How to prepare and behave at a baseball game
By Joshua Schott
Spring is just around the corner, meaning two things; good weather is finally on its way, and baseball is almost in full swing. Spring training is already underway but opening day will be here in no time. Opening day in baseball is one of the most exciting times of the year for many sports fans and that is because there is nothing like going to the ballpark on a sunny afternoon to cheer for the local team.
But if it is your first time attending a game there are some unwritten rules of etiquette that one would be wise to follow, and some other tips to enjoy the game to its full potential. Woody Paige, a sports columnist for the Denver Post, and a regular contributor on ESPN’s show “Around the Horn,” states the most annoying thing he sees at baseball games are “fans who are drunk, fans cursing at players, managers and fans of others teams, and [fans] talking about their personal lives.”
Not being one of those drunk and cursing fans may be an obvious thing to avoid doing, but keeping the personal talk to a minimum is something many new fans don’t yet understand. The ballpark is a place to enjoy and be engaged in the game and talking about your job or the latest gossip should be saved for after the game.
So as you prepare for the game look over the list of do’s and don’ts but most of all remember to enjoy the experience.
How to Dress
- Dress appropriately for the weather: There is nothing worse than showing up to a baseball game in early spring dressed for 70 degree weather, just to have it end up in a cold spring rain. Most stadiums allow you to bring in backpacks so take advantage of throwing a coat or maybe a poncho in the bag. Don’t be the fan that comes unprepared and then complains for five innings about how cold and wet it is. Nobody will judge you for throwing on your poncho – so watch the weather and come prepared.
- Know what team’s clothing is OK to wear: This is one of the most broken rules and perhaps the most annoying to the loyal fans that attend the games. Only wear the jersey of a team that is playing. Try not to be the fan who shows up in fan gear of a team that’s not playing. Nobody at a Rockies versus Dodgers game wants to see you walking around in your New England Patriots Tom Brady jersey. In fact don’t even wear your John Elway jersey to a baseball game in Denver, it’s just not acceptable. This same rule applies for wearing the jersey of another baseball team that isn’t playing in the game you are attending. You should also avoid any t-shirts or hats of other teams, but this rule is much more flexible especially with hats. Don’t ask why hats are exception, they just are.
- Custom jerseys: Everyone has seen someone walking around the stadium in his custom baseball jersey that has his last name on the back. This is the same guy who often brags about his little league batting average, and blames a bad ankle for not making the pros. Just because you can customize a jersey doesn’t mean you should.
What to Bring and Not to Bring
- Do not bring a glove: It’s an age-old tradition to try and catch the foul balls or homeruns that are hit, and the seats where this is a good possibility are highly sought after. But unless you are under the age of 15, there is no reason to ever bring your glove to the game. If the ball comes your way, you catch it with your bare hands, in your hat, or in some cases, your beer. Either way don’t bring a glove. The one exception to this “glove” rule is if you are attending the homerun derby; in this situation it is fair game at all costs.
- Know what is OK to bring in: Each team has its own website where a list full of what is and isn’t allowed inside the stadium can be found. Nobody wants to wait 15 minutes in line behind you while security goes through your bag making you take everything out. So be prepared and have everything ready for security at the gates so the line keeps moving and everyone gets in on time.
- Show up early: Don’t be “that guy or gal” who shows up in the third inning, walks to their seat in the middle of an inning, and then proceeds to ask everyone what they missed. If you must be late then wait until between innings to find your seat, and if you want to know what happened just look at the scoreboard, it will tell you everything you need to know.
- Singing the “Star Spangled Banner:” Stephanie Paluch, who works Fox Sports and writes the blog “The Baseball Life,” has some advice about this part of the game. In her 2009 post titled “Baseball Fan Etiquette,” Paluch states, “Take off your hat during the National Anthem. Just be respectful. And ladies, if you’re wearing a hat this goes for you, too. That guy wears his hat because his hair is not up to par and wants to look good for the ladies.”
- Yelling “Hey batter batter…swing!” This isn’t little league nor is it “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” so whatever you do, do not yell this phrase. It doesn’t work and it isn’t funny. The most common culprit of this rule is someone who has had 15 beers and can hardly stand, and nobody wants to be him.
- Spilling beer: If you spill your beer on someone or your actions lead to a fellow fan spilling their beer, you owe them a new drink; maybe two. This is perhaps the “Golden Rule” of attending a game. Nobody wants their overpriced drink to be spilled, and even more so, nobody wants to have beer spilled all over them, So if your rowdy or careless actions lead to either one of these scenarios you are entitled to buy the person affected a new beer, or two depending on the situation. The same rule goes for any drink or food item.
- Nobody is too old to sing: During the seventh inning stretch at every game across the country, “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” is sung. Don’t be that fan that stands there scowling thinking it’s childish to sing along with the song; it is a tradition that everyone should adhere to. Furthermore, know the lyrics to the song. It is “buy me some peanuts and crackerjack” not “crackerjacks.” This isn’t a big deal, it’s just annoying. Make sure to also know the variations of the song for the game you are attending, for example at Coors Field it’s, “root, root, root for the Rockies” not for the home team.
- Never do the wave: This cannot be stressed enough. The wave has no right to be present at any baseball game ever, no exceptions. If the wave does get started don’t join in – real baseball fans will look down upon you. The wave belongs at football stadiums not ballparks.
- Do not mention the perfect game or no hitter: Whatever you do, never ever mention that the pitcher has a no hitter or perfect game going; do not say anything to the people around you, they most likely are aware of the situation, and it is an unwritten rule in baseball not to mention something like this. It jinxes the whole thing and if you are responsible everyone around you will be furious.
- Don’t interfere with game play: Freddy Wander wrote an article for the Bleacher Report called “Baseball Fan Etiquette: Catching a Foul Ball; What Would You Do?” In this article he essentially said do not be a Steve Bartman. Meaning, if you are sitting near the field, and a foul ball is coming your way, do not attempt to grab it until you are sure the player can’t make a play on the ball. Failing to adhere to this rule will lead to your ejection from the game and harassment from other fans, especially if it is in a pivotal moment like the Steve Bartman incident in Chicago, where he interfered with a foul ball in the playoffs that caused the Cubs to lose the series and miss the World Series yet again.
Leaving the Game
- After the game is over: Leave the stadium in an organized manner, and don’t yell obscenities at the opposing teams’ fans. Yes, their team lost, but they are already aware of that. The only exception to taunting the fans of the losing team is with major rivalries such as the Yankees and Red Sox, however this doesn’t mean to use vulgar language or violent threats; do it in a playful manner.
Although this list encompasses many of the generic rules, each stadium may have additional traditions that they expect fans to follow. So talk to the loyal fans and learn these traditions so you can be better prepared for the game and fully enjoy the unique experience that the ballpark has to offer.