#NaBloPoMo – Experiencing the Game (I miss baseball)

I’ve had this post just sitting in my computer and since I’m really missing baseball, I thought I’d share. I was working on it during the season but it’s just been collecting dust. Here it is, as it was when I left it, I just took my name out. Oh baseball, I miss you…

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Baseball is an experience. Finding your seats in the park, smelling hotdogs and beer and cracking salty peanuts between your teeth. Listening to vendors shout about their goods as you keep track of balls and strikes on the scoreboard and quickly take in your breath as a ball flies across the field. The baseball game is nine innings, sometimes more, of excitement and sensory overload.

I have never been to Tropicana Field. I have never even been to Florida. Living in arizona and being a rabid Rays fan comes with its own set of challenges as far as showing my support to the team I love so much. The Rays made me a baseball fan in 2008 and before that, the only sporting events I had been to were some college basketball and football games. I’ve only been to one baseball game since becoming a fan. In 2009, B and I drove to Phoenix for a Diamondbacks/Angels game. The most exciting part of it for me was the fact that B.J. Upton’s brother Justin and Willy Aybar’s brother Erick would be in the same building I was. They were brothers of Rays, the closest I ever thought I’d be to my beloved ball players.

I don’t remember much about the game other than the Angels won it 2-1. I remember we had great seats, behind home plate and up a level or two, and we even had a server. We didn’t have vendors in that era and we never had to leave our seats to get food. These seats were in one of two sections at Chase Field for people with disabilities. Since I am blind, we took advantage of such wonderful seats. The customer service desk had given me a radio so I could tune into the broadcast of the game. I remember pressing the radio to my ear, listening to the broadcasters while trying to take in the noise of the crowd and feel the enormity of the place. I remember the thrill and excitement of just being at a major league game more than I remember any spectacular plays. I think there might have been a home run. When I listened to the All-Star festivities this year I thought, I was there. I imagined the place the way I imagined it being there in person, though I could not see it. My guys were there, Matt Joyce and James Shields and David Price, in the building I was in once. It brought me just a little bit closer to the Rays, in a very odd way.

My dream is to have the in person experience at the Trop some day. I’m hoping to go in April, if the cards fall correctly. It’s hard, being a huge fan of a team that plays so far away. Rays Index correspondent, Jordi Scrubbings, wrote an article about the guilt of not going. I feel that guild, even though I quite literally cannot swing physically being present at the Trop. I experience the game in my own way. While season ticket holders might get to know their seat mates, I have gotten to know my Twitter mates. We tweet about great plays or bad calls and groan and curse together. I have gotten to know a few of my Twitter mates on a more personal level and they have niched my life in ways they’ll never know, much like the Rays team has. It’s online that I experience the game, listening to all the radio broadcasts through my subscription to Gameday Audio at mlb.com. Dave Wills and Andy Freed have become part of my life on a daily basis, their voices filling my home, or traveling through my wireless headphones as I move about the house.

I have my own little rituals, personal mantras I say to myself when the guys come to bat. Some of them are quite personal, so I’m grateful for the solitude when uttering them out loud and when not alone, repeating them over and over in my head. When things get tense during a game I tend to pace around the apartment and I’ll never forget one game in particular. It was the Rays first win of the season this year, on April eight. It was against the White Sox. Dan Johnson was at the plate with the ability to get the Rays closer to the win. It was the ninth inning, I had my wireless headphones on and I was wearing the carpet down pacing so fast. I walked into the kitchen when I heard the call. Johnson hit the ball hard with two men on base. I held my breath and clutched the wall as my heart raced and when that ball left the park I sank on to my haunches, the air released from my lungs in a tight squeal. The Rays had taken the lead. They might finally win a game!

During the game on Sunday August seventh, Dave Wills tweeted a question, “if there was a movie about the Rays…who would play Andy Freed?” I thought about this for a second. Not knowing what Andy Freed looks like, I thought about his voice and the first actor to pop into my mind was George Clooney. I tweeted Dave, explaining that based on voice, I would pick Clooney.

About ten minutes later, Wills told Freed during the broadcast that he had a new best friend, I can’t remember word for word. I had called the post game show a few nights earlier, when Dave and Andy were filling in for Rich Herrera. I knew I had to call and talk to the men I invite into my home every day. Dave Wills somehow knew I was the same woman who had called and had now tweeted him because he said to Andy, “remember {Ro} the girl from Tucson who called a few nights ago?” Andy remembered. Dave went on to explain what I had said in my tweet about George Clooney. Andy said something about telling his wife that, who loves Clooney. They went on to talk about the game and I was left feeling ecstatic!

In that moment, I almost felt a part of. I almost felt like I was there, showing my support for my team and all because my name had been mentioned on air, a discussion taking place between the two broadcasters who for me, are just as important as the athletes themselves. The broadcasters help me “see” the game. Since I hadn’t been a baseball fan in my sighted days, I can’t picture the parks. The only players I can envision are Randy Johnson and Derek Jeter. Why I have images of them in my head, I’ll never know. Through descriptions during the game I have my own images of what the Trop looks like, the catwalks and the Rays tank. Discussions with women on Twitter have given me ideas of what the guys look like. Those are fun discussions, thanks ladies!

Because of the hundreds of games I’ve listened to, I quickly call to mind what a double play would look like, the way the dirt appears after a hard slide, the ball rolling just foul along the line. I have an image of the Green Monster at Fendway and the ivy at Wrigley. I’ve come to know certain sounds at certain parks like the annoying whistle that plays at New Yankee Stadium when a guy is out or the soothing sounds of the train in Seattle. All the auditory experiences during a broadcast are what I’ve come to love instead of peanut venders and the beer guy. It wasn’t until this season that I realized a sound I heard at the Trop was the repetitive “beer, beer, beeper” call and not a fan making a strange bird sound.

I even find myself speaking along with the commercials I hear so regularly, or shouting along with the featured calls of Wills and Freed during station representation announcements at the top of the hour. Game time is quite sacred for me. I hate when I have to miss a game which luckily is a rare occurrence. When I do, the best way to catch up seems to be by reading all the tweets and getting minute-by-minute updates with feelings attached.

During the bottom of the ninth on August 31, 2011 Kyle Farnsworth was on to save the game against the Rangers. Dave Wills helped me experience what a pitcher feels when he uses a split finger grip. Farnsworth was struggling and had thrown over twenty pitches. Wills talked about Farnsworth’s recent elbow tenderness and said they had been concerned about that particular grip. Wills explained the grip, spread your index and middle finger as far as they will go. Try it and you will feel it in your elbow. I did this with my right hand and instantly felt a pulling in my elbow as well as an ache in my forearm. I did it three or four times and five minutes later, my hand was still stiff from it. It was incredible to experience that since I find it difficult to imagine the pitchers’ grips.
For me the words “baseball” and “Rays” mean more than a game or a team. They are emotions I find very difficult to express. Jordi Scrubbings recently wrote Fields of Solace, a piece I deeply related to. While I don’t get the escape at Tropicana Field, I experience the escape of the game at home and for those three hours, all is good and right in the world.

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Just a few more months to go before the world is right again.

1 Comment

Filed under baseball, matt joyce, NaBloPoMo 2011, plugs, twitter me this

One Response to #NaBloPoMo – Experiencing the Game (I miss baseball)

  1. The one thing I never found the love for… sports!
    Guess all of my “love” went for the guide dogs I train 🙂

    Brandon’s Raiser

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