We watched the Marlins’ game with one mission: to see the home run sculpture go off. We’d seen the drawings, the Youtube video, and we wanted to see the real thing in action. We thought we might be waiting a while, but Omar Infante’s solo shot in the second inning set off the 75-foot monstrosity, much to our delight. In celebration, I raced to the shelf to grab a bottle of Bulleit and we did a shot directly from the bottle and turned on Gloria Estefan, which I’d argue only heightened the experience.
He tried to convince me that the Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium were an endearing fixture and that I should learn to appreciate the hard work and dedication they bring to the ballpark every game. Upon the third acknowledgment, I changed the station and he wrestled me for the remote. We settled on fifteen minutes of the banal History Channel television show Pawn Stars before I agreed that Chumlee is far worse than Ali Ramirez ever could have been and I watched all nine innings.
He wanted to wait in line at Shake Shack, which I thought was extremely ridiculous, disrespectful even, given the fact that there was a baseball game going on. Yet, he waited in line while I leaned over the balcony watching the game in the distance and he greeted me with a shake and a kiss—even though he missed two innings, I certainly felt as though I’d gained something.
He doesn’t come to visit often, but when he does, I make sure to take him to a shop that sells action figures and other collectibles. Among the Alf dolls, Star Wars action figures, old records, and Lite Brites, there are bins filled with used action figures that haven’t seen regular playing time in twenty years. Being sheltered from nerdom, I don’t recognize most of the contents in these plastic totes, throwing aside the Han Solos and space creatures, because we’re looking for something very specific: the Starting Lineup baseball action figures we had as kids, but have since lost. A Mike Greenwell and a Carl Yastrzemski later, the trip was a success.
At a bookstore that also serves dessert, he tried to convince me he was a man who knew what he wanted, despite his age. While I’d usually find such conversations on first dates about wanting a relationship frightening, he said everything with such conviction; I had no choice but to believe him. And to be fair, for two months he was right.
It had been a long day of work and travel, and by the time I arrived at his place, I was exhausted. I kept fighting the urge to fall asleep, and even through cat naps, he kept talking to me about baseball. He’d go on a lengthy diatribe and ask, “Cee are you awake?” and I’d say yes, even though I wasn’t. We fell asleep on a sectional sofa, arms adjoined across the L shaped furniture, listening to Vin Scully call the Dodgers game. I remember it all, even though I was sleeping.
Because of the patio party tickets at the White Sox game, we had unlimited hot dogs and beer, which ultimately leads to poor decision-making. Somehow we acquired stickers for the busy right-field patio bar, and six of us crammed into a picnic table attended for four. For three outs, in an act of pure drunken ignorance, he continued to scream, “IS IT PRONOUNCED BOSSSSSH or BOUUUUSSSSH?” at the right fielder for the Detroit Tigers.
We sat on the floor for over an hour, digging through unorganized bins of baseball cards. Some were separated by the team—the White Sox and Cubs had their own boxes—but most were sorted by era only, creating a grab bag of surprises. As the three of us sat there pilfering through the boxes, growing our collections, we shared laughs over tragic haircuts and statistics. When it was time to go, we paid nominally for the collection of cardboard and purchased new packs to find rookie Jason Heyward’s. I wanted an autographed Varitek card that resided with the other cards of value underneath the glass, but couldn’t justify the expense on my graduate school budget. On the walk back to the train, I was surprised by a card a friend purchased for me—a Jason Varitek card in a camouflage chest protector, which I affectionately call my Camo-tek card.
While at an Orioles game, he told me that the reason Nick Markakis would never reach his full potential is that if you look at his spray chart, he hits everything to Centerfield, and so he just misses out on home runs frequently. In his next at-bat, Nick Markakis hit a home run…over the Center field wall.
At the Phillies/Red Sox game, my dad quizzed me on baseball trivia as the occasion necessitated. Fortunately, I could name all the teams John Mayberry played for and I also knew what year Pete Rose joined the Phillies. We ate peanuts, which is our ballpark tradition, and because of the wind, the dust of the peanuts was blowing everywhere—including into the Paula Deenesque hair of the woman in front of us.
Even though I had 103 fever on Opening Day, I decided to go anyway. I cuddled up on the sofa in the suite with a blanket that someone from the organization produced when he saw me shivering, drinking hot chocolate and Kahlua, watching the first game of the season. Though it didn’t aid in my recovery from the flu, it was at least a three-hour departure from feeling miserable.
He told me that he’d bought the cheap seats for the game we attended because money is tight, and I completely understood. I didn’t look at the ticket as we entered the gates, and we stopped for a beer, a new hat, and to hug a statue, in that order. I followed him through the concourse because I’d follow him anywhere…and he led me to seats just a few rows from the dugout instead of the nosebleeds I’d expected. Even though we’re not together, he continues to be the best surprise of my life.
When we met at the White Sox game, he had biked down from the north side. He had agreed to watch the White Sox/Red Sox game, instead of the Mets. From our seats, you couldn’t see the outfield scoreboard that posts the scores of other games, so he was insulated from seeing the Mets score, which he was recording at home. Our seats were in the shade along the right field line, while two friends baked in the sunshine of the third base line. Reaching their tolerance, they came to find us. Upon arrival, they introduced themselves to my friend. Noticing his Mets hat, one of them said, “Mets? Oh, they won” ruining the surprise of the game’s outcome that awaited him on the DVR. Luckily, they became friends anyway.
Our second date was watching the San Francisco Giants win the World Series in his bed on television that still had bunny ears, even though it was 2010. It largely didn’t matter, because there was good company, a bottle of champagne, and a cool breeze coming through the bedroom windows on an October evening. I’d cut out early on a pumpkin-carving party for this celebration, a decision I do not regret.