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February 15, 2012

The Lineup Card

12 Opinions on Whether a Significant Other Must Like Baseball

by Baseball Prospectus

1. A Baseball Affliction
When my wife and I got married toward the end of 1995, she had some inkling of my affection (affliction?) for baseball. Things only got worse from there (the affliction, not the marriage), and my obsession has veered into what some might consider unhealthy territory.

Somewhere along the way, my wife grew to love baseball—not as much as I do, nor in the same way, but enough that it has become a significant part of our life together. Mention the name Matt Ruebel or Andy Shibilo, and she will crack a smile over very specific shared memories at the ballpark.

My own "a-ha" moment came just before the end of the millennium. While I was watching the Padres on television, in a game where Brian Boehringer made a spot start, my wife walked into the room and asked, "Why is he in so early? Isn't he usually the set-up guy?" I knew right then that I would not come to regret our long-term contract.

Since then, we've gone to 15-20 games a year both here in San Diego and along the roads that have taken us to places like Eugene, Fort Wayne, Springfield (Missouri), Toronto, Albuquerque, Tucson, and more. If I'm to be completely honest with myself, I must concede that those who consider my obsession unhealthy might be right.

But if it is the case that I'm a sick man, then I'm grateful to be floating through life with someone who shares my disease and understands what it means to be so afflicted. I can't imagine doing it any other way. —Geoff Young

2. Covering the Bases
My wife Brenda grew up in a family with no brothers, two sisters, and a father whose favorite sport was hunting. Thus, when I asked on one of our first dates how many innings were in a baseball game, she answered eight. Perhaps it was a compromise between seven-inning high school games and nine-inning professional games.

Anyhow, Brenda has gone from knowing almost nothing about baseball in 1990 to having a good understanding of the game and knowledge of its teams and players. She might not be able to rattle off the Blue Jays' batting order—sorry Alex Anthopoulos—but she does understand the significance of Albert Pujols jumping to the Angels from the Cardinals. To me, it's just the right balance because she doesn't like baseball enough to bombard me with questions, which allows me to get away from the game for awhile, yet she knows enough to understand what goes on in my professional life.

My only baseball regret with Mrs. P.? The first game we attended together was a 1-0 pitchers' duel between the Pirates' Zane Smith and the Astros' Pete Harnisch on May 3, 1991, at Three Rivers Stadium, which was played in just 1 hour, 45 minutes. Poor Brenda. Little did she know that a night game ending before 9 p.m. is about as rare as an unassisted triple play and that there would be countless times I'd be arriving home from the ballpark much, much later. —John Perrotto

3.  She Found a Way
My significant other is named Arden, and she is not a baseball fan. The good news is that she is a Jason fan (I think), and that’s all that matters (I think).

When I was younger, I imagined my ideal mate would share all of my attractive qualities: a person who enjoyed sports, enjoyed art, enjoyed being attractive, and enjoyed reminding others about that attractiveness. What I found was someone who didn’t need to remind others how attractive she was; she just was. What I found was someone who ran circles around me when it comes to all things art, a difficult admission for someone with my inflated ego. What I found was someone who didn’t give a crap about baseball.

In the end, her indifference to the sport itself failed to have any affect on my passion. In fact, I can make a case that her insouciance allowed my own interests to grow and mature, as they weren’t in competition with her own passions and dreams. I had my thing and she had hers.

That’s not to say that she hasn’t been supportive of my fervor; Arden has accompanied me on numerous scouting trips, using her Spanish language chops to make friends with some of the prospects in the Texas Rangers farm system. While I went about my chores on the backfields, Arden either had her face in a book or in a Latin American prospect’s personal business, inviting her new friends to join us for dinner or for a movie or for whatever event would make them feel appreciated beyond the field. I didn’t need ask her to participate in my baseball life, but she found a way to make the connection anyway. That’s keeper material. —Jason Parks

4. It Grows On You
My wife Amy is what I’d call “sports aware” but is definitely not a “sports fan.” That’s more than good enough for me. When we met, she’d watch me have a fit over some game that I felt was really important and say something like, “It’s just a game.” That kind of scoffing doesn’t occur anymore. We attend basketball or football games together a couple of times a year and, once in a blue moon, she’ll watch an event with me on television that has some sort of relevance to our household. She never watches baseball on television, but she’ll take in a game at the ballpark 2-3 times a season. Really, I’m grateful for that. My work life entails expending a large portion of my mental energy on sports and I relish the respite when we do things together that take me out of that realm. Besides, the last thing I need is my wife arguing with me about the finer points of one of my pieces of analysis. —Bradford Doolittle

