If you had told me 10 years ago that I would look forward to baseball’s Opening Day more than I looked forward to football season, I would have said you were nuts. Me? BASEBALL. What a joke.
But as we enter week two of the baseball season, it’s safe to say I’ve seen almost as many Nats games this season as I saw Skins games all of last football season. And while my undying hatred for the team’s quarterback definitely plays into that, it is by no means the main reason.
I was born into a football family. Every Sunday, I sat in my paternal grandparents’ living room and watched Washington’s pigskin team fail over and over again. My grandfather called them jigaboos and I laughed (while simultaneously wincing at the atrocious play). My grandmother, father, mother and brother (and sometimes cousins and aunts and uncle) would all catch the game together. It was my weekend ritual.
It has been almost 15 years since the last time that happened. Hard to believe it has been that long since the night my grandfather died (I’ll get to that story eventually).
But I digress. As I was saying, I was born into a football family. Baseball was boring and it wasn’t to be watched. I caught the occasional big league game at Camden Yards (more like 2 or 3). I even had a pair of Orioles earrings as a kid. But my heart was never in it.
And then the Expos left Canada and changed their names to the Nationals. I won’t lie, for a girl who was raised on football, I was way too excited when DC finally got a pro baseball team. I’d heard stories of the legendary Washington Senators, but that didn’t mean much to me.
But when the Nats came to town, I was determined to learn everything I could about baseball. I watched over 100 baseball games that first season. Which is a ton for someone who had only seen a few pro games before that. Brad Wilkerson (I have a thing for 3rd basemen) and Johnson and our Mel Gibson lookalike catcher whose name I can never remember. Cristan Guzman and Livan Hernandez. Chad Cordero was a hell of a closer (though I didn’t really know what a closer was at the time).
Those first few seasons were a blur, as I tried to learn everything there was about the game. I can remember my first game at RFK, which was also one of the last seasons the team spent there. We were playing some random team, like the Rockies or the Diamondbacks, and Austin Kearns hit what turned out to be a game winning homer with Zimm on base. It. Was. Epic.
Today, I not only watch my team for fun, but I’ve found the perfect way to incorporate them into my daily work life. And though I still don’t know a lot, I know so much more than I did. Maybe one day, I’ll know as much about baseball as I do about football. And that I’ll get to take all the credit for. I didn’t sit around for over a decade learning it from my dad and grandpa. I learned it on my own. When my dad or brother want to know something about baseball, they come to me. I’m the resident Hinton baseball expert.
If you’ve never been a teenaged girl watching a football game at a house party with a bunch of bigots or a woman cheering louder at the bar than any man, you won’t understand why that’s a big deal. People assume you don’t know what you’re talking about, until they realize you do and things get awkward. Every once in a while, you’ll find a guy who loves a chick that can talk sports with him (and on occasion, out talk him), but mostly it’s an issue.
But what’s not an issue for me is that I love sports. It’s the one thing I’ll never be ashamed to admit. And while baseball might not have been my first love, it’s definitely my true love. And that has made all the difference.