Sunday, July 17, 2005

A Day at the Game

Karen and I drove into Oakland today, for a special event at McAfee Coliseum. It was Barry Zito figurine day. We lined up early to make sure that we would get a free figurine, and we were not disappointed. You can see Karen above, proudly holding the unopened box, figurine inside.

It's amazing to think that in our few years here in America, both Karen and I have become such big baseball fans. After all, we are Canadians in a country where the Canadian national anthem is not even worth a decent performance, a performance like the Star Spangled Banner gets every game. When the Toronto Blue Jays are in town, Oh Canada is only worth a pre-recorded organ version that sounds like it was taped at the municipal hockey rink in Red Deer Alberta, haltingly played by the part-time organist from the local United Church.

Yet despite our questionable national origin, we are such big fans that we can now carry on conversations with other baseball nuts about things like pitch-counts and slugging percentages.

But my love for baseball did not begin with a love for the major drama that happens on the field. Like any other baseball fan, I love ninth inning heroics and a well executed double-play. But it's the rest of the game that I first loved, and still do.

Like today. We sat in the left-field bleachers, where the hard-core fans sit. We don't go often enough to be considered hard-core, like the guy who is always wearing that green hockey mask, or the elderly, stick thin man in the tight black pants and Buddy Holly glasses, dancing with his pom-poms to a song only he can hear. We're not that serious. But we are regular enough to catch small pieces of the other action, all the minor drama that happens off the field. This is the drama I love to watch.

This drama comes in the polite rejection of the balding man, sitting in the row front of us, by the woman who is more interested in someone else. She's more interested in the guy who doesn't get high fives from his friends, but high twos, because he only has a pinky and a thumb on his left hand. So all his friends hold thier three middle fingers down, leaving only their pinkys and thumbs up, when their right hand meets his left.

I love to watch how the gulls begin to fly when the bottom of the ninth inning comes around, knowing that they will soon be able to attack all those half-eaten hotdogs and peanut shells, because the game is almost over and the fans are about to leave. Even today, when the game went into extra innings, the gulls picked up on this, too. They only dappled the field with their shadows when they heard loud cheering, the kind of cheering you hear when a game was just won by the home team.

I love calling Joe, Julie and Grace, good friends who are A's fans but far away from Oakland, and telling them I'm at the game. (I love calling Jane, too, but not today. She's the biggest Barry Zito fan I know, and I was afraid she would be jealous of my figurine.)

I love that a seven-year old boy gave me his last peanut.

I love the fact that the elderly lady who was hit in the leg with a foul ball, got a souvenir baseball to take home. It wasn't the foul ball that hit her, despite the the chant from the crowd, "give-her-the-ball, give-her-the-ball." The man who got that foul ball, on the rebound off her shin, wouldn't do it. But she got another ball from an emissary from the left-field bleachers. He had collected a ball caught during batting practice, and presented her with that one. She turned to us all and gave a happy thumbs-up.

This is why I like baseball. For the the game, yes. But more-so for the friendship, and above all, for the drama that takes place in the bleachers.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marvellous - what a great day! I have strong memories of the humanity that lived in the Exhibition Stadium bleachers when the Jays played there. And when I used every excuse in the book to cut class and pay my four dollars for a seat. Yupp - marvellous.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 3:32:00 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

When I was a kid, baseball meant the Mets at Shea stadium and Lee Mazilli on First Base. My maternal Grandfather was a huge baseball fan, although I only remember going with my Mom, sister and brother. (My Dad wasn't into it -- we'd go when he'd work late.) Funny, I don't think we went all that much -- maybe one season -- but it lives among my favorite memories of growing up.

For my Mom, baseball was the Brooklyn Dodgers and Duke Snyder. She never forgave their exodus to California, nor mine so many years later.

For my kids, baseball will mean the Anaheim Angels at Angel's Stadium, and Dodgers that are New York replants, just like their mom.

I have to admit, baseball hasn't been the same since I've discovered Little League -- even Lee Mazilli himself can't hold a candle to my very own right field hero.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Well, Kim, I sure hope you are most often cheering for the Dodgers - rather than the Angels, Oakland's division rivals.

Or at least I hope you are not cheering for the Angels tonight or tomorrow. Go A's!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 11:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Knowing you'd like a first-hand account, Preston, let me tell you that Barry Zito was exquisite last night in Oakland's 3-0 win over the Angels. (I actually like the Angel players, but they suffer the misfortune of wearing red instead of green and yellow.)

