Explaining Baseball to a New American

by Beth Cranford

Around 18 months ago, I became an American citizen. Yep, after seven and a half years of living in North Carolina with my American husband and two half-American/half-Australian kids, I pledged allegiance to the flag. It was an exciting and emotional day, but guys, I kind of thought that becoming American would make me feel more American. Side note: if you’d like to feel like a fish out of water, live in small-town America with an Australian accent for a few weeks. I’ve never been asked, “Where are you from?” or told, “I love your accent!” more in my life. Which makes sense, since Australians don’t hear my accent and I really haven’t been anywhere else. But I digress…

Since getting my citizenship didn’t automatically make me as American as apple pie, I decided it was high time I took matters into my own hands. Well, my own hands and the helping hands of my Book+Main colleague, Jess. Why Jess? Because Jess loves baseball, and since Opening Day is here (and it’s America’s pastime),

I figured that was a good place to start learning. And by learning, I mean bugging Jess with questions she had to answer if she ever wants to get work done.

But, before we start, I want to share with you something I have learned about Jess and her… let’s call it her baseball obsession… since I initially asked her to teach me all she knows. This was the topper of Jess’s wedding cake:

Quite aside from the fact that I want to eat that cake so badly I might cry, can we talk about the hats? I asked why they were wearing different hats, and this was the response:

“Baseball is the reason my husband and I became friends. One of our greatest tensions is the 1991 World Series. Crazy times.”

Ignorant me obviously asked why, and that’s how I learned that a) Jess has questionable taste if she’s willing to marry a man who supports her team’s rival, and b) the Minnesota Twins won the 1991 World Series in extra innings and — this bears repeating — she still married him. FTR, I would never marry a Collingwood or Carlton supporter and if this sentence makes sense to you, HI! *smiles in Victorian* But okay, okay, enough about that — let’s move on before I call the nearest bakery to order a wedding cake I don’t need.

“I kind of thought that becoming American would make me feel more American.”

Beth: Everything I know about baseball has been gleaned from romance books and Major League I & II. Oh, and For the Love of the Game because I had a big crush on Kevin Costner for a while there. So, I guess my first question is: do you still get chills when Wild Thing plays and/or do you also appreciate Kevin Costner?

Jess: Yes, for sure. To both. Costner does good baseball movies. Bull Durham is my favorite. My favorite baseball movies are: The Sandlot, Money Ball (it’s a great book too), A League of Their Own, Fever Pitch, Trouble with the Curve.

[◉”]: Amazon

Beth: Ooh, yes, I LOVE A League of Their Own. *sends gif “There’s no crying in baseball!”*

Jess:(editor’s note: I think she was probably just staring at her screen at this point, and we’d only just begun.)

Beth: Okay, admittedly that wasn’t really a good leading question, but hey, I’m out of my depth here. If I never learn anything else about it, what’s one thing I should know about baseball?

Jess: One of the MANY things I think you should know about baseball is that everything can change in the time it takes to finish that delicious ballpark hot dog. It may seem hopeless for a team to make a comeback, but it’s not mathematically impossible. The longest game in professional baseball history lasted 33 innings over two days (the final score was 2-3). The game goes until one team scores more than the other, and that can happen with one swing, or many, many innings.

“…you should know about baseball is that everything can change in the time it takes to finish that delicious ballpark hot dog.”

Beth: I can’t decide if I love that or if it would drive me insane. While I figure that out, riddle me this: what’s a fly ball? (It doesn’t hit them in the fly, does it? *cringes*) Also, what’s a foul ball? Wait, are they the same thing?

Jess: If a fly ball hits a player in the fly, someone is doing something wrong 😉 A fly ball is one of those that is hit high up in the air, giving the players the opportunity to catch it fairly easy, resulting in an out. A foul ball is a little more complicated, but for simplicity, it’s a ball that is hit in certain parts of the field (foul territory) that results in a dead ball. We will leave it at that.

