How a Baseball Hat Helped Me Feel at Home

After a few months of living in San Luis Obispo, I felt like my non-Californian status was evident from one glance. I avoided talking for fear my Southern accent might bring attention to me, or worse, encourage stereotypes and derision. Everywhere I went things were different—weather, traffic, grocery stores, social rules. It wasn’t an obvious otherworld, but things were different enough to make me feel out-of-place.
In a hopeful attempt to blend in a little better, I bought a Dodgers cap from Target. It lacked the official MLB patch on the back (making me a phony in a different way), but I felt a little bit better when I wore it. Runs in the neighborhood or trips to the grocery store turned into a veritable fan discovery. There were high-fives from strangers and “Go, Dodgers!” shouted from the deli line.
Seeing how well my hat helped me blend and attract attention, I made an effort to be an authentic fan. A season of baseball for the Dodgers that just so happened to be legendary. It was the Dodgers versus the Astros in the World Series—I watched every game.
The next day I wore my Dodgers hat on my daily walk, and a man stopped me. That’s always unnerving, but he asked, “Did the Dodgers win last night?”
“No,” I said. “They lost 13-12.”
He fell into a frenzied discussion of the Dodgers’ successes and failures—Game 5 was particularly bad. Part of me felt like he was testing me to see if I, a mere woman, was an actual fan, but to his surprise/delight/dismay—I don’t know—I answered his questions and offered my own commentary on Kershaw, Puig, Pederson, and my personal favorite, the red-headed wonder, Justin Turner.
Knowing about the Dodgers isn’t me trying to be one of the (Californian) guys—though that’s how it began—it’s the way I found to interact with the California culture that was so foreign to me. Baseball is a common, national language, and becoming part of the Dodgers fandom helped me find my place in CA. Not only did I find a feeling of belonging, but my fear of sticking out as an obvious outsider has faded (until I visit Giants territory that is).
We finished our spontaneous conversation on an abrupt, strange note:
“When’s the next game,” he pressed.
“Tomorrow night. 5:30.”
And as we went our separate ways, he shouted, “Go, Dodgers!”
I turned back, grinned, and tipped my hat at him.
Go, Dodgers, indeed.