108 Stiches


Image courtesy of MLB.com.

108, a number so random one has to wonder why it was chosen. It’s one of the first questions I had as a kid when learning about the sport that changed my life, why that specific number. A rubber cork, wrapped in cowhide leather, and bound together by 108 stitches, come together to create the baseball. 

A ball that would create a self-titled game 175 years ago in Hoboken, New Jersey. A game that grew to become more than a game, it became a way of life. Often referred to as “America’s Pastime”, those 108 stitches won the hearts of millions, bringing families together to sit down and watch a ballgame on a hot summer afternoon. Catching the elusive attention of a child who dreamed of the bright lights and adoring fans cheering their name as they stepped into that iconic 4ft by 6ft box, wanting nothing more than to make it to the show. 

For most baseball fans, Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr, or Nolan Ryan had the coolest jobs in the world. Growing up being the next MLB great was all that mattered. I never wanted to be the next great MLB player though, or maybe I was far too pessimistic as a child to believe I could be one of the 0.5% who winds up making a major league team. Instead, I was always fascinated with the stitches.  

The stitches that Nolan Ryan wrapped his fingers around as he struck out an MLB record 5,714 batters. The stitches that soared through the air after Babe Ruth called his shot. The same 108 red stitches that Kevin Foulke tossed to Doug Mientkiewicz to break the infamous curse. The stitches someone, somewhere just picked up for the first time, without knowing that it will change their lives forever. 

As a baseball fan, there is no day that brings me more joy than Opening Day. It signifies the turning of a page, a rebirth of life, where everyone starts in the same spot with the same record 0-0. The first week of April, as Thomas Boswell once wrote is when time begins. 

Last year baseball, like the rest of the world, was put on hold due to the pandemic. There were no cheering fans at the ballpark, no hot dogs and cracker jacks, no grandiose celebrations when a player hits a walk-off home run. For many, this changed the game entirely. 

Despite all the chaos, there was still one thing every baseball fan around the world could count on. One thing that would be stable in a world of instabilities: 108 red stitches. 

This year we are privileged enough to have a full 162 game season again. With Opening Day right around the corner for the first time in a long time, the world feels normal again. Try not to ride the highs too high and the lows too low when rooting for your favorite team, or in life in general. At the end of the day we are all alike, all fans of the same 108 stitches, cheering on our favorite team and the game we love. 

So let’s play ball.