Take Me Out to the Ballpark

comments 26
Reflections

The first thing I noticed at the Red Sox game last night was the craft of it: the subtlety, the precision, the angles, and the matching shoes the entire grounds crew wore. You sense it immediately: there’s a deep knowledge of cosmic forces that has taken up residence in ballparks all across the world. Like most things, you have to know what’s happening to understand it. You have to let yourself know what’s happening. You can’t just glean it from looking around and drawing inferences—you’ll end up insane, you’ll start to question everything. You’ll beg the person next to you to be reasonable. It can’t be that, can it? Not really. It can’t be like this. This. Whatever this is.

The local television reporter holds a black wand in his hand and makes his speech into thin air, smiling and gesticulating with the animation of a professional. This is important. He touches a hand to the ear piece. He nods. He does it all over again. You take the time to do this just right. It’s a night game, thunder heads threatening, no time for tomfoolery. You do it again if that’s what it takes.

Three guys near home plate are raking dirt over the chalk outline of the batter’s box, then sweeping the lines clean, then raking over more dirt. They’re making progress, swiveling their hips to get the angle right, dragging dirt over the lines, sweeping them off. It must be some new-fangled chalk they got. Chalk all the way down at just the right places, so it doesn’t matter how many times you brush it. It just stays right there. You don’t chalk the field anymore, you reveal the chalk. You take what’s always been there, and make it plain.

They’ve got a German shepherd lying down in the infield, paws out, chin on the grass. She knows what’s going on. Everyone else knows what’s going on. So you better just accept it: you know what’s going on, too. This is ancient. This is important. They bring the kids around in their size 2 numbered jerseys and give them a spray can so they can pretend they’re shellacking the rubber on the pitcher’s mound. Then two guys with the real cans and a set of towels go to work. Spraying, brushing—always touching the rubber ingot, the point of origin, with the clean side of the towel.

There’s an order to this. There’s a deep relationship with invisible forces. You can see it. Your part matters.

In the batter’s boxes, after they reveal the chalk, they bring out bags of the special dirt, pour a little on the end of a white plastic snow shovel—it has to be that one—and fling it into a fine cloud of dust that settles down on top of all the rest. The guy with the shovel, he knows just how to do it. You whirl the shovel around, but you do it under-handed. You don’t mock the hitters who’ll be coming through later. You don’t smile or give an eye this is anything but hard work, the work that must be done. I can’t understand it, but this is what it is. You surrender to it. Your part matters. It’s a bag of magic dirt from down below, under the field. They said a few words down there first probably, in quiet, to build the mojo.

They spread some more of the magic dust in the infield. I think maybe it’s to dry the top layer, because we had some sprinkles. Then they bring out the hoses and wet it all down, starting on one side, and working their way across, so that’s not it. You can’t think your way through this. What needs to be done, needs to be done. You better get on board.

Buchholz, the Texan, he’s having a tough go this year. He’s gotta’ get right with everything that is, but you don’t do that in one outing. It’s a road you hoe. You show up. The forces whirl and you stay in there, face inside your glove, staring down your pitches. His wind-up is awful slow and they steal third—did we get him!? I thought we got him!—and the one from first fills the void at second, standing up. The forces are turning, tumbling. It’s too late now to go back. We gave something away there. The gods saw it. They cleave off a base hit and two runs score. We’re in a hole now. We’re laboring. You can hear the Bud Lights cracking open in the gloom.

Then our catcher steps up and rips one down the right field line like the way I hit a nine iron, fizzing off towards the boundary, whistling like a firecracker, and no loft. Perfect. The park has an ancient design, and the ball clears the fence the only place that it possibly could on a drive like that one. Leon knows this. You can’t go to the well too often, but we did everything right tonight. We made all the right moves.

The rookie they called up from the farm team, he sees how to do it. Benintendi. Slaps a double out into the grass and it’s all even again. If he can do it, I can do it, says Betts. We go into the lead.

Time for the wave. Gimme’ a bag o’ them peanuts.

In the seventh they get a base runner. They hit a chopper straight for second and Pedroia runs to his right, scoops the ball up backhand with his glove and waggles it right back out like an egg. Bogaerts is hovering near second like a good idea, waiting for it. He catches it, drags his toe across the bag, hops away from the slide and fires to first. It’s a dance. That’s all this is. A dance.

But the magic is deep and inscrutable. In the eighth we walk three guys in a row and the energy turns. Bases loaded, no outs, the go-ahead run at the plate. Out comes Ziegler and his side-arm. You do anything you can to break the energy. We watch, stunned, as he throws ten pitches for three strike outs and across the river, they see the skies shudder. (See what I mean by watching the video here.) We come unglued. The lid is off and there’s no going back.

The ninth is a formality. It ends in a dance. What did you expect? When we reach the car the skies open up—lightning crackles over the city. Rain falls. The crew will be up all night planning the steps for tomorrow’s game. Figuring out the dirt. The chalk. The tarpaulins. Where the kids will walk. The music. The dance.

26 Comments

    • Yes, it’s fun isn’t it!? Just letting oneself go… Seeing and accepting the magic, the ritual, the absurdity, the glory all at once!

