I didn’t watch baseball growing up. Ever.
Being raised in Alabama, professional sports were somewhat foreign. My older brother played soccer, and I somehow got away with never playing a sport. We weren’t at the ballpark when I was a child. With all those factors combined, baseball was never a sport I spent time watching.
Then, I got to college and worked my way up in the Plainsman’s sports staff. As our last spring semester wound down and writers left town, this Auburn baseball team fell into my lap. I spent the end of the regular season going to their media availabilities and writing about games so that we could have stories on them all, because my primary role as a sportswriter is to provide comprehensive coverage.
I didn't start out very good at this. There are so many different words that turn out to all mean the same thing. It’s a game with a level of nuance that I struggle to comprehend. I’ve worked at it this past month, though, and spent a lot more time watching the sport than I ever have before.
Something changed for me over this past weekend. Auburn was selected to host an NCAA Regional, and I didn’t have to be a writer. This was a relief because I still feel like my writing doesn’t yet do this team justice.
Noah Griffith had us covered to write, but we did need a photographer with much of our staff out of town for the summer. I had taken pictures twice before, so in a time crunch, I borrowed my mom’s camera. I was going to be a photographer for the weekend’s Regional.
Due to constraints on space, photographers that weren’t with either school were not allowed on the field. That was fine with me, so I scouted where my best vantage points would be. I could go to the corners where the nets ended, the parking deck to get a bird’s eye view and the outfield fence to get pictures of the stands.
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Auburn’s games began, and that’s where I went. I bounced around the facility, excusing myself when I was in someone’s way and asking to sit in seats if they were empty. Along the way, I introduced myself to those around me and answered their questions about who I was and what I was doing.
I met fans both young and old, security staff, operations workers, members of the grounds crew, athlete’s families and even the mayor of a small Alabama town. Along the way, I understood what I was missing.
Baseball always felt tedious and unfamiliar to me, but being stuck on the concourse gave me a new perspective. I was surrounded by people who were enjoying both the game and the people around them. Their joy was contagious.
Everyone in and around Plainsman Park this weekend was having the time of their life. Despite the insanity of a caliber that could only exist around Auburn athletics, fans rolled with the punches and kept having fun. The team came alive in a way that they had not all season.
Plainsman Park was at its best this weekend, and I learned from that. Despite rain, cancellations and heat, everyone ignored the inconveniences and focused their energy on having the greatest experience possible. You have to embrace it, and I had never done that.
Throughout three games in four days, I spent countless hours at the ballpark. During this stretch, I absorbed that excitement and found a love for baseball that I don’t think I had before. Auburn taught it to me.
“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
You can't not be, and I get that now.
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