(I accidentally posted this yesterday when it was still a draft. Sorry about that.)
I’m on a work trip and thought I wasn’t going to be able to hit any games during my down time. But my flight to SF landed at 12:55. In the cab I checked baseball scores on my phone and noticed that the Giants and Diamondbacks were only in the 2nd inning. At just that moment the cab passed a sign for AT&T Park.
I was pretty exhausted from travel – but I woke right up. I checked in, dumped my bags in the room, grabbed my baseball hat and hauled ass up 3rd Street. The park was 15 minutes away.
I was bopping on the walk. I couldn’t stop smiling and I kept looking at my reflection in windows I went by and thinking: “I’m going to a Giant’s game!”
Scalpers were dying to sell tickets and I got box seats for $30. I probably could have done better, but I was in such a good mood I was happy to say yes to the friendly scalper. By the top of the 4th I was in the park, watching a scoreless game.
Settling in was tough. It quickly occurred to me that I had never been to a baseball game alone. I was also wearing a Yankees hat, which didn’t help me settle in as part of the people around me. I got a beer and that helped me fall into the flow of the game.
In the 7th inning, 4 guys came and sat down in the row behind me.
“This is a great game,” one of them said. Which struck me as odd because they had just sat down.
“Pitcher’s duel,” said another.
Their conversation sounded awkward and forced. They were saying baseball things that they say on SportCenter and there was a lot of fake-sounding laughter. It was almost like they were supposed to love being there watching a baseball game and they were playing the role.
“Wow! That pitch was 99 miles an hour.”
“You know this guy’s a flame thrower.
“Look! That one hit 100!”
“He’s throwing gas.”
“101! Geeze – this guy can deal!”
They were looking at the pitch count, not the MPH. They were commenting on the pitcher’s 99th, 100th, and 101st pitch.
After a while one of them had a suggestion: “Hey, how ‘bout at the end of this inning we go grab another round and watch from the bar.” Suddenly their conversation became way more natural. They were having fun. It occurred to me that they didn’t really like watching baseball at all. They wanted to drink beers and hang out. They just thought they should like baseball. Lots of people don’t like baseball, which I totally get. In fact, I don’t understand why I like it. Or why anyone likes it for that matter.
At that point I was entirely into the game’s rhythm. The game was a good one and was decided by which team wasn’t perfect (as baseball games often are). It was 1 to 1 in the 9th inning. There was a pop fly to Angel Pagan, the SF center fielder. As he ran for it, he realized he wouldn’t get there, so he slowed up. It was just the tiniest slip. He was lax for just a moment.
The baserunner, Didi Gregorious, recognized the moment and turned on the gas. By the time Pagan realized the runner was flying for 2nd base instead of staying with a single, it was too late. The throw wasn’t in time and the runner was safe.
Next batter hit a single and Gregorious scored. That was the difference in the ballgame. Pagan wasn’t perfect and Gregorious was. Baseball. A pleasure to see it.