@thankyoubaseball (update: no longer active) is one of my favorite accounts in all of social media. Zan Rathore, the account’s Toronto-based creator, has the goal of uniting the baseball community by sharing all that makes him thankful for the game of baseball.
The account recently featured JapanBall, but before we get to that, I would like to share a bit more about why I love Zan’s project.
Research is now backing up the long history of anecdotal evidence that shows that acknowledging one’s gratitude for things big and small is an essential component to one’s well-being. Having a consistent “gratitude practice” is considered to be a vital part of one’s overall health, just like diet and exercise.
For those less familiar with mental health exercises like meditation or having a “gratitude practice,” what better place to start than with baseball? If you’re reading, this, there is a good chance that you love the game, and simply by simply following @thankyoubaseball, you can have an introduction to your very own practice!
As Zan puts it,
“Baseball is such a brilliant little game we have to help distract us from our life’s problems for a few hours every single day and it’s pretty cool to take a few seconds out of everyday to feel gratitude for what we have. Try it right now and see how it makes you feel. Seriously, take ten seconds out of your day and think about something that makes you feel gratitude towards the game of baseball. See that goofy smile taking over your face right now?
I certainly know that baseball has pulled me out of some holes in my life and I am certain that it has helped others as well. That’s what I have created this page for, to give everyone some warm and fuzzies in the middle of their day to remind them why this game is so special to people around the world.”
A couple of weeks ago, Zan reached out to see if I wanted to contribute to his account. For the past few years, he has been collecting and sharing stories about what people are thankful for as it relates to baseball, and now it was my turn!
A simple request turned into much more. I have devoted most of my life – including all of my professional life – to baseball. Without even putting much though into it, I am grateful for so much that the game has given to me. Thinking deeply, there is so much more! How could I boil it all down to one post?
Well, it turns out that it didn’t even fit in one post – Zan had to put my story into three posts so that it would fit in Instagram’s allowed caption size!
Below is a transcript of what I provided:
“The creation of green was god’s crowning achievement.” A friend of mine, Caitlin, made that claim to me as we hiked through California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, through a high-elevation grassy field that created a swatch of green – light in color and feel – amidst a forest of rich, dark green pine trees. This statement caused me to hone in on all of the shades of green around me. Each variety of plant – grass, flower, shrub, or tree – had its own unique hue. Even each individual species had different tints, depending, I imagine, on things like access to water or little bugs that may be draining its resources.
This particular hike was quite a sensory experience, and not easily replicable in my day-to-day life. However, there is one relatively common situation that triggers that awe-inspiring and comforting feeling that I had – the first glimpse of a shimmering green baseball field.
That is what I’m grateful for about baseball – the feeling that the field gives me at first glance.
Whenever I attend a professional game, be it in the U.S., Japan, or elsewhere, I cherish that first sight of the bright green field when I walk into the stadium. I present my ticket at the gate, walk up the ramp, through the tunnel, and BOOM – there it is. When the tunnel is dark and the field is sun-lit, it has an especially significant impact. In many ballparks, the field is visible through the concourse, and the overhanging second deck causes a panoramic effect on the view; you reach the top steps of the stairs and are gifted with a dramatic, horizontal view of that beautifully manicured grass. All of the anticipation generated ahead of time – the purchasing of the ticket, finding a parking spot, the passing through of the turnstile – is transformed into fulfillment at first sight of the field.
Yes, the sounds of a ballgame – the pregame PA announcement and routine, the excited chatter of the fans, hawking vendors – and the smells too – peppers and onions on a flat top griddle, hot dogs bathed in water or steam, and light beer – are comforting and nostalgic as well. But it’s that green grass that always gets me and takes me back to being a bright-eyed kid, attending a game at Candlestick Park, Oakland Coliseum, or San Jose Municipal Stadium.
Seeing a baseball field always seems to excite me. One of my favorite ballpark-spotting rituals is from the airplane in or out of the Dominican Republic’s Aeropuerto Las Ámericas. The airport is located east of Santo Domingo in the area where most MLB teams have their development academies. I always try to see as many fields as possible from the airplane window. The contradiction between the two types of fields in view is striking. There are perfectly manicured fields at the academes, often clustered in the shape of clovers like at MLB spring training facilities, and there are shabby fields that lack a clearly-defined separation of infield dirt and grass and feature backstops so small and patchy that one would be bold to watch the game from behind home plate. If you were to zoom in on these fields from high above in the airplane, you could see the rocks and slopes of an infield that could be topographically charted and the droppings of cows, goats, and other animals that are permitted to graze the outfield. If you are vigilant, you may spot 20-30 baseball fields as you approach or depart the airport. And, if you’re lucky, the plane will make a bank turn at just the right time, allowing you an even better angle to see the many ballfields in the area. Be sure to book a window seat!
A similar experience can be had riding the train in Japan. Many of the fields feature all-dirt infields, making the green slightly less brilliant, and the fields aren’t quite as numerous, but I always keep my eyes glued out the window and get a flutter of excitement whenever I see a field zoom by.
This is not something that I have shared with many people or ever articulated in such detail. I wonder if other baseball lovers and I have this in common. Riding your bike or driving your car through a new neighborhood, do you perk up when you see a baseball field? When you enter a ballpark as a spectator, is it the site of the field that pleases you most?
I am grateful to baseball for giving me something so accessible and so satisfying.
Thank you, baseball.