met Zack and played catch with Anibal Sanchez. Without discovering Zack’s blog, I never would have even thought to ask a player to play catch with me. Last September, I caught a batting practice home run on the fly, something I probably would not have attempted unless I realized that average Joe baseball bloggers do it on a daily basis. In April, I did indeed visit Marlins Park, and I revisited Jupiter, Florida as well, something I had also, literally, dreamed about.

This season, in two instances, I arrived at Nationals Park before it opened to take in batting practice activities. And four times I used my glove trick to rescue balls from crannies at Nats Park. In addition, I visited Dodger Stadium and PETCO Park. I explored PETCO extensively, something I likely would not have done had it not been for the network of bloggers who write about awesome things at awesome stadiums. Most recently, I snagged ten baseballs at a single game in no small part due to the tips I received from various bloggers.

To my excitement, my blog was featured on the front page of MLBlogs.com just under a year ago. Again, not something I would have even imagined. Unfortunately, my endeavors to attain a press pass for an MLB game have since failed as it appears that writing a “fan blog,” as fun as it may be, may not be a valid criterium for press credentials.

It’s weird for me to think about, but had amazing baseball fans not inspired me with their awesome stories, I might still be a spectator who thinks that baseball stadiums have nothing to offer other than scenic views and mediocre food; and that catching a home run is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for only a few lucky people.

The fun will not stop here. I have a whole lot of aspirations and plans for the upcoming years that I will soon write about. They range from simple things like visiting new stadiums and chronicling more games to crazy things like catching a milestone home run and visiting every stadium in one year.

If nothing else, I am thankful that I have found great interest and entertainment in a sport so cool, and have become acquainted with new people and ideas that can help me enjoy this pastime to the fullest.

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