The When in Rome theory of fandom and baseball gear

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I just got the email confirmation. Couldn’t be happier:

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That’s right. I bought a Yasiel Puig shirsey for me, one for my son and a Clayton Kershaw for my daughter. Even though I’m not a Dodgers fan.

Why? Partially because I want my son to learn the values, character and deportment of Yasiel Puig. This is a boring-ass country sometimes and it needs a little shaking up. The boy is gonna flip his pencil and strut when he finishes his SATs in eight years if I have anything to say about it. My daughter wanted Kershaw because (a) she didn’t want to be like her brother and me; and (b) I think she thinks Kershaw is cute, but I don’t want to ask her about it because that’d embarrass both of us.

But mostly it’s because the three of us are attending the Dodgers-Reds game on June 12 in Cincinnati and I am teaching my children one of the most rewarding things I’ve learned about baseball fandom over the past couple of years: when in Rome, do what the Romans do. When you go to a ballpark, commit. Either wear the home team’s colors or the visiting team’s colors, but don’t be neutral and don’t be that guy who wears a third team’s gear.

Why do this? It’s more fun that way.

If you’re wearing the home team’s stuff, even if it’s not your team — which is always the case for me given where I live — there’s a great sense of community to be had if you let yourself enjoy it. Random high-fives. Knowing comments from fan to fan. Or, quite often, totally ignorant comments from fan to fan but which are fun anyway because they assume you agree with them and people want to commiserate. You wear the home team’s gear for the same reason you don’t wear your fanny pack and go to McDonald’s when you travel in Europe. Try to go native. You may learn something. Or at least experience something.

As for wearing visiting team gear, well, sometimes you just can’t wear the home team’s stuff. I mean, I’m all for experiencing things, but if I find myself in Philly for some reason I’m not wearing Phillies gear for any reason. We all have to have standards. Circumstances may dictate it too. I went to a Padres-Dodgers game in Petco last year and the group I was with — and about 75% of the rest of the crowd —  was wearing Dodgers stuff, so why not? My son wants to wear Dodgers stuff in June for reasons explained below, so why not? Certainly if I see the Braves on the road anywhere I’m wearing my Braves gear. Again, the point is to commit to something, even if it’s for only three hours.

Now, obviously, there are some issues with this. For one thing, it can be expensive to buy a cap or a shirt for a one-off game. I’ll admit, I’m lucky in this regard in that, because I work from home, I don’t have to buy a business wardrobe. Most days I’m wearing baseball t-shirts around the house, so I’m getting way more use out of ’em than you might.

For another thing, wearing various teams’ colors on a day-to-day basis is easy for me in that I’m nowhere near my favorite team, geographically speaking so I don’t have to deal with people giving me garbage for having a Pirates or a Tigers shirt on once in a while. Indeed, Columbus is a pretty non-committal town, baseball wise, with a fair amount of transplants. If anything I get people happy to see someone else wearing random team gear from time to time. If you’re a Yankees fan wearing Rockies stuff in New Jersey, though? Yeah, you’ll probably get a lot of hassle. But, if you can afford such things for one-off or two-off wearings and if you don’t mind the occasional insult, it can be a lot of fun.

A couple of final thoughts about the When in Rome theory: I’ll make allowances for minor league or fictitious team gear in a big league park. If you have a Carolina Mudcats cap you bought or if you just can’t leave you house without that Hackensack Bulls jersey you bought at “Brewster’s Millions-Fest 1992,” well, go for it. Also, if you just can’t afford or bring yourself to buy gear, cool. At least try to commit in terms of cheering because you’ll get good mileage and karma out of that too. Just don’t be That Guy who wears Yankees stuff to a Red Sox-Orioles game in Baltimore. It’s a sign of pathetic insecurity.

Back to my kids and their Dodgers gear and my application of the When in Rome theory to them. This is not about teaching them to not to pick a favorite team. That’s happening slowly and organically and I am not going to force anything on them, be it my Braves fandom or even liking baseball a whole bunch if they’re not into it. But they are in to it for now, and it’s been cool to watch them figure out which team to like and why. For various reasons my son has gravitated to the Dodgers, which is why we’re going to this game in the first place, but it’s certainly nothing solid. My daughter is non-committal — she has a Braves shirt, is partial to the Padres because she saw her first big league game at Petco and likes to watch Tigers games because my girlfriend does — but I figure she’ll eventually have preferences. Just as I’m lucky to be able to afford gear from various teams, I’m lucky to have the Extra Innings package so we can watch any team we want.

But until their choices in this regard solidify, I’m happy to introduce them to everything. To let them cheer the Dodgers in Cincinnati or the Tigers in Detroit. To let them be a homer or a confrontational visiting team fan. I just want them to have fun and get involved and to enjoy themselves. Because that’s what it’s all about.

