My hometown is the "baseball capitol of the world" if you believe the misspelled sign that once graced the outfield of one of the local ball fields. To a degree, it is true. Regardless of season, someone here will debate you on Yankees vs. Mets, Yankees vs. Red Sox or George Steinbrenner vs. Bernie Madoff.
This is why we don't have a professional team in town. We're so busy arguing the obvious -- that the Yankees are evil incarnate -- we let franchises slip away to other cities. As a result, you'll find me on certain weekday mornings between the first wind sprint of spring training and the World Series' last out with a scorecard and a grin about 30 minutes northeast.
That's where the Bluefish, Connecticut's entry in the independent (read "has-beens and never-weres") Atlantic League play a few midweek games at 10:35 a.m. "Why?" I always wondered. "Who goes to these games? And, most importantly, at that hour, can one buy a beer?"
Pulling into the ball field's parking lot several weeks ago answered the first two questions. Behold! A sea of yellow school buses. This immediately gave me pause regarding my third question, for, even if they sold beer during these kiddie matinees, how creepy would one look imbibing it among the pubescent masses?
Yet, at 10:20 a.m., I approached a vendor, held out my driver's license and a Jackson, and summoned up my will like Oliver Twist seeking extra gruel. "Um, ah -- would it be too early to buy a beer?" I inquired.
"No, honey, not at all," she answered. I felt better … until she didn't bother to check the birth date on my ID and, instead, she held my twenty up to the light. "We get a lot of counterfeit bills from time to time," she said.
The games I have attended to date this year were on "Winning Inning Wednesdays," on which one lucky fan collects $10,000 if his or her ticket is chosen. But first the Bluefish must perform a specific miracle, such as turning a triple play (not sure it's happened in the team's 11-year history) or smacking back-to-back homers (the team had hit only 15 in all of its 37 games last time I attended). Odds of winning -- you're joking, right?
But baseball is statistics and probabilities. This is why some Madison Middle School eighth-graders had come to the June 3 game. The students had been taught to keep score so they could later collaborate on the numbers they compiled to make predictions and decisions. These would include whether one-time, three-sport, all-state star and now Bluefish outfielder Adam Greenberg -- famous for being hit in the back of the head with the one and only pitch he saw in the Major Leagues -- was an effective leadoff hitter. The answer, sadly, is "meh."
The beauty of minor (or sub-minor) league ball, though, is not usually the game, but its intimacy. Feeling connected to the three National Guardsman being applauded after being chosen to sit in the "best seat of the house" couch behind home plate just because they had stood in front of you in the ticket line. Noticing the catcher who, after blowing a tag play, reacts to one irate fan by not-so-subtly adjusting his jock in the man's direction. Listening to the night-shift worker at a local hospital give an enthusiastic play-by-play to his 2-year-old son to try to coax the boy's interest beyond the bag of raisins he's munching.
Morning baseball is now my favorite kind in Connecticut, although I might need to star mixing a little coffee in with that beer next time. By the seventh inning stretch, I'm ready for a nap.
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Congratulations to The Cheek of God who won my JumpStart.com giveaway on this site and Janna Bee who won the giveaway I hosted on DadCentric.com.
My Uncool Past
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