It's never too late to fall in love with baseball

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I should start with a confession. The first twenty-two years of my life I didn't give a damn about baseball. That isn't a reflection on baseball. I didn't give a damn about any sport. I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At the time, Grand Rapids did not have a baseball team. My parents were not particularly interested in sports so I was never exposed to sports. I played some Little League baseball, badly I should say, because no one ever taught me the rules so I had no idea what I was doing and I was the least athletic kid in my class so baseball for me at that time was more about embarrassment and shame than it was about fun and joy. In Grand Rapids most people are Tigers fans and a substantial minority are Cubs fans. (For whatever reason, no one in West Michigan roots for the White Sox even though they are geographically closer than the Cubs.) I saw those people but didn't understand what made them care. Tigers fans were very much fair-weather fans, their numbers grew when things were going well and they would disappear when they weren't. Mark Fidrych made their numbers explode, but it didn't make sense to me. Cubs fans were a different breed completely. They loved their team no matter how they were doing. They would organize bus trips collecting Cubs fans throughout West Michigan and head to Wrigley with the sense they were members of something bigger than just themselves. I remained indifferent, I simply wasn't a sports guy.

In 1988 I came to San Diego to go to grad school at San Diego State. I worked at an insurance office to pay my way through school and sometimes the salesmen for the glass companies would stop by and offer free tickets to Padres games. I always said no. One day after refusing yet another pair of tickets my boss accepted them. About an hour later he came back and told me he had forgotten something else he had to do and if I was sure that I didn't want them. No thank you. For the next hour he called everyone he knew and no one would take the tickets. He told me "look, if you don't take these tickets, I'm going to throw them in the trash." Well, that would be a waste, I figured, so I called my wife and told her we were going to a Padres game that night. Her answer was "we're going where?"

We got to the Murph and I bought a program. Our seats were field level, about twelve rows up from the right field foul line. Since I didn't follow baseball I had to look up the name of the player who was warming up in front of me. Tony Gwynn. I knew enough about baseball to know that this guy's stats were pretty good. I looked around and the sights and sounds and smells of the ballpark seeped in and cast their spell. I was hooked. It was nearly that immediate. I decided then that I was going to be the same kind of fan as the Cubs fans that I saw in my youth. The Padres are my team and my relationship with them is kind of like my relationship with my kids, I love them even when they are screwing up. The Padres are my team because they gave me the gift of baseball. Tony Gwynn will always be my favorite baseball player because he showed me that there is a right way to play the game and a right way to be a leader by example as a baseball player and a human being.

Baseball is now my zen activity. It is my escape. Whatever is going on in the world I can go to a Padres game and watch the cat and mouse game as a pitcher and batter try to outguess each other. Watch a player stretch a single into a double. Watch an outfielder dive sideways to make a turf-scraping catch. The hit-and-run, the sac bunt, the suicide squeeze, the walk off balk, this is my vocabulary now. I still am not a sports guy. I am a baseball fan generally and a Padres fan specifically. If you love baseball, you are my friend. If you love the Padres, you're family. I have two seasons in my life, baseball and rest. Rest season ends this coming week as pitchers and catchers report to spring training and as baseball season begins I enter it with the hope that this is the year we go all the way. And if not this year then next year or the year after. You see, baseball gives me more than the destination of a World Series Championship, it gives me the journey of trying to get there along with my family of Padres fans that are right there with me every step of the way, Celebrating the life and example of Tony Gwynn and the eternal hope of baseball.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Gaslamp Ball community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gaslamp Ball staff or SB Nation.