The minor league baseball season has begun . . . the Billing Mustangs (Rookie League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds) are in full swing . . . and I am nearly in heaven! I enjoy baseball and having a minor league team in the area is a perfect diversion to “life” on a daily basis. I enjoy the game, the crowds, and all of the weird little “rituals” that accompany it . . . even if others cannot comprehend or understand. I say this because I apparently fall into that category of weird little “rituals”.
Recently the wife told me that her diehard Mustangs fans (guys who have been going to the games for decades as season ticket holders) in her church are a little perplexed with me. They don’t understand me . . . especially when it comes to baseball. They just don’t get my baseball ritual, but have kindly refrained from qualifying me as weird—eccentric, maybe, but they are too nice to call me weird . . . or even twisted. After all, they are good Christians and the wife is their minister. Thus they just tell her they are a little perplexed at my “ritual”.
My ritual? Well, it all involves baseballs. I collect batting practice balls before the game. I started doing that after the family and I attended our first Mustangs game four years ago and found a ball lying in the grass by the stadium. Ever since then it has been a part of my routine whenever I go to a game. I like to arrive early and see how many baseballs I can find and pick up. So far, in a little over three seasons and the start of this season, I have found 48 baseballs. In the two games I have attended this season I have found 12 . . . at this rate I should shatter my record and double the number of baseballs I have stashed away in my office closet. Sounds a little weird, doesn’t it? And this is what these gentlemen don’t understand . . . and, to be honest, I am not sure I really understand either. In a way, it is kind of twisted. . .
. . . but I will try to explain. The simplest explanation is that I get off of work at 4:00PM—batting practice begins at 4:00PM—the gates into the stadium don’t open until 6:00PM for a 7:05PM game start—that is two hours that I need to kill before I can actually get into the stadium. What better way to spend it than walking around the stadium picking up balls hit out of the field? Besides, the wife frowns on me sitting down at the local breweries sampling the many fine microbrews for two hours. Because of that I spend my time working on my tan, cardiovascular system, and collecting errant baseballs . . . 48 and counting. It keeps me out of trouble.
I can see how this looks peculiar to lots of folks. A later middle-aged guy, with a slight pot belly, standing in the grass beyond the stadium fence waiting for baseballs to magically appear. I suppose those the stadium workers have determined that I am some sort of local eccentric –the old fart—who has obsessive compulsive disorder. I notice that they usually take a wide berth around me when walking by. They probably think that I am twisted. As I said earlier, it keeps me out of trouble, and the wife always knows where I am. That is the simplest explanation—it is something to do while waiting for the game to start.
Another reason that I probably enjoy collecting these wayward baseballs has to do with economics. Yeah, I said economics. A baseball—whether used in the game or batting practice—costs an average of four dollars. Once a baseball leaves the field—whether during a game or batting practice—it is fair game. Anyone can pick it up and have it for him or herself. Over a season I will spend an average of seven dollars for a ticket for the privilege of attending a game. At the game I will have to spend $2.50 for a hot dog (usually two), $3.50 for a beer (usually two), and another $2.50 for an ice tea for a grand total of $14.50. For approximately $21.50, I get the pleasure of attending Mustangs baseball. I figure as a many four dollar baseballs I can get for free is a nice compromise. Right now I figure I am about five bucks ahead for the season—hey, that is two hot dogs! Twisted? Maybe, but it does make sense . . . they are free souvenirs.
The above paragraph kind of answers the other question that these gentlemen were wondering about, which is: What is he doing with all those baseballs? Obviously they are for future generations of the family to enjoy without ever having to worry about having to spend a penny to get. Right now, as I said earlier, they are just stacking up in the closet in my office. I have to be careful opening the closet door so that I don’t create a baseball avalanche. The headline would look terrible in the paper: Local Minister Killed in Baseball Avalanche! The community would wonder what sort of crazy guy the wife was married to.
Other ideas of what to do with all these baseballs have crossed my mind over the years. I have thought about starting a baseball compost pile in the backyard—at least it wouldn’t smell like a regular compost pile. I have thought about nailing two 2X4’s to my office wall and then putting plexy glass between them—then drop the balls between the glass and wall to create a “baseball wall”. I have thought about putting them all in the bed of my truck, opening the tailgate, and driving down the highway to see how long it would take to empty it out. The wife—and eventually my own common sense—nixed all of those ideas. So, in the meantime, they sit in the closet.
Am I weird . . . eccentric . . . a little twisted? All because I like to collect loose balls before the start of a baseball game. Maybe . . . maybe not. It all depends on who you ask. Why do I do this? Because I can. Because it makes me happy. And, because it gives everyone something to talk about. When it comes to being twisted it is all a matter of one’s perspective. With that in mind I give you this closing song by Joni Mitchell to consider: