There is a minor league baseball team in San Antonio called the San Antonio Missions. They were there when I was kid (their Wikipedia page says they’ve existed, in one form or another, since 1888, which can’t possibly be right), and so my grandma would take my sisters and me to their games every so often. Best I can tell, there were two reasons she did so: (1) She liked baseball. She was a very big Detroit Tigers fan. In fact, in my closet right now is an autographed Al Kaline jersey that she left to me when she passed away nine years ago. She knew I didn’t like baseball but she left it to me anyway because she was funny like that. I miss her a lot. (2) The tickets were cheap (it feels like I remember there being nights when it was 100 percent free to get in, which also can’t possibly be right), meaning it was one of the things we could afford to do without much worry.
As such, the actual games were always a secondary part of any of the memories we made there. And that’s been how my entire relationship with any form of baseball has worked: as part of the periphery. Some of my cousins played a lot of little league ball, for example, and we would definitely go watch them play a lot, but mostly I’d just wander around with my friends and try to figure out a way to hustle up $2 to get a chili-cheese Frito pie and a Gatorade. In high school, I managed to avoid the game entirely, save for a single trip to watch the Missions play my freshman year that I only remember because a friend of mine almost made out with a girl there. In college, I signed up to play on a co-ed softball team that some people I knew put together, but I never actually managed to make it to an actual game. And to this day, I’ve taken my sons to exactly one Astros game. That was over seven years ago, and all we did was go there, find our seats, eat some ice cream out of a tiny helmet (which was adorable), and then leave. (I’m pretty sure we didn’t make it past the third inning.)
But the Astros are in the World Series now, and I live in Houston, and everyone I know here is talking about it and thinking about it and considering the possibility that, for the first time in their franchise history the Astros could win a title, and also for the first time in over two decades a Houston team could win a championship in one of the Big Three sports. So starting last Wednesday, which was when they had that bonkers Game 2, I have been watching the games to watch the games. I watched Game 3 from the fourth inning on, then watched Game 4 from the third inning until the Dodgers scored 100 runs in the top of the ninth, then watched Game 5—if you can even believe this—from the beginning until the end. It was my first ever Baseball Weekend. Some notes:
- One of the very best baseball things is when, as soon as a pitcher gives up a home run, the camera immediately cuts to a guy in the dugout who, more times than not, is on a landline telephone with someone. It’s so funny. I like to pretend that he’s talking to someone about something completely unrelated to baseball, like maybe to one of his high school friends about the new season of Stranger Things.
- One of the other very best baseball things is when the pitcher throws a pitch that’s a ball but the catcher catches it and then moves his glove a little bit so that it looks like maybe it was actually a strike. Catchers are good friends. (Related to this: I like it a lot when the catcher is like, “OK, everyone wait for a second,” and then he jogs out to the mound and talks to the pitcher about something for a minute.)
- It’s cool that pitchers pitch and catchers catch and batters bat. I wish that more positions in sports were as accurately titled as those three.
- It’s cool when a batter hits a ball on the ground that’s foul and everyone sitting near the section where it hits the wall leans over the wall and tries to grab it. It’s like a human version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos. (Also, it’s very silly to me that you can just reach out onto the field and take a ball and everyone’s like, “Cool.” Whenever they play basketball games in Portland, they do this thing where someone will hand the game ball to someone up high in the stands, and then it’ll get passed all the way down through the crowd to the court. It’s the opposite of people stealing baseballs.)
- The thing where they show the shot of the players in the dugout when a ball gets hit far and the players are trying to will the ball out of the park. It’s so great and charming.
- Related to the above: the thing where they show the pitcher after he’s just given up a home run and he’s sitting there looking absolutely crushed. It’s so terrible and heartbreaking.
- Whoever the guy was who started at pitcher for the Astros in Game 4: He was not fucking around. Like, not even a tiny amount. I’m a fan of his now. (Not enough of a fan that I’m going to bother looking up his first name. But I know his last name is Morton, which is good enough for me because I’ll be able to say something like, “Man, Morton was really throwing fireballs, huh boys,” to the other dads in my neighborhood when our kids are all outside playing. That’s been missing from my Dad Repertoire.)
- When the Astros are batting, their third person up is Altuve and their fourth person up is Correa. It looks neat when Altuve, who is tiny, strikes out because the camera shows him walking off the screen, and then a couple seconds later Correa, who is big, comes walking up in his place and so it looks like Altuve got mad and then turned into an Incredible Hulk version of himself offscreen and then came back to try again.
- The guy from the Dodgers with the big red beard: goddamn terrifying.
- Baseball is only the most boring thing of all time or the most stressful thing of all time. Those are the only two temperatures it seems to have.
- The sound it makes when someone hits a ball hard enough for it to be a home run: beautiful.
