there's a red, white and blue baseball, done up in a batik-y sort of design, sitting on top of my CD rack, a reminder of last night's ball game. also sort of the karmic payback for me nearly getting beaned by a fly ball. ;)
so we go up once a year, a group of us from the office, to see the Lowell Spinners at LaLecheur Park in Lowell. well... more like, it started out as a group from the office. life being what it is, we're a but more spread out these days. but fran still pulls together the game, and it's great. this is about the sixth or seventh year running that we've gone up there, i think.
i snagged a ride with some of the guys, and of course proceeded to hold up the party train. they were all set to leave at 4. (truth be told, i think they would all have left at noon in a heartbeat.) thankfully, they were patient enough to wait about 20 minutes while i finished up a few things. and then we were off. ed decided that we should avoid the major roads and try the scenic route. i wasn't really paying attention; i was sitting in the back seat, quite happily balancing my checkbook and singing along with all the songs on the radio. so it took me until about half way up to the park to realize what an odd experience i was having. i was in a car full of guys - who were reading the map! and knew where they were going! and didn't have to refuse to pull over to ask directions! correct me if i'm wrong, but this seems to be an anomoly.
got up there just about on time, and headed over to the brew pub to meet up with the rest of the gang. persistent bastards that they are, they had gotten tables outside, despite the imminent threat of rain. and it turned out okay. munched on hyme's french fries, sucked down a beer, caught up with some friends, and was momentarily hopeful when we got that *five* seconds of sun. well, we didn't get sun, but we also didn't get much in the way of rain, other than a sporadic sprinkling.
turns out it was a double header that night; the game the night before had been rained out in the first inning (same storm that clobbered us over at the Pavilion). so we decided to hang out at the pub a little bit longer and go over for the later game. somehow, we had it that we could only get in to the second one. i looked over at bill, made the universal hand gesture for pool, and got the nod. and off we went.
the brewery is a great complex - brew pub, movie theatre, and pool hall. oh, and they have air hockey and darts. what more could you want? a ball park around the corner? hey, we can arrange that. ;)
we got settled at a table, and i was able to hunt down a 21 cue (my preferred weight, altho a tad difficult to find in most places). racking up was a bit of a challenge, as there was a crack in the wood. i just snagged the one from the next table over when the boys weren't looking. and it all started off well... only to go downhill rapidly. the point of the game really was to practice, as i found out recently that i'm desperately needing it. about halfway thru the first game, bill looked over at me and said 'damn, you game is *really* off!' i was blaming it on exhaustion, the air conditioning vent i had to stand over to make some shots, the beer, residual weakness in my left arm (recently confirmed by my neurologist)... pretty much everything but the fact that i just have no game anymore. but at least the fact that he said my game was off confirmed my suspicion that i did, in fact, at one point actually have game. i see a whole lot of solo sessions after work, just me and the table, racking and breaking. because, really, you can't walk into a place with your own cue and then just suck all over the place. that's plain embarrassing.
but back to the game. the Spinners were playing the Staten Island Yankees. not the dreaded Yankees, exactly, as they're Single A. but they're on their way to that status at some point. we came in about the 5th inning of the first game, and they were playing well. then the Spinners proceeded to tank out 4 or 5 runs. boo! hiss! Yankees are ahead! i wander off to get a beer, and as i'm headed back, i hear several voices yell 'heads! ball!' now, my reflexes aren't the best. but i did at least know not to turn into the ball. landed right behind me, and some little small grabbed it up. made for quite the topic of conversation the rest of the night. they guys all wanted to know why i didn't catch it. um, because i don't usually spin on a dime, and i didn't have my glove with me? perhaps. then, it turns out, i was the person out of our group that customer relations or whatever they call themselves decided to give a free ball. so it all worked out nicely.
then they cleared the field for grooming between games. donna and i were watching the guy raking the sand with his little riding mower sort of thing, drawing perfect Etch-a-Sketch concentric circles. she wondered how he had learned to do it so perfectly, and i offered that perhaps this is the summer job for the Zamboni guy. oddly enough, someone else said exactly the same thing a little bit later, completely indepent of our conversation. so it must be true, right? ;)
you know, going to a ball game isn't ever really about the game, or not just about the game. the park is a gorgeous place to hang out; it was designed by the same person who did Camden Yards, down in Baltimore. we rarely ever stay in our seats (the most expensive of which is $5 - beat that with a stick); it's too much fun to hang out at the top of the bleachers, just shooting the breeze. often, we do this right by the Red Hook beer hut. surprise... not, if you know our group. and they always do something between innings for the kids, like the Dizzy Bat competition. two kids go out, put their foreheads down on a bat standing on the ground, and spin around 10 times, before trying to run to the finish line. the fact that the announcer regularly undercounts the spins only makes it more amusing. invariably, they fall down in spectacularly amusing ways.
oh, and the Dawg Man is back this season! we all thought he'd retired last year and moved to Florida. but i guess the lure of the park was too much. he's a hot dog vendor, but also his own form of entertainment. over his big crazy handlebar mustache, he wears a baseball cap complete with floppy Snoopy ears, and the menu is written down the back of his t-shirt. he's just a hoot, and i'm glad he's around.
it's such a great experience going up there to catch baseball played for the love of the game. i think i may need to pull together another outing for the gang the end of the season.