I’ve always enjoyed baseball. Not in a fanatical way, mind you… but probably more than most of my family or friends. Because I wasn’t a boy and couldn’t play in Little League, I ended up playing softball. I spent my early years in left field until I joined a team with a desperate need for a catcher.
It was a co-ed adventure in which the only two rules for participation were that you had to be at least 12 years old and you couldn’t be dead. I was the only one on the team who could get down and get back up again – so catcher became my position by default.
That was, of course until that one game when our short stop didn’t show. I don’t recall the reason for putting me in the field. What I do remember was that I proved to be quite good at the job. So from that point forward, they alternated me between the two positions.
Our town had a minor-league team which was, at the time, owned by the Atlanta Braves. I remember sitting at the games, eating giant red licorice whips and nachos drenched in cheese, wondering what it would be like to play professional ball. (Was it possible that someday a woman might make it to the big-leagues?)
It’s been years since I’ve played, but I do still occasionally attend a game. There’s something about the atmosphere of the ballpark that takes me right back to being eight years old, sitting beside my parents, one hand in my ball glove and the other grasping a gigantic Coke. I still delight in the semi-drunk guys who heckle the umpire and my heart leaps with the crack of the bat.
It was for this reason that I jumped at a recent opportunity to go to a game. This one, however, was a bit different. The Texas Rangers had offered our company some comp seats and, nose-bleed or not, I was on my way.
I’d never been to a big-league game before and it was a thrill to sit in the stands with 35,000 other people (half the number of people in my home town), most of whom had the sense to cheer for the Rangers. The requisite drunk guys sat five rows back from me, yelling at the umpire for a call which everyone (including those rooting for Detroit) could see was wrong and heckling a pitcher who seemed unusually paranoid about stolen bases. (This paranoia was not entirely unfounded.)
While it was obvious that I’m not a Texan myself (I removed my cowboy hat as soon as a light breeze began sweeping through the stands – an action necessary in a locale where light wind becomes a gale with little or no warning), I sang “Deep in the Heart of Texas” with the same gusto as my companions. And my heart swelled with joy as we stood for the 7th Inning Stretch.
In the end, Texas lost 8-6, but it really didn’t matter. I’d had a blast. I’d made it to the big-leagues. And it was everything I’d hoped it would be!