I learned to love baseball from Roger Angell's The Summer Game. I had less than no ability in any athletic endeavor, so I decided umpiring was my way to get on the field, and I did that through high school and college. At one time, it was the only profession I was interested in, though it was probably not the right field for somebody who hates to be criticized and doubts his own judgment. Eventually I stopped being terrified and then lost the passion.
In the town in Arkansas where I grew up, there was no professional baseball for miles in any direction, so I didn't actually see a major league game til after my junior year in high school (Pirates-Cubs doubleheader in Pittsburg), though I could watch as many games on television as were on. I went to college in Chicago and became a White Sox fan both for reasons of geography and class -- I was in school on the southside, and a person from Arkansas naturally wants to be the underdog and to feel restentment for those highter up the status ladder, and that fits the Sox in Chicago perfectly.
However, because I went home in the summers I was never able to actually spend a full season in a town with a major league baseball team until the year after graduation, when I lived in Chicago fulltime. It was one of the worst alltime Sox teams, or any other kind of team, but being there a whole season was the realizataion of a dream and I had a great time. After we moved to this area, we would go to Baltimore several times a year, but it was not the same as actually having them in the same city.
I gave up on baseball for 10 years after the strike because I thought, if they don't care, why should I? But then four years ago I decided that going to games would be something I could do with my teenage son, so we started back going to O's games and the old love came back. Then, lo and behold, the Sox win the Serious for the first time since 1917. And baseball comes to my hometown. Miracle upon miracle that I would have missed but for my son. Who remains an O's fan, and has become a Mets fan, though that is on the bubble after this year.
Anyway, all this came back to me one night in September when I'd gotten to RFK before the family and was sitting alone in our seats. That reminded me of all the games I went to at Comiskey, usually alone, and of how much I love being in baseball stadiums of all shapes, sizes, and ages. So, for me, the Nats are a great, unexpected gift come late in my life.