SportsProf

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

There's Nothing Like a Ball Game

I can't imagine what it must have been like to live during the times when there was only day baseball, how people got to the games and missed work, when there were afternoon newspapers and they mattered because they could give you reports on games in progress. I just can't imagine how it would have been to stop time like that with some frequency, catch the game, and enjoy the daytime.

At least, I can't imagine what it would have been like then. Today, I experienced what it would be like now, because I went with some friends to Citizens Bank Park for the series finale between the Rockies and the Phillies. It rained a bit in the morning, but the storm blew by and it turned out be 75 and party cloudly. The game promised to be a good one, matching up Aaron Cook of the Rockies (who went into the game 10-3) and Cliff Lee of the Phillies, who was making his home debut.

Both pitchers gave up leadoff doubles and runs in the first, both settled down, but in the end the Phillies prevailed 3-1. Lee outpitched Cook and pitched great, who gave up a solo home run to back-up catcher Paul Bako, the Phillies' bullpen pitched well, and Jimmy Rollins hit a single, double and triple. Chase Utley hit two long fly balls that send outfielders back against the fence, but both time those shots landed in the gloves of outfielders. 45,316 were on hand, kids under 14 got to run the bases after the game, and Phillies' GM Ruben Amaro announced that rookie hurler J.A. Happ (called Jay) would remain in the starting rotation despite rumors that he'd be moved to the bullpen to make room for Pedro Martinez. All good stuff for the home fans.

On the way to the game, I did something spontaneous. Usually, I head to my usual parking lot, get to the game early enough to watch some batting practice, and buy a hot dog and something to drink. Today, with a friend in tow, we detoured to East Snyder Avenue, not too far from the ball park, to John's Roast Pork, rated by some as having the best cheesesteak in all of Philadelphia. Now John's isn't much to look at, and the ambience is gritty (picture metal picnic tables cemented into the ground), and we had to wait in line about 25 minutes for a grill order (if you wanted a meatball sandwich, roast beef, roast pork (with broccoli rabe and provolone) or cutlet sandwiches, you could go to the front of the line). We ordered cheesteaks with (onions, for the uninitiated).

They were well worth it. My friend opined that this was the best cheesteak he had ever eaten (and he's shy enough time in the gym to know what he's talking about), and I agree. Great roll, great meat, great cheese, just terrific. And, very convenient to the ballpark. We parked on a nearby street, the place is open from 6:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., and it's a must stop for all of you looking for some nourishment before day baseball at the Bank.

But here's the thing of it -- we stopped time today. We left the office, went to a ball game, talked shop, talked baseball, ate peanuts, shot the breeze, some drank a beer or two, but we got off the treadmill that is the working world, the emails, the phone calls, the meetings, the documents, and we lived. We sat with all sorts of people wearing Phillies' garb, we sang "Take me out to the ball game" during the seventh inning stretch, we hoped foul balls would come near us. We witnessed the ritual handshake between Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley before the game starts, we saw a craftsman in Cliff Lee, and we saw what makes baseball great -- that it's a team game in that each day a different teammate picks the team up. Today light-hitting Paul Bako hit a blast to right center on a day with no breeze and humid air, and he helped make the difference. We saw grandparents with children and grandchildren, kids and adults eating ice cream in Phillies' imitation helmets, and, well, we enjoyed every minute of it.

Baseball is a great game to bring people together.

Day baseball is a reminder as to how the little things in life can be so powerful and, as a result, not so little after all.

2 Comments:

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