Friday, September 05, 2014

Baseball and Three Stadia

I was born in Ohio and spent a great deal of my childhood in Huntington, WV. My mother's parents and grandparents lived on this side of Columbus in the Cincinnati Reds region. My father's parents lived on that side of Columbus in the Cleveland Indians territory. Baseball was in the periphery of my youth but I never learned the game. I cheered for the Big Red Machine, but never got to go to Cincinnati for a game. I remember several of the boys bringing in transistor radios to school with their earpiece to listen to the 1972 Reds/As world series games during school.

I remember my grandmother watching a Reds game in her chair and would occasionally make commentary about the game, complain about a call, or even yell, "He balked!" I remember my great-grandfather sitting in his chair by the front window of his house there on Limestone street, hunched over  his radio concentrating on the Reds game. Only after the game would he join in at the table for a game of Euchre.  I remember my dad's dad having the Indians on in his den, but we didn't visit there as often so those memories are fuzzy. Everybody loved baseball.

Fast forward to adulthood. I got a job in the Washington DC area and moved to Maryland. I met my soon-to-be husband and our first significant date was to an Orioles' game, the Mike Devereaux game to be exact and if you're an O's fan, you know exactly which game that was. I've been an Orioles fan ever since and I had no real internal conflict since the O's and Reds are in different leagues. Since we met my husband and I like to take the family to Baltimore several times a summer to see a game.

Baltimore's Camden Yards had its 20-year anniversary two years ago; they say it's the stadium that changed the face of modern venues. It was built to embrace the cityscape instead of obscuring it, and the Camden Yard warehouse became an iconic backdrop. Baltimore is a working class town, compared with Washington just down the road, and the difference in attitude shows at the stadium. I'm allowed to bring in food and my own non-alcoholic beverages. The tickets are reasonably priced compared to other teams.

So, in addition to games at The Yards, I got to see my Orioles play against the other local team, the Washington Nationals, or the Gnats, as I call them when I want to annoy my Nats friends, at Nationals Park. My parents, my husband and son went to celebrate my dad's birthday. The folks are Nats fans. My mother has inherited her mom's and grandfather's love of the game, she knew all the Nats players and would perk up when her favorite players were up to bat. I felt a little bad for my folks when my O's won the game against their Nats.

The Nats' stadium is newer (2008) and has a nice feature of visibility where you can see the field from the concourse, which you can't do at the Yards, but they are strict on their food and drink policy: nothing except clear sealed bottles of water. And their tickets are more expensive.

This past weekend we took a family trip to Pennsylvania, spending a few days in the mountains and a few days in Pittsburgh with friends. We did many of the touristy things including taking in a Pirates game at PNC Park against the Reds(!). PNC is another new stadium (2001) that made the cityscape the backdrop. From our seats in the upper deck we had a good view of the field and could see the river, several iconic yellow bridges and the buildings of downtown. I noticed in the program, the Pirates have sliding ticket pricing, different prices for different days of the week. And you can only bring in sealed water bottles. I gotta say, I'm appreciative of the Yards' policy of allowing my own food.

After being in three different stadiums in such close succession I noticed how the fans are all alike. Most fans wear shirts and/or hats of their team. (I'm guilty here.) They bring in signs with hopes of getting on TV. They cheer loudly and think their team is the best. (I know my O's are the best, we are up by 9.5 games over those Yankees as of September 5!) They boo calls against their team; high-five close-by strangers when home runs are hit. They are older frumpy women wearing shirts that should have been retired years ago. They are young skinny girlfriends wearing jerseys that are far too big. They are guys in shirts bearing the names of mediocre players from seasons gone by. They are kids grumpy or sleeping by the sixth inning. The predominate color worn in the stands is the only difference.

Everybody loves baseball.