Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Must they go to the ballgame?

A Rant on parents and baseball...

I always get accused of not liking children. Honestly, I adore children. Especially Bar-B-Qued. Although roasted with a bit of basil in light wine sauce can prove very tastey as well. I've even got a bit of a receipe collection going for when I have children for dinner.

Aaron says "Oh, you were a child once yourself." No I wasn't. I never was.

But really, it's not the children themselves that bother me. It's the parents. You know, the ones who bring precious little Timmy or Tina to a game, and then let them run around unsupervised? In a stadium. With over 8,000 strangers in it. Man, it must really be a real drag for them to have to take little Timmy or Tina home again. I can only imagine that they were really hoping their kid would get abducted. Or perhaps hit in the head with a foul ball.

Maybe I should print up those receipes into a little booklet and have the unattended offspring take it back to their parents?

On Sunday game with maybe 70 or 700 people in the stands, I can see if the kids want to run around and chase foul balls. But there's no way in the world someone's gonna notice if little Tina gets spirited away in a crowd of 8,000. Or 3,000. Even if you drag the kid out of the park crying and screaming, most people would just assume they were overtired and having a temper tantrum. Time to go home. Right? No one knows what kid came in with what adult.

What bothers me the most - be it 8 or 8,000 is the children that, unsupervised by their loving and concerned parents, will go stand over the dugout or the bullpen and repeat over and over "Hey, can I have a ball?" or "Hey, number 2, can have your autograph?" in the middle of the game. And while no place in the park is really safe from a potential foul ball, standing over the dugout puts the child in serious danger if a ball should come flying foul off a bat at 90 MPH. And they do that. I know. I've seen it.

I was at a Marlins' game several years ago where I saw a ball came foul off a bat, line drive speed past first base and into the stands about section over from here I was, straight at a woman who was sitting there with her baby. She had no real time to react, so she instintively leaned over to protect her child. The ball took her square in the side of her face and shattered her jaw. She's very lucky it didn't hit her in her temple, where she would have been killed instantly.

It's become a Dave Barry joke, but it was not joke at the time it happened. She was taken out of the park by EMS. (This is one reason I honestly believe babies and baseball don't mix.)

But no, here's little Timmy or Tina, hanging out in the aisle right by third base, over the dugout not paying attention to the game in foul ball heaven.

We moved our seats this year in part because we got tired of having a bunch of non-baseball fans, standing up during play, chatting with each other and showing their babies off to each other. Watching someone's six month old get killed is just not my idea of a real good time.

But in moving, I discovered we're now sitting next to begging central. So I kept running the children off, and they kept coming back. On regular nights we have at least Don or Jerry or Paulie to take care of us. The kids come back, and they threaten to throw them out of the stadium. And yeah, Don may LOOK like Santa Claus, but I'd bet on him in a match against a pit bull. He's MEAN.

But this was the "Twins" spring training security staff on duty and no one told them what to do.

I was buggered, the people sitting next to me, which have a child, were buggered, and the people sitting on the other side of the aisle, which also have children were buggered. So see, it's not just me and my anti-child attitude that was ready to commit genecide. And of course the "mom" next to me is standing up and can't find a neon green shirt anywhere in the crowd of people when we needed one.

Once the aisle got too full we had kids trying to crawl in front of our seats. I stuck my arm out and fastened it to the dugout railing to prevent intrusions. Some kid tryed to pry my fingers off the railing. I gave him an evil look. Then he attempted to climb under and ran into my other hand and my leg. Were where those lethal fouls when I needed them? Hitting the upper deck. Shoot! Luck was just not with us that night.

Meanwhile the "Dad" on the other side of the aisle picked a child up who was trying to crawl over him and placed him back on the steps. Immediately some guy was there yelling at him. "You touched my kid!" Yeah, you know what? If it had been me I've told him to go get the police so I could charge the child with assault and the parent with child neglect.

I mean, I dunno. When I was a kid, my dad took me and my sister to baseball games. We had to sit in our seats. If we had to go to the bathroom we had to wait (quietly) until the end of the inning and then he'd take us up. And it didn't matter if only one had to go we both had to "try" to cut down on return trips. And you never, ever told him you had to go until there were at least two outs in the inning and you never, ever said you had to go NOW! This would get us taken home in a flash and as my folks were divorced, this meant we didn't get to see our dad for another week or two.

So you sat down and watched the game and learned it, just so knew the most opportune time to let that lemonaid you'd had earlier out of your bladder.

What a deprived childhood I had. I never got the opportunity to be abducted by a stranger. Or to be hit in the side of the head with a foul ball.

· "Give it to a kid": You know, it used to be that if I got a foul ball, I'd would give it to a kid. Then I found out the little extortionists were selling them to adults for $10 each.

But honestly, what really turned me off last year was when Travis Bowyer tossed me a ball from the bullpen. (We used to sit next to the bullpen and I'd leave the game for a bit to see who was warming up.) I looked around and saw the cutest little girl sitting in her seat with big round eyes watching the game. So I gave her ball. She was thrilled. She wanted to know if she could get it signed. I told her after the game, my friend #19 would sign it for her. Not a problem, Trav is really good with children.

The next thing I know her mother has her by the hand and is dragging her over to the bullpen. "Hey," she yells. "Can I have a ball too! #19! Can I have a ball too!" And nothing I could do would make this woman shut up and sit down.

