During my first baseball game in Saint Louis, I realized something about myself: when it comes to baseball, I’m a home-team fan. I’ve been accused of being a fair-weather fan in the past, and it’s something I’ve always been offended by (and, honestly, a little afraid of). But this, I think, is different.
It’s true, I’ll cheer for the Orioles or the Red Sox or the Nationals with equal enthusiasm. And at the Cardinals game, I felt the same stirring of excitement and home-team pride.
That’s when it hit me: I cheered for the Red Sox because my parents are from New England, and especially when I was younger, they were so fun to watch. I loved Big Papi and Jason Varitek and Johnny Damon (until he broke my heart and trust with his unforgivable move to the Yankees) and Jacoby Ellsbury (who is possibly the only man who looks better clean-shaven and therefore his move to the Yankees is understandable and forgivable). I spent a good chunk of my life cheering for a team with a rich history and exceptional rivalry, and even now, I’ll pause to catch part of a game or cheer inside when I see them leading the league.
I was born in Maryland and grew up during Cal Ripken Jr.’s reign, so of course I was an Orioles fan. Even after we moved to Virginia, Baltimore was the closest we had to a home team. Camden Yards is a gorgeous stadium that even now, I love to visit. Similar to the Red Sox, I’ll cheer for the Orioles to do well.
My husband is the Nationals fan in our house. He brought me to Nats Park the first time, and his love for them encouraged me to make a little room to become a fan of a National League team (up to this point, I only really cared about American League, because — see above). By the time we left Virginia, the Nats had a hold on the bulk of my baseball loyalty. They’re fun to watch, and they’re building a legacy to one day rival that of the Red Sox or Yankees or Cardinals — teams with the best-known die-hard fans.
But now, we’re in Saint Louis, home of that other franchise steeped in history and legacy. Coincidentally, this is the 125th year of the Cardinals franchise. They’ve been around a lot longer than the Nationals, and they have a row of World Series pennants to show for it. By the time I went to the first game, I knew at least something about half the team, which made me like them even more. I watched Bader (fresh from the minors) score the winning run after seeing his dad on TV talking about how proud he was of his kid, how he’d try to hit him with the ball when they practiced so Bader wouldn’t be afraid of it.
They’re a fast team, which is fun because my favorite part of baseball is stolen bases. Grichuk and the Rockies’ pitcher went back and forth almost every pitch, with Grichuk leading off first base farther than the pitcher liked. Matt Carpenter teased them with threats of stealing home. DeJong smashed a homerun right down centerfield.
It was easy to see why the Cardinals have such an energetic and loyal following. It was also easy to see my husband and I will have little choice in becoming Cardinals fans. It’s already started.
And while we’ll always love the Nationals, I think it’s okay to root, root, root for the home team. As our definition of “home” grows, the list of teams we associate with home can grow, too.