Thursday, June 16, 2011

How Fun is THAT?

Ball parks are fun.  If they weren't, they wouldn't be enjoying the crowds that show up to cheer the team on to victory.  They're full of excitement, movement, sound, food, fun promotional activities, and on top of all that, there's a live sports event to watch, complete with surprises, great hopes, the chance to cheer or boo the players or the umps, and get your heart racing with the hopes that this time the batter might hit it out of the park! 
But. (If you know me, you knew there was a "but" coming.) Not everyone is a fan of baseball.  There, I said it.  And have implied that I am one of those who is not a fan of baseball. This leads to cognitive dissonance, at the very least, as it seems I have signed on for a tour of excessive visits to minor league baseball parks this season. 
And the actual truth is that I cannot call myself a true fan of baseball.  I am a fair weather fan of baseball games that are populated by people I like to spend time with.  I am certain that I am not alone in this description.  Many people like passing the time with friends and family that are true fans, and that's the category in which I belong. 
Note the term "fair weather" fan.  Weather has been a deeply important factor in my daily life on this trip. At home, Whittier weather is pretty constant. Sunny and dry.  Sunny and hot.    Overcast and cool.  On the hottest days, I hide indoors as it seems there is a somewhat narrow range of temperature in which I can remain cheerful- say between 65 and 85 degrees fahrenheit outdoors. And home is not humid.  
Since Texas, we've had intermittent spells of such hot weather that my orientation has been focused on finding relief.  On one particularly hot day- nearly 100 degrees at 11 am, game time in San Antonio,  we were given seats in the hot sun- none other available, and I insisted that we leave the park before one inning had passed- all Joe got to do was sing and leave.  I had spent about 45 minutes of standing in shaded heat waiting for him to do all his pre-singing prep.  The singing takes less than two minutes, but the prep can range from 30 minutes to much longer. Though leaving the game without getting to watch any of it is not Joe's first choice, he is gracious enough to realize that it's best we go if I insist. 

The rain cover is being rolled out at 7:10--to be put away at 10:00!
The "much longer" record for time spent in preparation for a game is currently three hours. Durham, North Carolina was our destination when we set out from Zooland RV Park, in Asheboro, about an hour away.  It was warm and dry, but we'd heard reports of rain and brought umbrellas in the car. We arrived to find swarms of people there 45 minutes before the game, a sold out crowd because the Boy Scouts were going to camp on the field that night. An oversight by someone in the administration left us with no tickets waiting at will-call, so they printed up some that put us in the picnic area (full sun, bring your own chairs).  Not a good start for me on a warm humid day.  Joe immediately found a staffer who provided two seats, with apologies that they weren't in the same row- sold out for today! 
Joe went his way with his notebooks and camera and pitch pipe, but soon found me to tell me that the forecast had strong showers to show up just at game time. There would be a delay, and I would be advised to find a place to get protection during the rain.  There were some empty seats in an uncovered area, but since it was sold out, I wasn't comfortable taking someone else's seat and being asked to leave. 
It rained for three hours. By then I was not in a good mood, though I will say that the one fourth of the original group in attendance who had not gone home was quite cheerful when the game started at 10 pm. Most were scouts, who still planned to camp on the field. I was not a happy camper.  It had been hot, noisy, sticky and solitary for me to the point that when Joe finally showed up to keep me company I had nothing to say, but only sulked. It's not fun feeling trapped at a ballpark - or anywhere, I suppose, but this was hard, as I'd chosen to come. 
So. The solution to the dilemma is to decide more carefully which games to attend.  I had prepared for all sorts of alternatives, most involving sitting out the game time at a coffee shop, as what else is open in the evening? - or staying at the RV, which at least has diversions like books and movies and even sometimes internet access.  
In my ill humor after the three hour Durham rain delay (yes, I did insist on leaving immediately after he sang), I silently vowed to myself to never attend a game again. Note the "silently".  It's easier to break vows to yourself (if they ever were true vows, anyway- actually more persistent petulance) if you haven't shared them.  Planning up until the last moment to avoid the next game, I gave in and climbed the steps to the concourse at the Lynchburg Hillcats. 

That was a great decision.  Though I'd spent the pre-game time plugged into my iPhone music to avoid the droning announcements on the speaker, I noticed some very spirited fans behind me, and soon was unable to keep from interacting.  They had loudly praised the quality of Joe's singing and began discussing how wonderful it was that he was crossing the country on this tour.  "With his wife!", I chimed in, starting up a set of interactions that was to be the most pleasant yet at a ball game.  Six women slightly older than I were loud, happy and devoted fans of the home team.  They attended two or three times a week and provided extensive local color- when the announcer failed to urge the team on with the trumpet call answered three times by "CHARGE!!", this group took it upon themselves, started up by the trumpet sound of a most enthusiastic and LOUD member of the group.  It was terrific fun. The general manager dropped by to see Joe, then the son of the owner, and one of the women started hooting at Dennis, who they said was a terrific sports broadcaster at the local TV station.  
At the entry to the Lynchburg Hillcats park
"Hey, why don't we get Dennis to put the anthem singer on TV?" they discussed, then one of the group took off to make this suggestion.  Soon the camera swung around and we were all being filmed.  After Dennis had put all his equipment away, the game got interesting -it had been a very slow start to the action, but Dennis still gave it up for the night, and came to interview Joe. 

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