It used to be that the only option for watching a sporting event was by being there. As technology advanced, radio made itself known, and suddenly you could follow a game in your own home, though without visuals. Eventually, the television sprung to life, and you could watch and hear the game. Further advancements in technology improved both aspects. Now, you can watch a baseball game in high definition on your little magic rectangle while out walking the dog, or descend to your media cave and soak the glorious baseball emitting from your giant television with a cat on your lap and a case of beer at your side.
Those things may make watching a game at home more convenient or cheaper, and in a way they do succeed. But ultimately all forms of broadcast merely exist as emulations of the experience you can have at the game. No broadcast tries to be actively more artificial. Rather, it tries to immerse you in the game on the field, bringing you as close to the players and action as possible.
But broadcasts have one fatal flaw: they can never successfully replicate a live game.
On September 30, 2014, the Kansas City Royals hosted the Oakland Athletics for the American League Wild Card Game. It was a winner-take-all rubber match, a prepackaged Game Seven, but in Game One. Watching a broadcast would have given you great commentary, fantastic views, and closeups of many excited players. There’s no bad way to watch baseball, after all, especially playoff baseball.
I was there at Kauffman Stadium. I watched with 40,000 of my closest friends as James Shields stepped to the mound in the top of the first inning, backed by the thunderous wall of sound we eagerly supplied. He threw the first pitch. It was a strike. The roar in response somehow increased even more, and shook the foundations of the building.
Baseball is, ultimately, community, and the stadiums themselves are the cathedrals, the games the communion. Watching a baseball game with other people creates a unique excitement, and watching unfiltered baseball in real time with tens of thousands of like-minded individuals simply cannot be replicated.
The 2014 Wild Card Game was one of the very best playoff games of recent memory. A high-scoring contest, it was an extra inning affair that included three lead changes during the eighth inning or later—the final one being a walkoff single by Salvador Perez, of course.
Being there in person, living and breathing with the tens of thousands of other fans all acting as one, was unforgettable. When the Royals tied it up in the eighth, you could cut the euphoria in the building with a John Lester-sized knife. When the A’s finally grabbed the lead again in the 11th, it felt like being inside a balloon that just ruptured. When Eric Hosmer hit his triple and Christian Colon singled him in to tie the game, my raw voice screamed with the masses in jubilee. And when Perez hit his walkoff single, we lost our minds, hugging and high-fiving strangers who we knew we shared something truly special.
It’s not just playoff games that live games transform—your everyday game can become something extremely memorable, and a simple trip to the ballpark might yield a story you tell your grandchildren. Maybe you catch a foul ball for the first time, or you witness somebody hit for the cycle, or see somebody grab a milestone hit. Maybe you’re there for the Holy Grail, witnessing a perfect game, something that has only happened nine times in over 51,000 games since the 1994 baseball strike.
Regardless, there is one common thread between all of these scenarios: being there changes the experience in a fundamental and irreplacable way. Even banal games become something special when you make the trip out to the ballpark. At their most basic level, sports are a fantastic way to connect with friends and family. The game itself almost doesn’t even matter, though it obviously can if it’s a good game: baseball is a fantastic vehicle for creating and forging relationships. Disparate individuals create online communities together because of a shared love of professional child-men who make their living by playing nothing but a high-skilled version of a dumb backyard game.
Baseball becomes more than baseball because of what happens at a baseball stadium. That is why it is America’s pastime.
Whether you’re a baseball junkie or casual fan, games are better at the ballpark. Grab seats at StubHub and be part of the action at Kauffman Stadium. And, download the StubHub app to choose the perfect seats with 360* views from your section.