Take Me Out to the Ba?Oh, God, They Have Snacks!
6:59 p.m. By the time I make it to the bleachers, it’s the end of the second inning. The Valley Blue Sox versus the North Adams Guys Wearing Black Shirts. I’ve decided to catch a college summer league baseball game as an excuse to get out of the house on a nice summer evening. I’m out of my element here, trying my best to blend in. I wear my Red Sox hat so no one will see me and point and scream like a body-snatched Donald Sutherland. I sit on the bleachers, keep my head down, and write. I’ll probably get beaned.
See? “Beaned.” That’s a baseball word. I know stuff. The crackling PA blasts some second-rate Foo Fighters ripoff, or maybe it’s just the Foo Fighters. The announcer bellows something unintelligible about the “Sequel Gaps.” The North Adams Sequel Caps? The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” plays under a sponsored announcement about Pizza Hut. How does a Clash song end up here, in this place, with these people?
7:18 p.m. The North Adams Treacle Cracks score in the third, but I’m distracted by sound effects broadcast over the PA: The Price Is Right’s sad music cue. A “boing” sound with no apparent context. Over near the dugout, there are children’s activities involving frisbees and spare tires. Further down the left field line, there are food carts and a bouncy castle full of shrieking children.
“LET’S GO, BLUE SOX! LET’S GO!” chants a row of Little Leaguers behind me. They taunt a North Adams player: “C’mon, Watermelon!” Shit, that sounds racist. Or are they mocking a funny last name? I squint at the batter. I don’t think he’s black. Am I racist for checking to see if he’s black? The kids are young and don’t seem malicious and they holler something about tighty-whiteys, so then I’m just confused.
Aww, man! A fly ball just hit a guy in the stands! He wasn’t paying attention, and bam! Right on the kneecap! I was right—I’m a target out here! Stay sharp or get beaned. I need to focus!
7:35 p.m. Okay, I needed to check out the food carts. Whew, that was a dry cheeseburger. Saw a guy with sausage and peppers and I was all like “Damn!” But I’m cheap and the thing was $6.75 or something. What do I look like, a Rockefeller?
7:49 p.m. Back to the game. Concentrate, Tom! It’s the fifth inning, and I grab a bleacher seat right behind home base. It’s pretty cool seeing curve balls from this angle. I’d have thought this would be a sought-after location, but there’s plenty of room here. Is this not a thing? A fly ball hits the chain link to my left. Wait, is that why no one’s sitting here? Did I just put myself in the goddamned crosshairs? Panic sets in.
8:10 p.m. Middle of the sixth. There’s an ice cream sandwich-eating competition taking place near the dugout as the teams switch positions. The shrieking children from the bouncy castle have temporarily abandoned their inflatable stronghold to shriek at two kids pushing frozen milk past their teeth. Is this a passing amusement while the players rotate, or does the game actually pause so this event can take place? I can’t tell what’s being prioritized here.
8:14 p.m. A Blue Sox centerfielder attempts a valiant and commendable faceslide for a ball. Doesn’t work out. North Adams scores, and then scores again. And then, uhhh… scores again. Is this how the game is supposed to work? 4-0. Where the hell is North Adams, anyway? It’s where Mass MoCA is, right? The North Adams Post-Conceptual Performance Artists are killing right now. LET’S GO, BLUE SOX! LET’S GO!
8:18 p.m. I heroically endure “Man In The Box” by Alice In Chains, followed by the PacMan “game over” sound (apparently only 8-bit audio sounds good through these speakers). Does the seventh inning stretch come at the beginning or the end of the seventh? Wait… You’re supposed to say “top” and “bottom.” I remember this. Everybody claps but I miss why. Maybe someone ate some food really fast.
8:24 p.m. Jeez, the sky’s beautiful, really beautiful. Bright orange clouds and slate blue shadows over the left field wall of local advertising. I think I just heard the announcer say a batter’s name is Bud Cort. A young lady accompanying a man in a wheelchair is showing an absurd amount of thong and—wait! Something happened! A line drive? The crowd is all like “YAAAAAH!”
8:31 p.m. The Blue Sox score, and then they bounce a ball off a logo in the outfield and score again. It’s 4-2. I’m trying to stay focused on the game, but there’s a woman typing on her phone in front of me. She and Veronica don’t get along.
I fear the bouncy castle is about to burst open and five million shrieking hornets are going to pour out like flying liquid hell and kill everyone. The parents in attendance seem numb to the shrieks. Seventh inning came and went. Not much of a stretch. Someone threw T-shirts instead.
8:35 p.m. Two men on, sacrifice bunt. I write this down because I hear a kid say it. He’s wearing a Little League uniform, so I treat him with the respect reserved for wise authority figures. “People Cats?” The North Adams People Cats? How much could a couple of new speakers cost, really? A maintenance guy drives a golf cart full of garbage bags along the edge of the field and kids start cheering. Blue Sox pick up three in a blaze of sports playing to tie 4-4! Everyone claps. I clap, too. It’s a good game.•