Wednesday 11 April 2007

The Boys of Summer

You might recall that I am a HUGE baseball fan. So this time of year is one of my favourites. The basesball season begins and the boys of summer arrive. Last year is just a memory. This is a new season and anything is possible. I mean, even the Boston Red Sox can win a World Series now.

One of the things I hate most about living in the UK is the complete and utter ignorance of the game of baseball. Everyone (and I mean everyone) thinks they are funny and insists that baseball is like rounders. This is only true for the complete uninitiated and the total ignoramus. That's like me insisting that Wales and Scotland aren't really separate countries from England. They might look like it on a map but they are not. There are loads of historical battles and royal succession subleties as to why not but trust me they are NOT the same country. And baseball is NOT like rounders.

To truly appreciate baseball you need to learn to keep score. I learned this art whilst watching the Denver Bears, the minor league team before Colorado welcomed the major league team, the Colorado Rockies. This was a time before baseball was all about the money and more about a family day at the ball park. This was before it cost an arm and a leg to get into the game and buy a hotdog and peanuts. We would sit in the sun and watch the game unfold. Keeping score taught me how to pay attention to every little detail. It taught me to understand the strategy of a batting lineup and to predict pitcher changes. It taught me to appreciate the statistics of the game. I know how to calculate ERA and RBI and what they mean to both an inidividual and the team's performance. I appreciate how a powerful left handed pitcher can be worth their weight in gold and why. I learned what lollygagging in the infield looked like. I now know why there should be a constitutional amendment outlawing astro turf and the designated hitter.

My first major league game was in California watching the Anaheim Angels, now the LA Angels. A couple co-workers of mine, John Potter and Bill Schasteen, took me when we were working in Orange County supporting the billing system for PacTel Cellular. It was the summer of 1987. It was a dream come true. I never thought Denver would get their own team.

I've seen lots of other teams play in other cities. My favourite was going to Wrigley field and watching my favourite team, the Chicago Cubs, play. I had to keep pinching myself to remind me this was real. For me it was a dream come true. The Cubbies won that day.

For several years I owned season tickets to the Colorado Rockies. This included their inagural year which is probably the greatest season they ever had. They have one of the all time greatest baseball stadium in the game. I loved going to the game with friends, family, alone. I remember taking my niece and nephew, Tanner and Jordanne, to the games with me and patiently explaining the rules of the game. Not sure they got it. I can sit for hours watching a double header, with rain delays. Few things are as thrilling as tied in the bottom of the ninth, 2 men out and your pinch hitter stepping up to the plate. I would fly from wherever I was working just to make the home games. I scheduled my whole work day around the home schedule during the season. When I travelled I would check out who was playing in the cities I was visiting.

The only baseball I get living in the UK is shown at 1 am on Sunday nights (Monday mornings really) on Channel 5. The game is live so I always record it and watch it over the next week or so. Baseball games are long (>3hours) but no more so than say cricket matches which near as I can figure out can last well over 3 days. The games use up almost all the available memory on my Sky Plus (TiVo) box so I have to watch it within a few days or delete. Tonight I am going to watch the game I recorded on Sunday night, Boston Red Sox vs Texas Rangers.

I've seen a number of Rangers games when I would visit my sister and mother when they lived in Dallas. I always hated them because they were owned at by George W Bush and it is hotter than he** in Texas during baseball season. I am a fan of the Sox and have always loved them mostly because of the commitment shown by their fans. The Red Sox have some of the most loyal fans in baseball. Still haven't gotten to the end of the game so don't tell me who won.

Last summer I took my family to a Colorado Rockies game. We went with the intention of purchasing the cheapest tickets all the way out over Center Field in the Rockpile. We had several small children with us and I couldn't see the sense in spending all that money ($45/seat) for the kids if there was a chance they would spend half the game not paying attention. The day was a rain out but not the game. It had been raining all day, all week in Colorado which is VERY unusual weather for that part of the country in July. When we got to the game I thought it would be rained out. Instead there were guys selling tickets on the first level right behind 1st base (great tickets). We needed 16 tickets, we got them all in around the same area. I thought we would have to separate. But the stadium was deserted. We all sat together in our rain gear and watched a fabulous game. It took Sebastian a while to figure out that there a live game on the field and we weren't all there watching the big screen television in the rain. My brother, George, brought loads of snacks for us to share. We had a great afternoon and the rain cleared by the 7th inning. We watched the last 2 innings in glorious sunshine (sort of) looking like a bunch of drowned rats. It was a great day!

Now that the season has started I will resort to watching my recorded games and following the progress of my favourite teams and players on the internet (thank goodness for technology)! I will watch one of my favourite films (Bull Durham) over and over again. And I will wish I could catch just a few games at the ball park.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure that day at the ball park will be remembered by all..How much fun was that, We indeed had a blast..Mom

Janell said...

Great ballpark memory.
Every year, I ask Randy to take me to a Chicago Cubs game, but we haven't made it yet. Maybe this year.