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The Ole Ball Game

Last night (Friday) my almost-eight-year-old son Arthur and I went to see a Batavia Muckdogs baseball game. It was a profoundly wonderful experience for both of us!

Stephanie had 2 free tickets from work, and Arthur has been wanting to see a real baseball game all summer, so after dinner the boy and I headed for Batavia for a 7:00 game. This was the first time I’ve seen the Muckdogs play, and in fact the first ball game I’ve been to in a long, long time! I’m not really a baseball fan. I don’t watch it on television or have ever followed any particular team. But since this spring when I bought a new mitt and Arthur and Fiona have been playing a little baseball with some home school kids, a newfound interest and appreciation of our “national pastime” has begun to blossom in me. So last night was a bit of a revelation!

We got to Dwyer Stadium in Batavia about fifteen minutes before the start of the game. It was a perfect, not-too-hot summer evening, and there were people everywhere! We parked a couple of short blocks away on a side street and entered the bustling stadium. I’d only been inside Dwyer Stadium once, back in the seventies, so it was like seeing it for the first time. (The stadium was torn down and rebuilt in 1995). One thing I immediately loved about it is it’s just the right size. Lots of concessions stands, a booth selling official Muckdogs paraphernalia (where we soon  returned to buy Arthur a Muckdogs hat, since our seats were facing the setting sun), and even though there were lots of people about, it never felt oppressively crowded. The stands are nice; wherever you sit there’s a great view. I’ve been to the stadium in Rochester to see the Red Wings, and if you don’t get great seats it can be hard to see well, or feel much of an intimate contact with the game or the players. Our seats were maybe a hundred feet from first base, and it was fabulous! I felt like I was a part of the game.

Everything just seemed to come together for a perfect baseball experience! The families in front of us and behind us were exceedingly friendly and fun to talk with, the enthusiasm of the fans was infectious, and the sunset glorious. I love that hometown feeling of Batavia. And I love it when the twilight fades and the lights come on, and though you know you’re outdoors, it’s like the night sky becomes a giant dome and those distant  lights focus all your attention on the men on that diamond of grass and earth in front of you. I really felt the magic! Those childhood memories came flooding back of playing baseball with the neighborhood kids, and going to games with my father (who also played minor league ball in Geneva when he was young) and everything that is wholesome and nostalgic and good about America. The dream of what was, where we came from, and a spirit that we must strive to return to. Heck, two-thirds of the way through the game everyone stood up and sang ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’! Suddenly all those metaphors of baseball and America made perfect sense to me. It was quite exhilarating!

And the game itself couldn’t have been better! At the start of the game the opposing team from Auburn racked up five runs in the first inning. But slowly and surely the Muckdogs came back with some beautiful plays, one grand slam, and the score was tied 6 to 6 by the eighth inning. Then Auburn got another run, and in the ninth the Muckdogs scored again to tie it. In the tenth inning with a runner on third they made the final home run to win the game. The fans went wild! Arthur and I went wild!

But the very best part was watching my little boy wearing his stylish Muckdogs cap go from being entranced by something he’s never experienced before, to getting a little fidgety and distracted, and then getting so caught up in the game and the atmosphere around us that he was joining in the cheers and  jubilance of the crowd.

I will never forgot his beaming smile and his cheering voice. It was sublime!

Summer just doesn’t get any better than that!

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