Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some of my best friends are fans

I'm what you call a fair-weather sports fan. When there are sporting events, I'll tune in or turn on -- Olympics, World Series/NBA Championships/Final Four/Rose Bowl, etc. But on a regular full-time basis, organized sports occupies very few molecules in my gray matter.

Unless of course, it's force fed me via my girl's participation (summer softball is allll-most over), and if the kinderfolken of friends/family are playing, we like to turn out to root-root-root for the home team.

On the other hand, I am a spectacle kind-of guy and while watching a game on the tube holds little interest, toss a couple tickets my way and I'll be the first to grab my keyring off the hook in the mudroom and withdraw my life savings for some dogs and a beer.

Case in point, last weekend was the highly anticipated appearance of a legendary LA Dodger to our local AAA club's venue. He was there as part of a fairly successful marketing ploy ("Tastes of the Big Leagues") saluting selected major league teams/ballparks across the nation. Last week was Dodger Stadium week ("Dodger Dogs...hold the smog"-- pretty clever tagline I thought).

Now, normally this event in and of itself wouldn't be enough to get me to shell out the baseball bucks needed to treat my family to a fun-filled night at the ballpark. However, even though we're not the be all-end all of baseball fans, we have a friend who is.

Jon's baseball career started early on, culminating to college ball and a short stint with a AAA club in Vermont. He was a southpaw pitcher, born in LA, weaned on Dodger Dogs with mustard and bled Chávez Ravine blue long before his family relocated to our small town some 20+ years ago.

Attending a game with his family and getting to meet and chat with a storied hero from his past was too much to pass up. And I was there to witness it.

We patiently stood in the meet-and-greet autograph line, missing the first several innings of what turned out to be an exciting match-up between our OKC Redhawks and the Nashville Sounds. C and Jon's oldest son (B, age 5+) stood with us as we surveyed the other 100 or so line standers, summarily judging their Dodger fanaticism level based on what it was they were having autographed and how much blue adorned their bodies.

C held tight to a brand new finepoint Sharpie along with a Dodger ball cap souvie my Wife had acquired sometime back in our LA days. Others around us held various 8x10 glossies, a few caps and jerseys dotted the line, as well as baseballs of various vintages and styles.

From deep down in one of Jon's cargo shorts front pockets, grasped firmly in his pitching hand, was what I believed to be one of the most prized possessions from my friend's youth - a MLB licensed baseball festooned with autographs of a dozen or so members of the 1980's Dodger's.

While the gameplay monikers for the 80's Dodgers may not ring any bells with some, for those of us who grew up in LA during that time period, the roster is etched in our memories...even in the creaking gray matter of those of us who didn't know much about baseball...Dusty Baker, Ron Cey, Joe Ferguson, Pedro Guerrero, Charlie Hough, Rick Monday, Manny Mota, Jerry Reuss, Bill Russell, Reggie Smith, Don Sutton, Bob Welch.And of course, the most famous of all Dodgers from that time, Steve Garvey.

For me, it was a momentary jolt of electricity as I stood back and watched C interact with Mr. Garvey, securing autographs on both her Mom's ballcap and her own hand-me-down softball glove.

The major joy of the event took place as I stood off to the side watching Jon step up to the table and pull his prized ball into view. While my eyes witnessed the everyday magic of one hero (a retired ballplayer) meeting another (loving husband, dedicated father), I let my mind drift back to my heady days of youth, when hero's stood proudly on pedestals and games were meant to be played, not paid for."And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces."


gorockets! said...

It was a great night. Also, thanks for the promotion, Vermont was Single A. You guys are awesome.

Gracie said...

Love the Field of Dreams reference at the end. What a sweet post.