Monday, April 3, 2017

Play Ball

“Do you know what today is?," Geoff asked me conspiratorially on Sunday. Certain I hadn’t neglected a birthday or an anniversary (this time), I knew the answer before he said it:

The first day of that seemingly interminable, seven-month-long slog to the pennant otherwise known as Opening Day of Major League Baseball.

Look, I’m not one of those women who’s going to sit here and pretend to love professional sports just to sound like a sexy tomboy. My favorite outfit is yoga pants (minus the yoga) and a hoodie; not my boyfriend’s Twins jersey and thong underpants.

I’m bored to tears by almost every minute of almost every professional sport, with the exception of post-season baseball, and even then I’m only a reluctant fan. In fact, I’m what you might call a “conscripted” fan. Everything I know about baseball (which is a lot, considering my overall lack of interest in the game) has been foisted upon me against my will.

I was born and raised in the Bronx, where it’s practically sacrilege not to root for the Yankees and attend as many home games as possible. My dad is a YOOGE baseball nerd, having written at least one book and many newspaper articles on the subject. He dutifully toted his only child along to more games than I can count in the now-demolished "old Yankee Stadium"--The House That Ruth Built.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun.

I liked the sticky, metal blue nosebleed seats whose bottoms sprang up to reveal a gallery of masticated chewing gum underneath. I liked the gritty cement floors with staircases at 75 degree angles and the sleepy ushers who looked more like zombie corpses than anyone prepared to enforce a seat assignment.

I looked forward to the vendors hawking hot dogs and saran-wrapped beer in loud, booming voices, because cotton candy was my sixth inning entertainment. I spaced out on the giant Klieg lights illuminating post-war, walkup apartment buildings lined with steel fire escapes behind the outfield, and wondered about the lives of their occupants and whether they were watching the game, too.

Bob Sheppard—who started with the Yankees in 1951 and definitely sounded old in the 80’s—had a gravelly, thundering voice consistent with his nickname, “The Voice of God,” which for me was synonymous with this sentence: “At first base, numbah 23, Don Mattingly, numbah 23.”

All of this was infinitely more interesting to me than any action happening on the field.

In modern times, when the players keep getting younger and we keep getting older, Geoff’s moods rise and fall on the Yankees' state of play. A favored topic of conversation between Geoff and my father is the Yankees' shaky pitching staff, which aging sluggers "stunk up" Yankee Stadium this week, and what terrible trades the team made in the off-season. 

For instance, only one day into the 2017 regular season, I was treated to plaintive wailing about Masahiro Tanaka’s shellacking on the mound in which he gave up seven runs against Tampa Bay and lasted less than three innings.

Bottom line: It's April, and my fate is sealed until November.

Play ball.

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