5. Gotta Have It
For me, it’s very important that my significant other likes baseball. Baseball is a big part of my life, and it is the reason why I got into sports medicine in the first place. Since I follow baseball every day, it is nice to have someone who can talk about baseball when it comes up on the radio or television. They don’t have to be an obsessed fan, but they have to like the game and enjoy spending time at the ballpark. —Corey Dawkins

6. Bonded By Baseball
It’s not whether or to what degree my fiancée likes baseball that is important to me; it’s simply that we would neither have met nor made our bond without it. I met Heather because she had been to a Durham Bulls game about a month after I started covering the team. In the stands, she met the owner of the bar/restaurant where I sometimes work, and he invited her to come in for a drink sometime. A few nights later, she did, and I happened to be tending bar.

Not long after I met Heather, I told her to come say hello to me in the press box next time she came to a game, I said that I’d try to come down and join her in the seats behind home plate, which is where I usually sit, anyway. (The press box at Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a little up the first-base line; you get a better read on the strike zone and the action on the pitches from the seats—plus you get an up-close view of plays at the plate and batters getting tossed by umpires for disputing called strike threes.)

And one thing led to another. Since May 2009, Heather and I have watched around 100 baseball games together. I’d venture to guess that we have spent more of our waking hours together watching ballgames than we have spent doing anything else: about 300 hours sitting side by side, watching, listening, talking about baseball and everything else under the sun (and lights). Our love’s melody has been built on the sustaining, contemplative rhythms of baseball.

My game stories are long, involved and wide-ranging. I try to make them accessible and interesting to a broad readership, but what I’m really doing when I write, in the small hours of the morning after a game, is continuing an ongoing and rich (and I hope lifelong) vernacular conversation with my fiancée. Every writer pictures his readers. It’s Heather I see reading me. She is thus not only my ideal audience, she is actually part of my voice as a writer. I don’t know how I could be any closer to anyone, and I could never have been that close to her without baseball. —Adam Sobsey

7. Mutual Attraction
My wife was a much better player than I was, an All-League first baseman with grace around the bag, doubles power, and a good eye at the plate, a veritable softballing John Olerud. I struggled even to make varsity, my half-dancing knuckleball carrying me to some semblance of utility after my horrendous eyesight rendered my dreams of being the starboard Wade Boggs unreachable.

This shared affinity for *ball proved less instrumental in our coming together in college than Scream 3 and The Karate Kid, but I think it has an intangible effect on our mutual attraction: The rhythms of the game have a way of staying in those kids who start out playing tee-ball and see their careers all the way through the twilight of childhood. While it's practically helpful not having to explain the infield fly when we're at Dodger Stadium, it's vastly more important that we can settle in to a minor-league game in Lake Elsinore or Rancho Cucamonga, drift into that reverie that comes with live baseball when you're not invested in the outcome, and float hazily back to normal life at the end, having passed three hours idly chatting, eating ice cream, laughing at the ridiculous sound effects that accompany every foul ball, and generally enjoying the excuse to spend time together granted to us by the sport that neither of us remembers not being a part of our lives. —Jason Wojciechowski
8. Dream Girl
I have a friend who once dreamed about being in a computer lab and meeting a girl who had browsed to the BP website. (Yes, a friend. And no, I don’t know what twists the dream took from there.) Look, a lot of us have secretly fantasized about settling down with a sexy sabermetrician, but the reality is that if I limited my pool of potential partners to people who wear lingerie and like linear weights, the Lindbergh line might end with me.*

*I don’t mean there aren’t women who like linear weights. I mean there aren’t a lot of people who like linear weights, period. Even if half of them are female, I might never meet one.

My girlfriend knows all the words to Beatles songs, and she sings them in tune. She appreciates P.G. Wodehouse, and she played Portal 2. We have enough interests in common that the ones we don’t share are refreshing rather than frustrating. She understands that baseball helps pay my bills and give me purpose, and she’s both inquisitive enough not to dismiss it as a frivolous pursuit and patient enough not to dump me during book season. She asks me what I’m working on, pretends pretty convincingly to be interested in my answers, and doesn’t groan nearly as loudly when I want to watch a game as I do when she wants to watch Syracuse basketball. She even gave me a good idea for an article. Anything more, I can get from a network of baseball friends and online acquaintances who share my psychosis. But most of the time, no more is necessary. Most of the time, it’s nice not to talk about baseball.

