Welcome to my first blog post on Baseball with Ben! This is a project I am excited about, and quite frankly should have done sooner. However, I’m still in my 20’s, so “better late than never” certainly applies here. This is my history within the great game of baseball. From the beginning to the time I write this post in 2018.
Origins – A Home Team Dynasty of Epic Proportions
I honestly don’t know which year I began rooting for the New York Yankees. Having been born in late 1994 in New York State (not New York City) the “perfect storm” for a lifelong Yankees fan was brewing. What I do know is that I wanted to root for a “home team”, and I’m not sure I even knew about the mets. XD It may have been as late as 2000 or 2001 that I began rooting for the Yankees, but I may have been aware of them in the late 90’s as well. Call me a bandwagon fan if you want, but that’s pretty much all I could be at that point.
Two books were foundational in my love for the Yankees and their signature player of the era, Derek Jeter. Game Day was the first, followed by The Life You Imagine. I was hooked. After reading those books, I wanted to become “the next Derek Jeter” and be an all-world shortstop for the Yankees when I grew up. Of course, lots of other little kids had that exact same goal. XD
Playing adventures and mishaps, and the beginning of a long-term obsession
The first baseball game I remember watching was Game 6 of the 2003 World Series, when Josh Beckett pitched the Marlins to the series win. I still remember being bored and depressed by the game, because it was the opposite of what I wanted: a pitching duel where my favorite team lost the biggest game of their year.
However, by spring 2005 I took a big step in my “career”. I started playing in Little League Baseball at the AAA level. That started as I was finishing up 4th grade. I distinctly remember getting at least 2 hits in my very first game, and the coach of the opposing team even said something to his pitcher from the dugout to warn him when I came up for my 3rd or 4th at bat. Little did I know that it would be one of my best baseball games I played in. XD
I played in Little League for 3 years, making the “Majors” in 6th grade. The one thing I am quite happy about was all the positions I played. At various points in my “career” (my love for all things epic tends to lead to me exaggerating things sometimes haha) I played at every position except catcher, which I intentionally avoided. In fact, I remember sneakily avoiding the catcher drills during practices and tryouts just so I didn’t have to put on the gear, wear the sweaty mask, and have trouble catching pitches that were faster than I could hope to throw myself.
In Little League I remember mainly playing first base, third base, shortstop, and (usually) starting pitcher. I was never good tracking balls off of bats, so the outfield was a weakness of mine. I wanted to play shortstop, but there were already kids better than me. The corner infield positions worked out fairly well, and I wasn’t the worst pitcher in the league.
It was probably partly due to the school I played for, but I always seemed to be on losing teams. Though not just losing teams, but truly atrocious teams. I remember being part of a “Best of the Rest” team (for the All Star team “runner ups”) that went 0-7. I think our only “win” came when the other team forfeited due to not having enough players, or not showing up to the game. Embarassing indeed. I almost never played on a team with a losing record, so it was pretty frustrating at times.
Modified, Middle School, and Baseball consumes my life
2006 was the year that changed everything. It was my first year of middle school, and at lunch I sat with a group of friends that were even more baseball-minded than some of my previous friends. Everything came together in 2006 for my baseball obsession, and the sport started to consume my life. Prior to 2006, I had hardly watched any baseball games, regular or postseason. In 2006 I watched a LOT of games, a trend that would continue until around 2011. My sister and I watched quite a lot of Braves games on TBS and Cubs games on WGN, so naturally they were our favorite teams outside of the Yankees. To this day the Braves are usually in my top 5 teams I root for, though I’ve soured on the Cubs for various reasons (more on that later). We didn’t get the YES Network with our cable, so we only saw the Yankees sparingly.
Modified baseball was the level I played at in 7th and 8th grade. This was when I realized that not only was I not going to become the next Derek Jeter, but I wasn’t going to come anywhere close to making the Major Leagues either. XD It was a trying time, and 7th grade in particular was somewhat rough for me in general. However, I still have some good memories of those years, especially off the field. Most years I played 3 seasons out of 4, with summer ball and fall ball pretty consistent. At this point my passion for playing started to wane, and my skill level compared to the other players my age was not as good as in Little League (where I was a bit above average).
I had never been into baseball cards before 2006 either, but in 2006 my sister and I started buying packs quite often. I never quite got there, but at one point my goal was to collect the entire base set of 2006 Topps from opening packs alone. My love for cards was part of the reason I developed a love for baseball statistics as well. I’ve always enjoyed math in general, so the statistical side of the game appeals to me. Topps was my favorite brand of cards because they were the most consistent with numbers on the backs of the cards – other brands often don’t show a player’s full career worth of stats, and/or they don’t have red/italics/bolding for leading the league or MLB. Also, 2006 Topps was just a nice-looking set in general in my opinion, and some of the cards were nice and shiny. 🙂
I was always a big reader as a kid, so reading about baseball was inevitable. From 2006-2010 I read dozens if not over a hundred different baseball books. I studied the history of the game and LOVED it. Along with a friend from school, I quickly became the most knowledgeable baseball fan in my grade, and probably the entire school (not huge though – around 160 people per grade). I read a lot of great books, which I hope to delve into more detail on this site eventually.
In short, from 2006-2010 I lived and breathed the game of baseball. Every day I was either playing it, reading about it, collecting the cards, talking about it, studying it, or more likely, many of the above on any given day.
Inevitable failures and an appropriate shift
In the spring of 2010 and 2011 (9th and 10th grade) I played Junior Varsity (JV) baseball my first two years of high school. However, my playing abilities reached an all-time low and my desire to play was even lower. Combine that with my passion for violin and an academically challenging final two years of high school approaching, and I decided by the end of my 10th grade season that I had had enough. I “retired” after a 7 year career from 2005-2011. In high school I mainly played second base and came on in relief, pitching occasionally. You can even see the positional decline, as I was often playing first, shortstop, and starting pitcher. The long slow decline was over, and I actually have absolutely no regrets about it. I did face a bit of peer pressure/disappointment from people I had played with for years, but I’ve always been incredibly immune to peer pressure to a bizarre extreme.
After my playing career was over, I was still heavily invested in Major League Baseball. My focus shifted away from baseball cards and books, but I was still watching games regularly and knew pretty much every player on any MLB roster at the time. During my final two years of high school, I developed a sudden interest in personal finance and investing, so I began reading books about that all the time. I also reached the (probable :)) apex of my violin career, so that took up a decent amount of time as well. The final shift was the biggest though – in the first half of 2011, I got back into Pirates Constructible Strategy Game, one of my childhood enjoyments from 2005-2006. In fact, in a way baseball took me away from Pirates CSG for a number of years, but now I’m back with a vengeance and it has been my biggest passion in life since 2011.
A New Yankees Era, and a great time for fans of the Epic moment
Here I am today, a Yankees fan for about 20 years now. Here in 2018 they are doing well, and hopes are high for championships in the near future. I was surprised by their incredible success in 2017, and I’m looking forward to the postseason for many years to come.
Speaking of the postseason, that is where my focus on baseball now lies. There is nothing I love more than October Baseball. The postseason is where the magic happens. The loudest and biggest crowds. The stars come out when it matters most. The goosebumps. The electric atmosphere. The epic moments I’ll never forget. Although I haven’t watched many regular season games the past 6+ years, I always catch as many postseason games as I can, often at the expensive of schoolwork and sleep while in college from 2013-2016. XD
Thank you for reading. I look forward to providing value, information, and entertainment in the times ahead.