2013 Major League Baseball: America’s pastime is best viewed live

San Francisco Giants fans Tom Neuerburg and Mark Garcia pose for a photo on opening day before the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park. (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

San Francisco Giants fans Tom Neuerburg and Mark Garcia pose for a photo on opening day before the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park. (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

There is nothing like attending an afternoon MLB game in the middle of a workweek. It is a reminder that, of America’s “Big Three” professional sports, baseball is the absolute best to watch in person.

Basketball has wonderful, fluid action, but most modern arenas are sterile. There is very little to the event beyond the game. One of the treats of watching basketball is the on-court communication between players and coaches. Most venues play songs and manufactured chants/handclaps during possessions, distracting fans from the product.

With football, most of the excitement takes place in the parking lot—tailgating is the main attraction. Players are not accessible, dressed in pads and helmets; fans sit far from the field; and action is erratic—it’s difficult for fans to settle into the game’s rhythm. Plus, weather during football season is not ideal. The elements make for great television, and there is a mystique to watching games in subzero temperatures, but that does not make the experience pleasurable.

While televised baseball games may lack excitement, a trip to the park is nothing short of phenomenal. Weather, individuality, fan-friendliness, activities, prices, and interaction with players: baseball has it all. Every baseball game is a sensory experience that goes well beyond the game on the field.

A general view of the field at Petco Park during the Opening Day ceremonies as a flag is stretched across the outfield and a police helicopter fly-over is performed before a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

A general view of the field at Petco Park during the Opening Day ceremonies as a flag is stretched across the outfield and a police helicopter fly-over is performed before a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

Baseball’s unique makeup lends itself perfectly to the fan experience. Firstly, clubs play 81 home games. With such a large schedule, teams must find ways to keep prices reasonable. Ticket prices range from $10-15 to however much a private suite costs these days. Also, to keep events affordable, the MLB allows patrons to bring in their own food and drinks. A family of four can pack their picnic lunch, spend three hours together, and watch a professional sporting event for the cost of general admission. Affordability is one of the great treats of professional baseball.

Next, every park is different. Not just every park, but every playing field. There are varying heights of walls, different sized outfields, flagpoles in center field, and many other architectural quirks. Whereas basketball and football are relegated to homogenous playing surfaces, baseball sheds uniformity. Every field has its own personality and lends its own unique challenges. A team’s field is as much a part of the club’s DNA as the players on its roster.

The game itself may be the main attraction, but there are so many other things to do at ballparks. For the historically inclined, they have tours and museums. For families with young kids there are batting cages, rock climbing walls, slides, playgrounds, and parks. For the partiers, most stadiums have their own sports bars. A ballpark’s goal is to have everyone engaged, whether it be with the day’s game, or with the stadium’s amenities.

Weather cannot be understated in its added appeal to the game**. Baseball is played from the springtime until early autumn. Most stadiums are outdoors and offer people a great alternative to enjoy the seasons. In many cities baseball is synonymous with summertime.

**This article was written understanding that games this season have been snowed out. The author views these as outliers in another long season. Concerns should be taken up with Bud Selig or global warming maven Al Gore**

Finally, the game of baseball makes for perfect viewing. It has a rhythm that invites every type of spectator. Diehards can chart every pitch, play, and out. Casuals can chat with their neighbors and pop in periodically. Play does not require constant attention, but the crack of a bat alerts everyone to the action. The sport equally lends itself to communal viewing and socialization, as well as obsessive stat tracking.

To understand how great baseball’s live experience is, one should look no further than Spring Training: the only celebrated preseason. Football’s preseason offers yearly debates as to the morality of charging regular season prices for an exhibition, let alone whether it’s even necessary. Basketball’s preseason is almost nonexistent, noticed only by local sporting media and the occasional dunk highlight. Spring Training is revered. Like the other sports, its games are tune-ups. However, people love Spring Training and love going to games. Watching players sign autographs, shag fly balls, and run mid-game wind sprints is refreshing and relaxing. People look forward to watching games whose outcomes are inconsequential.

In the afternoon of a perfect spring day, there are few things better than catching a ballgame at the park. The true beauty of baseball is revealed, and America’s pastime flourishes.

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