As Grace and I watched the mysterious #75's first few warm-up pitches, we noted that his fastball had some nice pop, which carried over into the game. Several times, he started a batter with that surprising zip. He seemed to render many of them uncertain throughout his seven innings. Guerrero took several pitches, itself a shocking development, and once got all the way to a 2-2 count. He probably hasn't been that deep in the count in two or three seasons. Zito was also helped by several nice double plays, and one of the relievers, Justin D perhaps, the spelling of whose last name could contain a biblical code, started a beautful DP in the 8th by grabbing a come-backer and whipping it to second without a moment's hesitation.

As the game wore on, Zito's strike-to-ball ratio only improved, and I wondered if Grace and I were having a foretaste of heaven's bliss; but only a foretaste, as evidenced by the dispiriting trade of Eric Byrnes,in whose honor Grace wore her new #22 Athletics t-shirt, not to mention cap, sox and hair-bands. By the end of the 8th, you could hear that wonderful chant--"Let's go, Oakland! Let's go, Oakland!"--and Grace was among the loudest of supporters.

When the game ended, the Athletics had taken the series and were in second place, largely on the blessed right and left arms of Rich Harden and Barry Zito. Are the Angels the team of miracles? No, indeed. If anyone, then the Athletics were surely God's favored last night!

Thursday, July 21, 2005 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

We listened to some of the game on radio. I thought I recognized Grace's voice . . .

Great to se the A's take two of three, in, ahem, ANAHEIM. Sounds like you both had fun. We still talk about coming down when the A's are there.

It will be hard in Texas, now, though. Blanton, Haren, and Sarloos aren't quite Harden or Zito. And Harden doesm't pitch until game four. I'd be happy with a split.

Thursday, July 21, 2005 2:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Preston,

I desperately seek your advice. I have been invited to attend Sunday's Angels vs. Yankees game. If I go and root for the Angels to win, then a Yankee defeat will help my beloved Baltimore Orioles, but it will mean betraying my allegiance to the Oakland Athletics. If I go and root for the Yankees to win, then the blessed Athletics will be aided, but my beloved Orioles, who have traditionally been the franchise above all other franchises, for they have almost always Played Baseball The Way It Should Be Played, will fall farther behind. Plus, rooting for the Yankees for any reason feels much like a sinful thing to do.

To add to my ethical and spiritual dilemma, my host, who has so graciously freely offered me one of his Angels' season tickets, is an Angels fan himself and an ordained Episcopal priest.

I am in a terrible fix and in need of your Godly counsel. What should I do? For whom shall I root? Should my head be where my heart is? Or should my heart be where my head is? Is there a permissable lesser of two evils of which to avail myself?

Theologically Perplexed

Friday, July 22, 2005 9:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Theologically Perplexed;

Fr. Preston is reading the box-scores right now, so he referred you to me. I hope that I can offer the same erudite wisdom that he offers. I admit I will be hard-pressed, but I will try.

First of all, thank you for coming forward. Admitting that you are having a hard time is one thing, but coming forward for help is another. I commend you.

I understand that your loyalties are divided. You love your Orioles, as you love the Athletics, you don't want to offend your host, nor do you want to root for the Yankees whom you so rightfully disdain.

But you are approaching the problem the wrong way. The question is not, what is the lesser evil. The question is, who is God's team?

Well, the answer to this, my son, is easy. After winning 12 of their last 14 series, and winning 31 of 44 since June 1st, with the best ERA of any team in tha AL since June 1st, the answer is clear. The Oakland Athletics are God's team.

So your choice is simple; align your will with that of God's, or rebel against Gods will. Serve God and root for the Yankees to beat the Angels (though (making sure you root for the Yankee's to lose the rest of the time). Even the Yankee's might serve God in this situation.

And as for your host? What better way to serve God than to convert him, correct his errant ways, and convince him that the Angels are no team from heaven.


The Confessor

Friday, July 22, 2005 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Preston (or his associate spiritual surrogate),

I have returned from the Angels vs. Yankees game, which has loomed as a near occasion of sin for several days. I must confess that I feel empty and unsatisfied, uncertain that I did the right thing. Worse, I may be at the edge of despair.

When the game started, my head was directing me to root for the Yankees, in order to benefit the Athletics, of whom I sometimes consider close to one of the tribes of Israel. But, even with the first pitch I felt as if great danger lay on each side of me, and the Psalms were rapidly becoming very meaninful.

In the bottom of the first, the Yankees took the field, and throwing for them was the stalwart veteran Mike Mussina, who in your ominiscience I'm sure you remember as an Oriole at the start of his career. Hearts were broken when he left and went to the Dark Side sometime in the early 1990s (although he got a push from the O's ignominious owner, rumored to be a minion of the REAL he-who-shall-not-be-named). To root for the Yankees felt as if rooting for someone already wearing the brand of traitor.

