We all know that annoying guy. The one who visits England for five minutes and comes back a massive Premier League fan. Suddenly he'll die for the Gunners, or whichever team was closest to the crappy flat he shared with two Aussies, three South Africans and 10 Kiwis. Or the douche who comes home from two weeks in the States and suddenly loves baseball because they got steamed at one game.
That's me. I went to see the Los Angeles Dodgers and now I am hooked. It's the greatest game in the world. The look, the feel, the stats, the food, the tension, the history, the music, the commentary. Baseball is the game of the future played in knickerbockers from the 1930s. I'd die for my beloved Dodgers.
Why is baseball so good? For one thing it's possible to win right to the end. An innings is alive until there are three outs. As long as your team is getting runners on bases then it just keeps going. Even if the away team is up by 7. All you gotta do is load the bases twice and smash some homers. Surely the greatest moment in world sport is the grand slam walk-off home run at the bottom of the 9th.
Baseball is in your face. Unlike cricket, which is played in the middle of the field, baseball is up against the hoarding. So the crowd can be right behind the catcher. Pitches coming at you at 98 miles an hour (158km/h). You're right in there. Unless of course you can't afford the flash tickets - then you end up high up, miles away on the other side.
It's extremely hard to score a run in baseball. Runs are marked against the pitcher as ERAs or Earned Runs Allowed. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers currently has an ERA of 1.46. He is allowing fewer than two runs against him an outing. Crazy. Because the game is weighted so much in favour of the pitcher the pressure is on him. Unless there is an error he takes the blame for a run. When a pitcher starts to struggle things get intense. Successive players walked. Runners on one and two. The count at 3-0. None down. All eyes on one guy on the mound. Then suddenly, strikeout, ground out, fly out and the innings is saved. Pressure released.
Baseball has Vin Scully, the best commentator in the world. The man is a genius.
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If you get into baseball there is so much to watch. Over the next few weeks my team the Dodgers will play three away games against the Mets in New York, then four in a row against the Cubs in Chicago, then back home to face the Braves for three, before taking on the Rockies. Twenty games in a row, then a day off and another 20. If you have the MLB.TV app you can stream every game live. My commute home coincides perfectly with the 5th or 6th innings. It's brilliant.
Baseball has Vin Skully, the best commentator in the world. He's 88 years old and has been covering the Dodgers since they moved from New York to LA in the 1950s. A world record 67 consecutive seasons with the same team. The man is a genius. He will give you the count, personal information about each player and at the same time weave a curveball story seamlessly into the mix. Two weeks ago the Dodgers were facing the Padres at home. At the top of the 2nd Vin delivered the complete history of the beard from its sexual significance to the primitive man, through clean-shaven Alexander the Great and on to modern times. When the Giants visited in April, Vin slipped in the amazing tale of pitcher Madison "Mad Bum" Bumgarner. A rattlesnake came at his wife so he hacked it into bits with an axe only to find a live jackrabbit in the slices. Mad Bum took the jackrabbit home and nurtured him back to health before releasing the lucky little critter back into the wild. Sadly this is Vin's last season.
I'd never turn my back on Kane "Steady the Ship" Williamson, Mike "The Brain" Hesson and the Black Caps. Never. But I was in the US for five minutes a few weeks back so I'm suddenly all about Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Chase Utley, Vin Scully and the Dodgers. Baseball is the greatest game in the world. Well, best equal with cricket.
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