Keep Yer Politics Out of My Baseball

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I have spent the past seven months watching my favorite baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, play incredibly imperfect (some say torturous) baseball.

I’ve experienced agony, ecstasy, and near ulcers but still I have watched because I’m a longtime fan. I’ve been there at Candlestick Park. I’ve been there at PacBell, SBC, AT&T Park. Heck, I’ve been there at Scottsdale Stadium.

Oh, I’ve been there.

I knew Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval when they were playing for the farm team San Jose Giants.

Because I’ve been there, too.

And now…oh NOW that the team is getting coverage for making it to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) do all the politics and politicians come out in their shiny suits and gelled up hair to act like they’ve been there all along.

Our playoffs are their political opportunity.

Gah!

Baseball is not politics! Politics are not baseball!

The two don’t mix because baseball has its own politics, thank you VERY much.

We don’t need your stupid campaigning faces jack o’ lantern grinning out of the stands, Ms. Boxer, Ms. Fiorina and Mr. Newsom.

I shall not vote for the lot of you!

And then….

There is the whole ongoing kefuffle regarding the BART policeman who shot an allegedly rambunctious BART rider in the back.

The case and the video footage from that day are a highly sensitive and a very concerning issue for the Bay Area for a lot of reasons.

The case went to trial. The jury made a decision. The case is pending sentencing.

So now both sides have decided to take their personal issues to the baseball game by painting banners, attaching them to sailboats and setting sail for McCovey Cove.

You know, McCovey Cove, famous for all the boats, pontoons and kayacks sailing about when Barry Bonds played for the Giants and regularly dunked homeruns in the water?

McCovey Cove, famous for Friday “Beer Can Regatta” sailboat races.

McCovey Cove, that beautiful body of water that sits next to my beautiful ballpark and helps make it one of the most unique sporting locations in the world.

As the Fox Sports cameras seek out something to focus on as we cut to commercial, the cove is always a favored spot, owing to the beautiful views.

But this week, the cameras take in the “Free Mehserle” or “Justice for Oscar Grant” signs, and our own problems here in the Bay Area take precedence over the baseball game.

It’s a game. Just a game. It’s supposed to be fun.

How about I think about politics and other difficult issues when the season is over, ok?

(McCovey seen to the right in this photo of AT&T Park)

Photo From 22Gigantes

Question is, which sort of person are you?

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Last night, The Good Man and I went to the home opener for the San Jose Giants single A baseball team.

I do love minor league baseball. Just thought I’d throw that in.

We got to our seats, got settled in and soon heard, “ladies and gentleman, please rise and remove your caps as we present our national anthem.”

It’s how every baseball game begins. It is ritual.

So quickly this adorable young lady (maybe all of fourteen years old) came out of the home dugout and hit her mark and dived right into the oh-say-can-you-see part of our show.

As she does, I notice that three rows ahead, a gruff man with a gray beard, a Bud in hand, and a mustard stained sweatshirt is singing along. The years of cigarette smoking have made his voice less than melodic, but he doesn’t lack enthusiasm.

Fair enough. He’s the kind of guy who likes to sing along.

At the seventh inning stretch, Colonel Mustard with a Budweiser also belted out a hearty rendition of “God Bless America” which then let him straight to an even more enthusiastic singing of, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”

Hey, you know, it’s all a part of the experience.

Some guys like to sing along. Some guys don’t.

Me, I usually let the Star Spangled go by. I can’t hit those notes. Sometimes, if I’m feeling especially patriotic, I’ll get into a version of “God Bless America”.

But I always, always sing “Take Me Out…” For me, it’s mandatory.

No, I don’t understand that logic either.

Anyhow, so last night as I sang along, out of tune, I got to thinking about folks at the yard. Seems to me, there are two kinds. Them that sing along, and them that don’t.

Question is…which sort of person are you?

I guess I’d be called a partial singer-alonger.

