Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Baseball on the Radio

Now that baseball season has begun, my daily friend is back. Following baseball provides me with that little bit of distraction that makes getting through the day just a little easier. I don't need it every day, but it's good to know that it's always there for me.

One of the best ways this manifests is when I get into my car in the evening, and there's a baseball game on the radio. I might be driving to the gym or going to the grocery store, and in that time can transport my mind to another place. After a long day of working and commuting it's a small comfort in life that I cherish.

Baseball is the sport most suited to radio, a fact that I think is universally acknowledged at this point. It's much easier to visualize than basketball or football, and the pace of action fits the medium perfectly. A baseball game is something you can have on in the background, letting it fade in and out of your consciousness. After all, there are 162 games in a season, so trying to hang onto every pitch with total intensity is a path to psychosis.

My daughters got a taste of this tonight. While I was in the bathroom helping them get showered I had the Mets game audio streaming on my phone. I yelled with excitement when pitcher Jacob deGrom smacked a home run. One of my daughters picked up my phone, expecting to see something. When I told her it was the radio, she put the phone to her ear, as if it were a conch found on the seashore.

My only problem with listening to games streaming is that the sound is too clear. There no sound quite like AM radio. On the AM radio in my car I get to hear that wonderful low buzz that sometimes intensifies and alters the voices of the announcers. At times it sounds like the game is being broadcast from another world or a parallel universe. It's an uncanny feeling that I find as oddly comforting as the rhythm of the broadcaster's litany after every inning "no runs one hit no errors."

As podcasting has risen in popularity I think we are gaining a new appreciation of audio-only media. A good radio broadcaster makes the game more vivid to me than seeing it on television. On TV it's a thing happening on the screen, on the radio it feels like the game is going on inside of my own head. That intimacy is why so many baseball radio announcers are so cherished by their fans. Someone I know from Michigan once described the Tigers' announcer Ernie Harwell as the narrator of his childhood summers. Spring will soon become summer, but that too will fade. I'll be taking every opportunity to hear baseball on the radio while it lasts.

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