That’s how CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz begins all of his broadcasts. “Hello, friends.” It’s a reassurance, welcoming listeners to pop in, stay a while, put your feet up, grab a cold one from the fridge, and join the festivities.

Jim Nantz has never called a baseball game, but that trademark of welcoming listeners in as friends is also common in America’s pastime, where longtime broadcasters become synonymous with the teams they cover. For years, Ernie Harwell welcomed Detroit fans into Tiger Stadium. Harry Caray welcomed fans into his liquor cabinet in the press box of Wrigley Field. At the beginning of nearly every broadcast, the great Vin Scully wished listeners a “very pleasant good afternoon/evening,” before intoning that famous phrase: “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”

Ernie Harwell

We think of broadcasters as our friends because year after year, as the world changes rapidly around us, we know we can count on them to welcome us back to the ballpark as another year of baseball begins. And that commitment, that consistency, is something to be cherished.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel and live all over the country, and all over the world to an extent, over the past seven years. I’ve been to most of the United States, and I have friends on six of the seven continents (sorry, no Antarctic explorers in my social network). But all that travel comes with a downside. My friends are scattered all over the world, meaning I almost never see them. With distance comes separation, and as the separation grows the friendship fades. I have friends who I care about deeply that I don’t know if I’ll ever see again, because travel is expensive and life gets busy. Social media and technology make keeping in touch easier, but its a sorry simulacrum for a real connection. We exchange meaningless “how are you” messages, dragging the shell of a friendship along well after the final notes have already been sung. 

Life moves fast, even when you want it to take its dear sweet time. Friendships fade, no matter how hard you try to keep them vibrant. Which makes it all the more remarkable that, six and a half years after I made the mistake of telling him that Warren G. Harding was a bad president, this lovable lunatic and I are still here.

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Like most of our ideas, this blog began in a brewery. Brett and I both liked baseball, and after three or four (or five or six) pints from JAFB in Wooster, Brett proposed that we start a baseball blog. The idea, and the libations, were intoxicating, so I said yes. Next thing I know, we’re writing articles about a Mensch on a Bench and Alternative Facts Night.

Standing Room Only became a way for Brett and I to keep in touch. Instead of sending those meaningless “how are you” texts, we yelled at each other about why the Indians were, or were not, going to make the postseason. We moved away from texting and starting yelling at each other in person on our podcast, getting into wide ranging discussions on bat flips, beer time, and Big Sexy. Instead of promising to visit, and never doing it, we planned ballpark vacations. We traveled across Ohio, across Southern California, and across the pond in search of great ballparks, great historical attractions, and (perhaps most importantly) great beer.

But even as we kept in touch, things changed. Brett began working as a teacher in Marion. I moved abroad and began grad school. The content that we had so feverishly churned out when we began the blog slowed to a stream, then a trickle, until it dried up.

Life moves fast. Friendships fade. But if you put in a little work, and get rewarded with a little luck, they don’t have to. We are proud to announce the relaunch of Standing Room Only for the 2020 baseball season, and beyond.

As you check back in here, you’ll notice some changes. We’ll be redesigning our website and our logo in the coming weeks, streamlining our content and organizing it for your (and our) convenience. We’ll be including new pages on our ballpark reviews and our ballpark tours so you can read all about where we’ve been and what we’ve done. We’ll be writing new content about our experiences and opinions as fans and lovers of the game. We are in the process of establishing the Standing Room Only Fantasy League, so Brett and I can both put our money where our mouths are. In a few weeks, we’ll be announcing the release of our new podcast, as well as our plans for the fourth annual Standing Room Only Ballpark Tour.

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You’ll also notice some changes to our content as well. When we started this blog, Brett and I wanted to write about the game through the eyes of its fans. At times, we’ve gotten away from that directive. We know you’re not coming here to read about contracts and extensions, or projections and predictions about who’s going to come out of the NL Central. You’re here because, like us, you’re a fan of the game. We can’t be Ken Rosenthal or Jeff Passan, and we won’t try to be. What we can do is add our voices as baseball fans; more than baseball writers, players, owners, or GMs, we are the keepers of the sport.

We’re also going to follow a simple rule with all of our content from here on out. Our content is for us, for Brett and myself, to do what friends do: share our love for the things we care about with the people we care about. That’s where you come in, dear reader. Our content is also for you, our friends, the people who have seen the worst of us and are still here to bring out the best in us. We thank you for riding along with us on this clown car of lunacy, and we hope you enjoy what’s to come. And if you’re new here? Welcome in, there’s plenty of room, make a space for yourself between the six-pack of Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy and the Grady Sizemore bobblehead.

Spring Training 2020 has begun. Pitchers and catchers have reported to Florida and Arizona, and position players won’t be far behind. I’m writing this watching the snow fall outside my window, and I know that the sunshine and good times won’t be far away now, and I’m excited to share them with you all.

So hello friends, and a very pleasant spring to you. Baseball’s back.

And so are we.

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