Three hours to gametime
The Athletics are playing the first of a four-game series tonight in Anaheim, some 45 minutes from my apartment. Inexplicably, the UCLA School of Law has chosen to schedule their final exams for this week as well. I am in conflict.
Not really. Law school exams can suck eggs, says I. I’m going to the game.
Two hours to gametime
The A’s fan standing next to me tells me that Zito just got moved to the bullpen. A little part of me dies.
Ninety minutes to gametime
Mike Sweeney rips a ground ball down into foul territory, which Rich Harden casually deflects by kicking into the stands. To my shock, he does not shatter every bone in his foot upon doing so. Perhaps it is a magic ball.
I pocket the ball and instruct Rich to return to his protective casing of bubble wrap back in the dugout.
Sixty minutes to gametime
Joe Blanton is apparently too good to sign my hat. That, or he heard about me enthusiastically endorsing his potential trade to the Reds from a few weeks back. I apologize, but Joe is unmoved.
Thirty minutes to gametime
Santiago Casilla signs my ball. “Gracias por todo lo que hace,” I tell him. “Es usted invincible.” He seems touched. Joe Blanton sneers.
My intimations that I am now in possession of a magic ball gain support as Frank Thomas legs out a triple on a fly ball to right, driving in Oakland’s first run of the night. I am astounded, not merely by the triple, but by the realization that I actually find it more painful to watch Vladimir Guerrero run for a fly ball than it is to watch Frank run all the way from home to third.
Daric Barton at bat with two men on. I grip the magic ball tightly and envision a base hit finding the gap between center and right. Barton hits a three-run bomb into the right field stands. It is not for me to command the ball, I realize.
I call my father and brothers in the Bay Area to celebrate the home run, only to find that they missed it in favor of watching the end of the Hawks-Celtics upset. I scream at them viciously for ten minutes. They should know better.
Jack Hannahan’s homerun prompts a profanity-laced tirade against Jon Garland by the drunken Angels fan sitting next to me. “This is pathetic!” he raves in his most genteel moment. “Not one of these guys is hitting .300!” I consider telling him about the magic ball, but decide against it.
The world ends.
Frank is pulled for a pinch runner following his double, and I immediately worry that he has resigned from the team, claiming that he has already earned his major league minimum salary for the year. He would be fully justified in doing so.
Chris Bootcheck leaves too, walking off the field with a 37.80 ERA (down from his high of 43.00 earlier in the inning). In related news, Rajai Davis is hitting .500. I think this proves once and for all that Moneyball doesn’t work.
I use the 7th inning stretch to explain the magic ball to the elderly woman keeping a box score next to me. She is not amused.
Hey, where’s the Rally Monkey?
Note to Angel Stadium administrators – don’t use the Jumbotron to display random selections of your fans in the 8th inning of a twelve-run blowout – everyone just looks depressed. Except for little kids, who are always happy. And those two guys grinding on each other to Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud,” who, apparently, are also always happy.
I’ll say this for Angels fans: their team may be down by twelve runs, and there may be only about a third of them left in the stadium, and they may be paying $120 million to come in second to a rebuilding team, but they just cheered for Bobby Wilson’s first major league hit like it won Game 7 of the World Series. They got spunk.
Five minutes after the game
#8 on the list of Best Baseball Fan Moments: High-fiving complete strangers in an opposing team’s stadium.
#112,476 on the list of Best Baseball Fan Moments: Watching opposing fans high-five each other in your stadium after your team gets blown out by twelve runs.
Maybe they should let the Rally Monkey pitch.
Twenty minutes after the game
I find that I have serendipitously parked next to baseballgirl in the seedy, cut rate parking lot across the street. I say hello and tell her about the magic ball. I think she’s impressed.