On television, baseball is one of the most boring sports to watch. It’s right up there with … wait, no, baseball is THE MOST boring sport to watch on TV. Live, it’s a whole other ballgame. I went to a Spring Training game yesterday at Camelback Ranch Stadium, Glendale, to see the Chicago White Sox play the Cleveland Indians. It was anything but boring, but it’s not necessarily because of the sport itself.
My obsession with live baseball began in Toledo, Ohio, with the Mudhens—a minor league team whose games I frequented over the summers of 2005–2007. I attended these games during the glory days; in 2005 and 2006, we took home the Governor’s Cup—the International League Championship in which the Mudhens reigned supreme. But again, it’s not about the sport; it’s about the experience.
Janine, my roommate back in 2005, was my compatriot. We would drive from pretty Perrysburg to dingy downtown Toledo, the crown jewel of which was Fifth Third Field (located across the street from my favorite Toledo bar, The Bronze Boar). Why would we arrive early? We wanted to watch the players stretch before the game. Obviously. I mean, have you seen a baseball player stretch? They’re more flexible than yoga instructors! In fact, when I saw Tim Lincecum play here in Phoenix last year, he actually used yoga in his warm up!
Now, Janine and I did not only attend games to check out baseball players’ butts. We also went so that we could spend atrocious amounts of money on hotdogs and beer.
Is a hotdog (what Dan Akroyd once referred to as “lips and a$$holes”) worth five dollars? Of course not. Did we spend five dollars anyway? Certainly!
Is a tepid Miller Lite worth seven dollars? Gag me with a spoon. Yet, years ago, did we spend seven (more like twenty) dollars at every single Mudhens game for a crappy beer? Indubitably!
When I think back to my life in Toledo, some of the brightest points occurred at Fifth Third Field, because no matter what was going on outside, I could lose myself in baseball. Baseball meant men in tight-fitting pants. It meant sports and screaming obscenities at people you didn’t know. It meant frying in the sun—a harbinger of summer, after an endless winter. It smelled like fresh cut grass, and afterward, you knew you could head to The Bronze Boar and spend even more money on beer and stale peanuts!
Damn it, if this isn’t what America is all about, I don’t know what is.
When I moved away from Ohio, I discovered the River Dogs of Charleston, South Carolina. They sucked. It was like watching a high school team—a bad high school team. But it was still baseball. Now, I’m in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks … well … they suck, too, for now. Maybe this year will be better, but regardless, it’s awesome to head downtown on a Sunday afternoon and sit—like a shell frying on a beach—at Chase Field.
Live baseball will always make me happy. Sure, I’ve invested years of money in attending games. I’ve ruined my vocal chords after spectacular double plays and home runs. I’ve bruised my butt on uncomfortable chairs, and back in Toledo, Janine and I once fawned like teeny boppers over a catcher with an arm like a machine gun. But it’s all part of the experience; and the experience is what matters.