When I was a kid I loved baseball. My brother and I had our favorite teams, with player pictures hung on our bedroom walls in the shape of ballfields. His teams were the Yankees and Giants, mine were the Dodgers and Mets. We had countless arguments about whose teams were better, but since in those days the only inter-league games were the World Series, and not more than one of our teams -- usually the Yankees* -- ever reached that level at the same time, such disputes were purely theoretical.
We read baseball stories, notably John Tunis' The Kid from Tompkinsville series. My favorite was The Kid Comes Back. We went to occasional Baltimore Orioles games, mostly at the instigation of my Aunt Ethel. Aunt Ethel was my mom's older sister, and I have countless memories of her sitting in front of the TV, watching the Orioles play, knitting away at her current project and keeping score at the same time. I learned a lot of baseball terminology from her. One of the saddest things of her descent in to Alzheimers was when she could no longer follow a baseball game.
And then, well, I grew up. I moved from Oriole territory to the mid-west, and we decided not to have a television in our house. For a few years our congregation had a church-league softball team (for which I was scorekeeper), but that ended when Rosie was a baby. Baseball scores in the newspaper are not the same, and the only MLB [Major League Baseball] team in Michigan is the Detroit Tigers, about whom I care very little, and who play in the middle of a scary city. Since my reading of the sports pages is limited to a glance at the front of the section, I knew two player names, and that's about it. Baseball became a very marginal, almost forgotten part of my life.
Until last Friday night. A friend of the family has occasional access to a set of corporate season tickets, and six weeks or so ago we made plans for him, Roger, me, and Katie to attend the Tigers/Dodgers game at Comerica Park. It sounded like a fun time with a friend, but right up until Thursday I was waffling about actually going, since "I didn't care that much about baseball anymore," it was supposed to rain, and Tommy needed transport to and from an end-of-the-school-year party. Roger finally persuaded me to go, since Tommy had arranged to get a ride from a friend, but I tossed the afghan I'm crocheting for Rosie and Anthony's coming baby into my backpack, figuring I'd have something interesting to do.
We got to Detroit about 30 minutes after stadium opening time, and parked our car in a not-too-near but not-too-far $10 game-night empty lot parking area. I was glad I had packed umbrellas, since it was misting lightly. We walked the several blocks to the stadium, and our friend suggested that we get something to eat at Hockeytown Cafe (warning--link has sound), across the street from the stadium. As usual, I was unimpressed by another sports bar, but the food was acceptable, despite no T in the BLT/Club because of the salmonella scare. By the time we finished, about 40 min before game time, it was raining, hard.
We decided to go over to the stadium and get our tickets scanned so we would be eligible for rain checks. Since we were in, we walked around to our assigned section, and decided to stand by the entry-way to our seats (between two hot dog stands!) to see if the rain would let up. It was actually quite pleasant -- there was a breeze from the field, which can be seen very well from the whole concessions/walkway ring. In the Orioles old park -- since replaced -- you could only see the field from the seats proper. About 10 minutes before scheduled game time, we noticed that the rain had tapered to a mist. Since I had brought rags to dry our seats, we decided to go and sit in them (with our umbrellas) and see what happened.
The seats were amazing! Fourteen rows back, right behind the home dugout. Aunt Ethel always preferred the view over the plate, and our budget was NOT corporate, so I'd never before been in the "good" seats. By the time we'd been in them 15 minutes the rain had totally stopped, and the grounds crew came out to uncover the infield. For about 2 minutes we wondered what they were going to do with all the water standing on the tarp. The answer -- dump it on the outfield! By then the scoreboard showed that the game would begin about one hour late, and it was a good choice; there was no more rain that evening.
I had decided before we took our seats that I wouldn't bother getting out my crocheting, because I didn't want to get it wet. But during the extra time of the delay, I pulled it out. By the time of the National Anthem, I had finished a row and a half. And then the game began. For the first inning, I divided my attention, looking up for the pitch and then down at my afghan. But somewhere along the line -- maybe it was the first line drive third baseman Guillen snared too fast for me to see -- I remembered: THIS is what I love about baseball. Not the team or player stats; not loyalty to any particular team. What I loved , and to my astonishment still love, is the actual game play itself. Long flies caught just short of the fence. The batter acting irate if a pitch comes too close. The tag -- or missed tag -- on the steal to second or third. I just love baseball.
Roger, who has always been little mystified by my baseball knowledge (football is his game), was glad to hear that my rediscovered passion is not for the Tigers, but for baseball. We are already researching going to see the Lansing Lugnuts, where the best (non-suite) seats in the house cost $9. I can't wait!
And, oh yeah, the afghan? Despite getting caught up in the game, I still finished 6 rows. Aunt Ethel would have been proud.
* Although the 1969 Series, where the Mets "lost last place", lives so clearly in my memory that when I saw the movie Frequency, and the date flashed on the screen at the beginning of the movie, I knew exactly what was going on on that day.