How boring! It's only a game! What a waste of time! Nothing ever happens!
Yes, to all of the above ... and that's why baseball, especially in a for-the-love-of-the-sport amateur league, appeals so much to me. There are far too many stressful, deadly-serious, impossible-deadline activities in life. What a relief to sit for a few hours and watch something profoundly unimportant, an event without a clock ticking, where people strive to do their best against almost-overwhelming challenges --- and occasionally succeed, as something beautiful happens.
A month ago the Clark Griffith League season ended, and I thought 2003 baseball was finished for me. Then I got lucky and chanced to see a Tricounty League playoff game in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and I was sure that nothing more could happen this year. (I don't bother with Major League baseball --- it's too expensive, too commercial, too drug-driven, and too hyped.)
Then friend Ken phoned. Back in the springtime he had bought some advance-purchase tickets for local Minor League games and had to use them before it was too late. So without further ado Son RadRob and I jumped into the car --- burritos in hand, it being dinnertime. We raced to Ken's house and from there zoomed north to Frederick, where on the evening of Monday 18 August the Keys http://www.frederickkeys.com were hosting the Lynchburg Hillcats http://www.lynchburg-hillcats.com.
Traffic delayed us; we arrived a few minutes late and missed the first few at-bats, but saw everything thereafter. The game was excellent:
And there were no errors by either side. The Keys didn't look at all like a team lodged at or near the bottom of the standings for the past couple of years.
The next day, when I mentioned that pleasant night out to a couple of friends (SA & CR) at the office, their appetites were whetted --- and I started to get hungry again too! So on Wednesday two days later a gaggle of us returned for one very last 2003 baseball experience. The Hillcats were still in town, and it was "Cheerleader Night". One comrade brought binoculars along. He offered to rent them to anybody who wanted them, $1 per look. Good news and bad news: we sat so close that naked eyes were sufficient ... but by the time we arrived, in the second inning, there were no cheerleaders on display. Sorry! But in compensation, Wednesday was also the night of $1 hotdogs and $1 sodas --- which we took happy advantage of.
And there was drama, including some histrionics. The second inning saw a noisy controversy at home when the Lynchburg catcher, trying to prevent a run from scoring, dropped a ball thrown in from center field via the second baseman's relay. But the hard-charging runner missed the plate and was called out. A heated "discussion" ensued --- resulting in the Keys' mangers's expulsion from the game. Three innings later after a called third strike the unhappy Keys batter used a naughty word in expressing his unhappiness about the umpire's decision --- and he was ejected too. Meanwhile the fans in the stands were rather less restrained in their critiques.
On the field, the Keys sparkled. There were great leaping catches --- including a brilliant one by shortstop Brandon Fahey. The pitcher, John Maine, dominated Lynchburg's bats for almost seven innings, threw at least 9 strikeouts, and by himself snagged one hard-struck drive before it could get past the mound. His reliever kept things under control; the final home team win by 6-1 was well-deserved.
As a Keys staffer noted in a conversation I overheard, a Class A manager can't always make his own decisions about who gets to play on the team. Rookies are tossed at him and he has to give them a chance to show their stuff; veterans from higher levels are sent down to recover from injury or hone their skills. So the club has to do the best it can with what it has.
And that's the bottom line for most pursuits ...
(see also KeysToTheKingdom (1 Jul 2001), PlansAndSituations (13 Aug 1999), TboltMonkeysOnMyBack (19 Jul 2002), SummerBall2002 (3 Sep 2002), KeepingScore (13 Jun 2003), MoreTboltSnapshots (12 Jul 2003), TboltSignoff2003 (3 Aug 2003), TricountyLeague (14 Aug 2003), ...)