The unwritten rules of going to a Major League Baseball game
By Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports Columnist
The unwritten rules of baseball are stupid, which is obviously not a novel take.
Anyone who isn’t an old man yelling at a cloud can agree that the game is more fun when bats are flipped and stuff is strutted. If you think sportsmanship means "don’t have fun or show any emotion," might I pose the question: Who hurt you?
There is, however, one set of unwritten rules that I live and die by. And those are ... drumroll, please ... the unwritten rules of going to a baseball game.
Look, players don’t have to abide by some stuffy code, but fans do. Except the code isn’t stuffy. I’ve designed it to maximize fun.
I will preface all of this by saying that while I am setting these forth, it’s a free country, and you can do whatever you want when it comes to going to baseball games. But I’ve designed a specific set of customs for myself because apparently — since I inevitably break the rules I make — I enjoy making myself feel guilty about things that do not matter in the slightest.
But we have blessedly reached the point where some fans are allowed at ballparks, so these guidelines are worth sharing. I’m cautiously optimistic that someday in the not too distant future, games will be packed, and we will be high-fiving strangers once again (more on that in a moment).
Without further ado, I give you the Gospel of Game Attendance.*
*I lied. I have one more ado. I put these on Twitter, and they proved somewhat controversial, so I can’t wait for everyone who missed the tweet to tell me what I got wrong in this article. Seriously. @ me.
8. You must wear a baseball hat.
It doesn’t matter what it says. Just wear one. You could wear a baseball hat that says "Women love me, fish fear me" to a game for all I care, but you’ve gotta have one on. The ballpark is a place of worship, and it’s respectful to cover your head. Think of it as a sporty yarmulke (happy Passover, by the way!).
7. Mark Titus, my cohost of The People's Sports Podcast, says you must take a lap around the stadium.
I agree. It’s true. If you are physically able, you are obliged to aimlessly walk around the concourse for a while. You must also stop by the team store and linger a bit, debating whether you need to buy a baseball hat (you do) since you didn’t wear one to the game and you just saw this list.
Bonus points if you get lost because you forget where your seat is. I once spent an entire inning trying to figure out how to get back to where I came from at Camden Yards.
6. Jake Mintz, my new pal and coworker, says you can’t wear a suit to a baseball game.
I couldn’t agree more. If you’re going to the game from your fancy finance job, change in the bathroom. The only baseball brothers I’m interested in are of the Bash variety, not the Brooks.
5. You can’t leave before the sixth inning unless it’s an emergency.
"Beating traffic" doesn’t count as an emergency. Seriously, if you’re going to leave after the fourth, why did you even show up?
Editor's note: Die-hard fans don't leave before the ninth unless it's an emergency.
4. If you catch a ball, you must give it to a child or an old person.
I’m getting pushback on this. Some people say that if you catch a ball, you should get to keep it because it happens so rarely. Which ... OK, fine.
But imagine how happy the kid you give the ball to will be. And for everyone who’s like, "an old person? What?" Here’s where I’m coming from: A guy once caught a ball at an Orioles game and gave it to my grandmother when she was, like, 82. She kept it on her mantle until the day she died at 97 and told the story anytime anyone said the word "sports." That guy milked a ton of good karma mileage out of one good deed.
Jake mentioned that his grandmother caught her own fly ball, but I’m not trying to get into a "my grandmother could beat up your grandmother" argument here.
3. You must yell baseball language at the players as though they are your teammates.
Say something like, "Good eye, kid!" or "Not your pitch" in a butchered New York or Boston accent when someone doesn’t swing. Another good option: "How 'bout a rally here, boys?"
If you don’t say those things, you can’t get upset when your team loses because it is your fault.
You also have to pretend to know way more about both teams than you actually do.
2. You must high-five a stranger as though you’re family in a celebratory moment for your team.
Slash elbow-bump or whatever we do these days. Thanks, COVID.
1. You must get a hot dog.
If you’re allergic, I don’t know what to tell you. If you’re a vegetarian, I don’t know what to tell you. If you hate hot dogs, I don’t know what to tell you. If you’re morally or religiously opposed to processed meat, I — and I can’t stress this enough — still don’t know what to tell you.
Because I don’t make the rules. I just report them.*
*I literally made these rules
Anyway, as they say in the old country: Play ball!
Charlotte Wilder is a general columnist and co-host of "The People's Sports Podcast" for FOX Sports. She's honored to represent the constantly neglected Boston area in sports media, loves talking to sports fans about their feelings and is happiest eating a hotdog in a ballpark or nachos in a stadium. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings.