I know that interleague play is kind of a controversial subject, and that a lot of people want to see it eliminated, but I've never understood that perspective. I get the whole tradition angle, but tradition wasn't tradition forever and is a pretty lousy basis for any decision.
There are a number of things I enjoy about interleague play. Sure, a lot of the assigned rivalries end up looking pretty stupid. But if you stop thinking about the other team as a rival, and start thinking about the other team more as a regular opponent, it's not so bad. And overall, interleague play exposes us to new, unfamiliar teams. It exposes us to new, unfamiliar stadiums. It exposes us to new, unfamiliar crowds, and for those who follow along on MLB.tv, it exposes us to new, unfamiliar broadcasters. Interleague play helps break up the monotony of an incredibly long season.
But of all the different things that interleague play brings to the table, I have to say that my favorite is being able to watch American League pitchers hit.
Full disclosure: I am a fan of an AL team. I am for the DH, and I would not want to have to watch my team's pitchers hit every day, even though I'm sure I'd get used to it. I hope that you can see past this.
Interleague play seems like the perfect compromise for AL fans. They get to see their pitchers hit a little without seeing them hit every game. The whole exercise, then, stays fresh, and holds a certain novelty value. The pitchers all get excited about taking batting practice, and fans get to look forward to seeing their arms swing with zero hope and zero expectations. For the few series a year that AL teams play in NL ballparks, the subject of pitchers hitting is less serious, and more silly.
Silly is good for baseball. Baseball could use more silly. And AL pitchers hitting is silly. Especially when it's the young ones, or the ones who've never played in the NL before. When it's the ones who by all rights shouldn't stand a chance. You get to assume an out and then celebrate even the slightest positive, be it taking a tough pitch or lining a single.
At some level maybe it's so appealing because you get to imagine yourself in the pitcher's place at the plate. But I think it's more about the joy of pure upside. When an AL pitcher steps up, you usually expect absolutely nothing. So if he makes an embarrassing out, no matter, what's he supposed to do? And if he doesn't make an embarrassing out, then, wow, that is something else. It's fun if he works a good at-bat. It's more fun if he reaches base on a walk or a single. And if he does this, congratulations, you have witnessed a moment you'll never forget.
That right there is one of my all-time favorite baseball memories. It's Felix Hernandez closing his eyes and hitting a grand slam off Johan Santana, when Johan Santana was one of the best pitchers on the planet. I wouldn't have that memory if it weren't for interleague play. And it's such a great memory because, WHAT?!
Seems to me that, if I had to watch my team's pitchers hit every day, it would get old. I'd start to expect something of them, because hitting would be part of their job, after all. For pitchers in the AL, hitting is not part of their job. So when they hit, anything and everything is a bonus. AL pitchers having to hit doesn't improve their teams' chances of winning, but it does make the baseball more interesting, and I'm all about baseball being more interesting. God bless you, interleague play.