Reading this week:
- Footsteps by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Back on June 12th, I went to a baseball game along with my dad and my super amazing girlfriend. The location was Tropicana Field in Tampa. The game was between the Rays and the Orioles (you can watch the highlights here; the Orioles hit a grand slam!). The occasion was Father’s Day. This is that story.
Look I gotta say I’m not all that into sports. I resent every single football game I was forced to go to as a Midshipman. I just can’t get all that into the action on the field. I usually reason this is because I have absolutely no effect on the outcome and thus can’t get involved in the drama, but then again I enjoy books, movies, and TV shows, so maybe that’s not it. There are some exceptions. I will watch the Army-Navy game when there are other people around. I am also an enthusiastic attendee of the Annapolis Cup when I can go, but I will also say I have been several times and I don’t think I ever managed to actually witness any croquet. Also Rowing Blazers sponsors the cup now???
The point is that although I don’t follow any teams or watch any sports on television, and probably wouldn’t ever buy a ticket on my own, I do kinda enjoy going to baseball games. The pace of action is just about right for my tastes. Football is too staccato. Soccer looks tiring. But baseball! Baseball is just right.
It might also be that once upon a time I had a dream of becoming a baseball star. This dream never made it very far, stalling in little league. The root cause is that I wasn’t very good at it. I don’t think I ever hit the ball when I was at-bat, mostly because I was petrified of being hit by it. I wanna say here that with the quality of the little league pitchers this wasn’t unfounded. I also never found a groove on the field. I long harbored dreams of being a pitcher. After many weeks of practicing I was finally given my big chance and I was pulled before I got through one batter. I had brief promise as a catcher, with an ability to sit in a squat, but please note several sentences ago when I said I was petrified of being hit by the ball which meant I took a dive on every single pitch. I was eventually relegated to the outfield, which given the quality of little league batters rarely got any action. I viewed this is a good thing.
I do remember the one moment that I was truly great. It was the last game of the season, and to I think the mutual benefit of all parties, I had decided to not return to little league the following year. In the final half of the final inning, our team was on the field and I wasn’t. I was giddy about this. No more practice! No more balls being thrown at me! No more baseball! But THEN: a crisis. Our catcher was injured. Taken right out of the game. He needed to be replaced. Who would step up to the plate, in this case literally what with this being a baseball scenario? I was the only option so I was chosen. I dressed in that dreaded catcher’s gear but for once I didn’t care; the giddiness had already taken over completely and wouldn’t be undone. So for this one inning, I was actually a good catcher. I wasn’t afraid! I think I caught the ball regularly even, and then threw it back and mostly got it back to the pitcher’s mound! It was a feeling of sports euphoria I wouldn’t re-achieve for a long time, if ever. It was great.
Nonetheless, my little league career was over. I was still, however, a baseball fan. I think maybe I was mostly a Cal Ripken fan. My childhood was his era, man. I remember the “Got Milk?” posters vividly, displayed in our elementary school gym. Of course the Orioles were our hometown team, since I grew up a bit south of Baltimore (a bit north of Annapolis, really). One time I insisted that my parents buy me a whole kid-sized Orioles uniform and then was too embarrassed to actually wear it to the game. The Orioles were my dad’s team, too. Now dad, dad is actually a baseball fan. He listens to games on the radio. He falls asleep in front on games on the television. He knows who the players are. He is a fan! Which is why we went to the Orioles vs. Rays game for father’s day. He asked for the tickets, my mom bought them for him, and my big responsibility was to go. My super amazing girlfriend gamely came along too, to her very first major league baseball game, despite being even less of a sports fan than I am. I think we all had a good time! She was particularly amused that they actually sold Cracker Jacks at the ole’ ball game.
I think we all had a pretty good time. We showed up a bit early and walked around. The groundskeepers provided some amusement. I couldn’t decide if the notion of them watering fake grass or them watering dirt was funnier. I realize why they water the dirt. The amount of effort that goes into dirt when it comes to baseball is stunning when you think about it, really. In the other part of the photo above, they’re smoothing out the dirt. The little bag behind the pitcher contains very special dirt. Dirt! Exciting stuff.
I took the above photos to comment on the COVID precautions in the game. There weren’t really any, except that the umpires and coaches went through a whole elaborate fist bump routine I assume in order to minimize human contact while still pretending like it’s a thing. All well and good until I noticed Mansolino just up and shake hands with the third baseman there. Double standards!
And, uh, and that’s all I really have to say about the game. It was as entertaining as baseball ever is. We snacked on peanuts (no Cracker Jacks) and my super amazing girlfriend even had a hotdog. If only we had baked an apple pie when we got home, it would have truly been an all-American day. (I realize now this will be published on the 4th of July. ‘Merica.)