Excitement was all around us. The crack of a bat. The roar of the crowd. There was even a dancing mascot balanced with cat-like precision on the concrete wall between our section and the outfield.
Then I saw the ball. It was headed our way. High overhead, ready to land somewhere un-gloved and un-helmeted with a thud.
And for the briefest of brief moments I was wondering “What was I thinking?”
Fully three-quarters of our small family had never been to a real live baseball game in our lives.
My husband, the exception, had been to Fenway when he was 10. … And blah, blah, blah something about how it was terrible and how baseball wasn't really his game. But I don't know, I had stopped listening after 'Fenway,' until his voice went silent and I was able to slip in “Hey, we're all going to The Joe on Monday night.”
Now … most people around these parts have been to the baseball stadium located on the Hudson Valley campus at least once since it opened in 2002, right?
Love of Baseball? Curiosity? Or just something to do on a lazy summer evening that won't cost you a house payment?
Well … To tell the truth, the thought never crossed my mind until some friends decided to purchase a block of tickets for a night of Class A short season play.
In fact, the whole room fell silent as my children wondered why on earth THEIR MOTHER would ever drag them to a game NEITHER of them were playing in?
And with foul balls cracked in wild trajectories over the stands, it seemed they might have been right.
I started to hold my breath with every 90-mile-an-hour pitch.
“This one's coming straight for us,” yelled a man in the crowd.
Sure enough, an incoming foul ball glanced off a neighboring shoulder and bounced into the next section.
The man who had “taken one for the team,” was, luckily, still smiling.
And strangely enough, so was I – pressed metal signs warning of the dangers of foul balls, notwithstanding.
Because all around me were signs of things I never expected. Signs of real memories in the making that aren't part of any year-end statistics. There is the grandfather who kisses his grandson's head. A father bouncing his daughter on his lap. A row of people smiling and laughing as their kids holler “batter up.” A man with a fishing net scooping up foul balls to hand to the kids in stands.
This was more than fun.
The score was 4 to 2, and my kids were going wild.
Sodas. Hot dogs. Popcorn. An ice-cold beer. … The only thing missing was the mechanical burp of a t-shirt gun, as the stadium reps tossed the freebies into the stands by hand.
My daughter, dressed in the shortest shorts she own and wearing her complementary baseball hat ironically, was busy creating a dramatic reading of the player stats as they flashed on the outfield screen.
She lost her mind, and potentially her voice for the next few days, when trying to tip the Noise-O-Meter into the red.
But then a blast of music from the loudspeakers sent my son toward me at top speed.
“Hold this,” he hollered, thrusting a cup-full of freeze-dried ice cream spheres into my hands.
“This is my jam! I gotta dance.”
And with those words, the entire group of us – a club of friends and neighbors in the pursuit of running – were treated to an eight year old's version of locking and popping. His hip-hop style made even more entertaining by the alternating heights of already mismatched socks, and his new baseball cap worn backwards and on a tilt.
“Do the worm,” his sister begged.
“Not enough room,” he responds as he reaches out to reclaim his space-age dessert and the seat next to me along left field.
Another lefty at bat.
“Another foul ball, headed our way,” announces the boy as if he were paid to. “Be on the lookout.”
And so we watched carefully and exhaled great shouts of delight when the batter knocked the ball straight into center field, setting the stage for a grand-slam homer.
“I have NEVER seen this team lose,” yelled the boy.
To which I just had to laugh. “Game's not over, champ. You haven't seen them win yet, either.”
Nope. I don't care who you are -- die-hard bibliophile or bookish baseball fan – it doesn't get much better than this on a summer-fading night.