The 2009 Major League Baseball season starts on Sunday night, when the Atlanta Braves visit the Philadelphia Phillies. On Monday, 13 more clubs will host their Opening Day games. We asked a distinguished group of fans — one for each of MLB’s 30 teams — to account for their passion. (Teams are listed in alphabetical order by city within their division — we’re making no predictions on the order of finish. )
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
WHY I LOVE THE BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Of course it’s hard to be an Orioles fan. That’s what eleven losing seasons will do to you. And yes, I know the ownership is incompetent. But as conservatives, we know you must never change your team. And being an Orioles fan does have its advantages: Camden Yards is still one of the nicer parks in the league, made even nicer with dismal attendance. You can’t beat the Italian sausages and ribs. You can tell the Yankees fans how awful the Red Sox are and make fun of the Yankees with Red Sox fans. Joe Angel, Fred Manfra, and Gary Thorne are three of the best broadcasters in the business, and they know how to make bad games enjoyable. And 40 percent of the time the Birds actually win!
– Martin Morse Wooster writes and edits in Silver Spring, Md., when he isn’t sitting in Section 338.
WHY I LOVE THE BOSTON RED SOX
Walking through a Fenway Park turnstile is the sweetest feeling on earth. The charm of baseball’s oldest ballpark is largely thanks to its connection to the past. There’s the left-field home of Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and Jim Rice; the red seat in a sea of green bleachers where Ted hit the park’s longest ball; the hand-operated scoreboard; the five World Series flags earned between 1903 and 1918, and the anguished wait to raise a sixth in 2004. There’s personal history there, too: memories of waiting out rain delays in makeshift, garbage-bag ponchos as a little girl, and of my husband proposing to me in the very same bleachers years later.
The Sox have always paid tribute to their past, but recent history holds valuable lessons for the future, too. The miracle of 2004 taught Sox fans never, ever to give up hope; 2007 proved the benefits of disciplined persistence. And the 86 years between celebrations taught us to savor every happy moment.
– Courtney Myers works in public policy in Arlington, Va.
WHY I LOVE THE NEW YORK YANKEES
Last year, my hometown Bronx Bombers failed to make the playoffs for the first time since the strike-shortened 1994 season. So they did what any deep-pocketed, big-market team with 26 World Series titles would do — they spent $423 million on three of baseball’s most prized free agents: C. C. Sabathia, A. J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. Pricey free agents don’t guarantee wins, of course — but they sure help. I love the Yankees for sparing no offseason expense or on-field effort to win each and every year, each and every game.
The riff goes that the Yankees buy their championships — and that will be a dominant theme if Vegas is right and the Bombers win it all in 2009. But that fails to account for the team’s farm-grown talent — lesser-known guys like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada, who’ve never played a game they were willing to lose. Other teams would spend as much — if they could. So file that Yankee hatred away with class envy and related resentments, and pass the peanuts.
– Edward John Craig is the managing editor of NRO.
WHY I LOVE THE TAMPA BAY RAYS
The Rays make Tampa proud and are an integral part of Florida’s professional-sports scene. They truly represent the word “team.” The players step up, commit themselves to the game, and have a high level of motivation and enthusiasm that translates into a winning formula. At the helm, manager Joe Maddon has guided these talented athletes and shown his passion for the game. Last year, against all odds, the Rays made it to the World Series. They were one of baseball’s most talked-about teams and success stories. Florida is fortunate to have the Rays right here in the Tampa Bay region.
– Bill Galvano, a Republican, is a representative in the Florida legislature.
WHY I LOVE THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS
When I was around seven, I joined my grandfather on the sofa in Toronto. He was watching the Blue Jays on TV. “See that player on the screen?” he said. “I can ask him to get a hit for you.” The player was Shannon Stewart. My grandpa picked up the phone and dialed an imaginary number.
“How can he hear you?” I asked.
“He’s got a phone in his helmet,” he replied. In fact, Grandpa knew the habits of every ballplayer at the plate. “If you can hear me, tap your helmet,” he said. Stewart did. “Good. I’ve got Nathaniel here, and I was wondering if you would try to get a hit for him? If you will, tap your bat on the plate.” Stewart did. A moment later, Stewart doubled. After he slid into second, my grandpa — still on the phone — said, “If that was for Nathaniel, brush off your pants.” Once again, Stewart did as told. From that point on, I have loved baseball.
– Nat Frum is a ninth grader in Washington, D.C.