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Comerica Park, Detroit

16 Aug

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

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Although I’m wildly excited about returning to school in a mere three weeks, it has forced me to make some lifestyle adjustments. I’ve had to cut my spending down by a lot in order to compensate for cutting my work hours and pay for tuition, textbooks, etc. So instead of traveling to far away and exotic places, I’ve been trying to take mini-vacations, like the one I took in June with my sister to Detroit.

I settled on Detroit by looking at the Seattle Mariner’s schedule and seeing where they were playing within flying distance of New York. After seeing Anthony Bourdain’s piece on Detroit in his “Parts Unknown” series, I wanted to experience the city for myself. A lot of people gave me baffled looks when I told them that was where I was spending my vacation, but I’m lucky enough to have a sister who I knew would be game to explore the area.

The biggest draw, not surprisingly, is how cheap everything was. The city has shrunk a considerable amount, and it’s true that there are huge abandoned buildings everywhere you go, but this has also driven a lot of rents and prices down which has started to attract young artists and entrepreneurs. We were never at a loss to find delicious food, trendy bars and random art installations.

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The Hiedelberg Project

But let’s not forget the real reason I flew to Michigan. Baseball. A couple of days before I flew to Detroit, I checked on Stubhub for tickets and was blown away to find seats directly behind home plate for only $40. For reference for those not familiar with major league baseball ticket prices. Similar tickets at Yankee stadium are roughly $700. But that’s just the nature of supply and demand. They were easily the best seats I’ve ever had.

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Around the third inning, a group of middle-aged guys stumbled to the seats next to me. A bunch of Midwesterners who get together to watch their beloved Tigers. In true Midwest style, they were super kind to me, asked all about the Mariners and told me a bunch of anecdotes about a variety of hometown baseball players and about the field itself. Everyone I met in the stadium was kind and welcoming, despite the fact that I was wearing the opposing team’s jersey.

Comerica Park has been open since 2000 and is still beautiful and well kept. The Tigers have an interesting advantage in having a real, concrete mascot. When I started thinking about it, most other teams have abstract names that don’t inspire a solid image. Mariners, Red Sox, Athletics, Yankees, Royals. A tiger is a readily identifiable thing, and so the stadium is dripping with them.

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It’s also bursting with Detroit pride. The Mariners lost the game I attended, but I wasn’t too broken up about it. The fans were so nice to me, and I admire any baseball fan that loves and supports their team that much. Detroit is definitely a struggling city, but the people that live there consider it their home, not a ghost town. And the pride they take in their team and their city made it a great place to visit.

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The Summer Game by Roger Angell

20 Apr

I know that I’m a couple of weeks late in writing about the beginning of the 2015 baseball season. But that shouldn’t undermine the level of excitement and complacency I feel. Playing softball with my friends on the warm Spring days. Watching the Mariners at a sports bar while eating wings and drinking beer. All is right with the world. Everything is as it should be.

During this time of the year, I spend a lot of time working with Dr. G who is a lifetime Yankees fan. We tease each other back and forth and talk about the ups and downs of our respective teams. Dr. G is the one who told me about Roger Angell who is a friend of his and a client of the clinic’s. I had no idea that the adorable old man with the Jack Russel Terrier also happens to be one of the most legendary baseball writers of all time. “The Summer Game” is the first book of his that I have read.

The book is full of essays that he wrote during the sixties. To be honest, some of the writing didn’t grab me, only because I was reading about games that happened almost 60 years ago. And while I easily recognized names like Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, and Carl Yastrzemski. So many of the other players and games he wrote about are so far in the past that their importance doesn’t translate. So I did skim over a handful of the recaps of who stole what base in what inning.

There was an interesting arc to the essays as they followed the nascent years of the New York Mets whom I support on a casual and Queens-pride level. He wrote about how horrible they were in their first couple of seasons, yet how the fans supported them with a fervor that some of the more successful teams couldn’t come close to. He wrote about the transition from the Polo Grounds to Shea stadium, tracking the evolution of major league baseball to newer venues, expanded franchises, players rights.

“This was a new recognition that perfection is admirable but a trifle inhuman, and that a stumbling kind of semi-success can be much more warming. Most of all, perhaps, these exultant yells for the Mets were also yells for ourselves, and came from a wry, half-understood recognition that here is more Met than Yankee in every one of us. I knew for whom the foghorn blew; it blew for me.”