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

    • My pleasure, Don! I’m not sure the magic is in the ball game, or the crazies in the stands like me. But it was fun. I don’t actually watch much baseball, so when I do go, I give myself over to it. Ha! I’m not sure there’s another sport that allows for such a clear insight into the way the statistics both matter and lie through their teeth at the same time!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says


    Not sure how to share the actual video, but here is a link to a great Red Sox song called Angels of Fenway by James Taylor. I did push “share” but then nothing happened. Oh well. I hope you enjoy it.

    I love your line, “You don’t chalk the field anymore, you reveal the chalk. You take what’s always been there, and make it plain.” and “You have to let yourself know what’s happening.” and “You can’t think your way through this. What needs to be done, needs to be done. You better get on board..” Here I go again. I could just quote you all day. All the levels in one story. This is really great.

    Peace and home runs,
    Mary

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks, Mary! I did enjoy the video. That was quite a season, the year they won the series after going down three games to none against the Yankees in the ALCS. Those were some late nights here on the East Coast. My pet peeve living out here is the way local games don’t start until 9 PM when they’re nationally televised, so you have to basically stay up until midnight or 1 AM to see what happens? The whole region was zombie-eyed for a week after that World Series… Ha!

      Glad you enjoyed the deeper undertones of this piece also!

      Peace!
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Take me out to the ball game….Tampa Bay Rays for me…..get those peanuts, watch for foul balls and dance in the stands to the jumbo tron theatrics….all magical, like life…..dancing happy just because we know what it’s all about in the long run….fun.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes indeed, Kim! Dug this out of my spam. Thanks for the heads up today. What the heck is going with WP!? I like the Rays. Always enjoyed hearing Joe Maddon stories. He liked to keep it real. And fun. As I understand it, anyway… 🙂

      Peace!
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You sure do revel in the game, Michael. Seriously, that was an awesome post!
    (We’ll see if your team keeps dancing, however, when they play my Indians this afternoon!)
    Go Tribe!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Kelly,

      Yes, I did have some fun. I had some fun writing about it, anyway! Ha! Glad you enjoyed it. I didn’t see the game but looks like the Sox won a close one with the Indians. New England will always love Terry Francona… I have to say one of my favorite Terry Francona moments was actually when he was between manager jobs, and he was doing color commentary for the little league world series. A team from the Caribbean was playing, and their manager was really upset about a call, and he was reading the ump the riot act, and Francona said he was pretty impressed, and that if he ever got back in the majors as a manager, he’d have to remember to drop a few porque’s once in a while… Maybe you had to be there. But it was priceless, the way he said it. Ha!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sounds like him! I lost track on how many times he’s been ejected from games! And congrats on the win… you didn’t even rub it in! You sure are polite, Michael lol

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Ha! That was some magic Michael! You got me interested in a ball game! Only briefly though, only through your magic storytelling. I’m not about to go to a game or anything. Now let’s talk about competitive figure skating – now there’s a drama waiting to unfold!
    love smiles
    Alison xox

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Alison! Yes, there’s a sport with some dramatic tension for sure. It’s really neat how some sports, like figure skating, involve the practices recreation of an ideal, while others aspire to the recreation of an ideal but only through the interplay of chance and spontaneity. Baseball and figure skating seem to fit on opposite sides of that line… Glad you enjoyed this piece. I had fun writing it!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Summer fun at it’s best – and keep this on the down low, even though I live in Toronto home of the Blue Jays, I was raised as a Red Sox fan. Tried and true 🙂
    Harlon

    Liked by 3 people

    • Your secret is safe, Harlon. I’m a transplant but we didn’t really have a baseball team in Alabama, other than the Birmingham Barons perhaps. We defaulted to the Braves. I watched me some serious Glavin-Maddux-Smoltz playoff runs when they were in their hay-day!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love how you captured the ritual and reverence of a true fan. I will be at Fenway for the first time with my hubby to celebrate his 60th birthday and see Ortiz’s last game on October 1st. He is so excited to share the magic and awe 😍

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Ahhh! You made me feel as though I was there! And I have been (well…never a game at Fenway…but a Bruce concert…does that count? 😉 ] But many moons ago I was a lucky gal to sit just behind 3rd base at Yankee Stadium…a time or ten!! Don’t get me wrong, the older I get the more I prefer to catch sports on a giant flat screen. But, there is NOTHING like BEING there! You captured the tiny nuances to perfection, my friend! Lovely! Sending love and blessings ♡

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Lorrie. You’re right– it’s just different somehow, being there… I don’t get psyched up about braving the traffic and the lines and the parking conundrums, but I’m always happy I’ve done so. Once every few years is a pretty good frequency for me. 🙂 We had a ball, and that way it’s always a whole new experience…

      Love and blessings returned,
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  8. As Mary observed – this is great. And as with Mary, I don’t mean ‘great’ in a casual sense; it’s exceptional writing; it has a dynamic, an intensity, a palpability. Take this line: “You can hear the Bud Lights cracking open in the gloom.” That’s such a perfect way of bringing the field of vision tightly to within one’s touch, so as you sense the whole thing, the complete experience. Really Michael, this is masterful writing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Hariod! I really appreciate your compliment, and the line you chose. It was one of my favorites, too. It’s been interesting to play a little bit with sentence structure and tone. Though I’m not sure I was playing all that much with my usual tone– at least my inner one! Ha! It was fun to overlay the routine of a ballgame with something a little heightened, as I think sometimes we lose sight of the novelty all around us in our daily life…

      Peace!
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s