Month: April, 2012

A Baseball Converation Worth Documenting

I had a date a couple of months ago with someone that had found me on We did the normal dance–corresponding via email, I eventually gave him my phone number which I told him was for actual phone calls not for texting*, and a week later we agreed to meet for drinks near my office after work.

We’ll call him John, though that’s not his real name. John seems like a great guy from the start of the date, though I can’t say the physical attraction is strong. He works at a school, he is well read, and it’s incredibly easy to have a conversation with him… at first.

After talking for 20 minutes, John brings up the thing that caught his eye about me was the fact that I am very knowledgeable and passionate about baseball. He said, “as a big baseball fan, that’s wildly attractive to me.” When he dropped phrases like “big baseball” and “wildly attractive” I couldn’t help but get excited about the fact that I was going to have my first real face-to-face baseball conversation with someone since I moved to Washington, DC. I braced myself.

But the conversation that followed, was one of my favorites that has ever happened with someone who identifies themselves as a “big baseball fan.” I should start this by saying that I do not judge levels of fandom as some do. If your interest in baseball really is attending Fenway Park in a Beadazzled Jacoby Ellsbury shirt and eating ice cream out of a plastic helmet, that is totally fine with me. If you’d like to crown yourself the Biggest Cubs Fan Ever (!!!) because you like to sit in the Bleachers at Wrigley at drink Old Style, more power to you. If you’re a sabermetrics nerd, attend conferences, and feel like you’re going through actual withdrawal symptoms in the off-season, that’s fine, too.

John, the gentlemen in question, is a New York Yankees fan. First, he insisted there be some sort of riff between us because of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, which I find fascinating. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had semi-successful relationships dating Yankees fans, and I wouldn’t decide not to date someone based on the team they supported or whether or not they liked baseball at all.

But, there are a few things that happen in these situations. In fact, I actually feel bad for John. In John’s head, he assumed we could have a very vague conversation about baseball, in which we could share our mutual love of the sport. In John’s head, the conversation goes something like this:

But unfortunately for John, I am not the type that can be satisfied with vague conversations about baseball, and admittedly when I sense that is as deep as the conversation is going to go, I tend to push a little bit for my own amusement. In the real conversation, I challenge John after he admits that he has never heard of Barry Larkin. And when I’m challenged to guess his favorite baseball player, who I figure out by his clues is Don Mattingly immediately, I could not help myself but guess players that fit the criteria that he might have never heard of.

Here is the real conversation that John and I had at the bar near my office on our first (and last) date. And I’m sorry for being mean to you, John. Sometimes a girl can’t help herself.

*Gentlemen, I beg of you: if you’re trying to build a relationship with a woman, do not take her phone number and text her incessantly. Connection and interact are made best in face to face environments or by talking via the telephone. Weeks of texting is not only a turn off, but completely unnecessary…especially if you use text-speak.

Scattered Thoughts Since Opening Day

3/28/2012: There’s technically baseball today. It’s Opening Day, but there will be many to follow. It counts towards the 2012 season record, but if Americans are sleeping and baseball is happening on another continent, is it really baseball?

Yes, I suppose it is.

But it doesn’t mark the beginning of my season, because the only time I wake before 5am is exactly once a week for a meeting with a personal trainer, who straps my decaffeinated body to an apparatus that approximates stairs. I cringe and keep stride to LCD Soundsystem while bemoaning the fact that I am:

A)     Awake

B)     Reminded with each step that back surgery was not successful

C)     In need of coffee

D)    Embarrassed to even look at others in the gym or my trainer because of my lack of fitness

So you’ll forgive that on a non-gym day that I couldn’t stay awake long enough between assaults on the snooze button to even turn on the game. By the grace of extra innings, I see three outs of the game once I arrive at the office.

(Seattle Mariners 3, Oakland Athletics 1) 

4/3/2012: A pre-season gift from Bud Selig arrives in the form of an exhibition game between the Nationals and Red Sox, near my office on a workday. I trade uncomfortable heels and an office-length skirt for my preferred springtime uniform: comfortable denim and an oversized cardigan.

Armed with a new scorebook and G-2 straight from the box, the afternoon is spent at Nationals Park with the starting day lineups getting one more day of warm ups instead of conference calls.

No hyperbole, but I am surrounded by idiots. First, I’m insulted for knowing too much about the Boston Red Sox by a stranger; then I’m told that women shouldn’t know how to keep score as well as I do.

