My love for baseball is what got me into writing about it. The more I watched, the more I learned. I have been a fan of the Twins since as far back as I can recall, but I didn’t start truly watching until right before the strike in 1994. As I grew in my love for the sport, the more I loved the interaction with fans. That was easy when I was home in Minnesota, but after a life-altering move to the east coast, I had to find new ways to communicate with fans. I found twitter in 2012 and other fans. It made me feel like I was home.
The more I watched the games, the more I had to say on Twitter, but 120 characters didn't seem to be enough for me. I knew how hard it could be for women in journalism, but I knew I wanted to say more. Lately, there has been a lot of emphasis on women in sports, and when I reached out with my desire to be a writer, Twins Daily immediately took me under their wing to get me started. As I continued to grow in followers, content, and fans, I noticed that more women worked in baseball and as fans.
Baseball is the second most popular sport in the United States behind Football and seventh in the world. Baseball also has one of the most gender-even fan bases. Men make up 55% of the fan base, and Women make up 45% of the fan base. This past week, even in a state that competes with other major professional leagues, the Minnesota Twins home opener drew in more than 35,000 fans after a 99-day lockout and a shortened spring training. Almost half of those were women.
I was there with my mom and waiting to meet up with a group of women I met on Twitter and attending the game. Female baseball fans are a particular type of woman: passionate, competitive, complex, and loving. We are independent and strong and can speak our minds, especially during a bad call.
We started our Twins Twitter group to talk about the Twins and baseball in general. We decided to meet up and say hi to each other and meet in person. After all, we have spent hours talking about the game, the players, the organization, and the rules. Our group ranges from all areas, professions and ages. We have different views on the game's rules and how plays, contracts, and rosters are made. We all have different views on life, but we all come together and agree on one thing: we love Twins baseball.
We all have memories stemming from childhood, talking about our favorite players of yesteryear: Trevor Plouffe, Brad Radke, LaTroy Hawkins, Justin Morneau, and now fanning over players like Byron Buxton, Joe Ryan, Carlos Correa, and Max Kepler. This season's line-up, the trades, and the acquisitions left our mouths watering for the home opener after the excruciating 99-day lockout.
To say the lockout unhinged us may be an understatement. None of us could imagine a world without baseball, relying on rumors, old stories, and hopes of what was to come. The day finally arrived, though, and as I walked around the stadium, I noticed the number of women in attendance, and it made my heart full.
I arrived through Gate 34 as the Mariners were taking batting practice. Crowded around the railing were tons of people hoping to catch a ball, so I moseyed on over to watch the kids holler and wave in hopes of getting a big leaguer's attention for the coveted official MLB ball. Harley was there with her dad, Alex. She had just caught a ball, and in a pink hat that was just a little too big for her, she jumped up and down in excitement at her first ball from a major league player. Her dad took her ball and placed it in her bag as she turned around, almost hoping for more balls to be thrown her way.
Harley was here for her second home opener and arrived early like the rest of us to catch some batting practice and watch the players. Not bad for a four-year-old. She doesn't know the players yet, but that's okay; she is more excited about watching the game, catching the balls, and getting snacks. She has plenty of time to learn the other stuff, and dad Alex is an avid fan who encourages her fandom. She's more interested in catching more balls than speaking to me but allowed me a little extra time to ask what her favorite food was at the stadium, and she said Cotton Candy, which earned an emphatic high five from me because that's my favorite too.
She went on to tell me that she played baseball outside of the stadium, and she enjoyed it.
That's the thing about baseball, it's fun, and it's for everyone. Seeing her excitement for the day and what it entailed showed me that we have not only future generations of fans but also future generations of women who will grow in the game. She has core memories that she will be able to share with her kids and traditions that will lead her to keep the game alive for generations to come.
"They'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and could be again."
- Terrance Mann Field of Dreams
The impact of baseball has erased many things like sadness during a pandemic, made things whole like bringing us together after, and kept things constant in a world that seems unsure.
Melissa and Pamela have been coming to games together since before they had their kids. This year is different. This is the first time they brought their daughters along for the experience and joined in the home opener's annual tradition. Melissa was excited about all the new food showcased this season, and they were all excited for the team as a whole.
I love when I run into baseball fans who understand baseball's business and don't get too attached to the players. When I asked if any of the trades bothered them, they said, "no. Not really". They were excited about the team and the potential they have.
I could tell that the girls, Amanda, Taylor, and Anglea, the daughters of Pamela and Melissa, were raised in Twins Territory and shared the passion with their moms. Their first opening day was a little chilly, but they didn't let that stop them from stopping to take pictures and taking in the sights on the greens inside gate 34. They knew just as much about the team, and we're excited to join in the tradition.
Baseball is all about traditions and transcends years. Traditions are something that brings us and keeps us close, and give us something to look forward to every year. Since they were kids, Jenny, Katie, Tiffany, and Marcy have not only been Twins fans but have been coming to the season opener since as far back as they can remember, to the Metrodome era. They don't have season tickets, but they make sure that they get together to make it to opening day and many other games as a group. They enjoy cheering on their favorite players in a fun, reverberant fashion.
They cheer on the players as they take their place on the field, and fans around them know that they are there for the players. They want the team as a whole to succeed, specifically with better fielding and hopefully pitching. They are passionate about this team and start to recall the previous series and games they have been at. They were even at the last regular-season game in the Metrodome on October 6th, where the Twins won a fantastic 12-inning game, 6-5, to reach the postseason. As they reminisced about the games they attended, there was talk about a sign they had during one of the games, and Marcy quickly shut down the conversation in a "we don't talk about Bruno"-esque fashion. Like unspoken rules in baseball, some things are sacred and not discussed.
They had so many memories of their favorite players, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, and Joe Mauer the stories and years seem to overlap. That's what this game does. It creates core memories, memories that carry on after we are gone.
That's what Jane is doing, carrying on her father's traditions with her. Jane is bundled up, sitting in the shadows of 111 with her phone, earphones, a device she was listening to the game on, and a scorebook. She took in the game, kept score on her score sheet, and watched the players and the umps. If anyone can rattle off stats like they were nothing, it’s her.
I just sat in awe, watching her and listening to her story. Her dad took her to games since the Twins were at the Met when it opened in 1961. She remembers going to games with her dad there. He would bring his scorebook and keep track, he taught her how to do the same, and it's how she fell in love with the game. If there is a fan that I genuinely aspire to be like, it's Jane.
Jane is quiet, probably early 60's, and remembers all the greats: Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett, Jim Kaat, but her favorite player? Joe Mauer. I was a little taken aback by the statement. I know the millennials love him for many reasons, but Jane has her reasons too. She used to watch Joe in college, so she watched Joe Mauer grow up in the game. Her fondest memories are every time he would get a personal, division, or league record. She knows so much about the team that to her, Joe Mauer is the definition of Minnesota baseball, and so is Jane.
There are so many amazing things about baseball and its fans. It truly creates bonds that countermand politics, religion, and economics. While I hope to see the women I interviewed on opening day again, all of them made an impact on me that I will carry with me forever. It was fantastic to see the game through other women's eyes.
As for our group? We talk every day, through every game, and it's one of the best things that ever happened to me. We grieve over losses, cheer over wins, and gripe about bad calls and the things we think should be done differently. We have some of the smartest women in the group, and I never knew how fun sports could be once you found a group with which you can share experiences. We genuinely have a bond that can’t be broken because it all centers around something we all love.
In a sport typically a "man world," women are closing in on evening out the gap from fans to correspondents, journalists, players, and now MLB coaches. The ceiling has been shattered, and I am so glad to be a part of a generation of women actively growing in baseball.
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