Three Generations of Baseball Fandom

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I was hounding John Sadak, the media guy for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders – but it wasn’t going to happen. Then at 2:05 my phone rings.

“Hey, this is John Sadak.”

“Holy crap!” I shouted into the phone.

He said we were in for an interview, but we had to get there by 5:00. Jack was at the pool, Shani was watching a TV show, we weren’t packed, I needed gas, and GoogleMaps had it as taking 2:34 to get to the stadium. GO!

We scrambled, randomly throwing any possible item of interest into the trunk, calling the pool, yelling at everyone to move it. We were on the road at 2:55, and I drove way faster than my usual 71 mph. No traffic, no cops…at 4:55 we pulled into the parking lot at the stadium. John Sadak came to the front gate to let us in.

This was our second interview, and it went even better than the first. Jack shook John’s hand and mumbled his name in a way that was audible. Alex did the same. John took us to the press box, the radio broadcast booth, and the TV broadcast center. Alex took a photo of every individual knob or switch on each piece of equipment while Jack ran through his questions. He was much smoother and more comfortable this time.

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(Notice that Alex is taking a photo of a computer monitor off to the side.)

John is the “Voice of the Railriders” and every time he answered a question I was struck at how clear and fluid he sounded. He made an explanation of a water main break that happened sound like an edge-of-your-seat play. He was great with Jack. Then he took us back to the press box.

“I’ve gotta go now, but you guys are welcome to stay in here as long as you like. Only two writers are going to be here, so the back row is totally free.”

My eyes got way bigger. Ahead was a view right behind home plate. Behind us they were setting up tables of nachos and sandwiches. John was going to let us watch the game from there. I thought of Shani sitting in the hot parking lot reading and waiting for us to come get her. My Dad and his wife, Mary, were on their way. My mind was like a rat sniffing around for a way out of a trap.

OK…so just keep in mind how good these seats would have been. This photo shows the view.

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We grabbed Shani and brought her into the stadium. We were the first people in.

The park is PNC Field, and it’s the Yankees AAA team (closest to major league). They rebuilt the stadium last year, so it’s brand new. The stadium is gorgeous and gleaming white and blue. They nestled it right up against a hillside, so there are shale cliffs ringing the outfield. It feels different than most minor league stadiums. It doesn’t have the small-town sweetness most other fields have. This stadium feels big and polished. Commercial. It’s like a tiny version of a major league ballpark.

We headed for our seats…and here begins the trouble.

First, my rationale for the seats I chose. Normally, front row seats are ideal. Alex is not stuck behind a tall person. The boys can race after foul balls and easily high-five the mascot. This was not an un-informed decision.

But in this particular case, my seat selection was not good.

At PNC Field, front row seats are level with the field. And there is a 4-foot wall in front of you. We were way down the third-base line and the batter was way off to the right.

Shani immediately recognized these seats as poor.

“Why did you pick these seats? The boys can’t see a thing. I can’t see either.”

OK…my eternal baseball battle is for Alex. Jack and I could sit and watch a baseball game balanced on top of the foul pole. But I’m always working to make sure Alex enjoys the game. Part of this is NOT ADMITTING OUT LOUD THAT THE SEATS STINK.

My Dad showed up. We exchanged a hug and then…

“You have to learn to pick seats that are above the action.”

I raced to guest services to try and switch the seats, but it was a sold out game because of 4th of July fireworks. I slunk back to our seats and was thrilled to see that the entire section next to us was empty.

“Ooh. Let’s move up there,” I said.

“We’re going to get thrown out when the real seat-holders get here,” Shani said.

“Is a whole section going to arrive? We can just move. The game starts in 5 minutes. We’re good.”

She wasn’t moving, so I grabbed the boys and we went up to scope it out. We found seats 10 rows up with a great view and no one around us in the entire section. I waved down at Shani, who was sitting next to my Dad. It was at that exact moment that the announcer came over the speakers.

“Please rise for the singing of our national anthem.”

Shani looked over at my Dad sitting next to her, and then spun and gave me a big “here we go” smile.

OK…time out. Some background on my dad.

  • Point 1: My dad LOVES to sing. He has a booming baritone voice and has been in choirs and singing groups his entire life.
  • Point 2: My dad is entirely un-phased by social norms.

So while my dad is an atheist, if you happen to be in a church with him and a hymn is playing, he sings. Loudly. In fact he will often sing the harmony parts loud enough to match the rest of the congregation.

If you happen to be at a school musical with my dad and the big finale number comes on, you can expect him to sing right along. Loudly.

If you’re at a ballgame

  • AND you’re mad at your husband
  • AND you’re not happy with your seats
  • AND you don’t really like baseball
  • AND your husband and kids just left you there alone next to my dad
  • AND the Star Spangled Banner begins to play…

“Grampa Harry is singing really loud,” Alex whispered up at me.

Indeed he was. Over the sound of the girl on the microphone, drifting over the entire crowd, with perfect diction and in a glorious baritone, standing right next to Shani, my dad proudly sang every single word of our national anthem.

Just as the anthem ended, about 1000 kids from a summer camp started streaming into the empty section I’d found. The boys and I were booted back to our lousy seats.

The game was a good one. Scranton smashed two home runs in the 2nd inning, which immediately got the crowd into the game. They eventually won 5-2 with good pitching, but the highlight was the outfield play. That was a treat to watch from where we were. It’s one thing to watch a guy run across your TV screen and make a play amidst multiple camera angles. It’s another thing entirely to watch an actual human haul ass full tilt across real distance in front of you and dive just in time to reach a ball. The timing of it makes your heart stop. You can’t help but scream with excitement at what you’ve just seen a person do.

Jack stood the entire game and was especially alert with all lefty batters, hoping a foul ball would shoot our way.

Alex was bored and I had to feed him constantly.

Shani eventually put her feet up on the wall, leaned back and fell asleep with her hair dipped into the beer cup of the man behind her.

Still, it was a perfect night to sit and watch baseball. I had a lot of fun sitting next to my dad and keeping the score sheet together. Score sheets appeal to my dad. It was a quick game and when it ended we were all ready to see some fireworks. Ballparks are terrific places to see fireworks. And while our seats stunk for watching the game, they were perfect to lean back and watch the fireworks go off on top of the hill.

The firework show began…almost directly behind us.

It was an odd circumstance where they were so close that he only saw about half of them, yet we heard them at double the volume. But once we all got up, turned around, and leaned against the wall it was still pretty terrific. Shani tapped my arm and pointed to Alex, who was staring up in awe. We spent the rest of the time watching him watch fireworks.

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I can only imagine how great those fireworks would have been to watch from the press box.

So for those of you keeping score of Jack’s interview project:

Completed:

  • Trenton Thunder
  • Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders

Team we have invitations to come do interviews with:

  • Wilmington BlueRocks
  • Reading Fightin’ Phils
  • Lakewood Blue Claws

Then Jack will write the article in August and hopefully submit it to SI Kids soon thereafter. Oh — and here’s a photo of the Railrider mascot and my dad exchanging a hug.

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3 thoughts on “Three Generations of Baseball Fandom

  1. Collette Shine

    Do you have your Lakewood game scheduled? Maybe we can join you if it works….And any chance you are coming into NYC for All-Star Game Fan Fest at Javits Center?

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