I started watching in late 2010. Call me a bandwagoner if you want.
But it wasn’t even that simple.
I grew up in a home that had no love for sports. Sure, my brothers and I played some sports in primary school, but we always grew tired of it. I quit the softball team within a month because I just absolutely hated the sport. The closest my family came to being “sports” fans was when one of my older brothers got into professional wrestling.
But that’s it. We had no tradition, no ties, no respect.
Now I have a family shocked and confused by my rapid transition to a hard-core, die-hard, orange-haired creature of obsession. A creature obsessed with — gasp — a sport. Baseball, no less.
In fewer than six years, I have let a sport take over my life. But HOW? How could this possibly happen considering my upbringing and my previous status as a “baseball is so boring” pleb?
One word: hair. Two words: Timmy’s hair. Three words: Timmy’s shiny, long, luscious, touchable, flowing brown mane.
It was your average August night at the local dive bar, The Shanty. I met with my best friend Jervis for our routine drinks and small-town gossip. But he stepped away for a moment, leaving me alone and bored and staring at whatever was on the TV.
There he appeared, like an angel sent to Earth just for me. He was small. Smaller than I thought baseball players should be. He threw his leg up in a funny way after each pitch. But that’s not what I initially noticed. I noticed his hair.
My chin in my palm, I gawked. Finally, Jervis came back. “WHO is that boy with the HAIR?” Tim Lincecum. I’d quickly forget his name, even as I suddenly found myself passively engrossed in this “boring” game.
The next day, I texted Jervis: “Wanna go to the bar and watch that boy again? There’s another game tonight!” That got a good laugh out of him. Oh, dear, sweet, ignorant Ashley … pitchers are only in every five or so games. So I immediately counted the days and told him when I’d see him at the bar next.
With each game, I would sit there, twirling my hair and sighing longingly, watching his every movement. He quickly earned a term of endearment: “My Beautiful Ballerina.” As I watched him, I began to, well, watch. The camera wasn’t glued to him, so I had no choice but to start to soak it all in.
As months and years passed, the hair-twirling continued. People would cut out pictures of Timmy from newspapers and magazines for me. I was eventually nicknamed “Lincecum” among my ping pong buddies. Naturally, I didn’t mind.
My baseball history could go on forever (or six years), but this is just my coming out story. The story of how I went from boredom to joy. To obsession. To true and deep love for dozens of men.
And now here we are. Without my beautiful ballerina. I ache for him, but not just for his hair. I love everything about him and everything he has brought into my life. He didn’t just give me something to stare at. He gave me camaraderie and a forever-altered identity. He gave me conversations with strangers. He gave me Blanco, he gave me Freddie, he gave me Javi. He gave me /u/kasutori_Jack, he gave me /u/REO_Jerkwagon, he gave me at least a dozen other friends within this community.
His hair has come and gone and come again, but my love for this sport will never waver. My love for him will never waver, because he gave me something priceless.
He gave me baseball.