In the spring of 2011, a close friend and avid fan of the San Francisco Giants dispensed that cautionary piece of advice. Still fairly new to baseball, I had notched just two games to date, both embarrassing losses by the 2010 Mariners. More fresh in my mind was the Giants’ World Series championship, and my hankering for a trip to AT&T Park was at its peak.
I carried those words with me for the next several months, avoiding frequent trips to the park and wondering if, like my friend, I would also become numb to the magic of baseball if I didn’t learn to temper my expectations. Was it so easy to become burned out on this sport, even with a championship-winning team?
At the beginning of the 2012 season, I decided to put his words to the test. After making plans for my second annual trip to San Francisco, I focused my efforts on a team within reach: the Seattle Mariners. Ten games, I promised myself. I can probably afford ten games without getting burned out, right? The baseball gods scoffed at my optimism. Within the first week of the season, the Mariners put up four losses and two wins. Already, I had accomplished 60% of my season goal.
I shivered in the 50-degree weather, unable to feel my fingers or toes, unable to stomach Brandon League blowing saves and Chone Figgins batting leadoff. The Cactus League-leading team I warmed up to in spring training dissolved into the players I ran from in my first year of baseball fandom, the ones who couldn’t find their bats, or the strike zone, or home plate.
On April 21, 2012, my seventh game of the year, Philip Humber and the White Sox visited Safeco Field on a beautiful spring afternoon. I tackled the game with my scorecard, incurring the sarcasm of a gentleman who chided me for not using a proper scorebook. Six innings flew by, and I diligently penciled in zero after zero before realizing the magnitude of Humber’s performance. In the seventh inning, murmurs of a perfect game started traveling throughout the crowd. I began rooting for history.
By the time that tenth game rolled around, a 5-2 win immortalized in my Baseball Log with the words, “Brendan Ryan hitting in the #2 spot will never not be weird,” I was hooked. It’s difficult to pinpoint the moment my obsession took flight, but I found myself missing Safeco Field just days after a homestand ended. Instead of feeling burned out on baseball, I couldn’t wait to return to the park: to the King’s Court, the goofy hydro races, and the call of Scooter the Beer Guy as he sprinted up and down Section 139.
2012 had many more unforgettable moments in store, from a glimpse of Felix Hernandez’s perfecto to the Orioles’ 18-inning all-nighter on my 22nd birthday. I learned how to banter with visiting fans, hold my own in classic rock music trivia, and read fly balls without jumping to my feet every time one hit the warning track.
On Wednesday, I walked through the gates of Safeco Field for the forty-third time. Game Ten was a distant memory, but instead of missing the faded novelty of catching a live game, I’d grown to appreciate the deepening connection with players and fans that cannot be developed in one or two games. Sure, the 2012 Mariners didn’t claim a championship title, the AL West, or a winning record. But the memories they allowed me to create this year are invaluable, and will keep me returning for years to come.