July 15, 1999

Baseball.. As it SHOULD Be

I've been a baseball fan of sorts all my adult life, ever since my then-boyfriend (now husband) began taking me to watch the Expos, still a fairly new franchise, in the early 1970's.

[Digression: Jarry Park, now THERE was a stadium. Smaller even than Fenway Park in Boston, located a short bus ride from where I was living, wonderfully intimate and the best tickets were $5.00. Open air, grass, and blessedly, no need for a mascot to stir up the crowd. The Expos moved out of there into the Olympic Stadium in 1977. I don't even want to get STARTED on that stadium, maybe another time..]

The baseball I'm referring to here is my 15 year old son's city league. It's run by parent volunteers and (barely) teenage umpires and statisticians (who do get paid a few dollars per game). There's no qualifying at this level of play.. if you pay the fee you're on a team. These are kids doing it for FUN, team companionship, self-esteem, whatever.. everyone ends up with the same trophy at the end! There are more competitive divisions in the league but my son refuses to try out for them, preferring to be the "star" where he is, without much hassle and effort, rather than enduring the pressure to perform. As he does not have a similar attitude in his other pursuits, I think this is a healthy decision for him and haven't tried to influence him otherwise (as if I could!)

The games are played in a variety of city parks, for the most part pretty and well-kept, with wide-open vistas of adjacent soccer fields and schoolyards. (This IS suburbia.. the "city" in question, Laval Quebec, is still bereft of a "downtown" area!) The stands are primitive and usually face right into the setting sun, so lawn chairs are the way to go.

Baseball has a pace that fits in perfectly with a lazy summer evening. Inbetween pitches (and sometimes for entire innings if my mind wanders) I can stare at the sky and enjoy focusing my eyes farther than about 18 inches from my face. I look at the trees and the more than 216 colours out there, listen to the birds' and the umpire's calls, and breathe some fresh air if I can avoid the smokers.

In this part of the world, it's daylight until nearly 9 PM in July, and the fact that the sitting-out season is so short makes this all the more delicious. Our climate is polar in winter and tropical in summer, but early evening is almost always tolerable (barring thunderstorms)..

Going to these games is also an opportunity to meet people, parents of the other players, and a new bunch of neighbourhood dogs who also attend faithfully. And of course, in Quebec, there is always the language issue, which is usually settled peacefully when politicians aren't involved. The games go on predominantly in French, the umpire's calls are usually in English, and the kids speak whichever language(s) they choose. It's a good way for them to keep up (or even learn) the other language over the summer.

Can this compare with attending a professional game in an indoor stadium to watch a bunch of grown men you don't even know earn zillions of dollars per pitch?

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