Angell writes about baseball as only a true baseball-obsessed person can, as a religion. I get tired of the debate I have with people about whether baseball is boring or not. If other people don’t like it, I simply don’t care. It’s something I need in my life. And there’s a special kind of recognition to spend time with another baseball fan who understands the game and what makes it so special. This is the recognition that I found in his writing.

“Whatever the pace of the particular baseball game we are watching, whatever its outcome, it holds us in its own continuum and mercifully releases us from our own.”

29 Before 29

15 Sep
Birthday girls

Birthday girls

I happen to share my birth date with one of my closest friends in New York, Quincey. A while back the two of us were talking about possible ideas for our birthday. We laughed and said we should do a week-long celebration dedicated to the amazingness that is us. But the more we talked about it, the more it made complete sense.

Our birth date happens to be marred by a national tragedy which over time has affected celebrations negatively. In addition to that, we both moved a lot as kids and spent many childhood birthdays in a new town without friends. So this was the year to make up for it. Cabaret, Karaoke, Softball, $1 beers, Ice Cream Cake, Cupcakes, Shake Shack, Happy Hour, Czech Beer Garden, Dancing. This was a week-long celebration for the ages, and my liver, stomach, legs, vocal chords are still recovering.

Now that life is slipping into normalcy, it’s time to embrace the new year’s list. I dropped some things that just weren’t happening. I brought back some recurring standards. And as far as new items go, I went big and small. Some overly ambitious and some devastatingly simple.

THE STANDARDS

1. Visit a new state- 13 down, 37 to go!

2. Visit a new country- Due to my supposed risk averse nature, I was unable to travel last year. But this year my goal is somewhere in Central America. I have to break in that new passport.

3. Visit a new baseball stadium- I’m so close to so many stadiums, it’s a crying shame that my number is so low. 7/30.

4. Read Catch-22– Every year I dedicate myself to reading one classic that I’m embarrassed about not having read.

5. Make Jambalaya- My new recipe challenge for the year.

6. Eat Ox Tail- My new adventurous food choice of the year.

7. Eat Ethiopian- You really can’t have too many adventurous food options. I’d be happy with doing an entire list of food.

LEFTOVERS FROM LISTS OF YESTERYEAR

8. Be an extra in a TV show or movie***

9. Go Scuba Diving***

10. Go Sailing***

11. Go to a Gun Range***

12. Do a Juice Cleanse**

13. Go to a Dog Show**

14. Visit a Whiskey Distillery**

15. Go to a Live Taping*- My new goal for this is to see “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver. I have such a nerd crush on him.

16. Ride a Mechanical Bull*

17. Take a Trapeze Class*

18. Eat at Serendipity*

19. Go to a Monster Truck Show*

THE NEW LIST

20. Sing at Live Band Karaoke- I love singing karaoke. Some might even call it a passion. A week ago, I delivered a drunken, impassioned performance of “All That Jazz.” I’m ready to step up my karaoke game.

Duet with Quincey

Duet with Quincey

21. Paint Nite- I know this is suburban and faux-creative, but I want to do it. I want to somehow paint a pretty picture and pretend I’m an artiste.

22. Go sky diving- I hesitated putting this on the list. I’ve hesitated putting it on for years. I’m concerned I might pee myself or have a similar humiliating experience.

23. Fencing Lesson- I took an archery lesson a couple of months ago. If the place wasn’t so far from me, I would have considered going back. Something so fun about medieval weaponry.

24. Learn to play the ukelele- I learned that my paternal grandfather used to play the ukelele. It’s a family tradition I’d like to carry on.

25. Go whale watching- I didn’t realize how much I wanted to do this until I missed an opportunity last week. I want to experience the majesty of those mammals.

26. Do a knitting donation project- I took down my “Pay for someone’s meal” item, because I’m just too shy. But I wanted to replace it with something charitable.

