Paid Attendance Vs. Paid Attention
It’s not supposed to be like this.
First your Opening Day/Night gets rained out. Then the following day/night is cold and windy, but dry, so you go through the ceremonial motions with no one there to watch and clap. Player introductions with some guys just staying in the dugout and others shivering and huddling together along the baselines like penguins. A video tribute to Bob Feller on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the only Opening Day no-no in big league history to go along with the Bob Feller bandanas handed out at the turnstiles that folks are using as windbreaks on their cheeks, looking like stagecoach robbers. The silly hat-head contest atop the home dugout that’s supposed to be decided by the applause-o-meter except it’s out-of-order; no power. Saturday night there were probably more people in the skyboxes than the stands. Then the game had barely started when Tony Campana, who looks about as batboyish as his predecessor, Sam Fuld, used to before he donned a cape and became ManRam’s replacement, lofted a blooper to left-center leading off the bottom of the first. Memphis’ left and center fielders, Andrew Brown and Shane Robinson, respectively, collided in pursuit of it - no skid marks; full-tilt. Poor bastards; 15-20 minutes later they were both scraped off the turf and ambulanced to the hospital with concussions [Robinson also sustained some facial fractures] and the players and fans re-thawed and resumed. Eventually the I-Cubs prevailed, long after I’d taken my media guides and gone home.
Sunday afternoon was better; still chilly but less breezy and the sky was blue. Oneri Fleita was in attendance and sat outdoors, for which I’ll give him credit. The Chicago and Iowa Cubs announced that their three-decade long affiliation has been formally extended through 2016. Everyone seemed glad to hear it. I certainly was. Ramon Ortiz started for the I-Cubs and pitched quite a bit better than his line suggests. His arm seemed lively and his command fairly sharp but he fell victim to the limited range and quickness of Bobby [Godblesshim] Scales in the 3rd when Memphis breached the right side of the infield defense and aimed a series of grounders through it. Combined with a couple of flares that dropped gently between IF and OF, one of them off the bat of Fast Freddie Bynum, the bleeding of Ortiz couldn’t be stopped until he’d thrown about three dozen pitches in the inning that would be his last. I thought he looked about as good as a guy can while suffering death by a thousand cuts.
Doing my best to simulate conditions more LA-like, I excused myself early again to head home and watch the local club’s parents play on television. A foul ball followed me out of the park, landing maybe ten yards behind me in the parking lot and rolling practically right to my car. I picked it up and inspected. It was still pristine except for a small bat-inflicted blemish and the abrasion that resulted from its crash landing on the asphalt. I drove home contemplating the difference between the baseballs we used to play with and the professional ones. Ours usually were dirty, waterlogged and frayed by the time we lost or discarded them. The one in the seat beside me yesterday may have lived only a pitch or two.
The season’s start felt false here, but there are plenty more where that ball came from, starting today at noon in the series finale. The forecast includes a good chance of rain and temps below normal. I’ve gotta work.