|Saturday, March 1, 2003|
Something about a game...
There's something about this game.
There's just something in it that makes you feel good. That makes you feel like all is right in this world. No matter what's going on around you, there is the constancy of baseball. The slow motion of pitch and catch, swing the bat, run the bases. It's simple in a time of complexity, yet it's fractal enough that there is so much detail in every motion. Each pitch, each swing, each movement is complex as the whole game. The shift of the outfield, the scoring of the game, it's all there.
Walking up to Maryvale, and again to Suprise today, I found myself overcome with emotion. The wellspring of the game's return coming back to me like a rush of water over me. That smell of hotdogs cooking. The sounds of the beer vendors and shout of "Programs! Get yer programs!" are enough to trigger memory after memory. The first time at an A's game. The 88 playoffs. The game at Wrigley. All of those special things about baseball come out. You can feel it, grasp it, shape it, slide it over you like a warm blanket. And now, in the early part of March, I can cover myself in it, wrap it about me as protection from the cold. Hear Ray Fosse and Bill King talk about it from far away. Those are the things I miss in wintertime. That simple poetry in baseball.
Baseball, Part Two.
Well, today's game was a real heartbreaker. Today's game was in Surprise, AZ over at Billy Parker Field, a brand new stadium, this being the fourth game there, ever. It was Albie Lopez and Ted Lilly making the starts for the Royals and A's, respectively. Lilly had two solid innings, with control that Mulder lacked yesterday. He faced seven batters, walking one and striking out one (looking). The first runs of the day came off a three-run homer by Mark Ellis that just seemed to go and go and go. Deep beyond the left field fence and the bullpen.
Let me just give you the lay of the land here for a second. Surprise is an incredibly flat place, deep on the plain by Phoenix, right on the old Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe rail lines. It's surrounded by the Hieroglyphic Mtns and the White Tank Mountains, which rise up to mark the edges of this sprawling community. The stadium lights rise up out the desert floor, and for a good five hundred yards in every direction, there is nothing but empty land, light standards rising up like large saguaro cacti. Billy Parker Field sits sunken below the parking lots, its third and first base alleys run at lot level back to home plate. An open sky over the outfield, and a small bunting-adorned overhang covers the seats behind home plate to make for a second deck slightly larger than that of Raley Field in Sacramento. There is wide foul ground at Parker Field, the tarps pushed back a good twenty feet from the foul line. A tall scoreboard dominates the left center corner, its LEDs glowing orange over the afternoon sky.
A 3-0 lead in their pockets, the A's, now lead by pitcher Erik Hiljus, went into the bottom of the third a wee bit cocky. Ken Harvey would quickly take the window of their sails by duplicating Ellis' feat and launched one well into left field, into the hands of a fan, who ran up the better part of the green slope that makes up the outfield beyond the fence.
Fast Forward to the bottom of the sixth, the A's lead 7-1 on Byrnes' three run dinger (making him 3 for 3, 2 doubles, a homer and 3 RBIs). Chad Harville on to pitch for the A's, boy did they mess him up. Four singles, a few fielders' choice and an error later, the A's are back to leading only by three. The Royals began to bring on their replacements as the A's did, leaving only designated hitter Dee Brown in game from the original starting eighteen. The A's gave up two runs in the 8th (off Silva) and one in the 9th (off Bert Snow), tying up the game at 7.
The top of the tenth, with Carlyle on the mound for the Royals, the A's put together a string of walks and hits to score Adam Morrissey, replacement third basement. It was looking mighty fine for the A's as they headed in to the bottom of the 10th, up by one. Shane Bazzell on to pitch for the A's, he walked the first batter, and gave up a double to reserve catcher Paulino to bring up Dee Brown. Now, at this point, Brown is 1 for 4. He'd grounded to first, popped to the shortstop and had a weak infield hit. He's also the only player to still be in the game from the beginning. And sure enough, he was the last player to bat, sending the third pitch into left center about 430 feet. Pow. Game over, walk off home run. What a heartbreaker.
A great game. We had good people around us, including a couple who retired to Colorado Springs, but every other year come down to Spring Training to see a game with each team and one at every ballpark, taking about two weeks to do it. There was a young family in front of us that was here for their first game, two fathers and their sons.
Baseball needs an ad. It kinda goes like this...
INTERIOR: house, answering machine light blinking.
And the voice? Avery Brooks.
Not so quiet morning in Phoenix
The birds who inhabit my parents yard this morning decided to chorus as one today, chirping their way through a glorious symphony. Cactus wrens, finches, sparrows, the occasional cardinal and hummingbird. The birds here are just incredible. It's quite amazing, really.
In about five, we'll head for Surprise, AZ to see the A's/Royals game. Go A's!