Anyhoo, when all was said and done last night, after battling from an 8-0 deficit, the hometown nine still lost 9-7. Boo. Go get ’em next time, boys.

As an aside: This year we sat in a different section than usual. In our regular seats, there is a gentleman we know well who also likes to sing along to the Star Spangled. The thing is, he’s part of a local men’s choir and has the voice of an angel. It’s always rather nice to hear him sing. And I’m rather intimidated to try to sing along with him, to be honest.

I felt much better harmonizing with the guy who was six beers and four hotdogs into the night.

(Man, I couldn’t be more excited to use this photo again.)



Image is of Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca and a pretty extensive web search could not net me the attribution on this photo. I found photos from that same event on the European Commission page which allows for the use of photos with attribution.



Opening Day

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And so, the 2009 baseball season is underway.

The major leaguers started early in the week.

But that’s not where I’m at.

I’m talkin’ about one lowly Single A.

Yeah baby.

The San Jose Giants kicked off their 142 game season in the Pacific Coast League with their home opener last night.

It was, perhaps, one of the strangest baseball encounters I’ve ever experienced.

And I’ve seen some weird sh*t.

To start with, the weather was was, what the indelicate call “pissing rain”. The not quite raining, not quite not. Just…dribbling.

For my home-squirrels in the 505/575 who come from a place where, when it rains, it means it, this phenomenon may not make sense to you.

Imagine those misters they have at Hooters. Only as big as the sky, unrelenting, and without the desert dryness to evaporate that water.

Close enough.

So it was Hooters misting all night long…and cold…and not very baseball-y weather.

Pretty much, the not really capacity crowd thinned out over the course of the game, leaving only the die hards to carry it to the end.

Which would be both me and The Good Man.

We stepped under cover for the third and fourth innings to indulge in bbq-sauce-up-to-your-ears tasty ribs and came out of there recharged and ready.
When you’ve endured several hours of cold soaking rain, it does something to your brain.

So as most people left, and us weirdos starting losing our minds, it got really fun.

Best moment will take some backstory.

Every game, the San Jose announcer designates a player on the opposing team as the “beer batter”. If the San Jose pitcher strikes out that batter, then beer is half price for the next half inning.

Needless to say, people cheer pretty damn hard for a strikeout.

Usually, they end the beer batter promotion in the sixth inning.

So, round about the seventh inning last night…we, the looneys in the crowd decided to dub that same opposing batter the hot chocolate batter (it was freaking cold!). Cheering went up. Someone yelled, “C’mon, daddy needs marshmallows!”

That damn beer hot chocolate batter would NOT just take a swing. Poor sport.

And then, for some reason, in the eighth inning, the announcer played the usual beer batter song and dubbed the guy the ‘apple juice batter of the game, as sponsored by Martinelli’s’. I don’t know if that was a legit promotion, but then all of us started hollering for our apple juice.

As the beer batter stood at the plate, we screamed “aaaaaaaple juuuuuice!” Damnit if that guy just wouldn’t strike out for us! No, he kept foulin’ ’em off! So I yelled “I’ll share mine with you!” No, he wasn’t to be swayed. I even offered to *give* him my apple juice. Considering I was sitting in the third row behind the plate in a nearly empty stadium, I KNOW he heard my offer.

But no, instead of sipping my apple juice, b–tard hit a rope out to center.

A cold soaked to the bone crowd couldn’t even get an apple juice. That ain’t right.

But damn did we have fun!

And yes, the Albuquerque Dukes pennant is still painted on the wall at Muni Stadium and I touched it for luck, like usual! Worked too! We won 7-1!

Tonight, I think I’ll stick to the couch and a blanket and my feline (who I’ve finally forgiven) and baseball on the television.

But I may be prompted to yell “aaaaaaapple juuuuuuuice” at a hitter who needs to strike out. : shrug :

Dreams can come true!

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This weekend, I’m happy to announce, a dream of mine came to realization. And I’m still totally geeked out about it.

