Monday, July 6, 2009

I Love the Smell of Horsehide in the Morning

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.

* * *

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.

17 comments:

  1. Maybe you'd like to try mixing a little something into your coffee. That might liven things up a bit!

    I'm going to try to get the kids up to a Bluefish game this summer. Do they ever play in the afternoon?

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  2. That sounds like fun. Kind of a post-apocalyptic fun, but still fun.

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  3. Liz -- Not during weekdays. Usually only Sundays.

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  4. I love minor-league ball, but man oh man...they play some terrible baseball in the Atlantic League, don't they?

    Still...worth it just to see Tommy John in a baseball uniform. Betcha he could still get a bunch of his own players to ground into a double play.

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  5. I only watch baseball to look at the guys butts... just saying.

    I'd be asleep after the National Anthem.

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  6. Dude, it's four o'clock somewhere.

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  7. Didn't take any of your children with you? Very manly. I love checking out men who go to games or movies all alone!!

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  8. I think I would totally love morning baseball. I still wouldn't understand what was going on, but I'd probably love it. Basically because I love beer. I would not, however, eat a hot dog before noon. I should really send a passionate letter to our Cub-owned state franchise and get this idea planted.

    Until then, my state will remain both the meth-capital (though I hear on the news today we've allegedly slipped in the ranks) AND the Jell-O capital of this great union.

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  9. HEY!! I was just IN CT two weeks ago. RAINED THE WHOLE TIME.

    I had to rent a boat just to get home.

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  10. Pittsfield, MA during the summer of 1994 is where I learned to love minor leagues. The history, the people, the smells, all brought me to this zen like meditation that baseball was an artistic game.

    However, I detest the MLB and it's money hungry attitude, and so it turns me off to baseball altogether. I also find HS baseball players to be the most arrogant, the most foul mouthed, and the most trouble of any of the athletes in school. Lacrosse is a close second.

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  11. For 20 some years I was in a town where the major league team might have beat the Bluefish, maybe. My love of the sport in any league has never waned.

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  12. Oooooh, now I can't wait for the Blue Rocks game next week. Those fiesty hens gave all the elementary school kids tickets for reading 2 books (or was that 2 words?). It's gonna be a good one as those Chickens battle the Pelicans - please let there be beer!

    PS: Great baseball weekend, wasn't it? Oh, yeah. That's right. Never mind.....

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  13. I've never been to a morning game. what fun! I agree with Liz - put a little Kahlua in that coffee :)

    And also? I can't believe I like you and you hate the Yankees. My maiden name is the same as that of a very famous Yankee player. (give you a hint - Joltin')

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  14. Morning basebal sounds almost as awesome as morning sex, morning booze and morning football (1:00 games start at 10 AM on the West Coast!).

    I wish wish wish wish wish they had built that stadium (or the hockey arena) in Stamford. Either one would draw a much bigger audience here, and I would be at every freakin' game.

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  16. I was at Dodger stadium several years ago when they turned the second triple play in franchise history. Or maybe it was the franchise's LA history. Either way, it was pretty cool.

    Our minor league team here is total crap. And no morning games. They prefer to schedule them when the central California heat is at its peak. And the dog index is in the red.

    ReplyDelete

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