27. Go white water rafting- I fear this will go the way of my go scuba diving item. It’ll never happen.

28. Visit a horse ranch- I’ve recently started working with horses, and I forgot how deep my love for them runs.

29. Visit the United Nations- I had to add one New York touristy option.

 

 

28 Before 28: Visit a New Baseball Stadium

10 Sep

In my 28th year of life, I’m attempting to do 28 new things. Full list here.

Citizen's Bank Park

Citizen’s Bank Park

My, oh, my, the Mariner’s this year! I’ve been an avid fan since 2007 and have witnessed dismal seasons. But as I write this, they are in the second wild card spot for the American League and only one game behind Oakland. AHHH!! Back in February when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, I joked that the Mariner’s were also going to win the World Series. It’s still a long shot, but it’s possible! We COULD do it.

So I was browsing their schedule a couple of weeks ago to see which teams we’d be facing in this epic playoff berth. The day I checked happened to be the first day they were playing the Phillies in Philadelphia for a three game series. I had the following day off and wanting to escape some personal drama, I made a last minute decision to hop a morning bus to Philadelphia the next day to spend the day there. I convinced my friend Quincey to go with me, and we were off!

Citizens Bank Park is beautiful! The people are so nice! I’m used to going to Mariner games at Yankee stadium where I’m harassed at least a couple of times by obnoxious Yankee fans. But the city of brotherly love lived up to its name. This is how a typical conversation with a Phillie fan went:

“You’re a Seattle fan?”
“Yeah, I went to college in Seattle and have been a fan ever since,” I say with hesitation, waiting to be berated.
“That’s great! Beautiful city! You sure have a great team this year.”
“It’s about time we have a good season!”
“Yeah, I wish the Phillies were playing that well. Enjoy the game!”
“Why thank you! You too!”

How nice is that?! Sometimes spending enough time in New York makes one forget that there is the possibility for human kindness and compassion in the world. But it’s out there.

One Mariner fan and one Mariner/Met fan.

One Mariner fan and one Mariner/Met fan.

It was a fun day trip. We ate Philly cheesesteaks north of the stadium before we arrived so I didn’t get a chance to try any of the ballpark food. But I loved the game there. Best part was the Phillie Phanatic. What a great mascot! He had an ATV that he drove around the field with abandon and even got into a play-verbal argument with the Mariner dugout. The Phillies might have a disappointing lineup this year, but they’ll always have the phanatic.

2013 All Star Game

23 Jul

2013-07-16 16.32.38On a breezy summer evening, we sat out on a terrace sipping beer.

“So what are you doing for the All Star Game?” he asked me.
“Actually nothing. I’m going over to my friend’s apartment to watch ‘Whose Line is it Anyways.’ What are you doing for the All Star Game?”
“Oh, we might go to McFadden’s to watch it. But I was thinking about getting tickets.”
“Wow, that’s awesome.”
“Sooooo, you’re pretty set in your plans, don’t think you could go with me?”
“Wait, what? No, I could totally go. You know me and baseball. I’d love to go.”
“But what about your friends?”
“They’ll get over it.”

So I got to go to the 2013 All Star Game! When I heard the game was going to be at CitiField in Queens, of course I wanted to go. Mathematically speaking, the odds of being in the same city of the 30 options when an All Star Game is happening just doesn’t seem like it would happen to me again. But I also didn’t think it was possible to get tickets. Then two days before the game, I get invited to go! Dream come true!

We got to the stadium around 4:30, before the gates opened. Once we were inside the gates, it was like a carnival. So many baseball players, so many stars. We went down to watch batting practice and ogle the stars. For two baseball fans, it was exciting to point out all the awesome players before us. Including the most awesome baseball player ever, my beloved Felix Hernandez…

The King himself.

The King himself.

Some bullet points from my All-Star experience!

  • So many fans! As we wandered around the stadium, we made an attempt to find a fan from every team, which was a lot more entertaining than it sounds. We almost did it except for one stupid team that apparently doesn’t have any fans, anywhere. The San Diego Padres. I’m disappointed in you, San Diego. Very disappointed.
  • Neil Diamond came out of nowhere to sing “Sweet Caroline.” While this is a traditionally Red Sox experience, it was fun to sing along to it in a New York stadium.
  • Really hard to cheer for any one team playing. Most pitching/batting matchups were between players that I liked with near-equal enthusiasm. It was a constant win-win situation. Either a pitcher I like gets a strikeout, or a batter I like gets a hit!
  • Prince Fielder got a triple. Bahahahahaha! Prince Fielder got a triple! That chubby man can run!
  • A moving dedication to Mariano Rivera. Even though I’m a firm Yankee hater, Mariano Rivera is a great pitcher with an astounding career, and he deserved the honor or warming up on an empty field to thunderous applause.
  • They had a mascot race with different goofy mascots running around the warning track. It made me giggle.

An amazing night. A great experience for any baseball fan. I feel like such a lucky girl that I got to go.

Beautiful Citi Field

Beautiful Citi Field

April 2, 2013

4 Apr
Seattle Mariners

Seattle Mariners

I walk into work and it’s a hectic day already. I run around doing a couple of things before I look over and see that Dr. G needs help with a patient. I go over and hold the dog for him while he talks to Dr. S about a case. I wait until there’s a lull in the conversation.

“So the Yankees lost pretty damn bad last night,” I say.
“5 minutes,” Dr. G cuts me off. “It took you 5 minutes to bring that up. God damn it.”
“You could practically see her bursting at the seams,” Dr. S adds. “I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did.”
“I was trying to not make eye contact with you as soon as I saw that smug smile on your face. So I guess the Mariners won last night?”
“As a matter of fact, they did!” I say. “We officially have the best record in baseball.”
“Watch what you say,” Dr. S says. “It’s only April.”

But, no, I will not watch what I say. And I won’t do it BECAUSE it’s April. I’ve been burdened with falling in love with a team that has not performed well at all in recent memory. I remain faithful nonetheless, but it has brought be much heartbreak and disappointment. It’s April. Anything can happen this season. We could win the World Series! Of course, I’m realistic and don’t think that will happen. But the possibility is there. I’m going to enjoy every win, especially for this moment in time when we are at the top of the standings.

I’m writing this on a Wednesday evening, and by the time this goes onto my site, we could have two losses in contrast to the two wins we have. But we’d still be at .500! In a more optimistic world, we might have swept the Oakland A’s and remain atop the standings. It’s April! It’s baseball season!

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

25 Mar

moneyball_book_cover_01_custom-ea36630e47960157244ed4290140853c60db41a8-s6-c10 As a general rule, I try to not read books when I’ve already seen the movie version.  I’m more a fan of books than I am of movies, but once I’ve seen a movie, I have a hard time enjoying the book, as I’m comparing it to the movie, seeing specific scenes in my head. It taints the whole experience.

“Moneyball” by Michael Lewis was something I read to alleviate the constant itch I’ve had the last month for baseball season to start. 7 days. 7 DAYS!! Can you believe it? I’m actually nervous for the season to start, because I have been so overwhelmingly busy the last couple of weeks, I’m stressed about how I’m going to squeeze my requisite baseball watching time into an already tight schedule. What’s a girl to do?!

Anyways, this book , amazing. Michael Lewis is my personal nonfiction hero. The first book of his I read was “The Big Short” which was about the financial collapse. I personally have no interest in finance or the economy. But Lewis is tricky, interweaving what might seem dull information into personal human interest.

With “Moneyball,” the success of the movie was a lot about dramatizing the human interest aspect of his writing. The book, though, goes so much deeper into sabermetrics, the history of it and how it can be applied to evaluating players. For me, I’ve heard so much about sabermetrics and have a basic understanding of it, this book functioned as a good introduction into how it can be applied to the game.

Really, though, I’m just hungry for baseball. My first softball game of the season is Thursday, next Monday is opening day. I’m exhausted from a hectic couple of weeks. All I want to do is curl up with a ball game. Until then, I’ll just be listening to this song on repeat. It gives me chills every time. Does your baseball team have a rap song? On the off chance you said yes, there’s no way it as good as mine.

Welcome back Raul!

26 Dec

IbanezIt’s only today that I found out that Raul Ibanez signed a one-year contract with the Mariners. I agree that it’s a strange way to spend $2.75 million in the offseason, on a 40-year-player… with sad home/road splits…and limited defensive offerings. But let’s not focus on the negative. I’m excited! I have a soft-spot for Raul, because I believe he is semi-responsible for me getting a job with the Mariners.

In July 2007, I had just returned from a whirlwind trip across Europe. It completely changed my outlook on life, and it also left me completely broke. Back in Seattle, I was hard at work as a barista, but those meager latte tips were not cutting it. I searched CraigsList and found out that the Seattle Mariners were hiring part-time employees to sell game-day merchandise. I had been to one game back in my freshmen year of college and loved it, so I thought I had nothing to lose and applied.

I got the interview and headed down to SafeCo Field. I walked around the stadium trying to find the entrance that would lead me to the front office. I looked at the large banners hanging by the home plate entrance. There was the recognizable Ichiro and a bunch of other dudes I had never heard of. One of which was Ibanez. I liked the name, and as happens with words/names I like, I started repeating it to myself in a variety of tones and accents.

In the interview, I was asked if I was a Mariner fan.

“Oh yeah, huge Mariner fan here.” I told him, lying completely.
“They’ve had a really great run at the playoffs, everyone’s really excited around here.”
“Yep, great run.”
“So, who’s your favorite player?”

I paused to think this one through. I didn’t want to say Ichiro, because that was the obvious choice. So I blurted out that odd name that had been stuck in my head. I might have even mispronounced it.

“Ib-a-nez?”
“Oh, he’s my favorite player! Some of those hits he has gotten? Did you see that one last week?”
“Er, I must have missed it…but I’ve heard about it?”

So I got the job and consequently fell in love with baseball and the Mariners. All because of Raul. I remember working Sunday day games and seeing him and his sons play catch in the outfield before the gates opened. I remember watching him getting home runs this last play-off season and feeling like he was still my guy.

Man, I can’t wait for baseball season to start again. Less then 100 days! This year I have little hope that the Mariners will make playoffs of any kind. But I still feel like I’ve got to get back to Seattle. I’ve got to get back to SafeCo field. And I must cheer Raul’s name when they play “Werewolves in London” for him.

26 Before 26: Do Batting Practice

1 Jul

Just like Matt Kemp

In my 26th year of life, I am attempting 26 new things that I’ve never done before. Full list here.

Boy oh boy, I needed this.

One of the best and most pleasantly surprising things about my 26 before 26 endeavor has been the eagerness and enthusiasm of others to hear about it and to help me. I keep a copy of the list on my phone, and anytime anyone hears about it they immediately want to see it. They go through the list, laughing at some of the items and becoming overly excited about others. I haven’t been as diligent about my list, because life gets in the way. But a new friend from my soccer team, Dave, saw this on my list and insisted on taking me to the batting cages at Chelsea Piers. I was happy to go.

We went on a Wednesday night, after a crappy Wednesday day. I went into work slightly hungover and proceeded to have a bad luck day. I was mainly having issues with catheters. Catheters were so scary to me for such a long time, but once I got the hang of it, I felt so proud. But Wednesday, every catheter I put in would kink and I would lose the flow. It’s heartbreaking, to see the flash, to slowly insert the catheter, to pull the stylet…nothing. No blood. I’d pull the catheter out and see it had bended all weird. Everyone kept telling me that it sometimes just happens with catheters, but I would look down at the blown vein and beat myself up. I was having such an off day with those effing blue catheters.

So I headed to the batting cages to meet up with Dave. It’s a pretty good deal, really. $2ish for a token which gets you ten pitches. Dave went for the medium pitch cage, but I wanted to take whacks at the slow pitch softball cage since that is what I encounter in my Pac-12 softball team. There was a pair of girls who had rented the cage for an hour. They were dripping with sweat, taking turns in the cage. We got to talking with them, and they make it down to the pier once a month to rent the cage for an hour and go to town.

“We’ve got a lot of rage,” one of them told me breathlessly.

Once they left, I took my turn in the cage. It was much easier than actual softball. I knew exactly when the ball was coming and where it would be. I also didn’t have rows of Pac-12 dudes cheering me on. I love my Pac-12 dudes, but I want to do so well for them, I stress myself out. This time, it was just me and a machine. Somehow, nothing feels better then making contact with a bat, hearing that pop, imagining where that ball would go on a real softball field. Such a perfect stress release, and I made a mental note that I must rent the cage out sometime for myself.