There’s someone four rows back who keeps loudly mispronouncing Saltalamacchia’s name; he has also never heard of Jason Repko. Edwin Jackson pitches this game, but loses. A man from Richmond, Virginia makes wonderful baseball company; he even buys beer.

Teddy loses the race because jugglers distract him. I wonder if this is a metaphor for something larger, but decide to let it go.

Explaining the yips can be tiresome, but sometimes necessary. A close play at the plate to end the game is the only thing to bring home team fans to their feet. It’s hard to tell if they were outraged or just heading for the exits.

Witness quite the kerfuffle on the ramp of death out of the stadium between two unlikely attendees: an Oklahoma Sooners fan and an Auburn Tiger. Not an actual tiger, mind you.

(Boston Red Sox 8, Washington Nationals 7)

4/5/2012: This is Opening Day. It is a holiday in Cincinnati that has been pilfered and shared with other teams, making 4/5/2012 Opening Day for many teams, but not Opening Day for the Mariners and Athletics, because they already had Opening Day a week before Opening Day on 3/28/2012 in Japan.

45,027 go to Comerica Park to see Justin Verlander pitch 8 innings and Jose Valverde earn a win. Jon Lester looks fine, but the bullpen explodes around him. Mark Melancon loses and should not be confused with closer Alfredo Aceves.

My three-monitor setup in the office finally proves useful for something beyond spreadsheets and analysis.

His parents named him Yonder, but it’s a name that they made up—at least that’s what Vin Scully tells me while I’m cuddled on a roommate-less sofa. Clayton Kershaw has a case of stomach unpleasantness, which a man of Scully’s advanced age has no problem addressing in detail.

Ernesto Frieri’s is not the same as Guy Fieri, though I’m certain they both love cheesecake and driving vintage cars.

(Detroit Tigers 3, Boston Red Sox 2) (Los Angeles Dodgers 5, San Diego Padres 2)

4/6/2012: This is also Opening Day. It should not be confused with Opening Day on 3/28/2012 or Opening Day on 4/5/2012. If a team did not have an Opening Day on the aforementioned dates, that team is entitled to an Opening Day on 4/6/2012. There is an exception for the Oakland Athletics, who did have an Opening Day on 3/28/2012, but were granted the right to two Opening Days. If a team spent 3/28/2012 or 4/5/2012 or today, 4/26/2012, on the road for Opening Day celebrations, they are also entitled to an Opening Day at their home park at a later date.

I took a vacation day, because I get one floating holiday for religious purposes. Though no longer a practicing Catholic, I exercised my right to Good Friday. It was indeed Good, as I spent the day in watching baseball on a wall-mounted high-definition television in a hotel room just blocks from where the Orioles were playing. The appeal of uncomplicated company, unlimited napping, and unfettered access to the remote lead me to believe I made the right decision in not actually attending Opening Day (the 4/6/2012 version).

Alex Gonzalez is the starting Shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers, which stumped my bedmate.

(St. Louis Cardinals 11, Milwaukee Brewers 5)

4/7/2012: This is my Opening Day. It is not an official Opening Day, but it is the Opening Day for the first time I attended a major league game in the 2012 record. There is a sabermetrician, a girl just old enough for beer, and newly acquainted Twitter person. They eat bacon on a stick; I buy a round of expensive beers.

A man in our section appears homeless at first glance, but likely just intoxicated and unkempt. He reads the starting lineup demanding our attention between sips of beers he has stolen from a stranger.

The head-shot of Jamey Carroll is downright maniacal. Baltimore gets more excited about something called the Crab Shuffle than they do baseball. People who sit on the edge of their stadium seats, especially when tall or portly, should be asked to leave immediately.

Nick Markakis would have better success as a hitter if he’d learn to hit the ball to anywhere but Centerfield, he tells me. Markakis promptly hits a home run over the Centerfield wall.

(Baltimore Orioles 8, Minnesota Twins 2)

4/11/2012: My work engagement is canceled and I find myself in New York. Prompted by a Pulp reunion, my best friend is there too. Similar fates have us on the 7 train to Citi Field. Some tickets cost $2.50 in an attempt to bring people (and small children) to the baseball park that would inhabit considerably less people if the tickets were higher. This is a basic economic principle called “People Can’t Help Themselves: It’s Cheap Baseball.”

Some bring matzo crackers; others eat Shack Shake. A man dressed as Dwight Gooden is arrested, but he assures security that he had very little to do with what the cops say he had a lot to do with.

