As I wrote on Friday, one of the big events this weekend was the PuddinPop’s first real, live Cincinnati Reds game at Great American Ballpark. Of course, it’s easy to say you’re going to a ballgame, but there’s a lot you have to work out for such an undertaking. You don’t just snap your fingers and show up at the ballpark. Well, ok, maybe you do if you live in a corporate box and have someone named, I don’t know, Anise, that sets up your weekend plans, picks up your laundry, and sends your wife flowers when you screw up (jewelry if you screw up really badly).
I don’t have an Anise. When I screw up, I have to resort to good, old fashioned groveling.
Lacking a personal assistant as I do, this business is therefore a bit more work for me. I have little to rely on besides the internets and less free time than I would have thought possible when I was 17. Nonetheless, decisions needed to be made and actions taken, especially in regard to transportation, parking, tickets, heck, even where to sit in the ballpark.
Surprisingly, I had the hardest time deciding where to sit. In my youth, when visits to the ballpark were more frequent than they have become since I joined the ranks of responsible adulthood, there was never a question about where to sit. You either bought “Top-6” tickets (the highest 6 rows of the stadium, which were the most budget friendly for impoverished youths like myself), or, if you were lucky, you got “Straight A” tickets from school, which were pretty high up in the air as well.
In other words, the only balls and strikes I ever saw those days were on TV. Based on my early, in-person experience, the strike zone was a theoretical concept, much like “world peace” or “Cincinnati Bengals Championship”. No, when it came to going to a baseball game, I was there for more tangible, visible things, like hot dogs and home runs.
But this was the PuddinPop’s first game. There wouldn’t ever be another one. I didn’t want him to come away from the experience wondering why you’d bother leaving the comfort of the couch and the clarity of HD television for an afternoon at the park. The thing is, though, you can easily spend the cash equivalent of the gross national product of Lithuania getting seats where each ballplayer’s eye color and shirt sleeve length are readily apparent.
I didn’t figure that was quite necessary; I wasn’t planning to need to identify anyone in a police lineup. It’s not like this was a Bengals game. Still, we wanted to be in the same zip code as the ball. Ultimately, then, we settled on outfield seats just a few rows from the wall. They put us relatively close to the field without making my inner tightwad cringe, and yet simultaneously gave the Puddinpop a modicum of hope that someone might hit a home run in our general direction.
As luck would have it, two long shots did come our way. The first looked like a home run heading right for me, but it ended up curving foul and eventually landed a section to our right. The second, one batter later, was Zack Cozart’s first major league home run. It landed just to our left, maybe 40 or 50 feet away.
I couldn’t help but smile when that homer fell into those nearby seats. Moments before, the thought that he could conceivably hit one out crossed my mind, and for a second or two, I dreamed of catching it for my kid. Truth be told, that was much more fantasy than anything Ricardo Montalban peddled on that island with his little buddy, Tattoo. Honestly, most of my experience catching baseballs has come with an XBox controller in hand.
But actually catching a ball hit by a major league player? Um. Yeah.
Even if I had somehow magically caught that ball for the PuddinPop, I realized that he would have had to give it back to the Red’s rookie shortstop. Ball players like to keep those kinds of things, you know, to show to their mothers. We weren’t about to get in the way of that. So it’s just as well that he hit it someplace else.
Nonetheless, just before that ball left the bat, I had a moment of childhood fantasy, at 38 years old. A moment that showed exactly why you leave you the couch and the high definition big screen at home.
Tell yourself what you will, going to the ballpark isn’t ever just for your kids.
And that’s just they way it ought to be.