Taking Us Out to the Ballgame

by admin | August 22, 2013 7:04 pm

Life and events again conspired to keep me from making it to Fenway Park this season. I can’t complain, since nobody will listen. Instead I drove down to watch the Red Sox play the Houston Astros in Minute Maid Park, accompanied by my middle daughter Mere and son-in-law Matt. We sat in right field by the foul pole in prime home run ball-catching territory.

Back in the day, the Astros for a time earned the nickname of the Lastros, an insult that sadly has been resurrected for a team that has fallen on really hard times. Some of the jokes making the rounds of Facebook include:

• I left three Astros tickets on my dashboard in downtown Houston. Somebody broke into my car and left three more.

• It has gotten so bad the cops in Houston are pulling people over and giving them Astros tickets. (I borrowed the two above from Longview News-Journal sports editor Jack Stallard.)

• Major League Baseball has been looking at ways to speed up the game. They’re considering letting the Houston Astros lose via email.

• Houston Astros fans wear sunglasses even though the stadium roof is closed during those gruesome summer nights. That’s so nobody will recognize them.

• Why can’t the Houston Astros use the World Wide Web? Because they can’t get 3 W’s in a row.

OK, I’ll stop.

The Astros are Bless Their Hearts Bad, to once more quote Messr. Stallard.  They are on track to again lose more than 100 games this season. Switching to the American League this season has not improved their prospects, although it has increased my chances of seeing the Red Sox play in Texas — either against the Rangers or now the Astros. So I was fine with the change. Plus, I love Minute Maid Park, especially in August. Watching a ballgame in Texas during August can be a grilling experience.

As the month draws to its end, the Red Sox are improbably clinging to a narrow lead in the AL East, with one of the best records in baseball. As a lifelong fan, I know all too well how capable this team is of collapsing, as it did two seasons ago — snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with jaw-dropping ineptitude. We true fans, with BoSox allegiance bred into us for generations, know to expect the worst and only vaguely hope for the best. Thus I can empathize with those wearing Astros caps on this summer evening.

By the way, the team has gone back to the classic cap, with a capital “H” in front of an orange star. This is a much classier look, which impelled my daughter to plunk down $20 for a new version and stuff the old cap into her purse. The kids bought me a new Red Sox cap as an early birthday present, so we presented an ecumenical front at the game. We weren’t alone, of course. One finds Red Sox fans everywhere these days. Probably one in four fans walking the aisles sported the “B” logo.

I love the ritual of a major league game, from the grounds crew carefully manicuring and watering the infield before the first inning, the players warming up beforehand, tossing each other lazy pop flies, to the ceremonial throwing of the first pitch by some lucky person. Singing the National Anthem, when we come to the line about “our flag was still there” makes me tear up every time. It has since Sept. 11, 2001. I don’t watch many games on television any more, but it is a treat to sit in the outfield and just watch a game that I have followed since before I barely learned to read.

It was a close game. The Astros pulled ahead in the middle innings by three runs, sparking some life in a respectable crowd, no doubt larger than usual because of the Sox were in town. Sorry to say that, but when a team is mired in last place it does affect attendance. The Red Sox picked up a run to cut it to two, then went ahead for good with a three-run homer in the eighth inning.

Mere and Matt were not exactly crushed by the loss, and I wouldn’t have been if the results had been reversed. Just being there was enough, on a summer evening in Houston, under the air-conditioned roof.

That’s the way to watch baseball in Texas during the dog days.

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