Beth: Yeah, leaving it at that sounds like a plan. Next: what is a pinch hitter?

Jess: A pinch hitter is a substitute for another batter.

Beth: Oh, so wait — is there such a thing as a pinch pitcher? (Say that ten times fast!)

Jess: Ha, yes. They are usually used to replace an injured player or if they have a better chance of getting a hit and/or bringing in runs.

Beth: Slightly sad that a pinch hitter and/or pitcher doesn’t pinch people from the opposing team, but okay. Now tell me what the difference is between a double header and a double play.

Jess: These questions are cute. (editor’s note: there are lots of things about me that are very cute. Don’t think too much about that, just go with it.) So glad we are finally having this chat! A double header is when two games are played against the same team on the same day. A double play is when two outs are made in the same play. This can be done in several different ways and I will need to draw you a picture. Another time, maybe. Unless you have a scorebook handy?

Beth: Surprisingly, I do not. How about you talk to me about the seventh inning stretch instead. Is that when we get snacks?

Jess: Don’t get me started about all the amazing baseball stadium snacks. It’s one of my very favorite things. The seventh inning stretch takes place between the top and bottom half of the 7th inning. The players take a little break. The crowd stretches and sings Take Me Out to the Ballgame. This is usually when you get your last snack/beer of the game.

Beth: *claps hands excitedly* I have sung Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Out of tune and with lots of mumbling because I didn’t know the words, but that’s okay, right?

Jess: Right.

Beth: Last question for now, because I know you’re probably sick of me, but it’s the most important one (aside from the snacks question, of course). I didn’t grow up watching baseball and therefore don’t barrack* for a specific team. Which team should I be supporting and why?

*barrack is Australia for “root for” or “support”, just FYI.

Jess: I am a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan but married a hardcore Minnesota Twins fan. So, I would say either choice is a good choice, but I would go with the Braves.

Beth: As a thank you for this brief crash course, and a deposit of good will for the inevitable next barrage of questions, I will consider myself a Braves fan from now on *Googles Atlanta Braves merch* Ooh, Atlanta is only about five hours from here! When COVID is over, can we go to a game? I want to learn more about the snacks…


Beth: Jess? Are you still there? Is that a no to a game then?

Jess’s Baseball Bucket List:

• Take son to every baseball stadium before he graduates high school.

• Go to a World Series game

Jess’s Baseball Bucket List Accomplishments:

☑️ Saw favorite baseball player inducted in the hall of fame in Cooperstown

☑️ Sang Sweet Caroline at the Green Monster in Boston

☑️ Went to an All-Star Game

If you’d like to see a round-up of baseball romance, make sure you head over to the Book+Main Instagram page and see what Jess and I found and recommend you read. There are SO MANY good baseball books, movies, and TV shows. If you have a recommendation for us, please leave it in the comments below.

About Beth

Beth Cranford was born and raised in Australia, but followed her heart (and her husband) to the United States in her late 20s. As the mother of two kids, she’s learned that you can turn anything into a song and that slime does not belong in carpeted areas (or polite society). You can most often find her with her Kindle in hand, listening to Taylor Swift on repeat, or spending way too many hours playing Animal Crossing.

Follow her @BethCranford on B+M Bites.

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2 Replies to “Explaining America’s Pastime to a New American”

Donna Soluri says:

I love this soooo much!!! I grew up watching baseball with my dad. I don’t even know who if he had a favorite team but we loved wearing lots of baseball hats and throwing them at the tv when there was a bad call. Ahhhh, good times! My seventh inning stretch ritual was gathering up all of the tossed hats to prepare for the end of the game! (To be fair, we had this same ritual for the question & answer portion of any beauty pageant – tossed hats went to bad answers)

Beth Cranford says:

I am fascinated by the idea that you went and threw hats at a BEAUTY PAGEANT, and you did it enough to have a ritual for it.

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