The Baseball Diaries

For reasons that are equal parts fan loyalty and general boredom, this baseball season has found me in a number of venues across the country. Here are the cities I visited and the fond memories I have (none of which have anything to do with what happened on the field).

  1. Durham Bulls (minor league)
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Atlanta
  4. New York
  5. Washington, DC
  6. Chicago
  7. San Francisco
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Miami
  10. Seattle - I was nearly able to schedule a job interview in Seattle the week the Phillies would be in town; when the scheduling didn't work out, I quickly lost interest in the position

Durham Bulls - Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Where better to start than in the minors?

Local legend has it that if you go to Tobacco Road sports bar on the day of a game and find a man with a clipboard, he will give you free tickets. Jackson and Weber joined me in my quest to do something shady and cheap on a Thursday night.

After successfully getting the bar to validate 3 parking receipts to pay for 2 beers, we were on the lookout for more bargains. Our plan was no more detailed than to go around and ask the first suspicious looking person, "Psst. Are you The Guy?" We might get tickets, we might inadvertently solicit a drug deal. Win-win.

Weber checked the patio while Jackson and I propositioned around the bar. After 5 minutes, we were ready to give up. Jackson turned to me and said, "Oh well. Let's find Weber. I guess we'll just buy tickets."

He had gotten as far as "tick-" when a bartender materialized out of the ether and whispered, "You guys need tickets?"


"I got you." And then he evaporated like smoke on a summer night. Next time I tell the story, he will be a ninja.

When he returned, he handed us three standing room tickets and a wink.

The stadium was about one third full of its 10,000 seat capacity, so there would be no standing for us. Did I mention it was dollar dog / dollar fries / dollar popcorn night? Well, it was. So with $30 worth of beer and cheap hot dogs, we searched for some seats. The 3rd base side was fairly empty, so we decided to get the best seats for our "money" and park right behind the visitor dugout.

With so much money saved on food, we did what any wise investor would do and reinvested in beer. It's a solid bet in any economy. This may have contributed to "The Incident."

Jackson decided to heckle one of the opposing players. In very specific terms. He kept quiet for all the other players, but when this guy came to bat, he let him have it. On his third time at the plate, the guy comes up with the bases loaded. "They're buying you a bus ticket back to AA!" Jackson shouts. On the next pitch, the guy cranks a shot towards left field. Then he turns and looks directly at Jackson as the ball soars high over the left field wall. Grand slam. It was at this moment that I realized that I've never seen a player make eye contact with a fan before. It was scary.

There was nothing else to do at this point. Without a word, we all stood up and gave him a slow, dramatic clap. He'd earned it.

Later that inning, Jackson got a text from friend that simply read: "You're on my TV."


Philadelphia Phillies - Citizens Bank Park

The Tour officially gets underway, starting in the only place it could: Philadelphia.

After the game, Val unwittingly became part of a Seinfeld reenactment. On our way out of the stadium, she got sniped by a giant, slightly greenish loogie. It made Ajay giggle like a teenage girl, which isn't as difficult as it sounds. We're pretty sure the spit came from behind but judging by the size of it, no single person could have delivered that much loog. There had to have been... (wait for it) a second spitter.

Atlanta Braves - Turner Field

The organist had some inspired musical choices for each of the visiting players when they came to bat. My favorites:

  • John Mayberry, Jr - theme from The Andy Griffith Show
  • Shane "The Flying Hawaiian" Victorino - theme from Hawaii 5-0
  • Jimmy "J Ro" Rollins - Jenny From the Block
  • Ryan Howard - theme from The Office (BJ Novak's character was named after him)
  • Raul Ibanez - Werewolf in London (as in , "Rauuuuuuuuuuul... werewolf in London"

Memorial Day Marathon

Yankees on Wednesday, Mets on Friday, Nationals on Monday. Consisting of travel by plane, subway, taxi, railroad and parental automobile.

New York Yankees - New Yankee Stadium

"Stadium food" at Yankee Stadium
Thanks to Stewart's connections (which may be the result of trading workplace sexual favors), we got entry to the VIP restaurant known as the "Legends Suites." All food, drink and alcohol were free (as long as "free" is defined as the $230 ticket I didn't pay for). And we're not talking just hotdogs and popcorn (but they had that too). Sushi, lobster, steak, barbecued ribs, rotisserie chicken, candy and sunscreen. But not mixed together. The (extremely comfortable) seats were five rows from third base and had its own wait staff. Also, it was completely separated from the uncivilized bourgeoisie that could only afford $150 tickets. Ahoy polloi.

New York Mets - Citi Field

During the subway ride home, Stewart thought this would be a good time to retell some of the more embarrassing stories from our friendship. You should know that when Stewart tells a story, she tells it loud enough for the entire room, restaurant or - in this case - subway car. To her credit, she is a very good storyteller. So good that our fellow riders would listen, laugh and shake their heads at me throughout the tales. As one woman got up to leave, she turned to me and said, "I'm sorry for eavesdropping, but I couldn't help it. I am **fulfilled**. Way to go, Shotgun."

And no, I won't explain what any of that means.

Chicago Cubs - Wrigley Field

In between innings I went to get a beer and a "Chicago Dog", which can also be called the "What Else Can We Put on There Dog." As I returned to my seat, I saw the Cubs center fielder turn and throw a ball to the crowd. No, to me. With little time to react, I put down my beer and held onto the hotdog. I leapt into the air. I felt the ball graze the tip of my middle finger as it soared by. Then came gravity. My foot smash landed on top of my full beer, which exploded directly into the faces of the three fans in front who had turned to see me not catch the ball. For the 438th time in my life, I am "That Guy."

West Coast Road Trip

Thanks to Ajay's smooth-talking skills, we benefited from free upgrades and special considerations at hotels, airports and stadiums. Never travel without an Ajay. His chief export is opportunity.

San Francisco Giants - AT&T Park

While one of the more visually stunning ballparks, AT&T Park holds the record for "Most Things I Never Expected to See in a Baseball Stadium"

  • Mojitos and margaritas
  • Calamari and chowder bread bowls
  • Fans wearing winter jackets, sweatshirts, wool hats and gloves. In August.
  • A Build-a-Bear workshop
  • Thousands of people wearing these↓

I was also impressed with the efforts of a very rabid Giants fan. He tried to get the crowd in a frenzy by taunting an opposing player. After the player misplayed a ball and fell on his face, the fan had everyone spell out "AAA," to let the poor guy know he was headed back to the minors. But when asked the crucial, "... AND WHAT'S THAT SPELL?!?", the crowd responded, "Ahhhhhhh!" They got it wrong 15 times in a row. So the players were under the impression that we were all incredibly refreshed... or had just had a major revelation regarding the TV show Lost.

Los Angeles - Dodger Stadium

Oh boy. It's a looooong story. And then the Phillies won.

Miami - Sun Life Stadium
(formerly Land Shark Stadium (formerly Dolphin Stadium (formerly Pro Player Stadium (formerly Joe Robbie Stadium) ) ) )

Over two nights, I witnessed Phillie fans complain about - and successfully have removed - three Marlins fans who had the audacity to say awful things like "Let's go Marlins!" and "Throw another strike!" Savages.

An exact quote of one of the complaints to security: "You need to get those teenage strippers out of here." And I'm pretty sure one of the other fans they got kicked out was autistic. That's how we roll in Philly.

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