Past the Press Box: More than a game

What my summer without the ballpark taught me about one of my favorite pastimes

<p>Connor Smith, assistant sports editor, attends the Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees baseball game Aug. 2, 2019, at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. Smith has visited 12 of the current 30 MLB ballparks. <strong>Connor Smith, photo provided. </strong></p>

Connor Smith, assistant sports editor, attends the Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees baseball game Aug. 2, 2019, at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. Smith has visited 12 of the current 30 MLB ballparks. Connor Smith, photo provided.

 I miss the ballpark, the food, the fans and the uncertainty that comes with every game. It was tough not relying on something that got me through many summers. While I miss the ballpark and can’t wait to return, I was able to take a step back and appreciate some of the little things in life, from dad’s steak on the grill to long hikes with my mom.  

Connor Smith is a junior journalism news major and writes “Past the Press Box” for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. 

It was spring break. I knew the coronavirus was getting dangerous, but I didn’t consider it a threat. 

That changed the evening of March 11, 2020.

Ball State had just suspended in-person classes due to virus-related concerns, and, a few hours later, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver suspended the 2019-20 regular season. I quickly called my best friend back home, and we immediately knew most other professional sports leagues would follow suit and postpone or cancel their seasons.

My dad picked me up from Ball State a few days later. We talked, and both of us assumed things would get better by the summer, but they didn’t. Neither of us could’ve predicted a summer without our tradition of taking a trip to the ballpark.

I consider myself fortunate. I have visited 12 out of the 30 MLB ballparks, and, until last year, would regularly spend my off days catching a game just miles away from my house near Chicago. 

However, not being able to attend even one game last summer taught me to never take the experience of attending a baseball game for granted again. You don’t realize how lucky you are until you have one of your favorite pastimes abruptly taken away from you.

Baseball played a major role in my childhood. I grew up playing recreationally and sometimes had dreams of making the show, even though I didn’t have the same hitting abilities as some of my friends. 

I vividly remember my first-ever MLB game. My dad and I saw the Chicago Cubs play the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field, and I remember feeling awestruck the entire time. From the smell of grilled onions to the sight of the famous ivy, everything felt so serene. 

Connor Smith, assistant sports editor, attends the Texas Rangers vs. Detroit Tigers baseball game July 8, 2018, at Comerica Park in Detroit. Smith attended the game with his father, Dugal Smith, and his younger brother, Matthew Smith. Connor Smith, photo provided.

There’s nothing like a summer afternoon at the ballpark. It doesn’t matter whether your team is firing on all cylinders or down 10-0. As long as the weather is nice and the food is delicious, you’re guaranteed a good time. For years, attending baseball games had been some of the best medicine I’d ever received.  

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case last summer. The MLB began its season in July 2020, but it didn’t matter because fans weren’t permitted in the ballpark. It was strange spending my afternoons on the patio with a glass of lemonade and streaming a game on my phone only to see empty seats, knowing I couldn’t be there even though I was right down the street. 

In my room is a map of all 30 MLB ballparks and team stickers on top of each one I have visited. I couldn’t help but shed a few tears when the MLB announced its return to play in late June because that’s when it hit me that I probably wouldn’t be able to visit the ballpark at all.

I miss the ballpark, the food, the fans and the uncertainty that comes with every game. It was tough not relying on something that got me through many summers. While I miss the ballpark and can’t wait to return, I was able to take a step back and appreciate some of the little things in life, from dad’s steak on the grill to long hikes with my mom. 

Because of the virus’ unpredictability, the league made the right call to play behind closed doors last season. More importantly, the severity of the pandemic taught me the thrill of attending an MLB game is not one everyone gets to experience. Living so close to Chicago, I realized just how lucky I have been to attend so many games. 

This year, there is a little more hope. The United States is making progress on vaccinations, and all 30 MLB teams are hosting fans in some capacity this season. 

Even if it means sitting in 90-degree heat while wearing a mask, the next ballgame I attend, the next foul ball I catch, the next time I’m sitting outside holding a drink in one hand with popcorn in another, I’ll know just how special it is to attend a ballgame in the summer.   

Baseball is more than a game. Spending summer afternoons at the ballpark is a lifestyle — one that will always hold a special place in my heart.

Contact Connor Smith with comments at cnsmith@bsu.edu or on Twitter @cnsmith_19.





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