Despite its measured pace, baseball is not boring to most true fans of the game. With that said, I do think that being a baseball fan is more challenging and takes a little more effort than some other sports because of its pace, its frequency (almost daily), and some of the game’s almost imperceptible nuances.
With a little bit of effort, however, it is possible to appreciate baseball more. Baseball has endured for so long precisely because it is a worthwhile pastime. Without further ado, here are some humble suggestions for how to become a better baseball fan.
- Subscribe to MLB.tv – If you don’t live in a market with a Major League Baseball team, MLB.tv is an excellent option. For $109.99 (2017 season pricing), you can watch or listen to any broadcast of any out-of-market team on any device all season. (There’s also a single team option for $84.99.) The MLB.tv subscriptions also include access to all radio broadcasts of games and the MLB At Bat app’s premium features for your devices. If you buy the whole package instead of the single team option, you can take your time watching different teams before deciding which team you want to follow. If you don’t have the money to subscribe to MLB.tv, try a Gameday Audio subscription for $19.99, which will give you all the radio feeds for all teams (no blackouts).
- Follow a team – Baseball happens almost everyday at most levels of professional baseball. Watch or listen to as many games as you can, and if you miss a game, at least check the box scores everyday. Following a specific team will add context and continuity, which, I think, are important for being a baseball fan. Eventually, after following a team long enough, you’ll develop expectations for the team and its players, and you’ll be able to watch the game more critically as players outperform or underperform your expectations from game-to-game.
- Enjoy the anticipation of the pitch – The wait between pitches is almost always cited as a major reason that baseball is considered “boring” by some people. It can be a drag when the pitcher, batter, or both, are unnecessarily taking too much time between pitches. But in more consequential situations in, especially, more consequential games, the weight of the world is contained in that lull between pitches. Feel that weight, revel in it, and you will see why efforts to put a clock on that time between pitches seems so far off-base (no pun intended) to many baseball fans.
- Learn the rules of the game – Need help falling asleep at night? Read the Official Rules of Baseball!
Keep score – Are you easily distracted? Do you have trouble paying attention? If so, the perfect antidote is to keep score of the game. It’s very easy. Most programs sold (or given away) at baseball games include a scorecard and simple instructions on how to keep score. I find keeping score of a baseball game almost therapeutic in its simple pleasure. Plus, it serves as a personalized souvenir of the game you attended. (Don’t hesitate to keep score at home, too.)
- Read baseball books – Suggestions:
- Watch baseball movies – Suggestions:
- Field of Dreams
- Bull Durham
- The Sandlot
- A League of Their Own
- Major League
- Major League II
- Learn about baseball statistics, including today’s advanced stats – Baseball fans communicate about baseball via statistics. Batting average and runs batted in (RBI) are statistics most people are familiar with. In the last 10–20 years, however, a whole slew of new statistics have been developed that provide a better evaluation of players’ performance. Of note, wins above replacement (WAR) is a catch-all statistic that takes into consideration a compilation of offensive and defensive metrics that attempt to provide a value for each player. An average (i.e., “replacement”) player would have a 0.0 WAR. The best players will accumulate around 8–10 wins above replacement per season. Major League Baseball has a fairly comprehensive glossary of standard and advanced baseball statistics, and websites such as FanGraphs and Baseball Reference are indispensable.
- Learn the history – Reading baseball books, watching baseball movies, and studying baseball statistics should all help you learn the history of the game. If not, Google Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, Cy Young, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Sandy Koufax, et al.
- Play baseball! – In my opinion, the best way to develop an appreciation for the game is to play the game.