On the 29th of July, "America's pastime" better known as major league baseball came to the London Stadium and as a normal Englishman, I knew very little about the MLB. I knew of the Yankees because they flog millions of caps a year, I owned a few, and the Red Sox's because they spell 'socks' wrong. But from my minimal knowledge, mainly things I picked up watching the Simpsons and Friends, baseball strikes me as America's response to Cricket. An over-complicated and somewhat extravagant sport that you play when the sun is shining, and when it inevitably starts raining, you all stop. The covers come on, and we have to wait.
I was lucky this summer, not only did I get a day out at the baseball, but I also got tickets to Ashes at the Oval in London. It was quality, both days. A day out in the sun, watching a load of blokes throwing a little ball around as fast and hard as they could. They're pretty fucking good. But at one I understood the rules, and at the other, I had little to no idea and the main reason: because I've grown up with Cricket, not baseball. I get the stupid rules and sayings and don't really query them. Whereas baseball, that was all new.
Rules that seem silly. Who came up with the idea of shouting 'Howzat'. To someone who doesn't fully understand Cricket, it seems utterly ridiculous. But to any cricket fan that one word can mean the difference between a good day at the office and an early shower.
Bases loaded? Not a clue. But if you want to chat about a well bowled googly, and I'll talk your ear off. The lazy sport, the silly summer sport that takes longer than it really needs to, the sport you can play while also drinking larger, what more could you ask for really? Absolutely beautiful. As the game went on… and on...and… you get the idea. I began to think that this is just their version. It was utterly different from the Top 10 baseball plays that was my research the night before, it was somewhat underwhelming, where are the fights?
Then BANG. Jesus that was actually very impressive. Even the arms on these fellas are freaky; throwing the ball nonchalantly across a 200-meter playing surface. I can only feel for Americans trying to watch test match cricket, where sixes or even fours are rare to come by. Even a good leave will get a smattering of applause from the pavilion. Well, as the saying goes if you don't get it, you probably never will. With the origins of baseball much debated, there are obvious similarities with its English counterpart and here are five reasons why baseball is America's version of the summer game with a bat and ball.
Both Baseball and Cricket have a rich history steeped in the sports culture of its home. The games are ancient and to be honest, you can tell. Both have greats like Babe Ruthand Don Bradman who made their name in the 1930s but still hailed as "the very best" today.
They stand by these traditions and take them very seriously. Things like the long room at Lords to Fenway park they both have massive Histories that give the game the essence they have. Traditions handed down from generation to generation, father to son, batsmen to batsmen, and although the technologies and cultures may change around them, the traditions will always remain. I love going to Cricket. Leaving the Oval tube station to get to the ground feels like I've gone back in time. The big historic red brick ground amongst the new high rise of south London, it just oozes class. Although the London stadium, where I watched the baseball, does not have the same rich history I know for a fact the baseball stadiums back in America. Fenway Park has been there since 1912. It's stood there for over 100 years. The Ovals were a bit older. Having first opened in 1845 its red brick pavilion is now a sporting artefact. Both served as constant reminders of the longevity of the sports. Both not wrong places to have a beer either, no?
2. The 'Thwack'
Probably the best bit isn't it? In both Cricket and Baseball, the main aim of a batsman is to try and smash the ball as far away as possible. But when someone was throwing a ball that's about 20cm in diameter and travelling between 80-110mph, you can't really blame them for not hitting every ball 'out of the park'.The sound of 'leather on willow' is widely regarded as one of the best sounds to any cricket fan, and sometimes you don't get much of it. But you know what. That's fine. Because when they catch hold of one, they proper catch it. See you later.
3. The Pace.
Cricket, and as I was learning baseball are pretty slow. It's not like football or basketball, not so end to end. It's a sport that takes its time, it goes on and on. It's slow. Even once the shadows are long and the sky orange there's probably still a couple of hours to play. But the beauty of this? If your team wins its fucking great. The investment of a day seems to all be worth it. If not? Well, that's just Cricket. On top of this, the moments of action are magnified, making them even better. After ten balls consecutively locked away; that one shot that sails for a home run or 6 is a beautiful sight. Totally worth it if you ask me.
4. The Catches
Who doesn't love catching stuff? Cups, pens, anything that's falling; it's really satisfying when you manage to pick it out of the air. Everyone loves to catch. But cricket and baseball players are a bit good at it. Suppose you would be if that's what you did for a living. Even both times I was watching them warm-up, they make it look so bloody easy. But sometimes you get to see some genuinely stunning catches. Those moments you just don't see coming, and why would you? After 20 consecutive dot balls or 'strikes', the game can sometimes seem to grind to a halt. It seems destined to be a dull affair. They both really rely on the moments of genius to keep us all entertained (and not falling asleep). I saw some pretty incredible catches on both days, of which I had no idea where the ball actually was. I still can't really understand how they've managed to see it, let alone catch it. But this morning I caught a falling mug, so I know exactly how it feels.
5. Rain and Covers
As both games were designed for the summer, the fact, the rain stops play shouldn't be that much of an issue right? Welcome to England. Luckily there wasn't any rain on the days at the baseball and Cricket, but I've spent many a day sat in the pavilion praying the big horrible bastard black clouds would go. That horrible feeling of being out there and the first few splats come down. "Covers! Get the covers!" Great, I have to spend the next 4 hours now sitting around hoping this thunderstorm clears up in time (when we all know it obviously won't). But what's worse is when you're just there to watch. Just like baseball standing around in a mac getting rained on is certainly not the highlight of the summer. Why do we bother?
I loved my day out at the baseball even though most of the time, I had no idea what was going on. Maybe it was the beer, and perhaps it was the stupid rules. But both days were class. The sun, the beer, the catching, the throwing, the batting, all of it.They’re relaxed and 'gentlemanly'. Although their names, silly sayings and pitches may be different, to me, baseball is just 'American cricket'.