Well, because I don't believe long confessions are any more salvific than short ones, I'll get right to the point. By game's end, I was rooting for the Angels to come back from their 3-1 deficit and win the game and sweep the barbarian New Yorkers. Their fans were by then quite vociferous, and bordered on brashness. I gave my (temporary) allegiance to the ex-, yet somehow still-, Anaheimers.

Yet, the Yankees won, on the strength of the right arm of Mariano Rivera, who some wonder if he received in exchange for his soul.

So, the beloved Orioles fall a bit farther back, the Athletics gain, but I, with shame, have rooted for the Angels. They say that the life of our oh-so-fallen humanity is complex and occasionally beyond our paltry knowledge. I wonder if I should perhaps have simply been present in the moment, devoid of desire. But, though I felt compelled to seek the narrow path, it proved too narrow. I feel not valiant but tainted.

Thelogically Disconsolate

Sunday, July 24, 2005 6:02:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Theologically Disconsolate;

My overconfident associate missed something very important yesterday. I will try to correct his error.

What "the Confessor" missed pointing out was something imortant - the wild card.

If the Yankees win, the A's gain on the Angels in the AL West. If the Angels win, the A's gain on the Yankees in the wild card.

So, the narrow way was a little wider than the Confessor thought, and your soul was not in any danger.

May both the Yankees and the Angels go forth to lose many games from here on in.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 6:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Preston,

I come to you, again, for counsel regarding the practice of my devotion to the rite that some call baseball. Although I may test your patience, I am firm in my faith that I cannot exhaust your wisdom.

You may recall that a few weeks ago I found myself in the undignified, and possibly sinful, position of attending a game between the loathsome Bombers from the Bronx and the distasteful, so-called Angels, who legally reside in Anaheim but are known to occasionally to use a false address (162 times a year, in fact). I confess that I rooted for each team at some point in that contest, with the result that I foolishly partook of both evils, rather than forsaking the greater for the lesser.

Well, to get to the point, I have acquired tickets—-let’s not get into the ethics of placing profits into the pocket of Angels owner Mr. Moreno when small-market clubs, such as Oakland, are suffering a poverty of resources—-to an upcoming Angels vs. ATHLETICS match. But, here’s my question: Having sullied myself during my last excursion to the Angels' stadium, also located in Anaheim, must I make restitution, perform a penitential observance, or otherwise engage in self-mortification before attending the game and supporting my still-beloved Athletics? (Of course, the Baltimore Orioles are also beloved to me, along with the Philadelphia Phillies; they co-exist as a kind of trinity, in a way which I cannot completely explain.)

Tell me, Fr. Preston, because my sense of guilt may overtake me: What constitutes a suitable penance for this miscreant?

Theologically Reproached

Thursday, August 04, 2005 1:26:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Well, Joe, the possibilities are endless.

If you just went to the game, painted your whole body green, put on your favourite gold underwear, carry a stuffed monkey hanging on a stick, there would be no need for self-mortification. It would be provided free of charge by the local fans.

What does Grace think about that one?

Perhaps I should accompany you to the game for spiritual counsel, and we could work through your temptations together. We've got a rose-bush out back, and that might make for a nice switch in case of any possible disciplinary measures.

I think, though, that if you went and cheered for the A's, all would be forgiven. I have, on more than one occasion, found myself cheering for the Giants. I felt entirely cleansed and pure only after cheering for the A's again.

And I should be gentle. There is such a thing as a simple love for the game played well, no matter who is on the field, be it the Yankees, or even the, um, well, ah, gee Joe, the Angels?

There. I said it. Enjoy the game. I will only be worried if you cheer against the A's when they are there.

Thursday, August 04, 2005 4:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Preston, what do think of Eric Byrnes being traded twice in the same week?I was really bummed with the first trade, but yesterday I was watching the Angels game and he made this AWESOME catch and i said to myself "now only Eric Byrnes could make a catch like that!"So at the next commercial, I run into dad's office and say"Dad,Dad, this guy who lookes compltely identical to eric byrnes just made thes INCREDIBLE catch ,but he was wearing an Orioles outfit!"So dad goes on the web, and litrally five minets later comes into the living room and saus"Grace, Byrnsie is an Oriole!"


Thursday, August 04, 2005 5:38:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Well, Grace, it's gonna be a lot easier cheering for Byrnsie now that he's an Oriole and on a decent team.

We'll miss those body-be-sacrificed catches here in Oakland, though his replacement in the outfield, Jay Payton, has worked out really well. He hit a go-ahead grand slam the other day, and seems to be very happy in Oakland.

Thursday, August 04, 2005 7:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. I just wanted to give a quick greeting and tell you I enjoyed reading your material.

Saturday, January 14, 2006 5:46:00 AM  

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