Out in Left Field

baseball (1)

Baseball has been America’s favorite pastime for more than 150 years, followed closely by gun control debates, reality TV and overeating. There’s just something about sitting in a ballpark surrounded by drunk fans that screams ‘Merica!

The hubbie and I spent a weekend in Phoenix for spring training where teams get together for pre-season games and fans hope for a glimpse of a mega baseball star like Mike Trout or one of the racing sausage mascots from Milwaukee.

As San Francisco Giants fans, we sat in a sea of orange and black, surrounded by men who obviously missed their calling as ESPN baseball announcers. Their color commentary got slurrier and slushier with each beer they drank. It made me wish real ESPN announcers would drink on the job.

Whenever we walk into a ballpark, my husband turns into a 14-year-old boy. The crack of the bat, the smell of a leather glove and the roar of the crowd makes him absolutely giddy.

Hubbie: We’re at a ball game!

Me: I know.

Hubbie: Maybe I’ll catch a foul ball!

Me: Maybe.

Hubbie: Do you think they’ll run out of players and call me up to play?

Me:

Me: You’ve been in the sun too long.

But it’s not just my husband, nearly every man there is reliving childhood dreams of baseball stardom, talking about games they watched with their dads or reminiscing about baseball legends they revered as teens.

I love baseball, but not in the way my husband does. A lot of my experience revolves around food (as most things do). At ball games, I eat food I’d never eat in real life. My 74-ounce Coke and foot-long Bratwurst was an appetizer for my shredded pork nachos, drenched in a fluorescent orange “cheese” stored in plastic buckets in the basement of the stadium. I ate French fries so salty, I actually pooped jerky.

Baseball is about tradition: team loyalty, peanuts, Cracker Jack, not caring if you ever get back, and yelling at the umps after every bad call. The drunker the crowd, the more hilarious the insults. “Can I pet your Seeing-Eye dog after the game, Blue?” “That’s why umpires shouldn’t date players!” “You drop more calls than Verizon!” And so on.

Then there’s the stats. Baseball statisticians use more abbreviations than texting teens. You have your standard 1B, HR, BB, SB, K, L and ERA. But occasionally, a stat will appear on the scoreboard that leaves everyone confused. “What the hell’s a UZR?” slurs a drunk ESPN announcer. We all scratch our heads until someone Googles it. (Ultimate Zone Rating, if you were wondering.)

Each game holds the opportunity to witness an unassisted triple play, a grand slam, a no-hitter, a perfect game or a squirrel being chased off the field by an octogenarian ball boy. Ballparks are national treasures, each one unique and representative of their community.

But my main reason for loving the game is this: baseball is a game of patience. There’s no time limit to a ballgame. It could last 3 hours or 5 hours; 9 innings or 13 innings. As our lives get busier, a ballgame is a reminder to sit in the sunshine, to talk to the person next to you and to order a hot dog without guilt as you root for your favorite team.

All you have to do is sit, eat and cheer someone on. Shouldn’t that be America’s favorite pastime?

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Things Driving Me Crazy at the Ball Game

From coaching my daughters’ softball teams to watching the SF Giants win the series, baseball is a way to kick back and relax. Well, except the coaching part. That’s just nuts.

Bees (3)(Idyllic, right? Except for all the people.)

But, as with everything else . . . people ruin s***. The hubbie and I thought we’d catch a Bees game, hoping to watch major leaguer Josh Hamilton who has been rehabbing in the great city of Salt Lake. We bought tickets, then sat back to watch the game on a beautiful spring evening.

IMMEDIATELY, people began ruining s***. Here are the things driving me crazy at the ball game:

  • The man in front of me. He was eating a hot dog. Only not just any hot dog. This hot dog was smothered in so much crap, that it dripped onto his beard, shirt, lap and many of the surrounding spectators. I was mesmerized. I couldn’t look away as he shoved the disgusting ball game delicacy into his pie hole. Plus, I could hear him chewing.
  • No 10-run rule. The first inning lasted FOREVER, because the Bees don’t do defense.

