When you think about it, a baseball game is a perfect first date.
There's enough action on the field to give you something to talk about or fill the awkward silences, but it's not too loud or frenetic, so conversation can flow. You've got the sun above you, beer and hot dogs in hand, and a couple of hours to kill, usually enough time to determine if you'd like to play tonsil hockey with this person sometime down the road.
Of course, you've gotta like baseball. Or at the very least, tolerate it.
In five years living in L.A., die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan Maggie* was dying for that perfect first date, but she was having a heck of a time trying to track down a guy willing to watch an entire baseball game.
"They're all into their clothes and Hollywood," the 29-year-old says of the guys she'd encountered in SoCal. "I'm like, 'Can we just eat hot dogs and watch baseball?' It's kind of a big hang-up, because it's hard, especially in L.A., to meet guys who like sports as much as I do.
"A lot of guys find it intimidating when a girl is rattling off statistics and they're clueless, so I've learned from past experience that that doesn't always work out that well."
Maggie grew up in St. Louis watching the Cardinals with her grandfather, who once threw a no-hitter as a member of the St. Louis Browns. "I spent every summer with my grandfather on the lake," she says. "Watching baseball, fishing and barbecuing. I was just raised on it, it's in my blood."
So when a banner ad reading, "Meet other singles in your area who like baseball" popped up on her MLB.TV app in April, she figured she'd give it a shot. She clicked on it and ended up on the "MLB Singles, powered by Match.com" landing page.
"I've tried a few other dating sites before and wasn't impressed," Maggie says. "This was the first time I ever paid for a dating service. I made 'N1StlCardsFan' my user name as a way to find people who were truly baseball fans and help break the ice. A lot of the messages I got, they used the Cardinals fan thing as a great way to start a conversation."
MLB Singles launched earlier this year and, according to Match.com, since then more than 550,000 members have added an MLB badge to their profile to identify themselves as baseball fans and acknowledge their favorite teams. (And, surprise, surprise, the New York Yankees badge is the most popular one on the site.)
Right around the same time the MLB Singles page hit the web, so did Packers Backers, a site that aims to pair up Cheeseheads looking for love. According to the home page, about 2,600 Packers fans have signed up, but the site didn't respond to requests for updated statistics or potential success stories.
SportsPassions.com, GolfMates.com, MVPDate.com and FanSingles.com are some of the other dating sites that look to aim Cupid's arrow at sporty singles. NFL Network broadcaster Rich Eisen is even getting in on the action -- he partnered with Nike Football to create the Free Agent app for sports-loving singles.
Using a shared interest in sports to bring singles together not only works well for dating sites like Match.com, which earned a new paying customer in Maggie, but also for MLB, which launched the partnership hoping to get baseball fans paired up and buying tickets to games.
"The idea is to put like people together with similar interest and passion," Noah Garden, Major League Baseball Advanced Media's executive vice president of revenue, told The Associated Press. "There's still always room for more butts in the seats."
Of course, helping two baseball fans find lasting love is a nice bonus, right? Maggie certainly thinks so.
She went on a lot of first dates with guys she met on the site, but only one or two second dates. No one impressed her much, until about six weeks in, when a message appeared from a handsome, smart guy who not only liked baseball, but made a living off the game, too.
"My mom and my sister were in town when he first messaged me and he mentioned that he worked for the Dodgers," Maggie says. "I have lower expectations when I'm on those sites, so I kind of joked with my family, 'He's from the Dodgers, maybe he can at least get me some free tickets when the Cardinals come in town next month.' ... Little did I know that he was going to end up being this amazing guy."
(*The amazing guy, a 33-year-old who works in the Dodgers' front office, is a little wary of admitting to the guys that he went on Match.com, so for the sake of the story, he's "Dan" and she's "Maggie.")
"He doesn't really want people at work knowing he was on the site," Maggie says, laughing. "Some people in the office already give him a little grief for dating a Cardinals fan, but I think his friends are just happy he's with another baseball fan."
Even though Dan works for the Dodgers, he's actually an A's and Giants fan, owing to his Bay Area roots. The couple has a visit to Oakland, California, on the agenda, as Maggie has never been to O.co Coliseum. They already made the trek up north to AT&T Park, where she met his parents at a game.
"One of my goals is to see the Cardinals play in every stadium," Maggie says. "I'm the kind of person who wants to book a last-minute trip to go see my team play and he's really understanding of that and supportive. He actually hooked me up with tickets to a Padres game, so I drove down to San Diego to go with my sister."
Maggie says the best parts about dating a fellow baseball fan are the shared interest in the game and having a friendly rivalry to bond over.
"I like that we get to cheer for each other," she says. "I feel like it expands my team interests a bit. I'm dedicated to my Cardinals, but it's nice to have someone help cheer for my team, and then I can rally for his team, as well."
Maggie is finishing up her Ph.D. at USC and plans to do management consulting in the health-care field, so it was also important for her to find a sports lover with an intellectual side and a lot of ambition.
"'You're smart and you're into baseball?'" she says about meeting Dan. "Oh, my god. I'm always pinching myself. I'm like 'Am I dreaming? Is this baseball heaven?'"