Typically, when the Braves start losing, the tempers start to heat up around here. Imagine being a Nationals fan, or a Reds fan, or a Rockies fan, whose teams aren't even close to being .500? Wonder what the tempers are like on those blogs?
So let's laugh, folks - it ain't the end of the world. Even if it's at my own expense, I'll try to get some people to smile and relax, because having grumpy baseball is still better than having no baseball at all. So with that, I give to you all, a story.
August 4, 2007 - The night prior, I had gone to my local supermarket, and purchased 20 random cans of canned food. Corn, peas, green beans, beets, kidney beans whatever I could grab that was least financially taxing, I put in my cart. The reason being is that it was that time of the season again, when John Smoltz holds his "Strike Out Hunger" canned food drive. For the cost of 20 (or was it 10) pieces of canned goods, Smoltzie himself would sign one piece of memorabilia for you.
This was a perfect opportunity to get a baseball signed by Smoltz, to add to my collection, and seeing as how I had missed out on the previous years' food drives and/or gotten there too late, I was not going to let this opportunity slip by.
On the way home, I listened as Jeff Francis outdueled John Smoltz, and the Rockies took the first game of a weekend series. Despite knowing that Smoltz would still be at his raiser, I was hoping that it would be following a nice win prior.
So the day of the game and food drive came, and I was morbidly mortified when three of my friends all bailed out on me. Fair-weathered, they were, so I suspected that they did not like the idea of arriving to the park well before the opening gates, just to wait for a silly autograph. They just didn't understand the importance of Smoltz, apparently.
Good thing was, that I had the tickets - they were given to me by a friend who worked for a company that had oft-unused season tickets in section 119 row 20 of Turner Field, so there was no worry that I wasn't going to be able to go to the game.
I arrived at Turner Field at 2:30 p.m., anticipating a long line; and it was a good thing that I did, because there were about two hundred people already formed a line outside of the Ted's still-closed gates. It was also a scorching sunny day, and I had spent the morning doing a lot of yardwork; so it wasn't long before I was parched. The line slowly, slowly, slowly began crawling towards the destination nobody could really see from where we stood, which had to be where John Smoltz himself, the savior, the yet-to-be-crowned strikeout king of Atlanta was signing random items, one at a time.
But I didn't know if I could make it - the temperature was climbing to 90F, and I was dying. But wait! I heard a sound, which sounded like angels to my ears.
"DRINKS! Cooolllld drinks! Only onnnnnnnnnnedollar!" shouted the youth, as he walked parallel to the line, holding a cooler full of Pepsi products and bottled water. Frantically, I reached for my wallet, and upon opening it, I was horrified when I saw that I had absolutely. Zero. Cash. My last $12 went to Turner Field's inflated parking lot, and I stood defeated, dehydrated, and hot as hell, while holding 20 cans worth of weight.
I sat down, leaning against the wall. Quickly uncomfortable, I sought out the source of my discomfort, which was coming from my back pocket. Four. Tickets. Four. Good tickets. My eyes lit up. Despite the fact that I had zero cash in my wallet, I most certainly was holding some cash in my hands... it just needed time.
And time came shortly enough, as a large African-American man strolled down the line, holding a piece of cardboard that stated that he NEEDED TICKETS. I beckoned to him, and for reasons unknown, sold him two of the three spares I had in my possession. He looked at the section and quickly offered me $20 for my seats. I now had my thirst-quenching salvation in my hands.
"DRINKS! Cooolllld drinks! Only onnnnnnnnnnedollar!" I heard again. I bought like four. I saved one to take into the game with me.
And another hour later, and I was one of the last ones to get a ball autographed by John Smoltz. This was a great day, and I hadn't even seen a single pitch yet.
Now in a moment of self-deprication, and a moment for y'all to laugh at me, I want to believe that I'll meet my future ex-wife at a baseball game one day. This is the reasoning behind keeping the third spare ticket, with sparse hopes that I would run into a pretty girl by herself, and I would offer her the ticket in exchange for some company while watching the game, and we would hit it off, eventually date, get married, get divorced, and be back to square one all over again.
When reality washed over me after my third Diet Pepsi, I realized that it was best for me to unload the third spare, before heading into the game. I found a scalper, and he gave me another $10 for my spare.
I went into the Ted, and got to my seat. Two seats down was an elderly couple; I had to ask them - "Pardon me, did you get your tickets from a scalper?" They bashfully agreed, and I told them not to worry, since they were my seats, and they should enjoy the game. We all laughed.
As first pitch neared, three of "those guys" AKA rowdy tween males who just turned 21 and were walking Hollister ads with bad Mick Jagger hair sat down behind me, and resumed being loud and douchey. I cringed like OJ Simpson in court, knowing that these bozos were going to be sitting behind me the entire game. I channeled my inner mantra to help me find the power to tune them out.
And then I saw a man and his two sons walk down the aisle and stop right next to me. He looked at his tickets, he looked down my row, and then down the aisle. He came back to me, and shyly asked if I would be willing to cooperate with him.
"Excuse me sir, I hate to ask this, but I just got my tickets from a scalper... and he sold me some tickets, but they're a little bit separated."
I ask to see his tickets, because I knew where he was going with it.
119 Row 20, seat 2
119 Row 19, seat 1
119 Row 6, seat 7
"Would you be willing to trade your seat for this row 6 tick--"
I grabbed his ticket, and gave him mine, and I was like a bulldozer going downhill down to row 6. Totally gotta respect a dad who wants to enjoy a game with his sons, and far be it for me to deny a guy trying to be a good dad.
So the day was getting even better - let's assess what I've enjoyed thus far:
John Smoltz autographed ball. $30 in profit from scalping tickets. Upgraded seat and salvation from douchebags. Could this day get any better?
I excused myself through the people seated in seats 1-6 of the row, and I plopped down into my seat. Sitting in seat #8 - attractive, blonde, and tanned, with no ring on her finger. One obstacle - Dad. No, this didn't mean she was like 14-years old or something, because once I got to talkin' it was all good. Baseball fan dad, and college-daughter in for the summer. And in a tactical manner, I warmed up dad first. Smart, because it makes chatting up daughter a whole lot easier when dad's all pleased. Talked a lot about baseball, and how much I loved Tom Hallion as HP umpire, because he has a generous strike zone, and when he catches someone looking, he does that over-exaggerated Street Fighter Dragon Punch uppercut motion. Huddy was mowing down the Rockies, and the Braves chipped away at Ubaldo Jimenez. It was a pleasant evening as the sun set and the cooler night arose.
In my head, I was fantasizing about Jeff Francoeur ripping a huge pull foul ball right into my section, and with the agility of jungle cat, I would snare it out of the air, bare-handed of course, and without feeling any sting whatsoever, I would present it to the pretty blonde next to me, and the courtship would be on.
But that didn't happen, naturally. The game went on, but was still pleasant because I was chatting with a pretty girl and her decently cool dad, and when in the 9th inning, Bob Wickman (remember that tubby?) got Willy Taveras to ground out, and Jorvit Torrealba to strike out looking, with one final Dragon Punch by Hallion, the game was over, and the party was on.
Pretty blonde gave me a hug. Dad shook my hand. I had $26 dollars in profit. And a John Smoltz signed baseball.
It was the greatest baseball game day experience ever.
Now if you've read this far, kudos to your perseverance. If anything at all, maybe I've distracted you of some of the negativity that generally lingers around after a bad loss.
And yes, I really am this bored at work sometimes.