by Eno Sarris
Sometimes I get asked why. Why baseball? Why do you subject yourself to the torture that is baseball, following baseball, and writing about baseball — the poor pay, the bad hours, the constant up and down, the evil looks from your spouse? Why do it?
The answer isn’t so easy. I suspect anyone that is into sports — as an athlete, scout, coach, supporter or fan — has their own story. My own is as complicated as any, perhaps.
I was born in Jamaica. Half of my family is German. I have lived in Atlanta, Mountain City Georgia, Vero Beach Florida, Hamburg Germany, Boston, Stanford, San Francisco, London, Harlem, Jersey City, New York City and Menlo Park California — in that order. Very few of my inner circle friends enjoy baseball. Half of my family knows nothing about the sport. My mother and I didn’t watch baseball together. I saw my first baseball game at seven years old.
Still wondering why, I bet.
I came to America at six or seven years old and was used to being strange. After all, I was the blond-haired patois-speaking naked toddler running around in Jamaica. I was the tanned Jamaican struggling to learn German on the playground in Germany. I was the nerd with the strange accent wanting to take his whiffleball hacks in America. So, I was usually strange.
But everywhere I went, even at that early age, I was interested in what made each place different. Maybe because I wanted to figure out how to be normal, I needed to know more. What made America America? Why, how, where, what and when?
Baseball was part of that. I had a big brother from Big Brother / Big Sister, and he took me to games. My stepfather loved baseball, and we bonded over the games. Baseball cards were a thing, and boy did I take to those. Later, fantasy baseball was a constant talking point at boarding school. If baseball was American, and I wanted to be American, that was enough for me. It helped me bond with so many people, and those people will always be a part of why I love baseball.
But it’s not just the people and baseball’s relationship to American culture that made the sport interesting to me. The numbers were a part of it too.
I realized that there was an ebb and flow to the game, and that numbers could help me get a better understanding of that flow. I started trading cards of hot prospects I didn’t believe in for Barry Bonds rookie cards. And Greg Maddux rookie cards. And Derek Jeter rookie cards. I took calculated risks. I embraced my emotion, and then set it aside. I used my burgeoning statistical awareness to build a kicking baseball card collection.
Fast forward ten or fifteen years and there I was at Stanford, there I was at my first job, there I was at Kumon Publishing in New York — constantly checking in on my fantasy teams, constantly reading the newest statistical research, constantly talking to important people in my life about baseball, constantly enjoying the sport that made me “normal” instead of “strange.” (Of course, I did so to the point that most of my friends declared me strange, but that’s just a weird quirk of fate.)
It hasn’t been easy switching careers mid-stream from educational publishing to writing about baseball. But it feels normal, too. The sport has been there for me all along.
Baseball has been important to me for most of my life, for so many reasons. What are your reasons?
Eno Sarris is a freelance baseball writer whose work can be seen on ESPN.com, FanGraphs.com, and AmazinAvenue.com in particular. He’s active — too active — on twitter @enosarris and covers a different sort of beat at www.enosarris.com.