As COVID restrictions, which I'm in full support of, continue in Ontario, one thing that I really miss is going to baseball games. To compensate, I've devised what I call the virtual ballpark experience. Here's what you need:
- an interest in baseball (obviously)
- subscription to MLB TV or MLB Audio (the latter is dirt cheap: US $19.99 for one year)
- a device with which to watch a game
- ballpark-esque food of your choice
- (optional) a scorecard. This is the one I use; you might prefer something more or less elaborate
- three to four distraction-free hours
If you have MLB TV, you can watch any game, live or archived, subject to blackout restrictions. Those of us on the cheaper plan can access home and away radio broadcasts of any game, including postseason, with no blackouts. Now, you'll note that earlier, I used the word "watch." How do you watch a game if you're limited to radio feeds? Simple. Every day in the regular season, the fine folks at MLB offer a free game of the day that radio listeners can access. And if you find the TV commentary too minimalist, which I often do when I'm scoring, you can overlay the radio feed. Of course, it helps if the free game of the day involves at least one team you care about, enough to cheer for or against them.
I've had some fun with the food aspect. I try to limit myself to food I can buy at my local ballpark, Rogers Centre. So, my dinner of choice is two mustard-drenched Yves veggie dogs, Smartfood Movie Night Butter popcorn (expertly mimics the dry stadium variety), a can of Coke and a bowl of Breyers chocolate ice cream. To really make it authentic, the Coke is served in the commemorative plastic cup ("White Sox, 2005 World Series champions") I got at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, where I saw Mark Buehrle's no-hitter in 2007. Over the years I've collected a fair number of those batting-helmet souvenir ice cream cups, and to honour my beloved cat (surely a Tiger fan), I serve the ice cream in a Detroit Tigers mini-helmet. I must admit, I do cheat a bit with the veggie dog toppings—grated old cheddar and diced tomatoes, neither of which are available at the ol' ball yard.
Once the food is ready, it's a matter of munching away, watching the game and filling out your scorecard. I can't think of a better way to spend a few hours. You're as "at" the ballpark as you can be, arguably more comfortable than the fans in the actual seats on a frigid April night at Fenway Park (a game I watched from home a few weeks ago). The only bummer is having to prep the food and do the dishes afterwards. Still, you can pause the game to cook, clean up, use the facilities, whatever, and not miss a single pitch. The MLB TV interface helpfully includes an in-progress box score and play summary, which makes scoring a breeze.
And you know, that old adage remains true: go to a baseball game and you never know what you'll see. The Seattle/Boston tilt I watched had the Mariners winning in extras, scoring 7 runs on 3 hits. The Seattle radio crew informed me that it's only the eighth time since 1901 that a team has scored seven or more runs on three or fewer hits (last time it happened was 1994). Also, I recently had the pleasure of scoring Joe Musgrove's historic no-hitter, the Padres' first (they went 52 years, 1 week or 8,205 games without one).
So, take yourself out to the ballgame! No need to leave your living room. You won't catch a foul ball or home run, but you can do the seventh-inning stretch if you'd like—a nice little wrinkle I'll try to remember for next time.