Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Ballgame

It started suddenly one Saturday with a phone call: “Hey, It’s Katie. I just got stood up and I have an extra ticket to a baseball game up in the city tonight. If you want to go I need to know right now because we leave in an hour. ” Over the next 14 hours there would be drinking, fighting, flirting, embarrassment, redemption, ridiculousness, and trains.

Me: “You had me at Hello!”
Katie: “What does that mean?”
Me: “It means 'Yes, I’ll see you in an hour.'”
Katie: “Why didn’t you just say that?”
Me: “Never mind. What do I need to bring?"
Katie: “Beer.”

As we all know there are a few questions that you should always say “yes” to in life and certainly tickets to a baseball game are among them. I didn’t know who the hell “we” consisted of, how much anything cost, or how ‘we’ were getting there. But I didn’t have to in this case. Someone had a plan and all I had to do, much like the groom at a wedding, was show up in the right outfit.

When I got Katie’s I got the rest of the plan and the story. Katie, aside from being my friend, is the assistant manager of the leasing office at my apartment community. She and her boss, Hope, were given four tickets to see the Giants play as a reward from AT&T for being damn good at their job of getting their tenants to watch TV. Hope was taking her husband, Danny.

Gathering together at Katie’s took a little longer than we anticipated. Now I am not going to point any fingers but it wasn’t the fault of anyone with a ‘Y’ chromosome for the delay but there was some uncomfortable public feuding over why 'we' were late. This minor setback in timetable was the worst thing that happened all day. Any day to which that can be said is a fantastic day in my book. After finally getting the crew in gear we were off to catch a train.

Taking CalTrain anywhere can be a very entertaining experience. Drinking is legal on Cal Train. Legal to the point that it is almost encouraged. When there is a baseball game up in SF the train almost turns into a party. The atmosphere stops just short of that train ride at the end of “Trading Places”, except without the costumes and the beef jerky. I felt like a rookie just having beer because people were breaking out portable bars and mixing up screwdrivers just beside us. The beer we had, however, took care of us just fine on the ride to the city.

The CalTrain stop in SF is only about 2 blocks from the ball park. As you leave the train cops are there to make sure that you are not brining any booze or beer outside of the station. This has always struck me as odd because just about anything else is legal in SF. I have personally seen people spark up some “medical” marijuana outside a bar in front of police. If you try to take your beer off of the train, however, the authorities get up in your face pretty quickly. Good thing we finished all our beer on the train.

For an early spring ball game in SF the weather was about as good as you could wish. It was sunny, cloudless, and not terribly breezy. SF can change on you in an instant however so you have to be prepared with your layers and as it was I still had to donate my jacket to Katie during the game. As we were walking to the stadium Danny starts handing out the tickets to the game. Now I would never dare complain about the location of a free ticket, but expressing pleasant surprise is a different story.

They were for Row A.

Saying out loud to know one in particular “Holy #$%^! Do you know where these tickets are located?!” Danny quickly responded “Of course I do, now you know why I wanted to get here early!” Still amazed my mouth kept running. “How did you get these tickets.” Hope and Danny wanted to say “Duh” but instead Hope reminded me “They are comps from AT&T, and this is AT&T park.” There were far too polite to me because “Duh” would have been a proper response.

As we walked into the stadium, the gate attendant looked at my ticket then to me and my clearly oblivious friends and said “Do you know where to go?” I don’t know how most people are used to going to a baseball game, but I am fairly unused to walking ‘down’ to my seats and the crew was already wandering towards the up escalator. Thinking that I probably shouldn’t be doing that in the case of row ‘A’ I accepted the help. The gate attendant pointed me to a set of doors about 30 feet away.

As we entered the “Club Lounge” I swear I could faintly hear the choirs of angels singing! No longer was I among the unwashed that could only beg for scraps and buy Super Dogs and garlic fries after standing in cramped lines only to have the choice of Coors light of Bud to wash down their feed. Instead a vast hall of granite held gourmet food and bars with banks of imported beer on tap. Naturally, since this is California, there was also a wine bar set up for the people that like to pretend they like to watch baseball. In case you actually watch the games “The Club” doesn’t have to stop serving in the 7th inning either!

Grabbing a Guiness and heading to our seats we were directed down to within feet of the field. To my pleasure we were directly behind the visitors on deck circle. Close enough to where the guys warming up could hear me heckle them! As Danny and I were discussing good jabs to throw at the Braves players our concierge, Ramon, introduced himself and inquired if we had any food or drink needs. I really didn’t have a need for anything at the time but ordered some nachos and beer just because I had a concierge and I never had one of those before.

There are several keys to successful heckling. You can’t be obnoxious because the other people around you paid for their seats too and simply saying “Hey… you suck!” to every dude warming up with some lumber really makes you just seem dumb. Plus these guys are pros, they have all been heckled before. Using a tip given to me ages ago by my friend Tim, I like to try to use the first name of the player that is my target to get their attention. Soon some skinny little kid called Jason somethingorother comes to bat with a .222 batting average. I loudly, yet politely, consul young Jason that if he doesn’t pick up his game he will quickly find himself back in the minor leagues. Little did I know that I was heckling Jason Heyward, the best new prospect in the Bigs for this season. Apparently my quick consultation had a positive effect for the youngster as his first wave of the bat planted a 400ft home run that left in a hurry over the left field wall. Woops! Thus ended my heckling for the day. I called Ramon over for another round to drown away my shame.

Leaving the park we were unwilling to give up our good mood and made our way to the local Irish bar around the corner. In the bar were just us four and most of the bleacher section from the ballpark. We decided to increase our odds of getting beer by sending the cute women of our group to the bar while Danny and I attempted to scout out a place to stand. With a good drunk fading to a great buzz I saw a spot that would be perfectly suitable for the four of us. My decision that this was the proper place to stand may or may not have been effected by the two young ladies that were already there.

Introducing myself as their new personal bouncer broke the ice Amanda and Kaecle (K-cull) made fast friends with the crew. Within minutes Kaecle was helping Katie scout the bar in an attempt to find Katie a dude that is not a looser (they failed.... Katie found a looser!) Amanda works for Google and recruited us to go to her next sporting event which she called “Kick Sloshball.” The game was described to us as Kickball, but the outfield had to hold a beer at all times, you had to finish a beer between 1st and 3rd base, and the base path between 3rd and home is a slip-n-slide. Other then the health hazard of jumping head first down a slip-n-slide after chugging a beer I wondered why this sport missed the Summer Olympics? These two meet the criteria of cute, geeky, and fun.

Unfortunately, the night had to end eventually. Heading back to the train with a brand new buzz and newly updated cell phone directory we jumped onto the homeward bound train moments before the doors of the last train south closed behind us. Exhausted, we all laughed the whole ride home. I wish I had a moral to this story to pass on from this story. The best I have is you should really know who you are heckling and always wear sunscreen. I'll let you know how the game of Kick Sloshball goes.