It was a night dedicated to America’s pastime in downtown San Diego — but that night my political world collided with baseball.
The only worry that crossed people’s minds was if they’d grab their beers in time to catch the next pitch. But this ballpark experience taught me something that goes well beyond the diamond.
If you ask any fan, baseball is more than a game. We rally behind our teams and they lift us up in something that becomes greater than life. There are ups and downs, but the teams always play and the fans always cheer. We’re our biggest fans and our biggest critics, but we always love our team, and no matter what, we respect the game.
There is another game, however, that has become America’s hobby. This game doesn’t make us better, it doesn’t bring us together, and it certainly doesn’t enhance our collective experience.
This new game consuming the heart of our nation is a game many of us don’t even know we’re playing: it’s the game of tweets, 24/7 news, and never-ending elections. It’s the game of the left, the right, and everything in between.
This game has no end, it has no goal, and it most assuredly has no winners.
But that Friday night, I had to decide which game I wanted to participate in.
Right there behind home plate, I sat next to two men who I can only describe as a manifestation of my old soul, and one quick glance at them was enough to put me at peace.
Their charming white hair didn’t age them but revealed how much they’ve learned, and their highlights of gray showed how much more they have before them.
Their smiles weren’t painted on for the jumbo screen, but their radiant expressions were the result of the air of baseball.
Their arms were folded over their chests as they slightly slouched in their seats. Their posture said there was nowhere else they’d rather be, and their chatter made them kids again.
For those sacred nine innings, I joined them on that journey back to our youth — a nostalgia for our own, uniquely individual past, but one where we are united behind the same team. For the short time being, all that mattered was the San Diego Padres.
We talked about the players that amaze us, the prospects that give us hope, and the love that keeps us cheering.
Little did I know I was just a seat away from the editor of one of the most prominent left-wing publications in the nation, and little did he know, I was an intern for one of the most right-wing television networks in the country. When we accidentally stumbled across our twisted paths, we found that not even politics could come between us and baseball.
When I told the man who I worked for, he chuckled and said, “I know them, I’ve written a few hit pieces on you”, and we laughed. We laughed at how our associations have guns pointed at one another, but for some odd reason — a reason only baseball can explain — that only made it easier for us to let our guard down.
We shared many more laughs, and not the awkward ones of desperation nor the forced ones of courtesy, but the kind that make you feel at home with a complete stranger; the kind that leaves your heart with the tingling feeling of peace; the kind of laugh that comes more naturally than breathing, but you rarely experience it.
We paused our conversation at the occasional knock of a bat, or cheer of the crowd, but went back to where we left off like old friends.
The pundits would say our differences hinder our ability to interact, our leaders would say we are obstacles to one another’s success, and our parties would say we are enemies — but baseball said otherwise.
The man in Section I, Row 10, Seat 1 showed me not only what it means to be a baseball fan, but also what it means to be an American. In the spirit of the Padres, he showed me who I want to be.
The ongoing game that we all tune in to in D.C. is nothing more than that: a game. It’s a game of division and lies, a game of disappointment and filibuster. But baseball is more than a game. It sparks joy, creates hope, and unites communities, and the only bias of baseball fans is that we carry a little too much love in our hearts.
Baseball is America’s pastime, not politics — and it’s about time we go back to the game that makes us a little better.
It’s about time we decide who we want to be and that starts with what games we choose to play.