Baseball: A Lifeline Like No Other

I am very emotionally involved in Dodgers baseball, but I can’t imagine it any other way.

A beloved player goes 0 for 4 at the plate and it silently worries me.  Clayton Kershaw gives up a hit – or even worse, walks a guy – and I can barely watch the rest of the inning. Rich Hill yells out in pain after getting drilled on his non-pitching hand and my heart temporarily stops beating. I watch Yasiel Puig silence the haters by opening the season with 4 home runs in his first two weeks while also displaying patience at the plate, and I beam with maternal pride.  I certainly don’t believe in hitting the panic button, but when a tough loss is followed immediately by a win (or three), the sun seems to shine a little bit brighter.

Baseball is most definitely my true love, but I still enjoy and follow the “wide world” of all sports, and appreciate what they mean to so many people.  When I read recently that Bob Miller of the LA Kings got to experience a similar storybook ending to the one Vin Scully so memorably received last September, it occurred to me again how far reaching the blessings of sport can be.

There are fortunate souls like Vin and Bob who have been able to live the majority of their lives doing something they clearly love and excel at, and many, many others like you and I whose lives have been so closely tied to sports over the years. Try to imagine a world without sports, and it’s not easy – in fact, it feels impossible.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely a Dodger fan like me. Can you imagine your life over the years, and now, without the Dodgers, or without sports?  I know…I can’t either.

If we are lucky, we have something – a passion, a direction, an idea, or a goal – something that helps us get out of bed in the mornings, and maybe gives us that little extra pep in our step. Mine is baseball, specifically the Los Angeles Dodgers. I often feel like baseball (and my love of sports) has saved my life over the years, pointed it back in the right direction countless times, when I’d inadvertently veered off the path I was supposed to follow.

As the middle child of an all girl family, I was the only one of the three of us who cared anything about sports, and my father bought me my first glove and patiently taught me how to catch a pop fly with both hands in the backyard of my childhood home.  I was never all that gifted of an athlete but overcame shyness by trying out for Little League when I was 11, my first experience being the member of a team.

I still remember learning a valuable lesson in humility when our team (on which I was the only girl) went through the regular season undefeated one year, and then lost in the final playoff round to a team who had recruited a “flame-throwing right-hander” from out of town just in time for the playoffs. It seemed so unjust at the time, but lesson learned: life is most definitely not always fair.

Growing up as a teenager, my love of the Expos gave me a joy that I couldn’t find in my adolescent life. Baseball was literally my lifeline, and gave me hope for a better future. For my graduation gift from high school in June 1989, while most of my friends would receive cash, clothes or other gifts typical of 17-year old girls, I chose to take the 13-hour drive to Montreal with my parents for the weekend to see my beloved Expos play at Olympic Stadium – literally a childhood dream come true, before the challenges of adulthood began.

From way back in my 20’s, I recall with fondness the details of both Toronto Blue Jays’ World Series clinching games, and how they brought people together. At my best friend’s sister’s wedding in October 1992, before smartphones, tablets and social media, I remember crowding around a small black and white TV at the back of the reception hall during the 8th and 9th innings, hugging and high-fiving strangers when the Jays won the first ever World Series by a Canadian team, and then a year later, a similar scene at a downtown Moncton bar, as Joe Carter’s Game 6 HR sailed over the left-field fence to give the Jays back-to-back titles.  A wild celebration ensued with co-workers and friends, with the sports world creating another great moment that will live forever.

In my late 20’s and early 30’s, I partied too much and worked a lot, always chasing something that I wouldn’t have been able to actually describe, if someone had asked me. I liken it to running in a race without knowing where the finish line is. I still watched baseball playoffs and followed sports in general, but baseball temporarily became almost an afterthought in my life, as I focused most of my energy in many of the wrong places.

Thanks to the wonders of fate, I made new friends while volunteering at a sporting event here in Moncton in 2009, and as a direct result, would be invited to join a close-knit co-ed softball team that I would play on for the next 7 years, pointing my life back in the right direction.  Our on-field exploits were secondary to the time spent grabbing a few beer after the game and the countless off-season events we held, and many lifelong friendships were formed.  After we lost the captain of our team and close friend in February 2012 to a sudden illness, our improbable win in the league championship that September in his honour will remain one of the most special moments of my life, sports or otherwise.   

Now, as an adult in my 40’s, baseball has time and time again given me a much needed distraction from real life – from the day to day challenges of “being a grown up” – worries about the changing demands of my job, or disappointment over personal relationships, to the challenges of paying bills and generally keeping it all together.  It now gives me a sense of belonging to a community where I share a passion with others, many of whom I’ve never met.  There was a time I would not have thought it possible, but I have formed friendships with people online – some I have been lucky enough to meet, some I hope to someday – bonded by our mutual love of the Dodgers.

Since discovering my true passion in Dodgers baseball, I have also happily pulled back and changed directions on my previously demanding job and have chosen instead to work only to live, instead of living to work.  I will never be Vin Scully or Bob Miller with a lifelong illustrious career excelling at what they love, but I’m grateful that I have found my passion – living, breathing, and occasionally writing about Dodgers baseball. I feel like I’ve come out the other side of what was once a directionless place, with baseball’s help.  Chase Utley said something last week that really resonated with me, when asked about scoring from first base on a strikeout in the Cubs series: “I kept going…and it worked out.”

So sure, maybe I am way too emotionally invested in baseball… but I can’t imagine life any other way.

Gail Johnson

Biggest Dodgers fan north of the border, living about 3,500 miles from my beloved Boys In Blue, in Moncton, NB, Canada. I think Dodger Stadium is the happiest place on Earth. I'll catch up on my sleep in the off-season.


    1. Gail, Baseball has been a life long love of mine as well. I really enjoyed reading your post and want to thank you for sharing your thoughts. Go Dodgers!!!

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