Just spent the last weekend of the baseball (regular) season at the ballpark. Watching my team go down to ignominious defeat to their arch rivals. Three days in a row. Watching the other team celebrate making it to the playoffs, on our home turf. Watching my guys play with little or no enthusiasm, going through the motions, acting like they just want to go home for the winter.
There will be BIG changes on this team over the winter. Nearly half the team is eligible to be free agents, and my guess is that no more than three or four of those eleven guys will be coming back.
Mixed feelings. Despite being "in contention" until the last couple of weeks, this was NOT a good baseball team most of the year. It was pretty painful to watch at times, most especially the last few weeks as they fell out of contention for the postseason and just seemed to lose interest.
Much grumbling from the neighbors who sit near me. What the team does to reshape itself will likely determine whether some of them come back.
On the other hand, a couple that shares the seats to the right of mine came today with their two young daughters, decked out in full team colors. The older girl sat rapt much of the time (although a lot of that was looking for the mascot). The baby sat contentedly on laps, reminding me of how much I used to love bringing my baby daughter to the ballpark.
And there it was: It's not about the team on the field (although a fun, competitive team is certainly more fun to watch). It's about the family coming out to the park together, sharing the game, sharing the stories, remembering the good (and bad) times, eating the food, taking a break from reality, running around the bases after the game.
Is that worth buying season tickets? Maybe not. But it was nice to get that reminder that there is much more at work here than just winning an losing, and who's going to get paid how much next year.
For the next six months, I will miss the sunshine, the hotdogs, the little kids getting excited to see the weird guy in the big, fuzzy mascot suit, and the men running around playing a kids' game for a living.
Can't do much better than to quote Bart Giamatti on the subject:
It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.April 3rd can't arrive too soon.