30 April 2006

Stuff You Oughta Know About Boycotting Major League Baseball

Me? Not hardly. I made Opening Day this year in Houston (saw them "raise" the National League pennant -- see the photo, you'll know what I mean) and plan on visiting Shea Stadium later this week. I had a comment left on an old post that I knew warranted a reply, but knew that no one, including the guy who left the comment would ever see it.

I guess the real reason I'm commenting on this entry goes back to '89 and the time I spent 6 months working in Huntsville, AL. The Huntsville Stars were a AA affiliate of Oakland. I went to an early season game which had little attendance. We sat down in the first row of seats where during warm-ups you could actually hear the "sssssssssssss' sound as the balls rolled through the grass. You mention the pop as the ball hit the mitt, but I'll never forget the "sssssssssssss." At a game later in the season I managed to snag a foul ball on the fly along the third baseline. This game was pretty well attended as the reigning Ameican League MVP was doing a rehab assignment in Huntsville with his brother Ozzie. Jose Canseco didn't hit the ball I caught but I'll never forget it.
One of my favorite baseball moments ever involved Ozzie Canseco. I was dating a girl who not only tolerated my obsession with baseball, but actually supported it. She was a fan -- a Red Sox fan, but a fan nonetheless. We had a long distance relationship, but she was down visiting me during spring training. We went to a game when Ozzie Canseco was trying to make the Expos (I think that this was just following the strike season). My girlfriend was fascinated with Ozzie. He was standing on the dugout steps and she wanted him to turn around and pose for a picture. Ozzie, thinking that she was goofing, was having no part of it. Well, she wasn't goofing (well, she was eventually goofing, but it could have been avoided if he had just taken the darn picture) - she really thought he was cute.

Ozzie was steadfast in his refusal (if I were that good at ignoring her, we may still be dating??), and now she is getting a little ticked -- not to mention a little pickled courtesy of the ballpark beer. So, the gang in our section (who are also now trying to get Ozzie to turn around for the picture) becomes amused when she says "Come on, Ozzie...your brother would turn around!" Needless to say, Ozzie didn't turn around....and things got worse. I think by that point, Jose had around 300 major league home runs, and Ozzie had none. She felt the need to point that out. Now, the whole crowd is in on the act -- "Hey, Ozzie, does your wife look as good as Jose's?" Of course, the one that finally got the poor guy to turn around came from the girl I should have married -- "Hey, Ozzie, does Jose send you an allowance?" That got the picture...and one that is surely worthy of a nice frame.

The other point the commenter made was that he no longer attends major league baseball games, just minor leagues. It sounds as though he is still bitter from the 1994 strike that eliminated the World Series that year. I guess I can understand, but the notion of athletes being spoiled or taking their lives for granted doesn't surprise me - never did. While I am still a Mets fan, the reality is that I go to baseball games as more of a stadium "collector."

A few years ago, a buddy and I started an aggressive effort to get to every major league stadium. We are progressing nicely. I have been to 22 of the 30 active major league stadiums and a few that are no longer in use. This year's travels will give me the new St. Louis stadium, Cleveland and Toronto, and I will only be missing five (Colorado, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Washington, and Seattle). Toronto is the last major league ballpark that both my buddy and I are missing. After the summer, I will still be missing the five above, and he will only be missing Pittsburgh and Texas. We have enjoyed the journey much more than the baseball. I remember only a handful of the specifics of the games, but I can still see some of the details of the ballparks etched into my memory. If you haven't been to a major league game since 1994, you are missing out on some GREAT ballparks -- PNC in Pittsburgh, Miller Park in Milwaukee, Comerica Park in Detroit, Turner Field in Atlanta, PETCO in San Diego, and AT&T Park (was PacBell and SBC previously -- can't get these phone company mergers and takeovers straight) are all in my Top 10 Favorite Stadiums.

Of course, if you want to skip the pros, my single favorite sporting event that I have ever attended is the College Baseball World Series, held every June in Omaha, NE. Rosenblatt Stadium is a PHENOMENAL place to watch a baseball game. The flags flying in the outfield represent the eight schools that make the trip to Omaha. The stadium seats 20,000+ fans, but feels as intimate as a lower division minor league ballpark. The food is good, the ticket prices are very reasonable, and the whole city embraces the event like nothing else I have ever seen. Go to Omaha -- you won't regret it.

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