by Collette West
Summer memories are made at the ballpark.
The Charge bugle call.
The Day-O chant.
The Zorba the Greek clap-along medley.
Once I’m in a baseball stadium full of people responding to these crowd-rousing calls, I know it’s summer.
I’m the kind of girl who listens to spring training radio broadcasts when it’s snowing outside. I’m the type who has Opening Day circled months in advance on my calendar. But it’s not until I’m actually in the stands at a game that it begins to sink in. Summer’s here and baseball’s back. My two favorite seasons are together again.
Day games are all about slathering on the SPF and baking with my fellow fans in the sun. So what if I can’t see any foul balls coming at me on account of the glare? I’m too busy sticking a straw in my 47 oz. souvenir soda. It should keep me hydrated for the next three hours or so, plus or minus the frequent bathroom breaks that are sure to follow. But hands down, nothing’s better than opening up that foil wrapper and indulging in that precooked, boiled hot dog. Who cares if I have to share a communal condiment stand with the sloppy bastards all around me? A hot dog never tastes as good as it does at the ballpark.
Night games usually tend to bring a tad more excitement to the field. The sun goes down. The lights come on. And everything seems crisper, more in focus. The evening air is cool, yet comfortable, but I drape the sweatshirt I brought along with me over my bare legs. I’ll probably need it later when I’m eating my soft serve, chocolate and vanilla twist ice cream out of an upside down helmet. I chuckle when the inebriated ask the beer man how much a cold one is even though he’s wearing a giant yellow button emblazoned with the price. And I try not to get annoyed when the people sitting in my aisle keep hopping in and out saying, “Excuse me,” the first time then forgetting after that.
I like it when the whole crowd gets into the game, but mostly it’s just the granddads wearing super large headphones and keeping score in their programs with their little nubby pencils. They’re usually the only ones paying attention to every single pitch. I listen to mothers bargaining with their brood, making gift shop promises of giant foam fingers if they’d just sit in their seats for four more innings. Cotton candy is purchased and tossed back to waiting hands, resulting in sticky fingers and multi-colored tongues. Peanut shells are discarded with abandon and crunched underfoot. Homers fly out. Hitters strike out. And the game goes on somehow between different sections of the stadium competing for free tickets via the cartoon cars on the big screen and the karaoke sing-a-long session of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.
The vibe to a baseball game is unlike any other sporting event. It proceeds at its own pace. It’s not governed by a stopwatch. Some innings take five minutes, other’s last an hour. Sometimes a team uses one pitcher, sometimes they send out ten. Each game is different. They all have their own rhythm. I never know what to expect when I go to the ballpark. I see something new every single time. A reliable outfielder can crash into the centerfield wall. A third baseman can send an easy groundout soaring into the stands instead of the first baseman’s glove. A even-keeled manager can go ape shit crazy on an umpire if too many balls are being called strikes. It’s power and emotion, but it’s also tradition and boredom.
There’s nothing else like it.
A little boy sitting behind home plate won’t have a chance at nabbing the ball hit into the bleachers. The pitcher warming up in the bullpen might make millions but he still has to put up with a bunch of rowdy fans heckling him on the road. It’s a game of averages and extremes. Sometimes I buy a $7 ticket at a minor league park and see a hard fought, thrilling game, and sometimes I shell out $127 for a box seat at a major league stadium and not one of the players shows any hustle. Stars impress. Underdogs over impress. And in the end, sometimes the better team doesn’t walk away with the win.
But when I leave the ballpark, I always exit through the turnstile with a smile on my face. Even if people are pushing and shoving, anxious to go nowhere but sit in traffic, there’s still a general sense in the air that there’s nowhere else we would’ve wanted to spend those fleeting, precious moments of summer. Baseball is the American pastime. It’s in our blood, our national DNA. It’s the green field, the diamond full of dirt, where we go to yell and scream and get away from everything for a while. It’s where we can be a kid again when summertime meant freedom and adventure and lots and lots of sugar.
That’s why whenever I go to the ballpark, it’s like reliving each and every one of those summers all rolled into one.
Collette West’s Web Tracks:
Collette West on All The Things Inbetween:
Hashtag: Family – Collette West’s: The ABCs of Baseball from Her Heroine Sasha Roberts
Tongue Wagger – Night Games by Collette West
He Said, She Said – Hearing Voices: Belle of the Ball Game; How This Female Fan Snagged One of Baseball’s Hottest Commodities – A Glimpse Inside The Locker Room.
Collette West’s Books:
Night Games Synopsis: The moment Grey Kelleher locks eyes with All-Star shortstop Chase Whitfield, she’s a goner. For years, she’s watched him play on TV, and now she’s gazing at his hard, lean body across a bar in her hometown.
Grey’s crush on Chase goes all the way back to his rookie season. So when she approaches him for an autograph, she’s startled by what a jerk he can be.
Chase is no mood to humor his fans, even one as alluring as Grey. He’s in the last year of his contract and stuck having to prove himself on a minor league team. He’s only there to rehab an injury, nothing more.
But when Grey tells him off, Chase realizes her fiery spirit may be just the distraction he needs to take his mind off not being in the majors. His heart is safe. No one’s going to break his streak as baseball’s most eligible bachelor. Not even someone as irresistible as Grey.
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Game Changer Synopsis:
Young, rich, and unaware of how seriously hot he is, Brooks Davison is tearing it up as the latest shortstop for the New York Kings, despite his tendency to blush whenever girls scream his name.
When a health scare forces his best friend, Kyle Roberts, off the team, no one can stomach the thought of replacing him, especially so close to the playoffs.
Until Kyle’s sister, Sasha, steps in, convincing management to let her take his place. The idea of signing the first female player in Major League history proves too tempting for the Kings to resist.
Nevertheless, Brooks doesn’t want any part of it. Sasha is Kyle’s little sister, not some sideshow.
Yet when Kyle takes a turn for the worse, Brooks promises to do everything in his power to help Sasha win a championship for him. Because there’s no way he’s letting either of them down. Not now, not ever
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