The last thing I want to do on this fine Saturday afternoon is give any more attention to bumspazz homophobe trainwreck Roger McDowell, but I am having problems dealing with the hate-induced rant that caused him to scream: “kids don’t belong in the (bleeping) ballpark!”
Sorry, McDowell. You are a bonafide jerkwad.
And a waste of our national pastime’s space.
Dude, kids ARE the ballpark.
And for me, thinking back to my childhood days… about the wonders of green astroturf lighting up my eyes on a breezy summer day, sharing a bag of roasted peanuts with my old man, reciting player tidbits I memorized from the backs of baseball cards… I smile now, just as big and just as bright as I did then.
Because life at home wasn’t always great.
My mom and dad didn’t love each other anymore. My sister and I were separated by 120 miles. And I had a penchant for being passive-aggressive… all quiet and bottled up until BOOM — someone got hurt.
At the ballpark — a magical otherworld where all of life’s problems were strictly prohibited — I could just be me.
I could just be a kid.
I could just be…
Hate me ‘cuz I make up words (sometimes), just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
On Sunday, April 10, 2011, I spent 3 hours and 51 minutes running 26.2 miles along the streets of St. Louis, Missouri; and I can honestly say, it changed my life.
We often hear “the marathon” used as a metaphor for myriad events. The baseball season… is a marathon. Every December I look forward to… “A Christmas Story” movie marathon. Life itself… is a marathon. But when we say all of the above, what we are really just saying is that some things take a long, long time to complete.
Let me assure you, the marathon is much more than that.
It’s setting a goal and working towards it.
It’s getting up at the crack of dawn while all your friends are sleeping in.
It’s battling fatigue, slaying freezing temps, conquering blazing sun.
It’s knowing your limits, pushing them, then pushing them again.
It’s glowing when people ask you why you’re so positive about life.
It’s metaphorizing your life, making up for past mistakes, proving you’re not a nobody.
It’s throwing the hammer down on negativity.
It’s getting a song stuck in your head that… just… won’t… stop.
It’s rewarding yourself with a big, fat, juicy burger every Sunday.
It’s asking yourself “I paid to do this????” only to realize, “Hell yeah I paid to do this!!!!”
It’s thanking strangers who hand you Gatorade and oranges and Vasoline (not always in that order).
It’s being aware of your surroundings, taking in the sights, the smells, the cowbells.
It’s being extraordinary…
It’s being inspired…
It’s being an inspiration.
But most of all, it’s feeling like death only to discover just how alive you really are.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
*PS, To the lovely, smiling woman who held up a sign shortly before Mile 3 that read “If you don’t finish, Albert Pujols will sign with the Cubs”… well, I want you to know that around the 22 mile marker, when I just about wanted to die, I thought about that sign and I finished that damn race for you. MUAH!
Jeff!!! I loved your pictures from Nats park and I’m psyched that you
got to see Strasburg. I also saw that you’ve been to Sox park and
Wrigley recently. What’s your favorite ballpark that you’ve already
visited and which place would you like to see the most?
After a fiery, bloody internal debate that lasted well over an hour, I finally decided not to begin addressing this query by postulating what one would find if he/she were to actually venture to Manassas, VA… ‘cuz I’m pretty sure one can find Man-assas (a$$e$?) anywhere… including ballparks all across US America.
Still got it, folks.
Okay, maybe not.
But it doesn’t matter… and neither does the ballpark, Caitlin. What matters is the game. Sure Busch hosts my boys, Wrigley’s nostalgic, Nats Park has Ben’s Chili Bowl and Sox Park is a good place to pick up Latin Queens; but to be honest, I can find something positive about any and every ballpark I ever go to. And I’ve been to many.
My favorite random ballpark story is the one about the Oakland Coliseum. I happened to be in San Francisco on business. It was a Saturday night and I had nothing to do, so I hopped on the BART to Oakland, walked up to the ticket counter at the Coliseum and said, “I got forty bucks. Where can I sit for that?”
“In a good seat, Honey.” said the kind ticket lady.
Ten minutes later I’m sitting behind homeplate on the first tier above ground level and I can hear Nick Swisher’s awful jokes with my own ears. Ten minutes after that and I have a Fat Tire in my hand (at the ballpark!) and a few hours after that I was sufficiently drunk off the seductive elixir of the game itself.
And that can happen anywhere.
Though there is one place in particular that I just gotta go to, before it goes back to just hosting football games:
(Chewbacca image via 9GAG)
It was one of the most exciting three days I have ever experienced — being there, participating in the focal point of the entire baseball world, sharing with like-minded folks who love the game just as much as I do. The memories will last forever; yet even I — a man with a unique ability to alienate any intelligent conversation with my critical case of baseballitis — yes, even I could use a break.
Now back in Chicago, I plan to use my free afternoon to reflect on the staggering, inspirational, communitarian adventures I was privileged to have… and of course, pay tribute to the baseball gods who made it happen.
The National League lost. Oh well. I am not crying about it because it really means nothing to me. Despite the final score, the game was noteworthy for its cleanliness, its quickness, and how aside from a couple fielding errors (and only two walks — one intentional — if I remember correctly) it was one of the most correctly played games I’d ever witnessed live.
