For those who may not know, the sport of baseball has long been known as America’s Favorite Pastime. Attending a baseball game is almost a celebration of sorts for us Americans. We wear our team t-shirts, gather in the stadium to cheer on our favorite team, and even hiss at the umpire when he calls our favorite player out. The game of baseball is almost perfect in its simplicity. Even young children can understand the simple rules and follow a baseball game. The concept is easy: nine players from each team on the field, three strikes, three outs, run three bases then score at home plate.
To an American, baseball is more than a game. It is a representation of our nation. Indeed, it’s a glimpse into the sports culture of America. There are traditions in baseball that transcend race, religion, politics, or social class. For just those nine innings, we put aside all the differences that challenge us today. We are all just Americans while we are at the stadium.
THROWING OUT THE FIRST PITCH:
One of our favorite traditions in American baseball is the throwing out of the first pitch.
During the opening ceremony of any Major League Baseball game, a special guest is invited by the home team to throw the first pitch to signify the beginning of game play. The special guest can be a well-known person like a political figure, the CEO of a large, influential company, a celebrity, or team alumni. On the other hand, it could be an every day local person. This could include a local college athlete, an elderly man celebrating a 100th birthday, a local veteran, or a child sponsored by the Make A Wish Foundation.
It doesn’t matter who the person is, or their level of influence in the community. For that day, they are treated as special guests. They are honored and cheered on by thousands of baseball fans. It’s truly considered an honor. The person throwing the first pitch stands several yards in front of the pitcher’s mound. After all, most of us can’t throw the entire 60 feet and 6 inches with any amount of accuracy (unless it’s an athlete, they usually go the entire distance)!
They throw the ball in the direction of home plate where the ball is caught by a team member on the home team. Once this is completed, the players from the home team high fives the ceremonial pitcher as they sprint out to the ball field to begin the first inning.
THE SEVENTH INNING STRETCH:
Another moment that brings Americans together during baseball is the Seventh Inning Stretch.
This long-standing tradition happens after the top of the 7th inning and before the bottom of the seventh inning. As soon as the players leave the field in that break, the announcer invites the fans in the stadium to rise and enjoy the Seventh Inning Stretch. This gives fans a chance to stand up, stretch their arms and legs, and participate in singing the traditional song. Take Me Out To The Ball Game was written in 1908, and baseball fans have been singing it ever since!
During the seventh inning stretch, fans also replenish their beverages and snacks. Concession stands at the baseball parks experience spikes in volume during this time in the game. Unfortunately, the music for this song is not public domain until 2029 so I am unable to share this wonderful song in this article. However, if you do a quick web search, you can find many videos featuring his song. There’s something truly magical that happens when large arena, filled with people, unite in singing this classic American tune. The feeling is one of friendship as we unite in our respect for our favorite sport.
Perhaps this is a secret that most Americans don’t want to share. We love stadium food. Hot dogs, cotton candy, ice cream, and peanuts are washed down with beer by the adults and sugar-laden soda by the children. The American custom on game night is an indulgence which is saved for very rare occasions. For on game night, we skip eating a healthy dinner. On that night, we arrive early at the stadium and find our seats. Once we know where we will be situated, we find the concession stand nearest to our seating section.
We order trays filled with hot dogs. We top the hot dogs with messy but yummy items like onions, ketchup, and mustard. We order a side of hand-cut french fries. They, too, are topped with ketchup, at the very least but sometimes chili and cheese sit atop these golden potatoes. These trays are carefully carried to our seat. We sit, trays in lap, and enjoy those tastes of baseball and summer time. If the children dribble ketchup down their chins or drip it onto their shirts, it’s okay, We don’t worry about it during a baseball game. The children will wash up and a little stain remover will get their clothing clean. During baseball night, we forget about all of that!
After we eat hot dogs and french fries, we order sweets for the children. And maybe for ourselves, if we are being totally honest. Ice cream and cotton candy are essentials on baseball game night! For those who prefer a salty treat, there are soft pretzels, popcorn, or peanuts to be nibbled on during the game. The day after the ball game, we worry about eating healthy. But on game day, we enjoy ourselves.
I hope that this glimpse into how baseball bonds Americans together shows you a little bit about the baseball culture. Even those who aren’t avid sports fans can follow this perfect game. But while the game is fascinating to some of us, others enjoy just the simplicity of going to a baseball game. It truly is a pleasurable and carefree experience. We step away from the worries of everyday life for that period of nine innings. We enjoy the camaraderie. For during the game, we just enjoy being outdoors, with other Americans, partaking in the simple pleasure that is baseball. This is why it’s called America’s Favorite Pastime.