An Old Baseball Fan
A warm day at the ballpark with a hotdog and a beer what more could you want?
[It's that time again. Here is a different type of story and just in time for the start of baseball season. If you enjoyed this let me know @amccaul1976 at twitter and just about anywhere else. Also you can email me at [email protected] One question for all the readers. If you could spend some time with anyone living or dead who would it be. I mean Besides religious figures who wouldn't want to spend some time with Jesus, Muhammad, or Buddha ect. I mean someone interesting to you someone who you would think it would be fun or interesting to spend a day with. Tweet your answers to me. Thank you for reading.]
I needed to get away. So I took a day off. It was opening day and I thought I would take in a game at the ballpark. I spent a little bit more and got a box. I bought the whole box. But it seemed like I got a deal so it was worth it. I just needed a day to clear my mind and be at peace.
I got to the box throwing my jacket in the closet and threw some water on my face took a moment just to relax and enjoy where I was and the game I was going to enjoy. Opening day has always been special. I was going to enjoy this one. I took a deep breath and went back out to grab a hot dog and watch batting practice. I grabbed a hot dog off the back table. The box suites always had food laid out in the back of the room. They also had TV's so you could watch the game replayed on TV and hear the commentary. Nachos and Pizza had also been provided. Soda and beer always a popular choice came out of taps and machines on the wall in the back. It was too early for beer so I grabbed a soda. Just as I finished pouring the soda I smelled cigar smoke. "What the hell?" I thought.
"Hey, you aren't allowed to smoke that in here," I Said.
An older man looked around turned to me and said "I am a special case. They let me smoke in the box. Usually I am here by myself and don't get a lot of company. Do you mind?"
I thought about it for a second. I decided that he could smoke it. I wasn't around it very much anymore. In fact I never was and couldn't remember the last time I was. The cigar smoke smelled like cherries anyway not so much like a cigar. Besides there was just something about this old man. I couldn't put my finger on it but it seemed he was special I just couldn't figure out why.
"Sure go ahead," I said.
"Thank you sir not so many men would be alright with it anymore," The old man said.
"How are you in my box anyway I thought I bought the box out," I said.
"Well, Did you wonder why you got the box so cheap?" The old man said.
"I thought I bought it in advance. So they cut me a deal," I said.
"On opening day? I don't think so and you know it." The old man said.
I scoffed a bit kicking one of the chairs and said "I knew it was too good to be true."
"Don't be hard on yourself kid. I wanted to share my house.. er um so to speak. So I told them to sell it a bit cheap and I would split it with whoever bought it. You should have thought about it these boxes are very hard to get, especially today." The old man said chuckling a bit as if it was a funny thing to do to someone.
"So if we are going to watch the game together I guess we should get to know each other better. What's your name?" I asked.
"George," The old man said. Reaching for my hand George asked, "What's yours?"
"I'm Alan," I said grabbing his hand giving him a firm handshake. "It's nice to meet you George."
"Nice to meet you too Alan," George said pausing to collect his thoughts. Then George asked, "What brings you out to the ballpark this fine sunny day?"
"I am playing hooky from my life for a day," I said.
"Well baseball is a fine way to do that for a few hours," George said.
We sat down together and watched batting and pitching practice as well as warm ups. I could tell the old man was doing his best to blow the smoke away from me and out of the open window in front of us and out into the crowd. I finished my hot dog and sipped my soda, the ice cold sweet fluid tasted like nothing else on such a warm sunny day as this.
George turned to me after I finished my hot dog and said. "So why opening day?"
"What do you mean" I said.
"You know, why did you pick opening day to play hooky and experience and not go on vacation or to the beach or anything else?" George said
"Oh, that. Well I used to play a long time ago and I loved when I played. The warm days and even the not so warm ones. The feel of the infield crunching under my cleats. The feel of the bat in my hands and being part of a team. There isn't anything like it and win or lose, as long as I left it all out there on the field I could be happy just playing the game," I said.
The old man smiled and there were tears in his eyes for just a moment. I could tell this man knew what I had felt and in a deeper way than I had known.
"It does make you feel like a king. Part of a team and yet sometimes just you. When you make a great catch or hit a home run there is just nothing like that feeling," George said. Then George asked me, "Was that the only reason you came out today?"
"No," I said. Then I said, "I used to take my boy to the games when he was younger. We came all the time. Even a few years ago when the team won the series I was able to get tickets and we watched them win it right there down on that field," I said.
"A few years ago. You mean ten years ago," George corrected me.
"Ya, ten years ago. Sometimes time moves so fast and it gets away from you. I don't feel like it was so long ago. But I guess it was," I said.
"Sometimes life is like that. Sometimes the game moves fast too." George said.
