Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Buccaneer Crew

Recently, my fiancée and I had the good fortune of being the recipients of her company's Red's tickets. At 10.5 games out of first place at the time, I suppose good fortune is something that could be debated. But the seats were fantastic at 3 rows behind the visiting dugout. All of a sudden security is a lot stricter about where you sit, your seats are all wiped off for you when ever you get up, and these men who were once only inches tall when sitting in the upper decks are now huge...and they can hear what you have to say.

We arrived at 5 pm, though the game didn't start until 7:10. If you've never done this before, try it just once, because that early before a game is when the teams take batting practice. Some of the field is still covered in a tarp, and there are screens at various intervals to protect the guys from sharply hit balls. But it's a lot of fun to watch. More over, you can really watch the players enjoy what it is they're doing. They're laughing, joking, poking fun at one another, and showing that this is still a game.

What really impressed us though, was the entire Pirates organization. After batting practice and before the game starts, most of the time teams will line up along which ever baseline their dugout is behind, walk up to the rail, and start signing autographs. With 2 minutes left before the first pitch was to be thrown, all the Pirates were still at the rail with rally caps on or a ball glove on their head vigorously working to make sure as many people got signatures as was humanly possible.As the game went on, there was more of the same. Every time they switched sides, the Pirates came into the dugout tossing into the stands the ball that recorded the last out. At least once and inning, often twice, a player's head would pop up, and another ball would be tossed into the crowd. Sometimes it would have a signature, sometimes not. But for the cost of a ball an inning, everyone along the dugout was captivated and excited waiting for the next chance that a keepsake might come their way.

True to form of most sporting events, there are always a few people who feel the need to act like a fool. Someone who is too drunk, too ignorant, or too disrespectful to let everyone else around them enjoy the game. I appreciate rivalry and I appreciate competition. If I didn't I wouldn't be planning my entire Saturday night around seeing a team that is way out of first place. I cheer for the teams and people I like, I talk with the people around me at how the umpire missed the call. But the person who stands up and bellows to the umpire that "He can't see anything" "he's terrible" "he's worthless" and so on with a long line of explicatives is bothersome. When he goes on to scream "go back to your hometown, everyone hates you here" followed with "everyone probably hates you there too, you should just die" again with explicatives, I actually start to get a little bit offended.

With two minutes before game time, these guys "who everyone hates" are working themselves into a frenzy making sure they do everything they can to help people in the stands enjoy themselves. They are cracking jokes, laughing, smiling, and playing the game like children... Big strong children who make a lot of money for doing what they do. But while the money has to be nice, they are truly enjoying the game.

Major league baseball has been through a lot of strife in the past year. If you're a ball player who has hit more than 40 home runs at any point in your career, you've probably been accused of steroid use. Maybe you've even been called to testify before congress. Maybe you're a first ballot Hall of Fame player who gets 22 million for deciding 7 weeks into the season that you're ready to pitch for the 24th season in a row. The game could use some damage control and some healing time. With people screaming obscenities at them, would anyone blame these guys if, in a visiting stadium these guys just stayed in the dugout the whole time? These guys need some appreciation for not just playing, but participating in the game like true ambassadors.