Even if Bob Ryan tells me I don’t know how to do that.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cubs 5, Brewers 3: An absolute dagger of a loss for the Brewers. Chicago took a 2-0 lead early and Milwaukee fought back to take a 3-2 lead in the eighth. In the ninth Ian Happ reached on a grounder on which he should have been out — no error was called, Jeremy Jeffress just couldn’t get to the bag in time — and then Javier Baez tied things up singling Happ in with two outs. In the 10th, Kris Bryant hit a two-run homer on a high fastball that probably didn’t do everything Oliver Drake wanted it to do. Wade Davis got the final five outs of the game, in the ninth and tenth, striking out four Brewers. Chicago is now four and a half games ahead of the Brewers in the Central. Milwaukee will have to win the final three games of this series to have any shot at the division. They do remain only one back in the Wild Card, however, because Colorado keeps losing.

Dodgers 5, Phillies 4: Philly took a 4-2 lead thanks to rookie sensations Nick Williams and Rhys Hoskins, but old men Curtis Granderson and Andre Ethier — still alive! who knew?! — homered in the six than seventh innings, respectively, to tie it up. The Dodgers’ own rookie sensation Cody Bellinger drove in the eventual winning run with a groundout in the seventh. With that win the Dodgers clinch at least a tie for the NL West title. They can pop champagne corks with either a win tonight or a Dbacks loss. Bad news though: Justin Turner got a bruised thumb when he was hit by a pitch from Mark Leiter Jr. in the first. X-rays were negative and he’s day-to-day, but that kind of thing can linger.

Indians 4, Angels 1: Francisco Lindor hit a three-run homer in the fifth to break a 1-1 tie and the Indians win yet again. That’s 27 of 28 now. They’re only a game behind the Dodgers for the best record in baseball which, as we’ve noted recently, matters now that home field in the World Series is determined by non-stupid means.

Orioles 3, Rays 1: Gabriel Ynoa — who, apropos of nothing, has one of the more satisfying last names to both read and pronounce in all of baseball — tossed eight innings of five-hit, one-run ball. Manny Machado hit a two-run homer and Trey Mancini knocked in a run, both coming in the first innings, for all of Baltimore’s scoring. Tampa Bay threatened in the ninth. It wasn’t anywhere near as good a threat as the one Kim Jong Un issued to Trump yesterday — really, all politics aside, that thing reads fantastically — so the O’s were able to extinguish the fire.

Royals 1, Blue Jays 0: Jason Vargas and four relievers allowed two hits and no runs to beat J.A. Happ and three relievers who allowed eight hits and one run. Melky Cabrera‘s third inning RBI single was the game’s only scoring. Can you imagine what any pitcher from before, say, 1980, must think about a 1-0 game featuring a two-hit shutout that required nine pitchers?

Twins 12, Tigers 1: The Twins had been on a mini-skid before last night, but the Tigers pitching staff will always cure what ails ya. Joe Mauer and Jorge Polanco had three hits each and four different Twins batters knocked in two runs. The Twins now have a two and a half game lead for the second Wild Card with ten days left in the season.

Cardinals 8, Reds 5: Scott Schebler hit two homers for the Reds but it was not enough to overcome the Cards. Dexter Fowler had three hits and drove in two. He was 7-for-13 with two home runs and six RBI in the three-game series, swept by St. Louis. The Cards, who were swept by the Cubs last weekend, are still alive for the Wild Card, though, sitting a game and a half back of Colorado and a half game back of Milwaukee.

Braves 3, Nationals 2: R.A. Dickey allowed two runs over eight innings to pick up his 10th win on the year. After the game he said, “I’d be lying to say I didn’t have some emotions about it. This could be my last start ever at a home venue.” So there’s a decent chance he retires after the season. Part of me hopes he doesn’t — knuckleballers can and should pitch forever and he does have a team option the Braves are likely to pick up for 2018 — but he’s got kids and stuff and it’d be totally understandable if he decided he was done.

White Sox 3, Astros 1: White Sox starter Carson Fulmer lasted one third of an inning before leaving with a blister so seven relievers covered the rest of the game, allowing only one run to the best offense in baseball. Dallas Keuchel walked in one run and allowed another to score on a double play to earn the loss. Tim Anderson hit an insurance home run in the eighth.

Rangers 4, Mariners 2: Cole Hamels allowed only one run over eight innings pitched and was backed by Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo homers and a Carlos Gomez two-run double. The Mariners have been part of the Wild Card conversation for much of the season but now they’re closer to last place in the AL West (4.5 games) than they are to the second Wild Card (5 games).

Padres 3, Rockies 0: Clayton Richard, fresh off of his two-year contract extension, tamed the Rockies, shutting them out for seven and a third, scattering seven hits. Christian Villanueva homered and drove in two. The Rockies have dropped four straight and have the Brewers and Cards breathing down their necks for the second Wild Card.

Padres, Mariners join list of teams to extend netting

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The Reds announced earlier that they plan to extend the protective netting at Great American Ball Park in time for Opening Day next season. You can add the Padres and Mariners to what will surely be a growing list.

A young fan was struck in the face by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, which gave new life to the netting debate. Some fans and media types think Major League Baseball is not doing enough to protect fans. While Major League Baseball has issued guidelines for protective netting, it is ultimately up to the teams to decide just how much netting to use.