Major League Baseball has been over since the Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Mets in 5 games of a World Series matchup no one saw coming. Aside from the Halloween (obviously), October stands for big game baseball. Unfortunately once the last out is recorded after the series and the few days of analyzing by every sports writer around are over, we’re left with a hole that football can only try to fill. Now, the offseason for MLB can be fun for the diehard fans like myself. However, with no actual games being played for six months, we’re left to countdown the days until the next season. The offseason excitement has faded; we’re days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to begin workouts, and here comes the beginning of spring training baseball.
Spring training, for those of us that have followed MLB for years, can bring a sense of nostalgia and flood of memories. You may go to the games with friends, your significant other, family, or in the case of many every year, your children. No matter the sport, taking your child to their first sporting experience in a pro stadium/arena is a memory that sticks with them for life. It’s a very special bond that is shared between parents and their children. It can be a wholly new, cherished moment for the parent and can open the eyes of their children to the awe of the grandeur of the game.
When I was ten, my dad took me to my first major league baseball game. It was a brisk spring afternoon when we arrived at Candlestick Park in San Francisco for the Giants vs. the Houston Astros. The parking lot was full and the smell of barbequing tailgaters mixed with the bay air was strong and new. I had my very first Giants hat on, my baseball glove from little league, and a new sweater with the team’s logo on it. My dad parked the car amidst the sea of other vehicles, smiled at me, and said “Are you ready?” All I could do was nod my head in approval. We got out of the car and the noise of the excited fans hit me and a smile started to spread across my face. I saw fans walking by with their orange and black face paint, team banners, gloves, backpacks full of snacks, and giant foam fingers. I grabbed the hand of my dad as we walked toward the entrance gate of what ignited my love for baseball.
As we were waiting to get through the ticket turnstile, I noticed over on the other side the vendors barking out, “Programs! Get ‘cher programs here! Programs!” “What’s a program?” I thought to myself. “Would you like one of those?” My dad asked. I nodded my head and he smiled and walked us over to the vendor. After I was handed my first baseball program, I perused the pages and took in each fantastic homerun picture, every stat line for the entire Giants and Astros teams, and bypassed the many Bud Light adverts. My father then pointed to the escalator that would take us up to our seating area. It was huge. I had never seen an escalator with the immensity of one like this before. As we rode up the escalator to the stars, I gazed back out over the entire parking lot and noticed the sea of orange and black from each fan as they made their way to stadium. All I could get out was, “Cool…” Just then I jerked my head up as the smell of hot peanuts, fresh popcorn, and sizzling hot dogs hit me like someone tossed cold water in my face. It smelled amazing!
“Stay close,” my dad said. When we hit the top of the escalator I realized why. The flow of bustling fans coming from all sides was a bit overwhelming. Then we stepped into the flow of fans moving in the same direction we were going. I caught brief glimpses of t-shirt stands, hat racks, and various other baseball knick-knacks and memorabilia in between the bodies of each passing person. As quick as we stepped in, we stepped out of the moving wall of people and into a shadowy tunnel that led to the greatest sight I had ever seen. Once we emerged from the tunnel I could see row upon row of orange seats filled with fans like me. The grin on my face felt like it was chiseled on permanently. I saw the field, the players warming up, the vendors walking up and down each aisle yelling out “Popcorn! Hot dogs! Peanuts!” I could smell the freshly cut damp grass from the ball field.
I could see other families having the same experience as we were. My dad handed our tickets to the usher and he walked us down to our seats. We were six rows from the first base side of the ball field. I felt like I could reach out and touch the players. You could see that watching this on TV didn’t do justice to the spectacle of being there and seeing the expanse of the playing field. Then as the players left the field and headed to their respective dugouts, I heard the stadium P.A. system blaring the names of each teams player. “Here are your San Francisco Giants!” came from the stadium speakers as my team took the field. As the first Astro came up to bat the umpire shouted out “Play ball!” The game then began and the crowd roared as the first pitch was made. I looked up at my dad sitting next to me and smiled; he smiled back, put his arm around me, and said “I know, I love this too.”