It is September and the pennant races are on in Major League Baseball. If you are a fan, this is an exciting time of year.
I have to admit I lost interest in the major leagues when the Montreal Expos were forced to relocate to the US. I had followed the team faithfully since their debut in 1969 and was upset at the machinations that led to the team leaving Montreal.
However, I still love baseball as a game, and try to get to a few matches each season, though not at the major league level. I will admit though, I never expected to be watching baseball in Germany. (I haven’t been to as many games as I would like – there always seems to be a schedule conflict.)
The American flag flying beside the German one makes the field stand out among the soccer pitches. Who knew there was professional baseball here?
The stadium (well, a field actually) is on the way to the airport and I had agreed to pick up some colleagues there. So I left the house early and took in most of a Bundesliga second-division game in nearby Neuenburg.
The field impressed me. It looked to be major league size, maybe even bigger. No bleachers for the fans though, just a few benches along the first base line. Most fans seemed to bring their own chairs.
With about 50 people at the game cheering on the Neuenburg Atomics (at three Euros each admission), I suspect many if not most watching have some connection to the players. This is soccer country – no German has ever mentioned the team to me unless I have brought up the subject. That’s probably why they haven’t bothered with even rudimentary bleachers.
They call soccer “the beautiful” game, but I find there is also a certain beauty in baseball. The lack of a clock changes the complexion of the game, and you are never really eliminated until that last out. No matter how far behind you may fall, there is still hope.
Under the hot sun the players strut their stuff. I could only stay about five innings, so didn’t see enough baseball to really evaluate it. Professional yes, but very minor league. I would need to attend more games to figure out the level of baseball being played and how the players compare to their North American counterparts. It doesn’t really matter though, for me baseball is a bit of cultural familiarity in a strange land.
The concessions were somewhat a-typical for a North American, but very typical for Germany. There was cake, because Germans love their cake. And sausage, also a German staple. Surprisingly, the beer was non-alcoholic. I guess that way no-one has to worry about drinking and driving.
Somehow I don’t see baseball becoming a major sport in Germany. Europe will probably always be dominated by soccer, and I don’t find that Germans are all that interested in change (neither am I to be honest).
I wish there were more games – it is a short season and I never seem to be available when the Atomics are at home. Still, there’s always next year.