You’ll have to forgive me while I wax rhapsodic about this. It may mean little to you but it made my whole day, month, year…

As noted, I’m a fan of baseball. Lately I’ve been spending more time at the local minor league ballpark for the San Jose Giants. They are a single A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.

Part of what makes minor league baseball so engaging is that the organization tries *really* hard to make it fun for the fans. For the first seven innings of the game, they provide entertainment in the form of contests and games that involve selected fans from the crowd.

They do things like “Putt For Cash” where the contestant tries to putt a golf ball into a kiddie pool. Another where a kid tries to whack a plastic hockey puck into a net that is guarded by an adult in full hockey goalie gear (Shark’s gear, naturally). There’s a rousing game of musical chairs, little kids doing “Dance for your Dinner” (the one that gets the crowd’s approval for their moves get a hot dog and a soda), and racing the mascot, Gigante.

But by far my favorite of all the games is called “Smash for Cash”. A big, old, belching panel truck is brought out onto the field. It sometimes rolls reluctantly. At one game it stalled twice before reaching its destination. Once arrived near the dugout, a blanket is laid under the front. Three San Jose players are recruited to pair with a fan. The player is handed two baseballs that he then hurls at the van in an attempt to smash out the headlights. If he succeeds, he gets $100 (no small change for a guy who makes maybe $6,000 a year) and the fan gets a gift certificate for dinner.

I *love* this game. LOVE IT. Love it most when you hear the distinctive sound of breaking glass, the headlight goes dark and the crowd goes wild.

In order to be chosen as one of the fans to participate, you have to have a scorecard with a printed number. If your number is chosen, you’re in.

I’ve been going to San Jose Giants games for ten years. Every time I go I long to be the one called to my favorite game. I clutch my number close to my chest and hope.

On Sunday, three numbers were put up on the scoreboard for Smash for Cash. None of the three were mine. Ah well, just another day at the yard.

If they don’t get quick response to the numbers, they choose new ones. So a couple innings later, two more numbers were on the scoreboard. This time, one of them was mine.

W00t!

I leapt from my seat, got a kiss from my man, and literally ran to the press box to claim my rightful place in the Smash for Cash contest.

The guy in the press box was announcing the game, scoring the game, and running all the promotions. A very busy, but quite nice guy.

He got my name and then asked, “We’re having trouble getting a third. Do you know anyone else who might want to play?”

Why yes I do, his name is The Good Man.

“Ok, you both are in.”

“Go right now!” I was told.

I vaulted back to the seats, waved over TGM. He followed with a puzzled look and I explained on the run that he was player number three.

We signed waivers (of course we did), were handed two baseballs and quickly enough were led onto the field at the middle of the sixth inning.

My player was Pablo Sandoval, catcher for the SJ team.

As I handed him two baseballs, I told him, “I wanna hear some breaking glass!” He laughed and said, “Aw, don’t tease me.”

This stout catcher can bomb down a runner at second, but he only needs to be “in the vicinity” to get ‘er done. So owing to that, mostly, he was unable to knock out a headlight.

TGM got Juan Ciriaco, shortstop. Juan has a hell of an arm, but not enough precision to smash a headlight.

As soon as it began, it was all over. There were no winners that day.

But there was ONE happy girl bouncing around, thrilled to have finally fulfilled the dream of getting the call to participate in Smash for Cash.

Later in the game, “my guy” Pablo Sandoval took one hell of a hit at the plate while trying to keep a run from scoring. So whatever grumpy feelings I had about not winning a dinner were long gone as he lay on the ground seeing stars. He won me back to his side in a big way.

I’m sure after that hit, he can’t even remember his name, much less the crazy girl with a grin on her face.

Thus is the way of baseball.

Here are a couple really amazing photos from this Flickr stream and this one too. This is a “right in there” view of the agony and ecstasy that is Smash for Cash. Enjoy. Check out the rest of both Flickr streams for views from Muni Stadium.