Take me out to the ballgame

The arm of the guy standing behind us as we lined up to get into the bleacher section. Note the skull as wave.

IB, his two Japanese guests, JB, and I all went to a Cubs game Tuesday night. The Cubs are somehow quite renowned in Japan and the guests were thrilled with this opportunity. We had bleacher seats (general seating) so we had to get in line early to find seats all together. We were at the wall in left field just to the left of the “batter’s eye.”

I am not a big sports fan. Especially baseball, which seems to be the slowest activity I have ever witnessed. But there is something about Wrigley Field. First of all there are no huge digital signs. There are some smaller digital ones, but all in good taste, and all secondary to the other signage around the field like the scoreboard, for example. The scoreboard is still manual. There are several guys who climb up and down ladders who literally put the numbers up when runs are scored– and not just for the game we are attending but for all the other games being played at the time in both leagues. There is still a real organ (not a recorded version) which is played by a musician who literally watches the game and organically (excuse the pun) responds to what is happening in the field with his music.

Because we were there early, we watched the two teams in batting practice. I actually got one practice ball which was tossed to me by the Cubs pitcher Garza. Well, he did toss it to ME, but everybody else went after it. I got it, however, as the others all overshot its bouncing trajectory. I gave the ball to our Japanese guests. JB also got a practice ball and he shared it with a couple who were incredibly pleased with his generosity. IB got a ball during the game which was tossed into the stands. He also gave his catch away, claiming it was a lot more fun to catch than to keep.

The game started out with the National anthem sung by Miss America. Sounds pretty trite but she actually had a beautiful voice and hit all the notes with clarity and confidence. I was pretty surprised, actually. Had I known she was going to sing at the start the game, I would have definitely rolled my eyes. However, she was too good  for there to be any chuckles. I was humbled.

Sitting in the bleachers there was a lot of razzing of the Brewers centerfielder, Gomez. At the end of the game he faced the bleachers, got down on his knees and crossed himself with his head down. Then he jumped into the air and pumped his fists signaling his team’s victory. Everyone laughed.

There were hot dogs and beer and the weather was absolutely perfect. Oh, yes, and there was the 7th inning stretch with a rousing chorus of “Take me out to the ballgame,” with very spirited harmony in the bleachers. Oh, and the ivy. Real ivy growing on the outfield walls.

We were disappointed once again that the Cubs had lost, but certainly not surprised. When the ambiance of the experience of the field lacks the razzle dazzle of lots of digital technology, there is a folksy sincerity to it all. It’s a visceral throwback to a simpler time. My friends who are Sox fans find Wrigley Field way too quaint and the focus on the ambiance as a very poor excuse for a very weak team. In fact they call it a rather large beer garden.

As for me, frankly, I was shocked that I enjoyed myself so much. Perhaps I was won over by the context of it all. I mean really, a manual scoreboard? In fact, I even told JB I would attend another game if it were in the bleachers. The evening felt like old summer memories and yes, dear friends, like a great big beer garden.

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