Baseball in Air-Conditioning

Let’s begin this with the admission that there are a lot of things that I don’t know. I have a friend who out of college had a job as Madeline Albright’s traveling helper. I had jobs as a chicken outside of a chicken restaurant, the moon-headed “Mac-Tonight” character for McDonalds (don’t worry Ronald is real, only Mac Tonight was fake), and the magician at way too many children’s birthday parties to count. Let’s just say that my mental dinning room set might be missing a chair. Even though I am willing to admit that I don’t know a lot of things, there are few things that I know. One of them is that BASEBALL SHOULD NOT BE PLAYED INSIDE.

Josiah, Charity, and I went to the Marlins-Cubs game today at the new “Miami Marlin’s Stadium.” It reminded me of the times when they were little and we used to go to the minor league West Palm Beach Expos games at least once a week; of the times when they were a little older and we used to ride the EL down to Wrigley in the spring. It was great to see the ivy starting to come back, to feel the slight chill of the spring air, and even to get rained on sometimes. That was all part of the experience; part of the game; part of the tradition.

The new Marlin’s stadium is beautiful inside. There are aquariums behind home plate, though I can imagine what the fish think when a ninety-seven mile an hour fast-ball get fouled off right into their face. That can’t be good for the fish’s heart and I noticed that they were not kissing the glass after than happened. There are wonderful seats, and thanks to my friend, I had some of the best in the ballpark. Even the worst seats seem pretty close to the action and capable of getting a foul ball. The skyline of Miami is nice, if you like that kind of thing, and the home run “congratulatory marlin spinning in a circle while water shoots out” seemed nice, though it was not needed during the game and I wonder how often it will be needed during the season.

The real problem that I had was that we were sitting in air-conditioned comfort. Isn’t part of loving baseball something about suffering? You suffer when your team does poorly (I am a Cubs fan and an expert at this particular skill); you suffer when a great player gets hurt; you suffer when a foul ball glances off you your hand and a girl (a girl) in back of you gets it, although this has never happened to me (as far as you know); and you suffer when you watch the game in South Florida because it’s hot. That’s part of the deal. That’s what the true fan signs up for. That’s what baseball is all about. Just like the Tom Hanks character says in “A League of Their Own,” “There’s no crying in baseball;” I want to say “There’s no air-conditioning in baseball.”

How am I supposed to conjure up memories of Wrigley field on a cold night in October when I am sitting in climate-controlled freshness? How can I remember taking the kids to a warm day game, smelling grass (as well the grass on the field), seeing the fans sitting on top of the apartment building on Sheffield avenue, watching the bleacher bums throwing back home run balls, and slowly viewing the night overtake the city of Chicago?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad the Marlin’s have their own stadium. I glad that I no longer have to sit in the “end-zone” trying to see the pitch from a crooked seat, far out in left field. I’m not glad, however, that I have to do it inside. It just doesn’t seem right to me.

Maybe I’m just a grouchy old man, but I want the same experience I had when the kids were little. I guess I’ll never get that. Now that they have jobs they won’t depend on me to buy their snacks and souvenirs. They won’t depend on me to make sure that they don’t get lost in the crowd. They don’t need to depend on me to protect them anymore. Maybe it’s that which I miss more than the outside play. Maybe I just long for the time when I was the dad who would do “anything” if asked by one of my little aliens. Maybe I long for the past instead of the stadium.

But game moves on. We all realize that we will eventually be in the later innings of our life and we know that sooner or later, even if there are extra innings, the game is going to come to an end. Maybe I just want one more game like we had back then.

Like I said, there are lots of things I don’t know. But I do know that I have had some great times at baseball games and that all of them have been outside. But for now I’ll take an inside game and think back to when the ivy was coming back, Harry Caray was still leading “Take Me Out To the Ballgame,” my kids thought going to the game on the EL was a great adventure, and the Cubs flag held up a W. Memories like these are golden trophies that don’t need polishing. Time makes them shine. Maybe time will make today such a memory, because it was still baseball, inside or not.