Earlier this year, one of our regulars suddenly stopped commenting. A couple of us grew concerned after some time and sent an email to check on him. It turned out, he’d had a medical crisis and had not been able to interact on the blog. He was improving, he said then, and made a few comments after that. However, he vanished again shortly thereafter and did not respond to additional email. What has become of him is a mystery, and it’s likely to remain that way. This is one of the drawbacks of belonging to an online community.
It’s easy to lose the people we meet here because we often don’t know who they really are. Yet, we are connected to each other — often visiting more on a daily basis with those we don’t know here (and elsewhere online) than with those we do know in our regular lives. Back in 2012, I googled “baseball blog” and that led me to the site formerly known as HBT. The stories there were sometimes insightful and often incite full, but it was the comment section that hooked me. As someone perpetually lost in the wilderness of football territory, I felt like I had found my tribe. I began to visit daily and came to recognize the names that soon became personalities to me.
Tribalism has a lot of negative connotations, but the social connections that a community gives us offer a sense of belonging and affirmation that are much more than simply psychologically rewarding. Here, we are members of a baseball community — our little congregation within the larger Church of Baseball. We share common traits in our fandom, love of our mutual passion, and familiarity with the same body of knowledge. We speak each other’s sports-talk. We have come to be friends, of a sort — we chose to come to this site together and return for those relationships.
I have wondered a lot lately how you can know someone you’ve never met. How can you care about a person or persons you couldn’t recognize on the street? If we can say we know each other here, what does it mean to know someone? We have an intimacy of strangers — strangers who simply share the same passion. It seems ridiculous — absurd — that we should be bound together by balks and walks and dingers, but I have emotional ties to people here. You mean something to me.
I wouldn’t recognize most of you, and, sadly, any of you can be lost to me at any time were you to just stop commenting. For however long we meet here though, we enrich each other’s lives with the wicked humor, (allegedly) clever insights, thoughtful comments and playful insults we share. And the icing on the cake, so to speak, is that this group is good enough to appreciate what we have — and the occasional haiku. It’s baseball and decency and camaraderie, and it comes from folks we often know little of besides their rooting interests. I hope that we do know some of the best of each other, but I am sure that our community matters.