These are the dog days of summer. The days when you buy chopped fruit from a street vendor, wear breathable shoes, snicker at people wearing cargo shorts, wear a light sweater at night, and perhaps even kiss a summer fling. There are blasts from boomboxes (cell phones) and people lounging and splashing in the river. There are people sitting on porches with a can of beer and with no hope of ever getting anything done that day. The days are getting shorter and the baseball season is slowly coming to an end, as if a lovely friend was planning a vacation for 6 months. When it ends it would have been a deep and complicated relationship full of thrills, contemplation, happiness, anger, and finally…heartbreak.
Recently my “baseball buddy,” Manny and I decided to take in Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League playoffs this past week with The Sacramento River Cats (S.F. Giants) squaring off against the Las Vegas Aviators. (Oakland A’s) I was particularly interested in this game because Daniel Mengden was on the hill and he and his handlebar mustache had spent a significant amount of time as a starter in Oakland this season, doing a pretty solid job before being sent down. There were, of course, a smattering of A’s prospects that I wanted to see in person although most had been called up when the rosters were expanded a few days prior.
Manny and I did our usual “pre-game” routine of a twelve pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the parking lot complete with the musical stylings of Slayer and the Circle Jerks. We stumbled into the stadium right around game time and settled into our seats a few rows behind home-plate. This game was announced around 48 hours earlier and was only attended by 3000 and change making the atmosphere close to a funeral. The catatonic-like atmosphere only got worse as the Aviators took a 6-1 lead in the third inning, turning anyone in the place not wearing green and gold into a virtual zombie. This was quite the opposite of an MLB playoff game in every way possible.
In a desperate attempt to liven up this experience, we had decided to walk around the stadium and take in the game from every angle possible every inning or so. This turned out to be fruitful as I had a moment of kismet when a ball was smoked down the left field line, arching foul and entering my outstretched hand on one hop moments before going over the fence. Manny returned from the bathroom and I told him he looked liked 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag moments before tossing him the ball.
“Can I have the ball, dude?”
Of course you can.
It was time to go. The game was in the bag and Manny had his foul ball. It was a beautiful, breezy night and I walked across the Sacramento River before biking home and immediately retiring to bed.
I’ve been to 100’s of baseball games in my life, but perhaps the “miraculous strangeness of life” came into play recently as I recently attended a minor league AAA game between the Sacramento River Cats and the Reno Aces. (both teams are affiliated with a N.L. team, I am unpledged to any N.L. team except the Dodgers.)
It was Sunday; there there were hordes of annoying children and even more annoying non-baseball fans out for a sun drenched day–unable to simply figure out the Dewey Decimal system and standing around awkwardly with blank stares, metaphorically taking us back to the primeval seas as protozoa. Kudos to the drunk guy yelling “down in front!” to the yuppies, completely unaware that they had breached the unwritten baseball rule of finding your seat quickly and getting your ass out of the way.
Game facts: there was a grand slam. An event I can’t remember ever seeing live. I had also never come close to a foul ball, instantly disappointed as I dropped one, (bare and one-handed) that had such an unexpected force that my right hand was bee-stung for a few minutes afterward. I had to watch an old guy from the post-war generation two seats in front of me take a picture with my ball. That said, I still cringe when I see a grown man try to catch a ball and recoil like a coward at the last moment. I had just tidied myself with a 12 dollar beer in the 5th when the game was stopped because of a small snake on the infield. This is something I have never seen and perhaps will never see again.
Baseball season represents an infinite cloud of future potentialities, and as I walked in my door and flipped on the tube the Cubs and Yankees were playing an eventual 18 inning affair that broke the ML record for strikeouts in a game. This game has been played professionally since 1876.
Eat a dick, indeed.
For the readers of this blog that don’t follow the Athletics closely–Bobby Crosby was a super-stud prospect who was called up to the big club, won Rookie of the Year in 2004, and then just….disappeared. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, but I believe that this one sums up Crosby’s and hundreds of other players careers that have come and gone throughout the decades. Poem by Sam Yam.
It looks so straight, but ends up slicing
If pitching were a cake, it would be the icing
There’s nothing in the world so enticing
as the slider low and away
It feels like the pitcher is just showing off
I’ve tried to get the runners to tip me off
But however I try I just can’t lay off
of the slider low and away
Fastballs and changeups? I don’t do ’em
Curveballs and sinkers? I eschew ’em
Strikes in general? I say screw ’em
for the slider low and away
They wish that I could hold up and stare
But quite honestly, I just don’t care
Because nothing will end my love affair
with the slider low and away