So this year, I'm giving them to the whitecaps up in the disabled rows. They never act up and they never run around the stadium chasing balls and they never stand of the dugout or the bullpen begging for balls. Beside, Wes says I should be nice to the oldtimers. They're sitting in God's waiting room.

· "He Promised": This one is two fold. Saturday during opening night some kid came in the seventh inning, trying to muscle the other kids out of his way to the dugout. I was trying to clear the kids out (yet again) and said "You can't stand here! You have to go back to your seat!" The kids says "Number 5 said if he broke his bat I could have it and he broke his bat and I want it." Ron did shatter his bat, a few innings earlier. I said "AFTER THE GAME". He persisted and I kept telling him: AFTER THE GAME.

Finally, he left. The next thing I know, he's down on the other side of the section cutting through the first row to try and collect his bat. Guess what he was told when he got to the dugout? You've got it. After the game.

Last year, during a game as Sarasota, I was sitting next to the "Miracle" dugout, and a little league team had taken up residency next to me. They wanted autographs and I promised I'd get them autographs if they would agree in turn to cheer for the Miracle. They did. I had a bunch of players over and they signed everything and anything put in front of them, including shoes and body parts.

The kids held up their part of the deal as well and chanted "Let's go Miracle" through out the whole game. However, during the game, when Liriano had just vacated the mound and Travis was on from the bullpen and I had all the kids yelling "Go TRAVIS! Strike him out!" pretty much all together at the same time when this guy comes over from the next section. "That pitcher promised my daughter a ball when he was going into the dugout last inning and she's up there crying because she didn't get one."

I said "That pitcher just came out of the bullpen and has never been to the dugout yet and so he couldn't promise your daughter anything."

"Then it was the pitcher before him."

"That as Liriano and he speaks no english."

The guy gets fed up with me and starts hanging over the railing and trying to attract the attention of the people in the dugout. An usher finally told him he had to go sit down.

Red Snots fans. Gotta hate 'em. If the guy wanted his daughter to have a ball so badly, go to the gift stand and buy her one for $5.00. She wouldn't have known the difference.

(By the way, you can tell from this passage how much I REALLY hate kids, right?)

· Graphers: I've been accused by some fans of selling my autographs. Last year at the season ticket holder party I had Travis sitting there autographing a series of shots I'd taken (yes, I'm very partial to him) and someone came by and said "What's this? And E-Bay session?" Travis jumped up and said "She'd never!" followed almost instanteously by me with an "I'd never!" I like having the autographs because they are mementos of "my boys".

If you doubt me -- go ahead. Try and find something I've sold on e-Bay. I dare you to.

Now, there are some people that are professional graphers and will want the top prospects' graphs to sell. I remember a guy dropping a box of 12 balls in front of Colby Miller in 2003 and expecting him to sign them all. "I've got a shop in the Cape," he tells him. Well, at least he's honest. Try this one...

This kid, maybe about 8 or 9, is standing down at the landing at the bottom of 115, a popular autographing spot prior the Fort Myers games with a ball in his hand and cell phone in his pocket. The phone goes off, walkie-talkie style.

"Now remember, only get the players with the following numbers on that ball." The numbers of Baker, Liriano and several other players are rattled off. The kid promises. He picks nervously at the ball, which was a gift shop ball.

The phone goes off again. "And don't pull that little silver sticker off of the bottom of the ball." The kid says okay and then bends down to pick up the little sticker he's just crumbled into an irrecoverable wad and tries to put it back on the ball.

You kind of had to feel sorry for that kid. He was ruining his college fund. And he was obviously in fear of what might happen if he got the wrong players, or what was going to happen when his father found out he'd pulled the MLB sticker off the ball.

There's also a lot of kids, generally of the older level -- like 12 or 13, who will "run cards" meaning they'll go down and try to get cards signed by players and then give them back to dealer in exchange for cash or merchandise (usually Yu Gi Oh cards).

Yeah, I would like to believe my MLB/NBA/NHL/NFL card collection is my retirement fund, but I find it very hard to part with even the Barry Bonds cards (and I HATE Barry Bonds).

· Feeding Frenzy: But honestly, the Florida State League is not as bad as the major leagues in one regard. The ball boys are not allowed to throw balls out to the crowd. So this makes for only localized begging as you have to get one from a player or coach. This is also why we call the ball boys "Ball Trolls" because, you know, they can't give them out. So we know they are hoarding the balls. [[wink!]]

I go to a major league game and the ball boy runs by and people just leap to their feet going "Ball! Ball! Ball!" accompanied by a clapping of hands. It reminds me a lot of the seal feeding tank at SeaWorld Orlando. "Arr! Arr! Arr!" accompanied by a clapping of flippers. Except that's probably really insulting to the seals, who actually shut up after they've had enough to eat.

For baseball fans however, one ball is never enough.

The people next to me, who I believe are premium pack holders, weasled two balls out of the team on Saturday, using their little boy as a poster child for ball-less children. They kept them both! And I bet that kid never gets to play with them either!

· Why I REALLY like the GCL: Easy. No introduction ceremonies. Not promotions. The umpires show up, the managers exchange line ups, and then we play ball. No screaming kids, no oversized orange mascots, no stupid promotions. Just baseball. Wow! What a concept!

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