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Tips for living in a baseball world if you're not a baseball fanatic

by Mark Lamendola
Hated baseball as a kid, never improved my 'tude about it.

While baseball is extremely popular in the USA, not everybody likes it or even cares about it. I am one of those people. There are many of us. I've never been to a pro baseball game and have never watched one on television. But it is possible for us non-baseball types to fit comfortably with baseball lovers and even to play the game competently. This article explains how.

Play ball!

Let's tackle this, first. As a kid, I did play baseball in the community baseball league, and I was terrible. I'm blind in one eye, and could never hit the ball. If I got up to bat, I'd strike out. Yet today (many years hence), I am pretty deadly with the bat despite not playing baseball much at all. How can this be, and how can you learn to do it?

It may seem that the answer lies in how I learned to do it. The fact is, I didn't really learn. It just happened. It was a matter of general conditioning combined with a desire to hit that ball. In high school, I decided to become an athlete. Not in baseball, but in basketball. I drilled for many hours and was quite good. I didn't join the basketball team (I ran Cross Country), but I did play "pickup" games with the guys on the team and amazingly held my own against them.

Flash forward about ten years. I was dating a lovely divorcee who had lost custody of her preteen son. But he did visit her. We had the same first name, so we hit it off pretty well. He was visiting her one time when he dropped the B word on me. Baseball. He wanted me to hit some balls to him so he could practice catching. I had not picked up a baseball bat in almost 20 years.

So there I was. My previous talent was in missing the ball, no matter how hard the pitcher tried to hit my bat. Now I had to hit balls to this kid so he would not think his mom was dating some dorky guy who couldn't hit a ball. I could have told him, "Gee, Mark, I'm a pretty good athlete but I just cannot hit a baseball."

Instead of doing that, I agreed to go to the park. We walked there, and on the way I pictured myself tossing the ball up and swinging the bat to hit it. I really, really wanted to hit that ball. When the time came, guess what happened? I hit that ball. And every time I tossed it up, I was able to hit it.

Since then, I've been in other situations where I've needed to hit something. I did the same visualization, and was able to hit. For example, I'd never been golfing. I got invited by some guys at work. I was no Arnold Palmer, but I did manage not to totally embarrass myself. I got invited to go again, because "You have a natural talent." But I didn't have a natural talent, as evidenced by my poor performance in ball-hitting during my preteen years. In another situation, I was at a trade show. The sales guys were whacking away at this electronic driving range thing. I asked what the record was, thus far. "Gary has 280, but he's a golfing fanatic. Most of us are hitting around 160." My first time up, I hit 300. That maxed out the game. I did it again, and again, because I visualized myself perfectly connecting in that sweet spot.

Talking the game

I don't watch baseball. I don't know when a game is playing or who the players are. I can name only a few of the teams. So how does a baseball ignoramus like me manage to socialize when the topic is baseball?

The key here is not everybody has to be an expert and you don't have to do the talking. You can serve the role of making other people feel respected. In other words, it's often not about the baseball. It's about the excitement. So when your baseball fan friends gush on about the latest game (that you don't care about), ask them a "softball" (no pun intended) question about it. Ask, for example, "What do you think was the highlight of the game?" And listen to their response, as if you have all the time in the world.

You don't have to engage in baseball talk, yourself. The other person is excited and wants to share, so let that happen. Then you can change the topic.

There are times when changing the topic is just plain rude. For example, I was in a group of half a dozen baseball fanatics who where going on about the previous day's game and something else that was coming up. I have zero interest in this, but telling them that would just make me seem like a grouch out to belittle them. So what I did was nod and smile, and occasionally drop in a "That's great!" After a few minutes of this positive attention, I excused myself. They didn't miss me, as I wasn't essential to the conversation. But they also didn't pick up a negative vibe from my leaving.

Taking this approach allows you to avoid branding yourself as the odd one. You don't have to like baseball to enjoy friendships with baseball fans. You just have to be respectful. And when baseball fever takes over, don't try to splash cold water on the fans.


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