Bees (2)

(Please, have another home run, visiting team.)

  • People in general. We were situated in our uncomfortable seats, when the lady four seats down had to get up and buy beer. So we all stood up to let her through. Then she had to climb back to her seat. More standing. And then go get more beer, which meant more standing. Add the fact she was drunker and slushier each time she stumbled by us. It was like Catholic mass: standing, sitting, standing, sitting (and praying for the Bees to do something).
  • Kids at the ball game. A baseball game is no place for children. Once they finish their chicken fingers (the top of the first inning) they whine, beg, fight, beg, whine and fight for the remainder of the game.

Bees (8)

(Yes, we know you’re bored. We get it. Shut up.)

  • The mother of these children. If you take your kids to a ball game and expect them to sit still for three hours, you are insane. DO NOT yell at your kids for being bored. DO NOT yell at your kids for begging repeatedly for cotton candy, soda, popcorn, ice cream, etc. You knew what to expect when you brought the rugrats.
  • The man in front of me, part 2. Once Hot Dog man finished hunching over his ballpark repast, he sat up straight, and I realized he was just a little shorter than Godzilla. We were sitting behind home plate, so I couldn’t see the pitcher, the batter, second base or center field. So I grabbed some paper and started writing a  blog.
  • Food. The only time I eat a hot dog is when I’m in a ball park or being tortured at girl’s camp. But shelling out $20 for 2 hot dogs, 2 drinks and  bags of chips seemed a leeeetle steep. Plus, the line was so long we missed an entire inning while the ADHD serving staff tried to fill orders.
  • Josh Hamilton. The professional outfielder has been sidelined due to an injury, but he hurt his thumb Thursday night–and didn’t even play on Saturday. He returns to the Angels this week.

All that for nothing.

 

 

Things Driving Me Crazy in Phoenix

I left the strange world of Utah to travel to a warm, welcoming place called Phoenix to bask in the sun and watch baseball games during spring training. As we boarded the plane to leave Utah, airline employees were busy de-icing the wings. An hour later, we were sweating in 85 degree weather with margaritas and ball games.

While our weekend getaway was amazing, I was able to find things in Arizona that drove me bat-s*** crazy.

  • Sitting next to drunk people at baseball games. Drunk people are obnoxious. Drunk people at baseball games are uber-obnoxious, partly because they are already sitting so close–and then they proceed to get even MORE in your face. Once they’ve repeated the same sentence 17 times, it’s time to get up and buy a hot dog. I ate way too many hot dogs.
  • Listening to our hotel neighbors yell at each other at 7 a.m. Waking up to the chirping of birds: good. Waking up to the lady in the room next door nag at her husband in a shrill, ear-splitting voice: not good.

gladys

(“Abner! Abner!” Gladys Kravitz, our nosy hotel neighbor.)

  • Restrooms at baseball stadiums. Attendance at one ball game was more than 12,000 people. Attendance in the ladies rest room was about 11,900. And the ONE bathroom I found had such a hellacious line, I decided to find a quiet corner and an empty cup.
  • Gym equipment at hotels, in general. Marketing photos lie. Pictures depicting spacious workout centers give way to the truth when you walk in the gym and find three ancient recumbent bicycles, a 1985 treadmill and a squeaky stairstepper. You can work with the free weights, as long as you only wanted to use 15 pounds or 75 pounds.
  • Too much good food. Pizza and cheesebread at Oregano’s, pasties at the Cornish Pasty Co., scones at Rustler’s Rooste, tamales at Aunt Chilada’s, fries at the Baer’s Den, a Snickers bar at the airport. I ate way too  much and now I have to eat celery and kale for the next three weeks. Blech.
  • Leaving to come home. There’s a stomach-dropping feeling as you board a plane that will take you back to the confines of the state of Utah. Say goodbye to sunshine. Say goodbye to the real world. Say hello to a ludicrous legislature. Say hello to Neanderthal thinking. Sigh.