I am a runner.
I am a baseball fan.
My goal, by the end of this post, is to be able to say those things (or write them, rather) without cringing or feeling like I’m lying to everyone.
I’ve been running on a pretty regular schedule for about two and a half years now. I have eight bib numbers pinned to the wall on either side of the mirror in my bathroom, and three of them are from half marathons – that I actually finished! I am registered for my fourth half marathon. I have running-quality clothes, two pairs of running shoes, moleskin for my blisters, a wristwatch, and several water bottles. I’ve memorized various loops from my front porch for 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 10-mile routes. Yet, despite these telltale signs, I have refused for the last two years to identify myself as “a runner.”
It’s similar with baseball. Before the 2012 season, I never cared about baseball. Three years ago, I wrote a post that detailed just how much I did not care about baseball. I claimed, in fact, to be “an active hater of baseball.” I proved that even what I thought I knew, I still didn’t know. The best line from that post is, “I know that K stands for strike.” Whoops.
Two years after that, I wrote yet another post describing how little I knew about baseball. In the two years between those posts, without any logical flow whatsoever, I went from being a self-proclaimed active hater to being “indifferent toward the idea of baseball as a sport.” I think these two posts indicate that I didn’t know myself (or my position on baseball) as well as I thought.
So this year, I’ve been itching to write a third baseball post, from a very different angle, but I’ve mostly ignored that itch because I don’t want to be viewed as a phony. And yet, the simple truth is, I’ve faithfully followed the Kansas City Royals for the entirety of this season so far. I have listened to the radio broadcasts of the majority of the games they’ve played. I’ve caught a few on TV, when I’ve been lucky enough to be out in public establishments that are showing the games. And I read a Royals blog every day. But I hesitate to call myself a fan.
I don’t know why. I can tell you what number each position on the field is (which I mentioned being unable to do in that post from three years ago). I can correctly tell you now what a K actually means, along with OPS, OBP, and BB. I can also tell you what a walk-off win is (that was an issue in last year’s post as well), what hitting for the cycle is, what a ground-rule double is and how it’s different from an inside-the-park home run, and what the difference is between a pitcher throwing a shutout and a pitcher throwing a perfect game. I can tell you what a wild pitch is and how a player can still get on first base after having struck out. I can tell you the difference between an at-bat and a plate appearance and how batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage are calculated.
I can rattle off the 9 positions, their main Royals players, and the fill-in players they’ve used this season. I can list a decent chunk of the Royals starting pitchers and most of the bullpen. I can tell you our top minor league prospects. I can tell you how many home runs Billy Butler has this season (23 at the time of this writing, and I swear I didn’t look that up). I can tell you who leads the American League in doubles (Alex Gordon). I can tell you which Royals players have gotten a raw deal being sent back and forth from the minors and not enough big-league playing time (Falu, Dyson, Giavotella). I can tell you the ages and many of the hometowns of my favorite players as well as which teams they previously played for (if any). I can also tell you our players’ nicknames (Moose, Hos, AG, Low-Cay [so far I’m the only one who calls Lorenzo Cain that, as far as I know], Salvy, Frenchy). I can even tell you which players have extended contracts or are not eligible for free agency yet.
There is plenty I can’t tell you too, of course. I don’t know what WHIP stands for, though I suspect it’s something per innings pitched. I know that WAR stands for wins above replacement, but I can’t tell you what that actually means, even though I’ve been told. I don’t know the difference between a two-seam fastball and a four-seam fastball. Or even the difference between a fastball and a breaking ball. I’m not sure what an off-speed pitch is, and I don’t know if I’d recognize a balk if I saw one, or if I could explain why something was a balk if I heard it called. I get confused about batter contact with the ball and which field is the opposite field when a batter hits there. I couldn’t tell you why Francoeur misses so many fielding opportunities or why the Royals management can’t seem to make key decisions that seem clear cut to the entire fan base and the rest of the professional baseball community. (But to be fair, I don’t think even the most seasoned all-around baseball fans could explain those last two either.)
So, I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s time to claim and fully live into these identities of mine, new though they may be. The lesson I’ve had to learn about these new interests is that, just because I haven’t been interested in them my entire life, doesn’t mean their acquisition now is not genuine or that I shouldn’t be proud of them. For the last two years, I have gone running on my birthday (if you know how much of a birthday brat I am, and how committed I am to doing only things I very much want to do on my birthday, then you know what a big deal this is). And in 2012, I’ve been to eleven Royals home games, and a twelfth is already on the schedule.
So I think I can say, without fearing it’s a lie, that I am a runner, and I am a baseball fan (with a specific and rather loyal bent toward the Royals). And I will say those things from now on, and I will own them as much as I own my identities as writer, extrovert, flirt, reader, blood donor, and editor. Welcome to my personality. Apparently it’s fluid and there’s room for change.