There is hot chocolate served in Dunkin Donuts cups, but judging by the dispensers there’s very little Dunkin Donuts about it. Perhaps I should have asked the cops.

Santana pitches well, but Stephen Strasburg pitches better, according to my scorebook. Lucas Duda has terrible walk-up music:  it should be Camptown Races, but it’s not. The disgust for Jason Bay, however warranted, is enough to make me uncomfortable. It’s not to say I want to paint rosy pictures for poor production; it is to say that I appreciate athletes, even Mets, are humans.

Freezing cold, milkshakes, fan arrests, and no run support: the true Mets experience. The song promises that the Mets would be socking the ball and knocking home runs over the wall… the Mets didn’t score a single run.

Contrary to insistence by New Yorkers, no one likes riding a train that long.

(Washington Nationals 4, New York Mets 0)

4/13/2012: The aforementioned Opening Days that could be scheduled by away teams from the previous Opening Days is here. The Boston Red Sox are ready and thanks to an eager computer genius I have tickets to attend.

Grab coffee early before my makeup and shower and run into people I know who are already on their way to the ballpark. They seem perplexed that I am not going to the ballpark five hours before the start time as well. Some eagerness is expected; other eagerness is terrifying. This classifies as the latter, in case there was a question.

There is a towering duck boot in the form of vehicle parked on the cracked cement of Commonwealth Avenue Mall. I am seated and perplexed by the passersby who seem overly eager to take their photograph with a mud boot reminiscent of a nursery rhyme that touts an old lady actually dwelling in a shoe. No mention on whether it was a duck boot, but that’s certainly how I picture it all happening now.

Relieved for sunglasses during the Wakefield-Varitek first pitches, as I can’t explain why sometimes tears form. The tears were hidden I returned to normal quickly. You made me so very happy, indeed.

It is aggravating that Luke Scott is booed, yet most don’t know enough to boo Josh Lueke.

The game continues and I make new friends. There’s something familiar and immediately comfortable about my seatmate and I appreciate being near him. It’s unlikely he feels the same, but at least there was a moment where loneliness was not a concern and laughter was constant. It’s a hopeful feeling with a lingering yet awkward goodbye.

(Boston Red Sox 12, Tampa Bay Rays 2)

4/14/2012: It is no longer Opening Day, which seems fitting for the reunion of old friends. The seats are the worst yet, but they are in the park. Intentionally arrived late to dodge awkward hellos, mostly stemming from social anxiety and guilt over the fact that I am sometimes an unkind person.

Cheap seats and bad behavior are correlated and the men in front of us are no exception. Profanities and projectiles are thrown; vitriol is spewed at an innocent Rays fan. Were it not for the fear of having a man hit me, I would have been more brazen in his defense.

A group of Chads and Trixies are distracting with an intruding foam finger. A drunken fan punches me in the right cheek: a hazard of doing the wave. Nothing about this experience is positive until the fifth inning when my nemesis leaves. There is iced cream in a helmet, which is scientifically proven to taste better than ice cream from dishes made of Styrofoam or waffles.

Clay Buchholz can pitch and does for 7 innings. There are six home runs, five of those hit by Carmines.

Sweet Caroline is still an obnoxious tradition, but I can’t help but feel the lyrics should be changed to Sweet Valentine, bunting never seemed so good (so good, so good, so good) for just one season.

Surely Valentine will be gone after that.

(Boston Red Sox 13, Tampa Bay Rays 3)

4/15/2012: There are eggs served from a whispering waitress and a view of tourists taking a morning march on the Freedom Trail. Is there anything free about following a red brick line down the sidewalk, bending and stopping as it prescribes?

Opening Days are distant memories, and the familiarity of being at a game without fanfare is appealing. The seats are better with infinite legroom and judging by his relaxed perched on the outfield wall, Aceves is just as happy to be there as we are.

I recognize him in my section and spend the better part of the game dodging glances and interaction. Keeping score is a convenient way to avoid relating and I encourage you to do so.

The eephus pitch is beautiful in person, though the man who throws it is sweaty and reports say his past is sketchy at best.

Overdosed on sunshine, there is ice cream: again in a helmet, this time with sprinkles. A homerun lands just one section over; idiocy in tradition dictates he throw it back on the field (and is promptly escorted from the confines by security).

Another files far over the monster, easily the longest I have witnessed in person. Cody Ross is the anti-Drew in demeanor, in ability, and in socks.

Three days in a row and all of them victories.

(Boston Red Sox 6, Tampa Bay Rays 4)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers