Monday, June 20, 2016

All About That Base

This weekend marked the beginning of my part-time job at the ballpark.  So far, it's a home run.

In Boston, my office had no windows.  To that extent, this job is a huge improvement.
Speaking of dad jokes... Happy Father's Day!

Yesterday - Father's Day - was my first non-training day of work.  In other words, it was the first day I would be showing up to a ballgame and doing the job by myself. The timing of my schedule ended up being something of a happy accident, as a minor league baseball stadium ended up being a great place for me to clear my head and reflect a bit on my late father.

My dad was one of those old-school baseball fans who would purchase a scorecard and keep score of the game as he watched.  To me, that practice felt a bit too much like schoolwork for me to want to do it.  There is a certain irony to that, as my job now is essentially to make sure that there is an accurate record for the results of each pitch for the purposes of record-keeping.  Statistics in baseball are very important to both fans and teams alike, so I make an effort to keep things professional and take the quality of my work seriously - but at the same time, I'm getting paid to watch baseball.  It's awesome.

This is the most recent picture of me at Fenway Park, taken with my friend Rich who loves baseball more than anything.

Most of my live baseball experience comes from Fenway Park.  The differences between the fanbase of Red Sox Nation and the crowd at my job were stark - here the crowd is about 10% the size of Boston and there are far less drunken bro-dudes and a lot more families with children.  The difference in vibe is noticeable:
  • The park has a lot of things for kids to do during the game, including bouncy houses and a stand where kids can throw pitches and get their speeds checked.  It takes some professional restraint not to partake in these.
  • During the seventh inning stretch, kids are picked out of the crowd and invited onto the stadium to sing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" with the mascot.
  • There's a character named "Roofman" who stands on the roof of the press box - literally directly above me - and throws shirts and baseballs and other souvenirs.  The kids go crazy for this.
The differences in size and audience lead to a much safer-seeming environment for children.  I always see little groups of kids exploring the park together, sort-of watching the game and roaming around in packs and having adventures.  It's honestly a pleasure to watch, way more than I think I anticipated it would be when I signed up to work there.

Mascot race between innings - the hamburger won.
I used to be one of those kids.  My dad took me to a handful of New Haven Ravens games when I was growing and they were always fun.   He'd get me peanuts and hot dogs and would let me run around when I inevitably stopped paying attention to a three-hour baseball game.  I eventually became a teenager and lost interest in baseball, but the times were great while they lasted. 

Going into minor league baseball games twenty years later is obviously a far different experience.  While I no longer experience the magic to the degree that I used to, I now get to experience it as an observer.  I would argue that I appreciate it even more as an adult than I did as a child.

The hardest part about getting older is finding a way to not grow cynical, especially in a world where social media is there to make sure we focus our conversational energy on tragedies and politics.  It is genuinely helpful for me to be able to separate from that world for a little way and to surround myself instead with families having a good time with each other.  I appreciate being able to see the world vicariously through the children at the ballpark - it helps me understand and appreciate why my dad brought me all those years ago.

My softball team in Boston - a group of people that I miss very much - was created by a son for his father to allow him to play.
I spent the first two nights of the job with my co-worker as he showed me the ropes.  The job itself is relatively straightforward and only needs one person there each night - it's actually tougher with two people since it becomes tempting to converse with each other which takes attention away from the game.  It was fun working together, since I love talking about baseball with other fans of the game but don't really know any out here on the west coast.  It's probably not a coincidence, but he also used to go see baseball games with his father as a kid, and he similarly appreciates the opportunity that we have to see a new generation of kids getting into it on a nightly basis.

Last night I had a lot of fun, soaking in the vibe of Father's Day at a minor league ballpark.  Baseball isn't the fastest paced game - something my friends who aren't into it constantly point out to me - but that gave me a lot of good time to reflect on the things my father (and, to be fair, my mother) did for me growing up.

When the Simpsons premiered I was a lot like Bart.  It's still on the air, except now I'm more like Marge.
All in all, I'm genuinely appreciative for the opportunity I've been given.  This new job provides me with a few things - namely income and a reason to leave the house - that have done a lot for my sense of self.  With those things taken care of, I'm once again at a point in my life where I can spend time writing without the fear of failure looming over my head.  Work doesn't feel like work when you like what you do.

Like the crowd at the stadium after a huge home run - things are looking up.

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