Growing up as an Air Force brat in Alaska and Florida, I didn't have much exposure to baseball. Sure, my godfather took my dad and I to a Red Sox game in '68, but I don't remember much about it aside from the huge Cities Service sign over the Green Monster. Neither of my parents showed much interest in baseball, either. Still, sometime between the 1969 season when Ted Williams became manager and 1972 when they left for Texas, the Senators acquired a young fan who used to listen to the game on a transistor radio late into the night, waiting for the magic words "Kiss it goodbye!" to signal another home run by the Senators' sole star, slugger Frank Howard.
Needless to say, the departure of the Senators for Texas pretty much killed any interest I had in baseball.* For the next two decades, the only reason I looked at the baseball standings was to see if the Rangers were still in the cellar, or at least mired in the second division. I was rarely disappointed. My love for the game wasn't even revived by a move to Minnesota, though at the time the Twins were just as miserable as my old Senators. I didn't even notice that the Twins had risen up to win the World Series in 1987.
Sometime in the next couple of years, that all changed. There was an article in Smithsonian magazine about some fellows who played an odd sort of statistics-based game called Rotisserie Baseballl, which involved tracking the performance of baseball players, adding up the stats of the players who were on your team...well, you can look it up. As a longtime wargamer, number crunching was second nature to me, and I got curious. I started looking into this game. Dragging home books from the library about it. Dragging home books about baseball in general. The next thing you know, someone in my reserve unit had noticed all the baseball books I was dragging around and braced me about getting involved in a Pursue the Pennant league. Which I did.
By 1990, I was so wrapped up in baseball that it seemed only natural for me to sign up with STATS, Inc. I mean, I liked to watch baseball games, liked to score them, and these guys were going to pay me to do this? How could this possibly go wrong? I would find out the answer to that question during the Twins' miserable 1990 season. Oh, God, would I find out. Still, I kept up with STATS for the next ten years or so, shifting from paper score sheets to computer-based scoring software and collecting as much as a couple hundred dollars a month in addition to the free Major League Handbook at the end of the season. Not always fun, because you couldn't turn off the game you were reporting on no matter how awful it got, and I stayed up late for more West Coast rain delays than I care to think about, but by and large it was the best part-time job I've ever had.
I talked a little bit about my time with the Rebel Baseball review in this LJ post, so I won't rehash that here. I will say that between the RBR, STATS, and some other baseball writing I did in those days, I made some extra cash at a time when we needed it around the house, and not just to cover the satellite bills. The RBR brought its own fringe benefits, of course, and introduced me to a lot of cool people, but by 2001 I just couldn't do it any more.
For the next few years I couldn't even think about doing more than following the Twins (sometimes the Saints and Dukes too) and playing fantasy baseball. I'd gotten involved in post-graduate studies, and this anime thing started eating my life as well. Eventually that got to the point where I needed to take a couple years off from the fantasy leagues as well, and by the time I left Minnesota I was following the Twins and Saints with maybe 20% of the interest I'd had before.
These days I don't even follow that Nationals that closely. They're a horrible team, nobody in the front office there seems to have the first clue about how to rebuild them, and that wears on a fan; worst of all, they want to extort fairly vast sums of money for the privilege of watching this team from the worst seats in the house. So I dunno. Maybe if somebody was paying me to keep an eye on them. On the other hand, there's this collegiate summer league team starting play on Friday...we'll see how it all works out, I guess.
*I found out years later that I was recapitulating my father's history with the Braves, who left Boston in 1952 and took his interest in professional baseball with them. This only came up after I'd given him the definitive Ted Williams biography under the mistaken impression that he was a Red Sox fan; turned out he'd been a Braves fan back in the day and had even skipped class to see them in the 1948 World Series. Who knew?