Let me put it this way: Since I met her, I haven’t dreamed about any beautiful, imaginary BP readers. Not that I ever did before. That was a friend. —Ben Lindbergh

9. It's Just About Respect
Considering that my girlfriend couldn't care less about baseball, I'd have to say that no, it's not important to me that she likes it. Sure, it would be nice if she were a fantasy baseball nut like myself, but there are so many more important qualities for a girl to have (all of which she possesses). More than anything else, because baseball is such a huge part of my life, I need her to be supportive of my passion for the game and to be understanding when I spend my March flying around the country for various drafts and conferences and book tour stops. As long as there is a respect for what I do, it really doesn't matter if she actually likes baseball. —Derek Carty

10. Finding Common Ground
I do think it’s important that couples have a great deal in common, both in terms of compatible outlooks and interests. Certainly baseball need not be one of those interests, but given the amount of time that we (by which I mean both BPers and our readers) devote to baseball, it would certainly help any couple if one member wasn’t forced to keep one of his or her primary interests off the marital playing field. As my grandmother reminded me when I was about to propose to my now-wife, your life doesn’t play out any faster because you’re married; it still moves one day at a time, and if someone is going to be along with you for all of it, you’d better be sure you truly enjoy their company. If baseball is a big part of your life and you can’t share, there had better be some other interests of equal importance to take up the overlapping portion of love’s Venn diagram.

Some couples begin with many common interests. Some don’t start with anything other than a mutual attraction, but they adopt some of each other’s passions. Still others discover new interests that they can share together. There is also a fourth category, couples who begin with nothing but a mutual attraction, somehow find themselves together, and never do find much in the way of mutual activities except whatever it is they do to produce children, and even then they might not be having much fun. I know many guys who are seemingly alienated from their spouses, who have to find someone else to go to the ballgame with, to the movies they want to see, watch the TV shows they like, even eat the foods they want to eat. And I haven’t even gotten to sexual incompatibility, where one partner was interested and the other not, or one lost interest and the other didn’t. That doesn’t play out too well—but I digress.  

I was fortunate enough to marry a woman who was a baseball fan (Atlanta Braves) before we even met and also shared similar sensibilities to mine in areas emotional, philosophical, political, and cultural. Naturally, I did not let her get away. If I’m going to the latest super-hero movie, she’s going with me. If I’m going to the ballpark as a civilian, she’s up for the trip. I want to do what she wants to do, she wants to do what I want to do, because there are very often the same things. To me, this is the definition of compatibility, and I can’t imagine living any other way. —Steven Goldman

11. Let's Ask the Lady
A brief interview with my girlfriend of nearly 13 years, Margaret.

K: Do you like baseball?
M: It what sense? I'm pleased it exists. It's a fun game for children to play. I enjoyed playing it as a kid with my family.
K: Do you like to watch baseball?
M: No.
K: Do you know who won the last World Series?
M: Let me think. I know it was not a Chicago team. It was either San Francisco or Oakland. Wasn't it the Giants?
K: How many current baseball players can you name?
M: Can they be people that got drafted that I keep hearing you say on the phone? Soler? Cespedes? The guy with the funny name that everyone thought should be on your list? Suzuker or something? Current players? That tall pitcher with the funny face and the red hair? [Two minutes of laughter as I try to figure out who this is. She demonstrated his windup Poorly. I still have no idea who this is.] Manny somebody?
K: Do you have a favorite team?
M: No.
K: Not only are you my girlfriend, but you live with me and we are basically together 24/7. How annoying is listening to me on the phone all day talking about baseball.
M: I'm used to it, it's just like blah blah blah blah at this point. Most of it makes no sense. —Kevin Goldstein

12. How Do They Feel About Your Feelings?
I've always thought it's less important how your significant other feels about baseball, and more important how they feel about how you feel about it. I, like just about everyone else around here, am pretty damn obsessive, watching games almost every night during the season, spending hours (days?) working on fantasy and sim-league teams, and tracking transactions during the winter. If my wife weren't amused by (and wasn't mocking) my total geekdom, I don't think our relationship would ever have worked. She's supportive and (mostly) tolerant, and I think that's enough.  

Plus, if she were into it, she probably would root for the Yankees or White Sox just to piss me off, and we'd have to divorce. Thus, it's better this way... especially for the kids. —Michael Bates

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