But even I am easily star-struck, and for me, perhaps the neatest thing was being able to see so many gifted athletes on one field, at one time, playing together. I have to say that from our right field bleacher seats, watching Ichiro Suzuki was a true pleasure. I have never seen one man do so much stretching in such a uniformed and regulated fashion. Before I knew it, my attention was solely focused on number 51.
Leading up to the game, I couldn’t help but fall in love with my country all over again. The tribute to the troops, the hometown all-stars, the President’s pitch and that wicked cool SR71 flyover are still giving me goosebumps.
Now, on with the photos…
It was something I will never forget.
I am not so full of myself that I believe everyone wanted
a piece of me during yesterday’s All-Star festivities; but wearing
throwback gear from a team long dead certainly gave me an edge. As a
walking memory, representing Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Delino
Deshields with porn ‘stache swagger, I was definitely drawing
attention. Unfortunately, the security people holding me back at field
level, blocking my attempts at getting a word with Erin Andrews did not
find me as irresistible.
“I need to talk to Erin Andrews.” I told them with confidence.
“Because, it’s my destiny.”
“Get the hell outta here before I throw you the hell outta here.”
well. Had to keep my head up. I was part of the Homerun Derby. Busch
III was electric. And despite all the partying, I was somehow still
The Derby? Well, it was what I thought it’d be: very
exciting for the first half hour, then pretty boring after that.
Several balls came close to us in our right field seats, but one guy —
the SAME GUY — caught two balls (one from Ryan Howard and one from Joe
Mauer) and after standing for the three hour event and being
shot down by Erin’s handlers before I even had a chance, I ended up
leaving Busch III ball-less… well, sorta. Anyway, here are some pics
from Fanfest and the evening’s homerun contest. Click on them for
Okay, y’all. I’m gearing
up for the big game tonight, Molina jersey on my back, praying the that
the National League doesn’t embarrass me… again. This would be as good
a time as any for us to win this thing (not that I really care) and I
have a feeling I’ll have a better shot at meeting President Obama than
I will Ms. Andrews.
She doesn’t know what she’s missing.
Hate me ‘cuz I’m here, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Keith Hernandez, say hello to the Lady Killer.
Gotta admit, since crafting the ‘stache, I creep myself out every time I catch my reflection, but I fit right in here at the All-Star festivities in St. Louis. An old man in a Mets hat even asked me for my autograph (he thought I was Thomas E. Dewey until his caretaker reminded him that Dewey died in the early ’70s). So I did the right thing, lied and told him I was Dewey’s son.
That was a stellar start to what turned out to be a pretty disappointing day.
Because after only three outs were recorded in the Futures Game the sky turned black, thunder cracked and it rained… and rained… and rained…
After walking the concourse for four hours, drinking my weight in beer and buying more overpriced All-Star trinkets than one person will ever need, me and my buddy decided to book.
So we met some friends, went to a bar and watched the Cardinals beat the Cubs.
Good friends, good game, good times.
And today is gonna get even better. Admittedly, I’ve never been a fan of the Homerun Derby. Watching it on TV is about as boring as watching Nascar: boring! But I have a feeling that being there, in right field, in prime homerun territory, it’s going to be something to remember — especially if I snag some homers using the swagger and intimidation factor of my new accoutrement: the Lady Killer ‘stache.
In order that my aging father can find me easily during and camera shots of right field, I’ll be donning my 1980s era Montreal Expos jersey and cap — making this a special occasion indeed.
So here we go, folks… All-Star fun in full effect! I will fight my way down to get a word with Erin… and in case you missed that Lady Killer, here are some more photos:
US America rocked by St. Louis Cardinal hats… very cool:
Make one declaration to the worldwide interwebosphere about how you’re going to do everything in your power to land a date with the most beautiful woman in sports broadcasting and suddenly you’re considered a creepazoid stalker who could use a lesson or two in social tact.
Creepazoid? Maybe. Tactless? Probably. Stalker? No, sir.
I made my intentions very clear; and I’m pretty sure I was a perfect gentleman. It’s 2009, y’all, and the internets is where it’s at. I mean, you can do everything on this crazy series of tubes: order takeout, save money on your car insurance, get Twitter-blocked by Barry Zito. Why should chasing Erin Andrews be any different?
“But, Jeff,” my mother said, “what if your girlfriend reads this?”
“My girlfriend does not read this blog, Mom.”
Boy, was I wrong.
I tried to play down my actions of sneaking around my girlfriend’s back to get a real shot at Ms. Andrews, but she wasn’t as understanding as I had hoped. At least now she knows; and I am happy to report that she hasn’t broken up with me over this so things are working out pretty well. I mean, let’s face it, a couple of cigarette burns to the chest are well worth her allowing me to continue on with my special project.
Still, there is just one small problem: Erin Andrews is a lot more mobile than I. And, well, ESPN hasn’t helped me with passing on my messages (sweet as they all are).
What Fulbright Scholar would let such foibles deter him from accomplishing his task?
Indeed, I have a plan. You see, I bought tickets to the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis. I’ll be there for all the fan festivities: old-timers game, home-run derby, futures game — four days of pure debauchery — and a possible encounter with Ms. Andrews herself… that is, as long as Joba Chamberlain doesn’t get in my way (but who would make him an All-Star this year anyway?).
Hate me ‘cuz I got skillz, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.