"What about you? Why are you here? Do you own the team or something?" I asked.
"No, nothing so dramatic. This is my box. I come and sit here every game. I used to play here a long time ago. I found something good in the game. something that made me better. Heck without baseball I'd have been a felon or dead long ago," George said.
"Your not the first person I have heard that from. When I played in High School a guy I knew said something along those lines," I said.
We sat for a while in silence and after some time they announced the starters and sang the national anthem.
"Finally, here comes the first pitch," George said to me.
"I know. That seemed to take way too long to get to the action," I said.
"I have learned to be patient." George said.
"I know I should be a bit more patient." I said.
The pitcher took the mound and chalked up his hands.
"You know it is an odd thing the actual start of the season." I said.
"How so?" George said.
"When you think about it, really think about it, we are in preseason still and will be until the moment the ball leaves the pitchers fingertips. In just one infinitesimal moment we go from preseason to season. Just like that with no fireworks or any big show we will be in the season." I said.
"It may be an odd thing to think about but a simple thing in practice."
Then it happened. The pitcher threw the ball and the batter took the pitch. The umpires voice rang out clear and strong "Strike!"
"Going to be a good season for the home team," George said.
"I agree should be a fine year for them," I agreed.
The first five innings flew by and the home teams scored four runs and in the sixth inning the starting pitcher tanked and gave up five runs.
They pulled the starter and went to the bullpen.
"These pitchers are so weak now a days. Back when I pitched we went the whole game. None of this pulling pitchers crap. We finished what we started," George said.
"Yes but pitchers back in your day ended up with shorter careers and more injuries. Sometimes changes are good," I said.
"Bah, you don't know anything. Men aren't men anymore. Back in my day men were tougher and had way more endurance. Now they are soft," George said.
"Maybe, or maybe we are just smarter and know our limits better so we aren't out there killing ourselves over what amounts to just a job," I said.
"Ah, why am I even talking to you about this?" George said.
"Why don't I just pour us a couple of beers?" I said.
"Good idea," George said.
I went back and poured George and I a beer returning to our seats I handed George his beer.
"So why are you playing hooky from your life?" George said.
"My wife recently left me and after our son went off to Europe and told us he wasn't going to college and was just going to go live and work out of the county for a while and that would be his education. I recently retired and now find my life empty and boring. I really don't have an extended family and I am not a people person so no friends. So I needed to get out of my house and just do something. This seemed like a great way to get away for a day," I said.
George nodded and took it all in then said "I guess that is a good situation to get away from. But look at it this way. As bad as all that is how much worse could it get. Really you sound like that is rock bottom but that is a good place really since only good things can happen to bring you back up from there."
"I guess so," I said.
George and I talked about life and commented about the things we saw on the field. Until the bottom of the ninth. Home team was down with one man on. One pitch changed the whole game. The visiting closing pitcher left a slider out over the plate and the batter made him pay. The resulting walk off home run made us all celebrate.
"Man I used to do that a lot for this club," George said.
"Really? You know you do seem familiar. Do I know you?" I asked.
"Yes, I think you may have heard of me. I am in the hall of fame," George said.
"Really, who are you?" I asked.
"Well here let me sign a ball for you," George said.
George pulled a ball and a pen and signed a ball. George held the ball out to me and just before my fingers touched the ball it slipped out of his hands and rolled under the seats. "oops," George said.
"It's alright I'll grab it." I said and reached down to get the ball. When I got up George was gone. I looked around as there wasn't anywhere George could have gone. Not a lot of places to hide especially for an old man who didn't seem to move very fast. I looked down at the ball and it was signed '#3 George Herman 'Babe' Ruth'.
"George" I called out. I looked through the entire suite and found no one.
So I left the box. Outside one of the ushers asked "Did you enjoy the game sir?"
"Yes, but an odd thing just happened. An old man I was watching the game signed a ball and claimed to be Babe Ruth. But that can't be true he's been dead for seventy years," I said.
The ushers eyes went wide and he said "So it happened again."
"This happened before?" I asked.
"Yes, but only two other times. I can tell you a few things about your experience if you like?" The usher said.
"What?" I said still shocked.
"Well what ever the advice he gave you or whatever you talked about. That was just for you and you should listen to it and take it to heart. Also that the ball he gave you is either signed by him or is the best forgery that any expert has ever seen. Whatever the case the experience is surely a unique one," The usher said.
I nodded and said, "thank you."
The usher nodded and and said, "your welcome sir."
It was a long ride home and I thought a lot about what just happened. After I got home I put the ball in a nice case and put it on the mantel. The gun that I had laid out on the pillow, I cleaned it and took the bullet out of it and got rid of it.