Passion at the Ballpark

Where is the real America?  It is a question we think about from time to time.  The bigger the city you live in, the harder it is to feel as though you know where that place is.  Thought I’d share with you an experience I had last summer regarding passion, minor league baseball and America.

First, let me introduce myself.  I grew up in New York City in the 1950’s.  From  the time I was 2 through age 17, the Yankees were in the World Series all but two years.  I suspect this is probably where the New Yorkers’ arrogance may have begun since it was deemed a birthright to have our beloved Yankees in the World Series each year.  In my case there was an added level as my father worked part time for the Yankees and later the Mets throughout this time period and he continued to work there until his death in the early 1990’s.  My first job was working in the visitor’s clubhouse at Shea the first year it opened.  My pay was $5 (a day, not per hour) so I only did it for half a season and switched to working in the ticket office at Yankee Stadium through college.  In short, baseball is in my blood.

With that diversion out of the way, let me proceed on to my recent experience I had.  We live out of state but spend considerable time in the beautiful Charleston SC area, home of the Class A Yankee club, the Riverdogs.  Through their website I saw a link to the minor league baseball site and was blown away of the depth of data available on all the teams. To those in “real” America, minor baseball is sometimes their only opportunity to make contact with real pro baseball players.  It may notbe The Show but it’s preety darn good.  The MIBL site had a fantasy game called Beat the Streak which involves selecting a player (from over 2000 in professional baseball I imagine) and if they get a hit that night, you start a hitting streak.  So I started to play and here’s where the story really begins.

Being a novice, I started out with Riverdog players to follow.  Thanks to Mark Cuban, you are now able to listen in on the radio broadcast via the Internet.  It is here where I rediscovered the true America and how baseball touches us all.  The broadcaster treats the game as something sacred and tries to bring this passion to the listeners.  My selection one night was Jesus Montero, an 18 year old catcher who one day will replace Posada.  In the course of listening, I discover they had a trivia contest for listeners, no doubt to encourage you to stay on for the entire game.  I had heard it before but paid little attention to it.  But this time it was different because my ears perked up when I heard the first two clues of  “New York” (I remember that place very well) and “1950’s” (I was there back then).  Given my background, I was half expecting that I was the answer to the trivia question.  When the last clue was announced (“Ethel”). I was sure I knew what they wanted.  I thought of 1950’s TV and The Honeymooners (I know I’m wrong but as you will see, it didn’t matter).  So when the game was over, I called up and was surprised to hear a voice on the other end answering my call.

My first impression was that the person may have had one too many double espressos washed down with a Dr. Pepper.  He was pumped up to say the least.  He asked my name and I told him Tom.  We then proceeded to banter about life in general much like the news anchors and weatherman do on your local TV.  We then discussed the details of the Riverdogs’ win that night.  Finally he asked me the all important Quiz Question.  I answered confidently “The Honeymooners”.  There was a pause and then he informs me that not only was I wrong but I was the first person who did not have the correct answer all year.  He thanked me and I hung up thinking that’s how the story would end.  But then, I hear from my computer a replay of our conversation and I’m floored.  You see in “Big-Time” America, I’m used to calling stations and speaking with screeners.  I did not expect that I’d be speaking with the show host directly.  While chuckling to myself, I continue to listen since I was curious as to the correct answer.  As I’m listening, I slowly realize that there is no second caller. I start to sense in the host’s voice a slight sense of desperation, as he vamps until his phone rings again.  His enthusiasm is waning and he needs help.  I decide to call again and as I’m dialing I realize I don’t have another guess.  Then I remember that the answer had a tie in to that night’s ballpark promotion which the Riverdogs are known for.  It was cheapskate night and I remembered that 1) I had the wrong show and 2) they were looking for a character (Fred Mertz of I Love Lucy).  Just then the phone call goes through and this time  the same person answers.  Except this time, the Dr. Pepper has clearly worn off and is replaced by a sense of relief in his voice.  The calvary has finally arrived.  He gets right to the question, no banter this time.  He asks my name and I say  “This is To…; I mean “This is Tommy” as I lower my voice at least six octaves downward from tenor to base in an attempt to disguise my voice.  I get the question right and he tell me about the prize I won (hat, T-Shirt and tickets to future game).  The phone suddenly goes dead and I hear him tell the audience that the winner Tommy sounded a lot like the previous caller Tom but since it was the correct answer, he won.  But I’m in the dark as to how I can collect the prize.  I’m King of Free; I want what I earned.

I wait for him to finish the post game show which entails, it seems, replaying every ground ball.  Finally he goes to break and I call in as basso profundo Tommy.  He says hello and I ask him how I get my prize.  He says no problem, just stop by the stadium tomorrow.  I told him I couldn’t and he asks why.  I tell him I’m from Texas and he repeats my answer but only in a more animated manner “You’re from Texas”?  I tell him that I was listening on the Internet and we go through the same dance of disbelief (“You’re listening on the Internet?) as I sense that he has since replenished himself with another Dr. Pepper/Mountain Dew combo.  The last thing I hear before I turn off my computer was the host excitedly explaining to the audience who Tommy was and where he was listening from.  I suspected that I may have made his day.  He certainly made mine.

What stays with me after this experience is how important it is to be passionate in whatever you do in life.  The host and the play by play announcer certainly has it.  What could be better than to be great at what you do and love what you are doing?  I will continue to smile whenever I think of that simple beautiful night in April.

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One Response to “Passion at the Ballpark”

  1. r.j. candalino Says:

    your posts are just great

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