Why you should go to a baseball game alone
The sun is setting behind the San Gabriel Mountains, turning California's mid-spring hillsides to gray and then, steadily, to black. The Dodgers have just earned the tying run against the Angels and I am making healthy progress on my garlic fries and souvenir-size Sprite, my Dodger Dog a distant second-inning memory. To my left, two fans — one in an Angels cap, the other in Dodger blue — argue about their team's upcoming seasons. In front of me, a group of friends take selfies and bicker over the best Instagram filters.
And me? I have empty seats to both sides, and no one to defend my garlic fries against. I am at the game alone.
I am aware this is a little bit unusual. When my friends found out I was spending the evening at a baseball game by myself, they were cautiously concerned. "You're there alone?" one texted me for clarification after I said I was heading to the game.
It was the weekend before opening day and the Los Angeles Dodgers were hosting the Los Angeles Angels for a freeway series exhibition game. I was in L.A. for the week, attending a literary conference that ended around 5 p.m. every evening; the nights were mine. While I'd gone with friends to dinner in Venice Beach the evening prior, on the way back I spotted a billboard advertising cheap tickets to the game.
I hadn't known the Dodgers were in town (and hadn't bothered to look, it being the preseason), but I'd always wanted to see their stadium. As soon as I got back to my room, I purchased my lone ticket and downloaded it to my phone. That was my first delight — games are so much cheaper when you are only buying for yourself.
But economic advantages or not, I wasn't entirely immune to the social embarrassment of going to a baseball game by myself. Nevertheless, I tried to shake it off. We are, after all, living in the golden age of going-it-alone: There are entire manifestos written on the joys of drinking alone, traveling alone, and living by yourself.
But when it comes to taking yourself out to the ballgame, things apparently get a little harder for people to accept. Maybe it is because ballparks are supposed to be social — when the dance cams and kiss cams turn on the crowd between innings, how often do you see a 20-something girl scarfing garlic fries by herself or soliloquizing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch?
It is hard to beat the deeply ingrained stigma of doing things solo. A Google search for "going to baseball alone" pulls up a handful of forums with people asking if it would be "weird" for them to get a ticket to go by themselves. "Is it weird for a girl to go to a baseball game alone?" one user wrote on the Social Anxiety Support forum. "There happens to be a Twins game playing at the Target Field…and I really want to go watch, but I think it's weird for a girl to be at a sports game alone."
While some users wrote back their encouragement, others were brutally honest. "You might do better just watching it on TV this time. I think going 'out' to games is supposed to be a social thing that you do with friends or family. But that's just me, though," one user replied. Another said that while it wouldn't be weird to go to a game by yourself, "If there was someone sitting beside me attending the game alone I would feel kind of bad for the person lol."
In a post explaining what it is actually like to go to a baseball game by yourself, another woman wrote that, "Since it was summer and every girl in school already thought of me as weird, creepy, and every other adjective used to describe going to a baseball game alone, I went to a baseball game alone."
Weird, creepy, and every other adjective used to describe going to a baseball game alone. Oof.
It seems as if solo baseball attendance is only "allowed" for the uber-fans, like author and baseball collector Zack Hample. "I've attended more than 1,100 MLB games, and I've probably been to three-quarters of them by myself," he wrote in a Reddit thread last year. "I prefer it that way, but that's because I have my own routine/agenda that would drive most people crazy... The way I see it, baseball is baseball and friends are friends; there's no need to force a combination."
Hample (who has now been to more than 1,300 games) added in an email to me that, "I've been going to games by myself for such a long time that it seems normal to me. The only thing that strikes me as weird is people's concern about being perceived as weird. If you love baseball — or hell, anything else — just go and enjoy it. Who cares if you're with someone or not?"
I am a much more casual fan, but I have to agree. First of all, I wanted to go to a game at Dodger Stadium. Missing out on experiences — movies, museums, concerts — because you don't have someone to drag along is what seems "sad" to me.
But, as it has been said before, there is a certain happy thrill to doing something by yourself. Stepping out of the cab at the stadium's entrance gates, I was free to wander the grounds as I pleased, fully soaking in the unfamiliar L.A. crowd. Once inside I didn't miss any of the game because someone was distracting me with stories about their annoying coworker or bad Tinder date — and I even like hearing about those things from my friends. There was a meditative peace to being in a crowd by yourself. I was alone with my thoughts and observations, noting that Yasiel Puig seemed to be back in full form and not having to argue my case to anyone. I'd save that for when I got home.
And while at first I felt hyper-aware of any eyes that turned on me, I soon settled into the game, cheering without reservation as Puig drove Corey Seager home. By the time the wave appears in the outfield bleachers, I am on my feet with my hands stretched to the sky as it cascades into my section. I notice all at once, and with a bright and unfamiliar delight, that I truly enjoy my own company. I have even maybe missed it.
Even the Angels' win doesn't deflate my buoyancy. Leaving the stadium, I stumble onto a plaza that looks out at the whole of downtown Los Angeles, like a reverse sky spangled with sparkling lights across the valley floor. I realize that I am standing at the heart of one of the largest urban agglomerations in the world.
Streams of blue and the occasional triumphant red filter out of the gates alongside me: fathers holding sleepy children, couples with linked hands, daughters dragging their plastic baseball bats along the ground. I feel a soft nag of responsibility, the reminder that I need to call a car to take me back to my hotel, where my roommate will be in bed with her laptop, chatting with her family in San Diego.
But for that long moment, I just stand in the crowd. For that long moment, under the lights of the stadium, I am entirely and perfectly alone.