Saturday, June 20, 2009

Buy me some peanuts (April 7, 2006)

Well, it’s that time of year again. The smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of the vendors hawking their peanuts and beer, the bright white of newly laid chalk lines, and the unmistakable cry of, “Play Ball!”

For my friend, Owl, baseball season puts her in some sort of state of Nirvana, or something. Which is good, really, because everyone should have a passion. For myself, it’s not quite that remarkable, though I have to say that there’s nothing quite like a balmy spring evening at the ballpark. Which, here in Oklahoma, is to say that there is—quite literally—nothing like it. Allow me to explain.

Our local AAA team has their home-stand opener this weekend. Yesterday was opening day, and it blew in with dry, warm winds that filled the air with Oklahoma red dirt, not to mention the haze of smoke from all the surrounding wildfires. Of course, the planned fireworks display was cancelled. I was congratulating myself on my foresight in not purchasing tickets for that day, but rather waiting for the Friday night game instead.

Things were looking pretty good this morning, too, but the cold front blew in about four hours before game time, and a short rainstorm about an hour later. It was maybe fifty-five degrees or so at first pitch, but still windy and overcast, so it felt much colder. By the time the fourth inning forecast rolled around on the big screen, it would be dropping down to forty before the game was over, with wind about 25-30 mps, and gusts around 50 mph. Oh, and they were predicting more rain. And, of course, tonight’s fireworks were cancelled, too.

As it turned out, the rain held out until the bottom of the fifth; we made it until the top of the eighth. Personally, I would’ve stayed for the last out, but my husband and son had been ready to go since about the second inning. So, since our hometown boys had finally managed to put together enough consecutive plays to first tie the game, then actually take the lead by four, I gave in and we headed out.

So, why, you might be asking yourself, would I subject myself and my family to such a miserably uncomfortable evening for something that I’m not even particularly “passionate” about? Well, I’m not sure I can explain it really, but maybe it’s because there is a something extremely cool about that moment when you’ve just gone through the gates, and threaded your way through the crowd on the concourse, and you get that first glimpse of the field before you. It’s kind of magical, really, and I think that every time.

Or maybe because, even though I have often lamented the fact that we don’t have a local Major League team, the beauty of the minors is that you can let the family sit in the decent seats without breaking the bank. It’s nice to be able to sit close enough that you can hear the players out there muttering to each other, even if what they’re muttering about is the stinking weather.

Or maybe it’s the roller coaster of watching your boys give up the first run, and then the second, and the third, and just when you’re trying to work yourself up into “Oh, well, it’s only a game”, they break out and they’re clawing their way back on top and you’re cheering them to victory.

I think it’s all of that, plus hot dogs and Cracker Jacks.

And tonight, after we had moved up onto the concourse to get out of the rain, I was sitting alone (husband and son had gone to seek warmth around a propane heater), and our mascot, Rowdy, came and sat down with me for a while. We clapped for the home team, and he was there when we tied it up, so we got to dance and cheer together. Where else are you going to get to celebrate anything with a giant red bird?

Really, it’s not hard to see why this is the American pastime; it’s great fun. It’s simple, and pure, and even in the cold and rain, it’s got hot dogs and silliness. What more could you want? So, come on; everyone join in:

Take me out to the ballgame; take me out with the crowd . . .