Somewhere, in an alternate timeline, I’m in Los Angeles right now seeing the Twins play the Dodgers and the Angels. My two brothers—both baseball fans like myself—grew up in Minnesota before moving to LA, giving me a built-in vacation whenever I want it. Well, whenever the entire nation is not sheltering-in-place, that is.
I come from a large brood—two brothers and three sisters. While we certainly had/have our squabbles, we’re also supportive of each other in that special way that only siblings can be. In many ways, baseball—being such a large part of my life—has shaped my relationship with these family members surrounding me. Right now, seeing as how most of us are either separated from family or spending more time with them than ever before, it feels like a good time to explore those bonds.
This first part of my “Baseball & Family” series focuses on “the bros”. Zebulon, 27, has called LA his home for the better part of four years, pursuing his screenwriting passion. James, 24, is a software developer who just recently landed in Orange County. I posed eleven questions to them, running the gamut of baseball topics. Though longer than my normal pieces here, I hope you enjoy this look at a trio of baseball brothers...
Who is your favorite Twins player (past or present)?
It’s clear that both my younger bros came of age as Twins fans in the early 2000s. While Zeb will always hold a special place in his heart for Doug Mientkiewicz’s grit, high socks, and willingness to sit on a nasty dugout floor to inspire teammates, James was captivated by the speed of Cristian Guzman and his uncanny ability to get on base by chopping the ball off the Metrodome turf.
What is your most vivid memory of the Metrodome and/or Target Field?
Both gave essentially the same answer to this query, noting how the Dome represented food (e.g. the infamous Dome Dog) and simply staying up past bedtime. Target Field brought the marvel of baseball played in its intended form—under the open sky. An interesting observation from Zeb was how the Dome, despite its shortcomings, actually produced more focus on the game itself. At Target Field, it’s almost too easy to get caught up in the sights, sounds, and overall atmosphere of the tremendous ballpark experience.
Who is your favorite non-Twins player (past or present)?
As a true-blue Dodgers fan, Zeb’s favorite was always Adrian Gonzalez. First discovering him via fantasy baseball (where one could set a watch to his yearly 30 HR and 100+ RBI), he came to respect Gonzo’s leadership on and off the field. Jimmy, on the other hand, went for former mound phenom Tim Lincecum of the Giants—the skinny kid with the awkward delivery who could still be a legitimate ace. He even styled his hair like Timmy for a time!
What is your favorite baseball movie?
Both brothers immediately brought up 42: The Jackie Robinson Story (2013), for its emotional re-telling of Jackie’s travails and the realistic depiction of 1940s-era baseball.
What is your favorite baseball video game?
For decades, we’ve battled each other in virtual baseball sims. Zeb is a staunch supporter of MVP Baseball 2005 as the GOAT, while James is always impressed by the realism of MLB: The Show. What, no love for my pick—Tony LaRussa Baseball 2 for the PC?!
Do you prefer a day game or a night contest?
If I had my way, every game would be played under the lights. For Zeb, though, the “afternoon delights” (as he jokingly refers to them) are pure glory. James is even pickier with his preferred start time: 3:10 PM. That way, he can experience the transition from sunny skies to dusk.
What is your favorite stadium that you have seen a game in?
It should come as no surprise that the home parks of their favorite squads were the picks. For James, the ability to watch his Giants at Oracle Park while also gazing upon the ships (or kayaks) in the bay is utterly magical. For Zeb, the high-fiving community aspect of Dodger Stadium cannot be beat. In a town built on Hollywood fantasy, the park at Chavez Ravine is as real as it gets. Zeb also had to mention the structural brilliance of Petco Park in San Diego, which also features the best food he (or I) have ever consumed at a sporting event.
What is your earliest baseball memory?
Though Zeb hazily remembers liking Matt Lawton for some unknown reason, his seminal baseball moment was Jacque Jones hitting the second pitch of the 2002 season into the Kauffman Stadium fountains. That excitement jump-started his interest in following the Twins for an entire season. James, being a bit younger, distinctly remembers attending TwinsFest at the Dome in 2005 and marveling at being down on the playing surface. We don’t have to mention him doing the FSN broadcasting experience and uttering “Matthew Cuddyer” in a moment of sheer panic, do we? That off season, his beloved Guzy was traded to the newly-formed Washington Nationals, expanding his baseball horizons outside of Minnesota. He’s always maintained more of a team-hopping philosophy than the other two of us, going through periods of intense Twins, Cardinals, Nats, and Giants fandom.
Why do you keep watching baseball?
In a baseball atmosphere where attendance and overall enthusiasm seems to be dwindling among younger viewers, I was curious as to why two millennials continue to watch/follow the sport with passion. Both attributed their fandom to simply being “raised around it”, what with my intense fandom and coaching/supporting them in Little League with our Dad. Zeb specifically loves the sport’s ability to bring people of all interests together. Whether an individual is more interested in ERA or IPA, going to a baseball game bridges that gap. For James, the concept is even simpler: “how can you do summer without baseball?!”
What do you miss most about the current baseball absence?
For many years, the three of us have participated in a fantasy baseball league, and that’s what Jimmy really mourns for at the moment. Following the stats of “his guys” every day helps him keep tabs on league goings-on. Plus, he now lives about three miles from Angel Stadium and can’t even go to a game! Zeb simply misses the overall camaraderie of being out with friends/family at the ballpark.
How has baseball changed from the time you began watching until now?
This produced perhaps the most interesting responses of the bunch. Zeb took an introspective approach, noting that the sheer importance of wins and losses has faded a bit, replaced by the knowledge that a good time was had either way. To paraphrase the old MN angling expression: “A bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day at work”. He’s better able to realize that “the sun will come out tomorrow” regardless of the scoreboard tally. James focused on a more technical change: the decline of starting pitchers. If he occupied Rob Manfred’s office, he’d outlaw “openers” immediately. So much of his baseball enjoyment stems from the narrative of dueling starting pitchers that he bemoans the ever-encroaching bullpen takeovers of most contests. If only he could have been alive for Game 7 in 1991!
In closing, a sentiment from Zeb summed things up nicely:
Baseball doesn’t cure cancer. It is an escape from life. But through that escape, it enriches one’s life immensely.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, if you will.
It has been said that while the outside world sees us grow old, as siblings we know each other’s hearts and “live outside the touch of time”. My brothers and I certainly don’t agree on everything. We have different life philosophies and “get into it” all the time over issues personal and political. But baseball is something that has brought us together through all of that. From the Metrodome to Target Field and into the great beyond of the future, that combination of shared familial and baseball bonds have kept us close despite being thousands of miles apart. Uniting again at a ballpark—whether MN, CA, or anywhere in between—can’t come soon enough.