J.B. and I are going to the ballgame today. Kathy scored a couple of great seats that someone was selling at work, and she thought we would enjoy a day at the ballpark together. By the end of this month, if all goes according to plans, he’ll be gone to the West Coast, where he plans to live, indefinitely. I have really mixed emotions about his going.
On the one hand, I want him to realize his dreams, and one of his most immediate dreams is to get the hell out of Virginia and out to California, where the laws and attitudes are not quite so intolerant of him. I don’t blame him for a second. There is much about living in Virginia that I like, but the blatant intolerance of anyone who is not a Christian heterosexual simply appalls me. It’s very much a Bible Belt state. I will never understand those who tote and quote the bible, using it to justify their hatred and intolerance of others who are not just like them, or who don’t fit their mold of what they think is “right”. They are one of the reasons I refuse to identify myself as a Christian. Well, that and the fact that my spiritual beliefs do not fit nicely into any religion’s definition. The ones I’ve come closest to identifying with were the Church of Religious Science (not to be confused with Christian Science, not even close), and Unitarian Universalists. But, I digress.
On the other hand, I'll really miss not seeing him as often. We're used to him being away - he's spent every summer for the past 5 years working at Super Camps on college campuses all over the world, usually in California, but also in Turkey and Hong Kong one year. But, during the rest of the year, he's only been an hour's drive away, down in Fredericksburg. Now, he'll be at least a 5 hour flight away. That's a lot different. But, it's his dream, and that he must follow.
While J.B. never really got much into playing sports, he’s always been a big sports fan. I guess all those hockey games we took him to when he was younger rubbed off on him. I don’t even pay attention to college football or basketball unless he’s around. He’s a much better informed sports fan, in general, than I’ll ever be. For me, it’s always been baseball first, then hockey, then pro football. I don’t go for all of the other stuff that’s out there to follow. I honestly still don’t get NASCAR as a sport, but it’s really popular with folks, especially in the South, so I guess there’s some appeal there. I just don’t see the athleticism in driving a car around in circles all day. Call me old school in that regard.
When baseball first came back to D.C., I went completely nuts over it for the first few years. That was the year that I had started playing softball again, after a 25 year hiatus from it, and I was only playing on one team then, a total of 20 games. I was one of the original full season ticket holders for the Washington Nationals, and actually attended 41 games at old RFK Stadium that first season. I sold the tickets to the other 40 games I didn’t get to. We spent our 20th anniversary at the ballpark, in the rain, despite the fact that Kathy can’t stand baseball. That’s when I knew she really loved me!
Over the next 3 seasons, I went to fewer games each year, as I got more involved in playing softball, and finally gave up my season tickets a year after the Nationals moved into their brand new ballpark. It just cost too much, and became too much work to try to sell the tickets for all the games I didn’t go to. Last year, I only got to a couple games before September, then made it out to 7 or 8 games in September. People kept inviting me to games when they had an extra seat. Everyone I know thinks of me when it comes to baseball, which is pretty cool. I was only playing on one softball team in the Fall last year, so I had more time on my dance card for ballgames.
Today will be the first game I’ve been to all year, except for a couple of Spring Training games I got out to while we were down in Disney World in March. Of course, this is the Nationals’ first winning season since they came to town in 2005. Not only are they winning – they have the best goddamned record in all of baseball. They have two of the most highly touted young players, and they have a pitching staff that throws nothing but smoke at opposing hitters. And I’ve been missing it!
But, not today. Today, I’ll be out there, with my peanuts, cracker jacks, and baseball glove, ready to catch a foul ball. It sounds like our sits will be in prime foul ball territory. Up until the year the Nats came to town, I had been going to baseball games for 42 years, hoping to catch a foul ball at each and every game I ever went to, and for 42 years, had come up empty handed. I resolved that year that I would get a foul ball, but I went to all of the games that I had tickets for, and after the last one I went to with my tickets, I still hadn’t scored a foul ball. I had sold my tickets for the last weekend series of games, thinking I’d be out of town, but I didn’t wind up going away. Hugh invited me to the last game of the season, and I sat with him and Elliott right behind the Nationals dugout. In the 8th inning of that, my 41st game of that season, my 42 year of going to baseball games, I finally got my foul ball! We had a code that, whenever you get a foul ball, you look for a kid to give it to. I was cool with that – I didn’t need to keep it. I just needed to get one. I looked around for a kid to give it to, and Hugh said “They’ve all gotten balls already, Pete. That one is yours.” Over the next 3 seasons, I would get 7 more foul balls at games. I became a foul ball magnet. They always seemed to find me.
Kathy warned/reminded J.B. that I don’t like to stay in one spot when I go to the ballgame. Even though we have great seats, I’ll need to go down to say hey to Hugh and Elliott, who sit right behind the Nationals’ dugout on the first base line, and my favorite usher there, Karen, will hug me and want to find me an empty seat, and she’ll insist I stay there for the rest of the game. But, she knows I’ll decline the offer. My feet will need to roam. I like to experience the game from all angles. I like to climb to the highest nose-bleed seats, and see what’s going on there, and catch that perspective of the game, as well. Plus, I have friends all over that ballpark who I haven’t seen all year that I’ll want to catch up with.
However, I will try to limit my roaming to one or two innings, as I want to make the most of this time with J.B. – unless I can talk him into roaming with me! That’ll be a whole ‘nother ballgame.
Photo; My first trip to Fenway Park, in Boston, where I saw a Playoff game.