Afterwards, Dave and I grabbed a beer at a bar next to the golf driving range. It was perfect weather down my the water, and it was hypnotizing to watch those golf balls sail out towards the water, like a meteor shower. A couple of Dave’s friends showed up so they could practice their golf swings for a tournament they put themselves through, known ominously as “The Cup.” It’s an epic battle amongst old college friends which never fails to entertain me when they start talking about it. There’s even a draft.

I told them that I’d never actually gone to a driving range, and maybe I should put it on my 27 before 27 list. But why put off until tomorrow what you can do today. They invited me to come along and hit a few. I was pretty horrible, but after they gave me a few tips, I don’t think I was so bad. It took a couple of swings before I finally hit the ball, but when I did, one of Dave’s friends Adam said something along the lines of “Yay bucket list.” It took me far away from the worries of a 22-guage catheter.

The next day, my shoulders were so, so sore. But I was relaxed, and 15 minutes into work, I had to place a catheter into a squirmy King Charles Spaniel. I got it right away.

Thanks Mariners

27 Apr

Making a wish at SafeCo Field. 2008.

One year ago, life was horrible for me, the worst. I’d had my heart broken. I didn’t know where I was going to live. I didn’t have a job I loved or that I thought would take me anywhere. I was living in a lonely city with few people to turn to. I thought I might have breast cancer. I couldn’t eat. I was broke.

With all my problems weighing heavily on me, it made the little things so much worse. An ipod dying became a tragedy on top of it all. It might sound silly and a bit obsessive, but the fact that the Mariner’s were a horrible team last year made everything worse. I would try to sleep at night, all my troubles swarming in my head, and after I had catalogued them all for the millionth time, I would also think, “And the Mariner’s can’t win a fucking game!” I needed them, and they were just depressing me further. I even stopped following them. For the first time since leaving Seattle, I didn’t subscribe to mlbtv.com to watch the games. I just didn’t care.

I KNOW. I really lost it. I kind of kept up with the scores and news worthy updates, but I let myself not care for a season.

My life is back now. It’s not perfect, but it is probably the best it has been in years. Some days, I even feel like I have it all. So this year, when baseball season was coming back, I made the conscious decision to throw my weight back into my Mariner’s. Everyone predicted that they would be horrible this year…again. But I didn’t care. I downloaded some necessary apps to my phone, started following some key M’s blogs, and I started watching the games whenever I had a free night.

I’ve been fighting off a cold and a bad mood all week, so I stayed in on a Friday night to have some me-time and to watch the Mariners play the Blue Jays. We won. That’s the gist of it. But something more. Even at the top of the 9th when we were beginning our two-run deficit comeback with a Michael Saunders’ (not even one of our star players) homerun, I thought, “We still might lose this, but this is actually an exciting game.”

Good M’s offensive, good M’s defense, smart moves by the coaches. In the last couple of years, the M’s have been so crippled, so disappointing, the games haven’t even really been worth it. But tonight, home alone on a Friday night, I was really really enjoying this game.

Then at the top of the 10th, Michael Saunders (again, not even that great a player) got a Grand Slam that basically clinched the game at 9-5.

“SAUNDERS?” I said aloud to myself. “Saunders?!?!” My computer had been on the fritz, and it was freezing, so I thought maybe I saw it wrong. Then the ding-a-ling score alert went off on my phone, and I knew it was true. I was on cloud nine.

The M’s are playing surprisingly well this year. Granted it is April, and they still have room in the season to have a 14 game losing streak. But right now, things are fantastic. So goes baseball. So goes life.

Those that aren’t sports fans have a hard time understanding the utter devotion someone can put behind a team. It’s like everything worthwhile in life. Sometimes you are disappointed. Sometimes you don’t know if it is worth the effort. But when it’s good, it’s great.

The M’s have made me happy lately, and I’m so glad I didn’t break up with them a year ago when things were rough. While one year later, my life is back on track, I’ve had a rough week or two, and it’s like the M’s showed up at my door with soup, ice cream, and flowers.

Being a baseball fan is worth it. It’s worth the hours you spend in front of your television screaming at umpires, or your catcher, or your team’s manager. It’s worth the obsessive thinking about stats and lineups and injuries.

It’s nights like tonight that I realize just how much I love baseball.