America’s Pastime: The Last 4 Innings
- Updated: May 8, 2009
The culmination of a week long bike trip with my Boy Scout that encompassed 150 miles was a baseball game on the fourth of July at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. My dad was not able to accompany us on the biking journey, although he would have loved to, because he had to teach, but he did not miss the game. My baseball knowledge had grown significantly over the years and I was now keeping score on the program that my father had bought for me. During the middle of the game I heard, “Quick, look at the score board.” As I looked up, I noticed that my father had surprised me once again. He had arranged to have our troop number and the city that we were from on the score board to congratulate us on our journey.
He told me later that he tried to arrange for us to present the colors before the game, but that
those duties were already taken by some naval officers. Although he had the tough job of keeping track of about fifteen scouts throughout the game, he still spent some time with me. Our conversations about baseball were becoming ever complex as I learned more of the intricacies of the game. He checked my score sheet to make sure that I was doing it correctly just before he had to leave to check on the younger boys. The smile he had on his face when he saw that I knew what I was doing still lingers in my mind today.
When we were planning the tour of colleges that I was to go on after my junior year in high school, I made sure that a Boston school made the list so that we would be able to visit historic Fenway Park. Not only did my father agree that we should go to the game, but before I could tell him about my plan, he told me, “Hey, while we are in Boston, do you want to go see the Sox play?” We didn’t know where the park was once we got to the city so we just started following people who were wearing Red Sox clothing from our hotel until we could see the stadium. The game was completely sold out, but that was no surprise to us, we knew that we were going to have to scalp for tickets. We weren’t expecting the prices, especially when we heard that the lowest ticket price from a scalper was $80.00 for one ticket. At that point, I figured that we were not going to be able to get in. I was wrong. My dad hunkered down and negotiated a ticket seller down to $50 dollars for each $17 ticket.
We were in the last row of the bleacher section of the stadium, but it was worth every penny. Fenway Park is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen in my life. Once we were inside, my father even bought me overpriced stadium food for dinner, which I wasn’t expecting. It was such a different experience from anything that we had ever done before. The whole stadium had a playoff atmosphere with all of the people cheering or gasping with every pitch even though it was the middle of August and the Red Sox were playing the last place Tampa Bay Devil Rays. My father and I spent most of the time comparing Fenway’s crowd to the conventional crowd at Jacobs Field. We stayed well after the game was over and just sat in our seats and admired the stadium. We were going to make the most of my dad’s $100.00.
Over the years, I had fallen in love with the game that my father had introduced me to as a child and I had decided that I might want to make a career out of it. Because of this, I applied for an internship with the Akron Aeros and was given the job. My father may have been even more excited than I was about it, and everyday when I came home, no matter how late it was, he would make me tell him about what I got to do that day. Each time I would feel proud to know that I was doing something that my father could brag about. When I met major leaguer Casey Blake while he was rehabbing with the Aeros, my father told everyone that he knew about it. Throughout the summer, I had wanted him to come see a game while I was working so that I could show him around and try to act important to show him that I was on my way to becoming one of the big wigs of northeast Ohio.
He told me that he was going to come because he auctioned off tickets to the students at his law school and I got him free tickets because of it. On the day that he was supposed to go, he almost didn’t make it because the couple that won the tickets supposedly broke up. Then he decided that he would come anyway. I talked to him before the game and organized for them to have front row seats. I also supplied them with free programs and other items.
Unfortunately my father had to leave before I could show him the other parts of the stadium, but he wanted me to show the other people who were with him to show how important I was by taking them to the dugout with me.
When we were visiting my grandparents last summer, my one goal was to have my father take me to the minor league baseball team that is in their town, the Hagerstown Suns. It took much persuasion, but I finally got him to take me. We got there late, but it was such a relaxed atmosphere that we didn’t even notice. At first we just sat in the middle row behind, but then my father wanted to look around the stadium, so we walked down the right field line. There was a place where we could stand against the fence and watch the game far away from the rest of the crowd. Once we stopped walking, we could barely hear the rest of the crowd, and the smell of the freshly cut outfield grass permeated in our noses. While we were standing here, he made me notice that I now had the answers and he had the questions. He would ask me questions like how I could tell what kind of pitch the pitcher was throwing and what kind of counts were good to run on.
It was weird to know that as the student, I had surpassed the teacher. I also realized that he thought that I was old enough to purchase my own food or beverage if I needed it. He did share a bag of peanuts with me, but he was no longer at the point where he may leave and surprise me with food or a gift from the store when he came back. This did not matter to me though, because the food and the gifts were never what made the trips important. During my life, the main thing that I realized was that baseball just was not the same without my father. Many consider baseball to be America’s pastime, but my pastime is never complete without my father.
Bill Jordan is a contributor to BaseballReflections.com. He can be reached by e-mail at BillJordaniv@yahoo.com.