So it turns out the game is less pixely sitting 5 rows behind the first base dugout than at a desktop computer via windows media player. Who knew? The shock was only slightly less, I imagine, than when my Dad went to his first game, and saw what had hitherto been a black and white field look green.
But on an grad student's salary, this was 5 rows behind the dugout of the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets' single A farm team. On Saturday, the Cyclones, who play with the eponymous roller coaster at Coney Island visible over the left field fence, were taking on your very own Lowell Spinners.
The bush leagues do not rely on baseball to fill the seats, and the Cyclones absorb the amusement park atmosphere; no moment between innings is not imbued with a carnival attraction- a ketchup and mustard race, multiple mascots dancing, t-shirt guns, a "wacky" mc introducing costumed weirdos, video clips and blaring obnoxious music, and even a cracker jack vendor who donned a sequined tuxedo and rode a unicycle on the dugout while juggling bowling pins.
And in between they manage to squeeze in a baseball game.
My girlfriend Rebecca has been a fantastic sport for learning about The Game from me. When I met her, she wasn't sure what direction the batter ran; these days, it's 'Ellsbury hasn't been hitting well lately'. (I count my stars, as they say.) But she's been going to the Cyclones for years, as her parents are avid fans. Rebecca's favorite thing about the Cyclones? The ketchup and mustard race. Of course.
But not this day; I was determined to further wisdomize her by teaching her to score the game. As someone who studies the boundaries of knowledge in his not-spare time, I think I know about limits, so I didn't try to get her started on keeping score until the 6th inning. But first, naturally, I explained the virtues of scoring- "what you have is a semi-graphic and symbolic representation of the ballgame, which allows for it's reconstruction after the fact. See, each plate appearance is a discrete event, an individual, but also an inseparable part of the larger whole that is the baseball game. The numerical symbolism allows for the tracking of individual plays, and the graphic layout of the lineup by inning and the diamond within each square allows the gestalt qualities to be read off at a glance. Basically, the synthesis of distinct part and seamless whole in one cognized perception yields the pleasing aesthetic of keeping score." Yup, I make things fun.
So out came the pen, and I got the ball rolling, but Rebecca quickly insisted that she get to do it, and from there the scorecard is legible. Which is nice.
She immediately took to it, but that there wasn't a baserunner for the first 2 2/3 innings she scored helped out. Brooklyn even took a 1-0 lead into the 9th inning, only allowing Lowell 2 hits thus far. But the Brooklyn pitcher walked the first Lowell hitter in the top of the 9th, and the next batter bunted him over to second. After a ground out to third, Lowell was down to its last out, with the tying run remaining at second. The next hitter, Mitch Dening, Lowell's whisker thin number 3 hitter, grounded to the left side. The Brooklyn third baseman dove to his left, and deflected the now trickling ball to shortstop. With no chance to the make the play, it should have been first and third, two down. But the shortstop forced the throw, and the ball got a lot closer to us in our 1st base dugout-adjacent seats than perhaps he would have liked; infield hit, E6, tie ball game, go-ahead run on second. The crowd, up to this point sated by t shirts and jugglers, groaned in collective scorn for the headstrong actions of the young shortstop.
Meanwhile, Rebecca has gone from enjoying the placid, pastoral pursuit of keeping score at a ballgame to frantically trying to render the transpirings semi-graphically and symbolically. Meanwhile, the cleanup hitter Luis Sumoza was intentionally walked- that's 'I' BB, Rebecca, 'I' BB!
So here we are, tied 1-1 on an unearned run, first and second for Lowell, two outs. The 5th place hitter then bounces to third, and the third baseman, opting for the force out at second, flips an easy chest high toss in plenty of time for the out. But the second baseman missed the ball!, and it rolls into shallow right field. One run scores, it's 2-1 Lowell, Sumoza rounds third, the second baseman recovers the ball, Sumoza is trying to score all the way from first, here's the throw to the plate, he's out! The inning's over, but Lowell scores 2 on 1 infield hit and 2 errors, two walks, one intentional, and a sacrifice. What an exciting inning! "I hate scoring!" wails Rebecca, "I don't want to do it anymore!" But it's just an FC 5-4, E4, with the previous batter out at the plate 5-4-2, and the one before him scoring on the E4, no RBI. What's so complicated about that?
Brooklyn went quietly in the 9th, yielding a clean and simple scorecard on their side of the program. That was a relief. It was such an easy inning I figured Rebecca was ready to relive her anxiety, so I reconstructed the wacky events of that bush league 9th inning, according to her scorecard. It's the only way to learn.
P.S. I now owe Rebecca many dinners. And flowers. And whatever else men have to buy on sitcoms when they've been too stereotypically male at their ladies.