Peanuts and Cracker Jack

Nick crossing home plate at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. They let the kids run the bases after an afternoon game – we had to wait for hours for his turn. This would have been right after the Ballpark opened, probably 1995. It’s hard to believe he’s a junior in college now.

A few weeks ago I won a pair of Ranger tickets in a raffle. They weren’t particularly expensive seats – only ten dollars each – but something won is always something good. Still, the games were on a Friday night – that’s a long drive after work, and the horrible Texas heat is upon us… so I considered giving the tickets away.

But it turned out that Nick was flying into town the afternoon before the game, so I was glad to hang on to them. There is nothing better than going to a baseball game with your son.

Baseball is a time machine. Baseball exists outside of the rest of reality and to enter a baseball stadium is to connect with every other time you have been to a baseball game.

When we walked in I thought of the first major league games I had attended – in Kansas City while I was in college. I thought of the old Ranger Ballpark – the crappy old one that was a little bit to the north of Rangers Ballpark. Since I was with Nick, I remembered taking him as a toddler to the old ballpark – he immediately began to throw ketchup coated french fries over the railing onto the crowd below. We had to leave before the second inning.

I remembered the times we would take the kids to games. We would buy really inexpensive bench seats out in the outfield, right next to the opposing team’s bullpen. Nick and Lee would talk to the pitchers through the wire mesh. Some would give them pitching hints. Some gave them souvenir balls.

Nick talked about driving back from school in North Carolina to see a World’s Series game at the Ballpark. As a twenty-odd year Ranger fan I never thought I’d see a World’s Series played here (now I want to see them win one).

All the ballgames I had been to or played in swirled in my mind, decades and decades worth. The ballpark is fancier than it used to be, the scoreboards are colorful, stunning, electronic (I remember seeing a single-A game in Charleston, West Virginia where the “Dot Race” was three kids racing behind the outfield fence with brightly-colored wooden cutout horses atop long poles), and now the food choices are much more varied and tasty (and expensive) – but the game is the same. The bat, the ball, the three bases exactly the same distance apart.

It is a connection between people and between times and between space. It is baseball. I had not been to a game in a couple years… I almost forgot.

One thing I always say is that baseball is the only sporting event that you can enjoy when your team loses. For most of the night, that looked like what was what was going to happen. I was resigned to the loss and simply soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying hanging out. Oakland was up two to nothing until the eighth inning and the Rangers loaded the bases. There were two outs though, so not much hope.

But, wonder of wonders, a run walked in, and then Craig Gentry hit a bases-loaded, three run triple to give the good guys the win. A bases-loaded triple! Arguably the most exciting play in the game. The sell-out crowd went nuts. The radio announcers on the way home said the Baseball Gods were smiling on the Rangers tonight.

Then, after the game, they had a fireworks show. It was very nice – I’m not sure, but I think this was the first time I’ve seen those really cool smiley-face star shells – impressive.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout.

And sometimes – not often, but sometimes, there is joy in Mudville.

The view from the cheap seats. This is actually a really good place to sit. It’s high up, but you get a view of the game you don’t see on television – the placement of the fielders, the way a double play moves. I had no complaints.

One of the things I like best about Rangers Ballpark is the ample terrace around the upper level. Even on a hot summer evening there is a nice breeze at this altitude and it’s a great place to walk out and hang for a few minutes while the other team is batting.

If you look over the edge of the terrace on the first-base side you have an imposing view across the parking lots of the Death Star – where the Dallas Cowboys play. A photograph does not convey the horrible gigantic-ness of this monstrosity.

Off the third-base side are the roller coasters of Six Flags Over Texas.

The sun sets over the parking lots from the terrace of the Ballpark.

I couldn’t believe it… during a slow part of the game the crowd actually started doing the wave. About three decades too late in my opinion. Even the big main scoreboard didn’t approve.

Then and Now, Lee gets a hit

Nick and Lee are playing on a softball team on Sunday evenings. One of the other kid’s parents said, “It wasn’t that long ago I was their little league coach – and now they’re playing in an old-man softball league.”

Nick at third base

Nick at third base

Lee gets a hit

Lee gets a hit

I know it’s different kids in the two pictures – but it’s late, I’m busy… and this is what I’ve got.

Speaking of baseball, everybody was watching “The Sandlot” the other day. The kids loved this movie – this is one of the ones that they watched over and over. It was unusual in that I liked it as much as they did. A classic.

People can talk about the “Best Onscreen Kiss.” I don’t think there is any doubt – it is when Squints puts the move on Wendy Peffercorn.

Michael Squints Palledorous walked a little taller that day. And we had to tip our hats to him. He was lucky she hadn’t beat the CRAP out of him. We wouldn’t have blamed her. What he’d done was sneaky, rotten, and low… and cool. Not another one among us would have ever in a million years even for a million dollars have the guts to put the moves on the lifeguard. He did. He had kissed a woman. And he had kissed her long and good. We got banned from the pool forever that day. But every time we walked by after that, the lifeguard looked down from her tower, right over at Squints, and smiled.
—-The Sandlot