A few years ago I saw someone reading a book by Nicole Ritchie. After a few jokes and sarcastic comments, I said to myself, “What in the world could this person possible have to right about?” What kind of amazing tales of adventure does she have? I never got an answer because I didn’t read the book, and the girl that did made one too many references to Laguna Beach when she was explaining it, so I didn’t hear her out. But in short, I determined that few things should be written, unless they are really worth telling about. Which leads me to the tale of how I survived Heyward Mania.
For those of you who were at the game yesterday, you know that at the merchandise store, they had huge signs up saying that Heyward shirts and jerseys were going to be going on sale at the bottom of the fifth inning. I made a purchase, and a mental note, and headed off to my seat. The friend who accompanied me followed and we enjoyed our foot longs and heckled the Cubs fans anywhere within an ear shot of us. (My personal favorite was “There’s only two things worse than the Cubs, and one of them is getting butt raped!”) We had no idea of the madness that was about to ensue.
The first inning featured more emotions than a room full of teenagers at the New Moon premiere. I’ll never forget saying “Lowe is a ground ball pitcher, to have his only two outs come on deep fly balls is not a good sign. If this continues, it won’t be long before one of them clears the fences.” Right before Marlon Byrd hit a three run homer. And I will certainly never forget Heyward’s first home run. That was the loudest moment in my sports history, and I was at a Braves-Cards game in 1998 (the year Big Mac broke the record) when Mark McGwire got ejected in the first inning for arguing balls and strikes. That place turned into “booo” city, and it didn’t even compare to what happened at The Ted yesterday. I should have known right then and there that leaving after the fourth to go to the merch store was too late. I should have known that there would be frenzy beyond belief. I should have known….but I didn’t.
I enjoyed the next few innings and promptly left right at out number three of the fourth inning. My friend kept our seats, and as I was getting up asked me to get him one too. I set out to the store, unbeknownst of the horror I was about to encounter.
When I opened the door I was able to take three steps. This was it. The madness had already begun. People were shouting, screaming, cussing, ranting, raving, and doing the tomahawk chop. It was beautiful madness. I worked my way through people who believed I wasn’t there for Heyward stuff, and finally stopped right behind four guys who I had an enjoyable chat with. Everyone was whooping and hollering through the top of the fifth, but when the bottom came, hell itself took a back seat to what unfolded. Everyone was screaming, people were moshing, and employees were literally cringing in fear. Two managers stepped forward to the middle of the crowd as they desperately tried to hush it. Eventually they settled everyone down. After calming them, they reluctantly informed everyone that the shirts wouldn’t go on sale until after the fifth inning was over. One of the guys next to me yelled out “CRUCIFY THEM!” with a passion that literally made me fear for whatever small children might be in the store. Cries began to poor in of false advertisement, people began yelling profanities at the top of their lungs, and I can’t confirm this, but I’m almost sure I saw a woman take her frustration out on her child with a fierce back hand. This continued throughout the bottom of the fifth.
When the inning ended, they re-routed us to a door on the other side of the room. Friends were friends no longer as anyone in sight became an enemy standing in between you and the Heyward jersey you couldn’t live without. I swear I heard them say form a line, but what everyone else heard was “UP! EVERYONE STORM THE DOORS! JUMBLE YOUR FAT BUTTS TOGETHER AND FORM A MOB!” I thought for certain I was in line for the last plane out of Vietnam. It’s at this particular part of the story where I’ll inform you I’m what you would call a small man. I’m 5’8”. 5’8” individuals do not do well in mobs. I was encircled from every side of the room, caught right in the middle of a hurricane, completely and utterly trapped. Right then and there I knew how Rosie O’Donnell’s thighs felt. It was at this point, the unthinkable happened. Someone, somewhere, let one. I thought the walls might come caving in. The smell of everyone’s sweaty underarms was bad enough, but someone let out what I like to call a baked potato fart, and this was more than I could bear. I tried to move but it was impossible. I regained my composure, and settled in for the battle to the front of the line.
The door flung open and the crowd let out a roar! A man stepped forward and said “One per person,” and the crowd let out a groan. At that point I was saying screw my friend. Sure we’d been best friends since we were eight, but I was savage at this point. I had no friends or family, no loved ones at all. I had to get my Heyward shirt, nothing more. When I eventually got my shirt, and got the second death, the checkout line, I reconsidered. But the man there told me I had to pay for this one first before going back for another. By the time I got out of that store, it was the top of the eighth inning.
When I returned to my friend he did nothing but laugh. I handed him the shirt and said, “Take it. You owe me your first born.”
After minutes of catching my breath, a calm came over me, a nice inner peace. I had been a part of history and survived it. I had lived through Heyward Mania and emerged without a scratch. I’ll be able to tell my kids and grandkids about this, about this legend who at 20 years of age had already begun changing the fortunes of The Braves organization, and only half way through his first day on the job.