Spring Training

Despite the absence of Sue Ten, I did manage to slip away on Saturday and go to a Red Sox spring training game, against the Baltimore Orioles.

My standing-room-only ticket provided me with a nice spot right at the fence, and I had the good fortune to have excellent fans on either side of me.  To my right, there was a seven-year-old girl, dressed all in pink, including pink Red Sox hat, the accessory of my dreams. I do wish I would just go buy one for myself, but then what would you get me for my birthday?  She also had a pink camera, and was busy snapping shots through the fence. Her dad told me they had been to Fenway last fall, and she got to run the bases. What a treat.

To my left, a couple from Miami stood enjoying their hot dogs. We soon got into a conversation about Cuba, and found out that all three of us had been there at different times.  By the end of the afternoon, we had bonded over tales of growing up in New England — the husband and I lived about 10 miles apart, but went to different schools in different states, and never knew each other despite graduating from high school the same year — and during the conversation, the question came up, “Were you always a baseball fan?”

For me, the answer was no. In my neighborhood, as I may have mentioned before, girls played outfield for both teams, way outfield, and I am talking about a real field. Some times we were so far out field we could not even see who was at bat.

My folks did not watch sports, not that I can remember, but my grandmother was an avid Red Sox fan, and we kids were not allowed to talk to her when a game was on.  She had some kind of jury-rigged gadget that would let her turn the sound off during commercials, so we could talk then. Commercial over, sound on, talk over.

Still, I did always like the idea of baseball, the mathematics of it mostly I think.  The sound, the look, the smell. I’m still not a huge fan of baseball on television, but I will be listening in on MLB radio once the real season progresses.

After I met Pretty Boy, baseball came back into my life. I had managed to ignore most sports during previous relationships, but the reality that I was dating a New York Yankees fan had an odd impact on me. Some sort of primordial energy bubbled up inside me, and I understood that I had to arm myself against the Spawn of Satan. My Red-Sox imprinted genetic code won out, and now I know what it means to take a stand.

Perhaps that is a small thing to you, but to a crowd-pleaser like me, that’s a major step in personal empowerment and self-definition. I discovered that I really enjoy the emotion of baseball. I get a huge kick out of tee-shirts that say, “I root for two teams: The Red Sox and whoever beats the Yankees.”

Had I but world enough and time, I’d go to a stadium ball game every day, just to revel in the pleasure of being there, worries set aside, high-fat food in hand, sun in my eyes, and lucky socks on my feet.  I rarely remember any of the plays or the players, except the same few that you already know, so the live games are also an “in the now” experience for me.

Spring training games are usually fairly free of broadcast press-box chatter, and I like that, too. There are always other fans to tell me what’s going on, and to share their stories. Sun Ten and I even went to see the Italian team play the Marlins. That game, in an almost empty stadium, was as much a thrill as any game I’ve ever attended. Sue cheered and chortled. We saw Elvis selling popcorn, and we saw a guy wearing a marlin hat. No, not a “Marlins” hat. A fish, on his head. Then we laughed all the way home.

I’m sure she doesn’t mind that I left the Pie Shop and the Swing Barn in the hands of the the Pie Apprentice, your second-cousin Darnell, and The Morning Guy, for the afternoon.  After all, it’s March in SoFLA, and what could be better than that?

By the way, if you’ve never been to Roger Dean Stadium, here’s a great panoramic shot from the New York Times.

Roger Dean Statium, Jupiter, Florida

Click on it anywhere, and try not to get too dizzy looking around. It’s an odd photo, I think.

The pitcher is winding up, but he must be throwing to a ghost. I see no batter, no catcher.

Perhaps they’ve stepped out for some of that good ballpark food?