“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

Lost in all the excitement to get my family and my husband ready for his impending surgery, a small milestone got overlooked.  Two weeks ago, my son went to his first ballgame Jon Montgomery (aka The Tall).  Like most minor-league franchises below AAA, it’s relatively easy to come by cheap or free tickets, and Jon got a batch through his employment, so we all met at Ray Winder Field for an evening of what passes for tradition in my family.

I grew up loving baseball.  Not in the statistics-crazy fandom kind of way, but more in the lines of my God-given heritage.  I grew up in Upstate New York, in a town that holds itself (like so many other towns in New England), as one of the contenders for the birthplace of baseball.  Football may be religion in the South, but in parts more north, baseball is our birthright.  In the mild New England summers, the long light of breezy summer evenings stretches late enough that the field lamps don’t really even have to go on until late into the eighth inning.  I would go with my stepdad and sit in bleachers of Silver Stadium where kids sat with their dads and ate peanuts and kept score since the Great Depression, in a city that has had a professional minor-league baseball team almost continuously since just after the Civil War.  Rochester, New York is a city that defines itself by photography, by hot dogs, and, above all, by baseball.

And more than any other sport, baseball is, of itself, a social event.  The steady, even pace of give and take, pitch and swing, makes pre-game tailgating almost irrelevant.  One eye on the game, one hand on the beer, there was time for talk, jokes, and color commentary.  My brother and I learned how to keep stats, but that was fairly secondary to the experience.  It was a break in the detente over where the exact middle of the back seat was, and who had washed the dishes last. We were, at a ballgame, remarkably conflict-free considering the rather pugilistic state of my sibling relations.

So, despite my husband’s grumbling (as much of an athlete as he was as a young man, he HATES watching sports of any kind), we packed up the F1 and drove into town for an evening of family bonding. 

Things did not go as planned right away.  First – not to belabor the obvious, but Little Rock, Arkansas is NOT Upstate New York.  We have summer here.  I mean real summer.  I mean actual bonafide HOT being something above the 85 degrees that only passed for hot in New York.  Second, I think Ray Winder Field is the last place left in the country, if not the universe, that does NOT take VISA.  Or AMEX, or any other kind of plastic currency.  They only take good old cash (a commodity I have seen nothing of since the advent of debit cards) or Travs Bucks, which you can purchase by credit at the office, but are not reimbursable by any means than concessions and souvenirs.  Thankfully my husband navigated that obstacle course for me, leaving me only to deal with the actual procurement of said concessions.

Which was even more problematic than it sounded.  I have to say, that whoever thought that it was a brilliant idea to sell only ONE kind of food per line should be made to sit purgatory at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  You cannot, at Ray Winder Field, arrive at the concessions counter and order three hot dogs, nachos and two Cokes.  First, you must stand in the hot dog line, then the drink line, then the nachos line, precariously balancing each successive purchase through each wait.  And did I mention the heat?

And then I remembered the leap of competence that occurs between AA and AAA ball.  It isn’t just that our team sucked (they did), there was just a lot more fumbling all the way around.  I found my mind wandering away from the game – not because I was juggling an inquisitive 11-month old and a somewhat bored 3-year-old (Jon’s son, Dirk), but because I was actually bored.  Bored.  At a ball field.  Sacrilege.

But despite the heat (you got that it was HOT, right?) there were some moments that made standing in the lines and the butt-numbing narrow seats worthwhile.

 Like my son, smiling at the world, and they all smiled back:

Harry, trying to capture the moment

 And Dirk being too scared to hug the Mascot, so his Daddy hugged him by proxy:

Jon, assaulting the Donkey

Poor Donkey, probably thought he was being mugged by a giant.

 And, there were hot dogs, which are never better than from a ballpark vendor.  More specifically, for Harry, there was hot dog BUN, which Dirk was more than happy to share with him:

Dirk and Harry share a lap and a dog 

And of course it was baseball, how bad can that be, really?:

Travs pitching. They spent a lot of time here.

But, we could have skipped the whole experience, bought Harry the inflatable baseball that we used to get rid of the damned Travs Bucks, and Harry’s world would have been utterly complete:

Harry and the Giant Ball

 But what fun would that have been?

June 28th, 2006 at 12:42 pm
3 Responses to “The things we’ve handed down”
  1. 1
    Kat Says:

    Ah… Ray Winder… where I spent too many hours in my youth ignoring good baseball and watching Dynamite Lady get blow’d up.

    I actually went one night with my stepdad to Clunker Car night… hoping… hoping… because he had a brother that could fix ANYTHING.

    But it’s all going away. The new park is *supposed* to open next year (but if it’s anything like what we’ve come to expect from the Greater Metro Area gridlock, it won’t) and with it will come all sorts of neat vendors, selling whatever they can pay the franchise on to sell at the stadium. Like Alltel Arena, you might end up with such a strange combination as Sims BBQ, Tombstone Pizza, and Michelob. Let’s just hope TPTB choose to understand common sense and not price water at $3 a bottle on $1 beer night.

    The new ballpark will take all sorts of currency and credit, and have big brightly lit colorful scoreboards and piped-in rock music and deluxe skyboxes… but it’ll lack that one good old quality you’d never be able to replicate from Ray Winder Field…

    … the unmistakable summer smell of the Little Rock Zoo.

  2. 2
    Bambi Says:

    I knew there were really good reasons I needed to move to Little Rock and you just reminded me of them all. I wish I could have been there. I miss you all so much.

  3. 3
    Robbin Says:

    You would have had a good time. It was actually kind of fun. Despite the heat.

    Did I mention there are now TWO houses for sale next door?