So I really, truly love baseball. That’s kind of an abstraction, I know, but it’s the truth. I love baseball because it means spring and summer. It means short sleeves and blue skies and lazy Sunday afternoons at the ballpark. It means the simple intricacies, like watching an outfielder make a great diving catch or standing up to cheer for a pitcher with a 3-2 count on the batter and two outs in the inning. It means thinking back to when you were a kid, playing catch with a family member in the backyard or hitting a ball off a tee with a whiffle ball and a plastic bat. It means hope and second chances, a clean slate for underdog and overachieving teams alike. But over the past few years, baseball has developed an even deeper meaning for me that transcends all of this.
I think about this every time I go to a Giants game with my older brother Ryan. I value every chance I get to spend with him, maybe more so than most people do with their siblings. That’s because I’m still getting to know him — I met him a little less than three years ago. My parents had him in 1975 while they were still in college — two years before they got married — and due to extenuating circumstances, decided to give him up for adoption. Almost 32 years later, my mom decided to try to find him, and, as the saying goes, “the rest is history.” He came home from a Boston trip to catch the Giants at Fenway Park with his now-wife in June 2007, and found a letter from my mom in his mailbox, introducing herself and our family and expressing her hopes that maybe we could make a late start and become a part of each others’ lives.
From the start, my brother and I developed an instant connection with baseball. In our first e-mails, before we even talked on the phone or met in person, we were talking about the Giants, analyzing the tough losses that were mounting up, Barry Bonds’ home run chase, and the prospects of a new young pitcher named Tim Lincecum. During the time we spent trying to fill in the blanks of each others’ pasts, we talked about baseball. It was our mutual common point, a shared interest that we could use to make it past the initial awkwardness of a newfound sibling relationship.
Almost three years after he became a part of my life, we’re closer than I could have ever hoped, especially considering I wasn’t confident that we would ever meet. We talk through e-mails, Facebook, or we send text messages almost every day about sports, music and everything in between. We don’t get to see each other as often as I’d like, but with baseball season now underway, I’ll get to see him relatively often, as he plans to come down to the Bay Area for games once or twice a month. The fact that I am fortunate enough to be able to share the experience of going to a game with my brother gives me another reason to love baseball, to count down to Opening Day far in advance every year.
Thinking about my brother and our mutual love of the game has made me come to realize the unity that exists in sports and how it goes beyond that of players on the same team. There aren’t that many opportunities in society where people of completely different backgrounds, political views or values can all connect — that’s why a sport can be so magical.
Sports can bring together cities and countries, with millions of people pledging allegiance to their country’s flag along with the colors of their favorite team’s uniforms. It evokes strong emotions that few other venues can — a team can tear your heart out by trading your favorite player, have you cheering until your throat is raw, or break your heart by losing a postseason elimination game. As a fan of your home team’s stadium, arena, or field, your voice is an echo to the shouts, applause and boos of other fans around you. It is where the noise of the crowd can become as loud as a 747 Boeing jet, where even the most soft-spoken individuals can be found yelling their voices hoarse. It is where miracles happen — the birthplace of the bottom of the ninth, the Hail Mary, the buzzer-beater. And it is the venue that has brought my brother and me closer together, and where we will be this summer when the Giants play the Red Sox. It will be almost three years to the date after he came home from seeing them play each other in Boston to find the letter from our mom in his mailbox.