Recently went to a Pittsburgh Pirates game, well that is not entirely true, I went to the 1st Inning of a Pittsburgh Pirates game, then it poured for the next four hours until they called the game off. I had a great time anyways. My family was covered by an overhang and we watched everyone else scatter to get under cover, we just pulled out our ponchos and raincoats and sat and talked. My sister in law Vickie and I discussed how long we would be in jail if we ran down to the field and slid across the tarp covering the infield. We debated if it would make the Pittsburgh cop’s day better or worse as he just standing in his rain gear looking very bored. I talked about if a person should disrobe before the slip and slide across the tarp so that a person who did it would have dry clothes to wear while sitting in jail. Then we decided the game of baseball would be more interesting if in addition to the Seventh Inning Stretch you started “Nudity in the Ninth.” Nudity in the Ninth would entail everyone in the stadium getting naked during the ninth inning, the players of course could continue to wear any protective gear, safety first.
Most people go to the stadiums for the sport, but some like me just go for the spectacle. I hear a ball game being called on the radio and I just want to find a hammock and take a nap. If I have to watch a ball game on TV all I want to do is get on my phone and start looking for videos of paint drying to keep me awake. But let me walk into a stadium, either big league or even the minors and I am energized and I am taking in everything and trying to remember everything. I note the brilliant green of the field and the color of the sky. I spot the family who has managed to get to the game all dressed in the same jersey except the littlest one who is wearing a generic baseball t-shirt. I smile observing the two teenage girls who are giggling and talking while balancing hot dogs, pretzels and five sodas. I watch the the elderly father and grown son who are enjoying a day together and looking for their seats and talking to the usher.
I love going to ball games, there is always something to see, some little memory that you can take with you, whether it be a double play, line drives catches, or the anticipation of a long hit and whether it will clear the wall or be caught on the warning track. One of the best screw ups I ever saw was with my friend Ken at a Phillies game in the summer of 2014. Sitting along the third base line we watch a Mets player attempt to steal second base, he slides trying to get underneath the throw and tag, he slides well but misjudges his speed and distance . He goes right over second base and ends up a little ways into center field. So not only is he tagged out which ends the inning but now he is covered from neck to belly the rest of the game with the dirt of shame.
Some of the my favorite memories are not even what takes place on the field, Phillies stadium again, summer of 2014, Ken and I are sitting along the first base line, and the Phillies organization has these interactive graphics which show fans doing goofy thing on the jumbotron, like the dance camera, the kiss camera, and my personal favorite, the Bongo Cam. Bongos are superimposed on the image and your move your hands like you are playing the bongos. Good fun, but that game they found the best people for the bongo camera, Catholic Nuns in full black and white classic habits. The crowd went wild. Nuns playing the bongos, if that does not make you smile a little bit you are one cold fish.
Summer of 2014 with Ken, and in the row with us are a bunch of young drunk guys. They were nice enough, not annoying but somewhere around the fifth inning they depart for more beer and most of them come back in a little bit, two fisted drinking going on but one of their buddies is missing. I just happen to notice him a few minutes later a couple of sections over; young and drunk is looking for his friends but he is pretty lost and disoriented. I bring it to the attention of the guys that their buddy is lost and point him out. They yell and get his attention, and from that point on Ken and I were these guys best new friends for ‘saving’ their friend from being lost forever during a Phillies game. I love drunk logic, particularity when I am sober.
Things can even get a little surreal at baseball games. Cleveland Indians game, Jacobs Field summer of 2000, its late in the game, probably the sixth or seventh, my buddies and me are sitting in the bleacher seats above right field. I get up to go get a coke or something because the Indians are behind and the Rockies are up and there is no shade in the cheap seats. I walk down the tunnel to the concession area and while standing in line I look up at the monitors and watch a powerful hit by a Rockies outfielder, the ball is a high screamer launching way over the wall and into the cheap seats and right into a tunnel. Some movement caught my eye and the ball I had just been watching on the monitor rolls down the floor past me. A couple of guys scramble on the floor for the homerun ball and I get my Diet Coke and nachos.
There have been volumes written about how American baseball is a metaphor for Life, the best players typically only hit one third of their times at bat but they still get up their and swing again and again. Movies such as Field of Dreams, The Natural and Bull Durham have tried to merge the words with the pictures and convey how important baseball is to the American psyche. Maybe baseball is a metaphor for Life, but for me the metaphor is the difference between hearing about something, or watching it from the couch or truly immersing yourself and experiencing Life.
Life is about who you go thru it with, like when I went to a Phillies game with Steven and Anjali and they announced their engagement in the parking lot before the game over beer and cannoli’s. Life is seeking out the best view, like at a different game when Steve and I wandered a poorly attended Phillies game debating the pros and cons of seats and trying out all kinds of views and ending up high above but behind home plate. Sure Life can be monotonous and boring, but if you are paying attention and willing to risk sunburn or beer being spilled on you can sometimes see Nuns playing virtual bongos.