Play Ball

June 21, 2011

I went to a baseball game yesterday.

Fenway Park.

Boston.

Seats so close to first base my fiance asked me before the game, “When you see a ball coming at you, you’re going to duck behind me, right?”

He’s hit me in the head with a soda can before, so it was a legitimate question.

But it was not the possibility of getting hit with a ball, that has me so intrigued by yesterday’s game.  It is the very thing about a baseball game that one cannot name.  To quote a good friend, you just know how it makes you feel.

We entered at gate D, and after the blazing sun of Yawkey Way, the air was chill and dank, suited more for a mausoleum than a ballpark.  But the crowd was decidedly much livelier than the one you’d find at your local cemetery.  Without any coordination, a stream of people moved in one direction while another stream moved in the other in the corridors of the stadium, and I tried to navigate both in my quest for the bathroom.  But as the streams moved around me and my bladder pressed urgently, I stopped.  And looked around.

Red, white and blue was everywhere.  On the people.  On the walls.  Even in the trashcans.  I started to watch the faces going by.  Old, breaded, pretty, wrinkled, cute, freckled, pale.  These were people who given the chance out in the world beyond Fenway would never have spoken to one another.  But for that brief moment, they existed as one body impeding my way to the little girl’s room.  The noise of the corridor fell away.  There was only the image of the people moving about me in one seamless mass, united individuals unaware that they were a part of anything other than themselves.

Later when we reached our seats, a man from Tilton, NH sang the Star Spangled Banner.  Everyone rose and held their hats to their hearts.  And as he sang, I watched the people on the field.  Every member of each team, every bat boy, and every ump had his eyes on the flag.  No one watched anyone else, and no one could know the whole that they created.

Except me.

I stood alone in the middle of the whole and observed, taking notes in my head that I could later pass on.  To you, to her, to him, to it.  But in that moment, the very air was charged.  Thousands of people intent on one common goal.  One focus, one aim.

And with that, a little girl came up to the mike and told them what to do.

“Play ball,” she said.

And the spell was broken.

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