I am not a sports fan. I voted wholeheartedly against building what is admittedly a gorgeous ballpark because I thought our civic funds should be spent elsewhere. I almost never watch sports on television—save for the random few hours spent gobstruck by the Olympics. I will not go out of my way to attend a professional sporting event. But if you call me up and say, “Hey, I have an extra ticket for the ball game … wanna come along?” I will say yes every time. Because, secretly, I like live baseball.
Our friend’s dad has a concierge-like role at Safeco Field’s Diamond Club. He provided our tickets with the goal being to introduce my Euro-spouse to the game. No, we did not get to see the game while breathing the same rarefied air that the top-end season-ticket holders do. We did take the club tour, where we learned that Diamond Club members are offered just about everything their snacking and drinking hearts desire—inclusive in the cost of a Diamond Club ticket. Their seats are right behind home plate—you can probably see dust fly off the ball when the batter connects. While in the stands, Diamond Club members get menus and servers, whereas up in the vertigo zone, a guy shouts, “BeeeEEER” or, “Cold lemonAAAADE!” while hefting a plastic carton of drinks up and down the steep steps. Diamond Club members have cocktails mixed to order at the bar and a dessert buffet, rather than plastic bags of gummi worms. And they get padded seats.
Never mind. Our tour over, we climbed to our 300-level seats—also behind the plate—to munch on peanuts and kettle corn. I drank a $7 beer from a plastic cup. The kid next to us turned his hands and face an unnatural shade of blue by eating a fluffy cotton candy that was about the size of his little brother. The lively twenty-somethings just over there sang and danced and shouted at the field. Japanese girls held up Ichiro signs and waved and screamed until the camera picked them up on the jumbo screen.
And on the field, the slow drama that is baseball unfolded. The sweepers did their dance while prepping the field in between innings. There was a beauty queen, Mrs. Washington (“Her husband is George!” snarked my friend), and the moose mascot. Baseballs popped up into the stands behind the plate, beyond the foul line, and once, over the wall into right field for a spectacular home run. The coach ran out on to the field to dispute a call; the umpires gathered and separated. Sometimes the pitcher’s mound was a tea party for the entire team; other times, the pitcher stood alone, taking his cap on and off, wiping his brow, turning sharply, and hurling the ball towards first, where the runner was making a play to steal second.
The crowd sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” “Louie Louie,” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The sky turned dark, the seagulls flying over were bright white in the spots, and for a while, a double rainbow arced over the park, mirroring the arch of the ballpark and the football stadium just to the north. Fans skittered in and out like the tide between innings, wearing jerseys with the numbers of their favorite players, carrying big foam #1 fingers, pillows for their seats, rain ponchos, and cardboard trays overflowing with garlic fries.
Baseball. I realize it’s wildly popular in other parts of the world—the Dominican Republic and Japan and oh, I don’t know where else—but to me, there’s something reassuringly, optimistically American about a baseball game. And there’s a theater to it; the players have back stories, they have history, the game moves forward in chapters in time, and anything can happen at any point in the game.
It’s why I always say yes when invited. There’s a sense of possibility inherent in baseball that keeps you wondering what’s going to happen next. Maybe that’s what I mean when I say it’s so American. That sense of possibility, that you can come from anywhere and knock it out of the park.
The takeaway for my mate was closer to “Don’t eat so many M&Ms” and “Yeah, I enjoyed that.” Hey, he’s just up from the farm leagues. We’ll get there.