New Book About One Couple’s Love of the Game
Story by Michael Seguin
Cover Art Courtesy Biblioasis Press
What do you think of when you think of baseball? Walking into the stadium and seeing the telltale diamond stretch out before you? Sitting in the dugout with sunflower seeds on blistering summer mornings? The deafening crack as the cork and rubber ball connects with the aluminum bat? The roaring of the crowds?
For husband-wife Dale Jacobs and Heidi L.M. Jacobs, baseball has been a decades-long fixture of their shared lives.
“Heidi and I had season tickets for over 11 years,” Dale explains. “We were across the river every Sunday that the Detroit Tigers played.”
However, by the time the summer of 2016 rolled around, Dale and Heidi’s relationship with baseball had cooled from a passionate love affair to the drone of obligation.
“We were a little tired of the game,” Dale admits. “It had become routine. So we gave up our package.”
Not long after, Dale and Heidi decided to try and find a way to return to their favourite sport.
“Baseball has been so important to us for a variety of reasons,” Dale states. “For me, baseball has always been important because of my Dad. That was what we had together. What we connected with. He passed away in 2008. Losing this connection to baseball was difficult for me, because it felt like I was losing a connection with my Dad.”
Ultimately, baseball has always been Dale’s way of connecting with a larger community.
“Wherever I’ve lived, baseball was a way of connecting with friends,” Dale explains. “Just going to ball games with various people. Whether we were living in Edmonton or Nebraska or here. Baseball has always been a way to connect for me. And baseball was something Heidi and I bonded over. It’s always been an interest we’ve shared and developed together. I brought her to baseball, and she’s brought me to things like ballet.”
“I didn’t grow up watching baseball like Dale did,” Heidi states. “But my grandmother played in the prairies of Saskatchewan. But, as Dale said, in one of the first conversations we ever had, he mentioned baseball. And when we moved to Windsor, it meant a lot to us. Especially being so close to Detroit, and having the Tigers right across the river.” After brooding over how to stoke the embers for some time, Dale and Heidi eventually decided on a unique experiment: attend 50 games within 100 miles of their Windsor home. All within the span of one summer.
The logistics, the Jacobs admit, required some massaging.
“The logistics were interesting,” Dale states. “Partly because you can’t always depend on the weather. That first weekend, we attended three games. This was the last weekend in March. And then, we only made it to one game in all of April, because the weather was just so terrible.”
The endeavor necessitated constant flexibility.
“We would try to plan for a couple weeks or so,” Dale recalls. “We’d have games targeted. But a lot of it was on the fly. One of the things we discovered, especially in regard to amateur baseball, is that it is not always easy to get their schedule. We often had to rely on word of mouth. One tournament we went to in Adrian, Michigan, someone we knew through the university just happened to tell us about it a week before. A lot of it was just reacting to what was in front of us.”
“We were still working full-time during this,” Heidi notes. “Sometimes we’d come home at 5, change our shoes, hop in the car and not get home until 11.”
Despite the hurdles involved, seeing that volume of games in such a compressed amount of time awarded Dale and Heidi a unique perspective on their favourite game.
“Anything changes when you become immersed in it,” Heidi states. “There’s a reason why people trying to learn a new language move to the foreign country. I think baseball became that. The commitment involved in seeing—and not just attending, but actually watching—50 games was challenging. It would have been easy enough to just zone out. It required a certain amount of discipline and focus.”
In particular, Dale and Heidi took notice of the varying characteristics of each game.
“We looked at what was interesting about each game,” Heidi explains. “‘Do they have a scoreboard?’ ‘Are there replays?’ There were games where even the players didn’t know what the score was! And then the intellectual flexibility of looking at all the different merits of each match. There was something beautiful about each game that we saw.”
“It was a lot of learning how to see,” Dale states. “For me, it was all about learning all the different levels. We had become so used to just watching major league baseball. People at the height of their craft. In this instance, we saw games all the way from high school to Midget Major to various levels of Minor League baseball to university baseball. We even saw a game of historic baseball played with 1865 rules. Seeing all those players at different stages of their development was very interesting.”
That said, two bespectacled academics with notepads did raise a few eyebrows.
“At the professional level, everyone is rooting for their team,” Dale explains. “At the amateur-high school level, people tend to be there because their son or husband or whoever is playing. They have an investment in a particular player. We were often outliers. We kept getting asked, ‘Who’s your son? Who are you here to see?’ We would tell them, ‘We’re just here to see baseball.’ They would give us funny looks.”
“We kept getting asked if we were scouts,” Heidi laughs. “We would say, ‘No, the scouts are over there. See? The guy with the radar gun?’”
After attending all the necessary games, Dale and Heidi got to work scribbling down their story. 100 Miles of Baseball was released by Biblioasis Press earlier this year.
“We did tons and tons of work to shape the project,” Heidi states. “It’s not just a catalogue of all the games we saw. We didn’t just type up our notes. We wanted to articulate a focus, a journey. Specifically, Dale trying to find his way back to baseball, and me trying to find out what role baseball played in our lives. It’s about our combined narrative arcs.”
“It’s more of an accumulation of those arcs,” Dale explains. “Certain moments stand out, but it’s really about our experience seeing 50 games in 1 summer. It’s so much like it is to play a full season of baseball. It became that process of learning and adjustment. We went through that as fans and as writers.”
100 Miles of Baseball is available on Amazon, Indigo and Biblioasis Press.