The Dog Days of Summer Return

 
Relaxing

Until a few days ago, I was contemplating a boycott of Major League games for the rest of the season. After all, I was having too much fun attending games in the boonies. Two weeks ago it was the Newport Gulls, a college summer league team, and last weekend, it was independent minor league ball, as I took in a Rockland Boulders game at their inviting new park in Pomona, NY. The relaxing, family atmosphere and the innocence of watching guys just play for the love of the game,  satisfied my craving for weekend summer baseball. It was strees free and helped keep my mind of some maddening things happening at the big league level in recent weeks:

After the tragic death of Texas Rangers fan Shannon Stone, you’d think the Rangers would make the right moves. Raise the railings in the upper tiers of the Ballpark in Arlington, prohibit players from tossing balls up into the stands.  I know the Rangers are well-intentioned, but this is what we got: the railings do conform to fire code. And you can’t stop tossing balls to fans. That’s one of the reasons they come to the games! Ridiculous. Here’s my advice to the Rangers, not to mention all teams: whatever the fire code says, raise the railings in the upper tiers at least a foot higher. And prohibit your players from tossing balls into the crowd. Very simple.  It will save lives. Don’t argue. Just do it.

With all due respect to Derek Jeter, whose 3,000th hit was a great accomplishment made more remarkable by the way he accomplished it — home run, five hit day — it was among the most overhyped events in baseball history. I know, it was Derek Jeter, the Yankees, New York. I should not have been surprised by the attention and hysteria it produced. And I know, it’s more than just hit number 3,000. It’s a celebration of his career, one of the most storied in New York sports history. But the outpouring has been so over the top. People are gobbling up Jeter 3000 (or as they say, DJ3K) souvenirs like they’re interest-free, no money down mortgages.  Even the guy who caught the ball, Christian Lopez, is being treated like royalty. Major brands are sending him money — why, I’m not sure. I wish him the very best, he seems like a very nice person. I respect that he returned the ball to Jeter. But I really hope the person who finds a cure for cancer or ends all wars gets similar treatment.

After making history, Jeter decides not attend the All Star Game in Phoenix. He and 15 other players. But Jeter gets slammed by the same media who were canonizing him just a day earlier. He was tired, he was hurting. He needed the rest for the good of himself and his team. Good for him. I have no issues with that. But all the bloviators in the media  take him to task for depriving the fans of a memorable moment to soak in his very presence. Derek Jeter had no reason to apologize. He did more for the game of baseball in one day than most players do in an entire career — overhyped or not.  Give the guy a break, along with all the other players who would rather rest their weary bones and spend time with their families for a few days. In Chicago, one talking head said it was “disgusting” of Aramis Ramirez, who was chosen as an All Star after two other players begged out , to pass on the “honor” because he already planned to spend time back in the Dominican with his family. If that’s one man’s standard for “disgusting,” I’d love to hear what he thinks of Casey Anthony.

And then there’s Roger Clemens. After all these years, the big bully is about to get his just due.  But no, there’s a mistrial. After years of preparation and seemingly endless government resources (did the case against Roger contribute to our bloated national debt?), the Feds make an inexplicably amateurish blunder. So Roger may end up going free.  That’s justice for you.   

On top of all that, the Mets send K-Rod off to Milwaukee, which is a good thing. It’ll help keep my blood pressure down. But still, that trade, combined with the inevitable departure of Carlos Beltran and others, is a clear sign that the dog days of summer are about to settle in for the Mets. The chorus of “Don’t Trade Reyes!” will begin anew when Jose comes off the DL, but that’ll just delude us all from reality:  Reyes will be playing elsewhere next year. Perhaps in San Francisco. By the way, wasn’t it nice of the Giants to give the Mets shortstop a ride down to Phoenix last weekend? Just asking. Beltran was on the flight too, by the way. I guess you can say he was the beard. And I’m not talking about Brian Wilson.

Stressful

But despite it all, I gave in to temptation and attended the Mets-Phillies game yesterday. Back to the big leagues. Rubber match, sun-splashed Sunday afternoon, great seats behind home. I put all the bad stuff behind me, got myself a grilled baloney sandwich from Blue Smoke and settled in for a wonderful afternoon of baseball. At least that’s what I had hoped. It was really all downhill after the baloney.  It was unbearably hot in those box seats. I know, I know. Don’t stare a gift horse in the mouth.  They were the best seats in the house. But I was melting like a popsicle and sticking to the leather seats. At least they were leather!  And Mike Pelfrey was again pitching poorly. And the Phillies fans were everywhere — when unheralded rookie Michael Martinez took Pelfrey deep in the sixth, you’d think you were at Citizen’s Bank Park.  And some guy behind me went nuts every time a foul ball went into the stands. That’s mine. That’s mine. I got it. I got. He barked this even though none of the balls were anywhere near our section. What is it exactly about grown men who live vicariously with every foul ball hit. I hate foul balls. I want nothing to do with them. They’re meaningless and they’re dangerous. But that’s for another day. Oh, I forgot, I wrote that column last year!

So I watched a few innings inside the Delta 360 Club. They don’t have clubs like this at Newports Gulls games, which is good and bad. Good because you don’t get spoiled. Bad because you miss out on the flat screen TV’s, air conditioning, nice bathrooms, and eight or so beers on tap. Of course, you can watch Gulls games from the back patio at the Mudville Pub next door. They have more than eight beers on tap. But the bathrooms aren’t great.

Anyway, I left with the Mets down 8-1 in the eighth, thanks in part of Jason Bay’s bat (or lack thereof) and glove (or lack thereof) . They made it  a game but eventually lost 8-5. By then I was home watching the U.S. women lose a heartbreaker to Japan in the World Cup. Bad sports day, all around.

I don’t have the stats to support it, but the Mets almost always seem to lose on Sundays, did you ever notice?

I’ll probably be  back to Citi Field for another game or two this season. At the very least, to get another baloney sandwich or a burger at Shake Shack. Even if I don’t recognize the lineup the next time I’m there. But I’m even more anxious to get back to the boonies. Maybe another Boulders game on a summer evening  upstate. The beer is cold and I won’t stick to the seats. Because they’re not leather. Which is fine with me.

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