- The sound a crowd makes when they realize one of their guys just hit a home run: also beautiful. It sounds a lot like the way an NBA arena sounds after one of their guys hits two or three 3s in a row and then splashes in another one. Joy is joy, I suppose.
- This is only a hypothesis right now, but it seems like the sillier a baseball player’s name is the deadlier he is as a talent. (I’m willing to admit that this might be completely wrong. I’m only basing this off of the baseball players I know, who are: Kike Hernández, Coco Crisp [who is my favorite baseball player ever who has a name that sounds like cereal], Babe Ruth, and Ham Porter from The Sandlot.)
- Being down 2-0 in a baseball game against the Dodgers feels like you’re actually down 250-0, but being up 2-0 in a baseball game against the Dodgers feels like you’re actually down 1-0. Do all teams feel like that in all games, or does it only feel like that to me because I am rooting for the Astros?
- It would be neat if other sports adopted the Famous Person Comes Out To Throw The First Pitch Of The Game thing that they do in baseball. I would very much enjoy getting to watch, say, Denzel Washington shoot the first 3 in an NBA game or Katy Perry kick the first field goal in an NFL game.
- During Game 3, they did a thing in the middle of the seventh inning where a guy (former Marine, current Houston Fire Department captain) came out in uniform and sang “God Bless America” while playing a guitar. I didn’t know this was going to happen. However, if before the game you’d have said, “Shea, during the middle of the seventh inning a guy is going to come out and sing a song,” I’d have guessed it would’ve been exactly that guy wearing exactly that uniform singing exactly that song playing exactly that instrument in exactly that way.
- I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over the thing where pitchers, who by most measures appear to be the most important players on the team, don’t play every single game. It’s weird.
- It’s also weird that there are different rules for pitchers batting in games played in Los Angeles versus games played in Houston. I asked a baseball friend of mine to explain it to me. He started explaining some story about how some managers had to vote for whether or not pitchers had to hit and some manager told some people to vote whatever way the Pirates were voting but the Pirates voted a way they weren’t expecting and so now blah, blah, blah. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure he was just making shit up because he knew I didn’t know any better. It was like the time when I was a kid and one of my uncles convinced me that a jalapeño was just a tiny pickle.
- Strikeouts are excellent because it’s the physical manifestation of telling someone to “sit the fuck down.” (I tweeted that during a game after an especially emphatic strikeout and someone sent me a GIF of a pitcher striking someone out and then shouting almost exactly that sentence at them. If I’d have known that baseball involved literally cussing people after figuratively cussing people out I probably would’ve started watching it a lot sooner.)
- I was surprised how quickly I became invested in the outcome of the games (there was literally a point during Saturday afternoon where I said, “I can’t wait for the Astros game tonight,” which is a thing I had never said in my life ever before). I was also surprised at how quickly it dissipated. (During Game 3, a fight broke out between Draymond Green and Bradley Beal in the Warriors-Wizards game and seeing one tweet about it was all it took for me to stop watching championship baseball for 10 minutes.) It feels a lot like my relationship with baseball going forward is going to be similar to my relationship with college basketball, in that I am only interested in it during the most high-stakes part of the postseason, at which point it feels like my whole life is tied up in it.
- Baseball (I’m told) is made up of 1,000,000 tiny moments that are all monumentally important. My favorite tiny moment from games 3, 4, and 5 happened during the top of the seventh inning of Game 5. The pitcher pitched, the batter bunted, and the runner who was on second base took off for third. The pitcher, who all of a sudden had to decide where he was going to throw the ball once he grabbed it, ran up to collect the ball, scooped it up off the ground, and as he did so you could hear the catcher shouting “Three! Three! Three!” The pitcher, without even looking, picked up the ball, spun around, and then zipped it to third base just in time for the third baseman to tag the runner out. I loved it. I loved that the catcher was smart enough to do that and that the pitcher was trusting enough to listen to him. It was great. I rewound that play and watched it (and listened to it) a good 10 times. If I ever become a real and actual baseball fan, it’s going to be because of little things like that.
- In the ninth inning of Game 5, Yasiel Puig (he is one of probably six baseball players whose name I know without looking it up) hit a two-run homer to bring the Dodgers to within one. When they showed the replay, it was a woman who came up with the ball in the stands. As she and the guy she was with celebrated, a different guy (standing next to them) reached over and yanked it from her hands and threw it back onto the field. I know that you’re supposed to do that when it’s the opposing team who’s hit the home run, but that still seemed like a dick move on his part.
- The Astros are now one game away from winning the World Series, which—even for me, a lifelong Astros fan since Wednesday—feels weird to type or say out loud. I hope they make it happen in Game 6, but I also don’t think I would hate watching a Game 7. If every baseball game was a World Series baseball game, I would be super into it because World Series baseball is so much fun.