Out To The Ballgame
by S Martha Montevallo ©2003

Recently I made a local public radio contribution intentionally smaller than the threshold for a "thank you gift" since none of them appealed to me. Then I was surprised to receive by snail mail with my receipt a pass for five family members to a professional baseball game in Tucson. Never having been to a baseball game, professional or not, I thought it was a gift to my advanced age and a nudge to do something I'd avoided all these years - just for the experience of it. And it was.

My family members were my daughter, my "son, and daughter-in-law." My "son" drove us to Tucson in his super-comfortable van and we had not-too-much trouble locating the place, which is right by or near the freeway accessed by a route surely familiar to the fans. Although we were early, we joined a significant line with our pass and soon started to ooch along. Arriving at the gate we found free team pictures that we could get autographed if we got there early enough (we didn't) and long plastic bags, the purpose of which I had no idea. I got one, however, trusting that the use would be revealed later.

A little discussion moved our destination for seats - the cheap ones - from facing the sun to the other side, possibly left field. The "music" was deafening, as were the announcements. (Next time, ear plugs.) Soon a player came out and started to do some calisthenics and stretches. Something to watch. He wore pants that came just below the knee and black stockings. Presently other players came out and followed suit. Most of them wore long pants. One even had a trainer (?) working with him to stretch. Eventually all the players of both teams were out and an honor guard had appeared as if by magic near home plate. At some signal imperceptible to me they marched out and we all stood and sang the national anthem after which they reversed and retreated. Clearly they had drilled for this performance, but not quite enough.

If a dignitary threw out the first ball I missed it. The game started. Everybody knows what the game of baseball is about. Studiously I followed the action and was consistently confused. Oh, sure, I knew when a player hit a home run. Other intricacies of the game were lost on me. I felt like Andy Griffith's Whut It Wuz Wuz Footbawl. The teams traded places taking me by surprise every time. Much to my companions' disgust I found the antics of the pitcher hilarious. With his right hand behind his back, left foot advanced, he leaned forward, the bill of his cap pointed toward the innocent batter, in a most intimidating stance.

Oh yes, I learned what the long plastic bag was for. Everybody else had got two of them. Then they blew them up and banged them together to make noise. Thunder Sticks. Frank Deford, The Sports Curmudgeon on National Public Radio, seems to find them as irritating and superfluous as I did. (Next time, ear plugs.) A couple of times a vehicle, open to the sky, drove slowly around the perimeter of the field, the person riding shotgun firing T-shirts into the crowd. About a dozen for the several hundred people who were there.

Baseball seems to be about eating. People were constantly leaving their seats and returning with food, if indeed it can actually be called food.

In addition to the few notes that seemed to be the musical trademark of baseball, I think I heard also a melody fragment associated with horse racing. For sure I heard La Cucaracha. At the seventh inning stretch, which gave even my knowledgeable daughter a light bulb flash, everybody, well I suppose everybody, sang Take Me Out To the Ball Game. While stretching. My mind wandered to Casey at the Bat.

After the game was over I learned, in my addled, slow way, about the bullpen and the dugout. I knew that the dugout is a place for the players to be when they are not actively involved in the game. But what about those guys down there at the end of the field at the foot of the bank under the scoreboard? Were they, the primo dons of the game, enjoying more luxurious quarters? No, that's the bullpen. OK, that's the bullpen -- why are they not associating with the other players in the dugout? Because they're pitchers and they're in the bullpen. Ummm, what's so special about the bullpen that the pitchers are there instead of the dugout? Pained look. They're pitching, practicing.

In THERE? Pained look. Yeah, it's as long in there as from the pitcher's mound to the batter. Oh.

The brightest light I saw at the ballpark was the green neon ATM sign.

I'm still wondering how the players in the short pants keep their sox up.

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