The Night Game

My daughter and her husband bought tickets to see the Braves versus Mets this past weekend. They included a “plus one” for me. It was supposed to be a 1:00 Sunday game. Stupid me, I let a conflict come up on my schedule and had to give away my ticket. My son ended up grinning from ear to ear.

The tickets were bought way back. For all we knew, it was going to be an average end of season game. One last chance to catch a home game. Daughter, SNL, two grandkiddos and me.

Two things changed the dynamics.

First of all, the Braves have been winning to beat the band since the All-Star break. A chapter familiar to Braves fans right out of last year’s World Series run. We’ve been riding the Mets hard, right on their tail with the high beams on. This weekend series was not about accepting the wild card position. It was about blowing the horn and telling the Mets to get out of our Dunkin Donut way.

Then, the game time changed. I noticed it last Wednesday. The head-to-head matchup with the Mets was carrying a boat load of cards that would determine the outcome for the NL East. ESPN, who normally ignores the Braves, decided to put the game on primetime TV. The first pitch was no longer 1:00 but 7:08pm.

My first thought was how to wrangle my ticket back from my son. I could make an evening game. But I decided to take the high road, be the good dad, and let him take my seat. He had never been to Truist Park.

I also thought, this is not a good plan for my sweet, little, baseball ignorant grandkids. They shouldn’t be out so late past their bedtime. Poor things. And it just so happened that my daughter was thinking the same thing.

I got a text message Wednesday night. It basically said that the game would now run too late for the kids on a school night. They wouldn’t be able to stay for much of the game with them along, and being the good parents, extremely concerned for the well-being of their kids, they would get a babysitter, which would then free up two more tickets to the game if I was interested.

I couldn’t text fast enough. “I’m in.”

So, I got Everett’s ticket and my younger daughter got Dorothy’s ticket. But hey, you snooze, you lose. I am generally a compassionate and loving grandpa. I’m really sorry they couldn’t go. But this is the Braves, and I got over it pretty quickly.

Truist Park is like a carnival on steroids. Music blasting like Woodstock. Zipline rides. Beer and pretzels consumed by the masses. The que-line to the Chop House for all things Braves is wrapped back and forth like the line to the log ride at Six Flags. The necessary facilities are orderly and fast for a ballpark.

We made our way to section 148, seats about a dozen rows up from the left field wall. I’ve got my old ball glove on just in case Riley, or Swanson, or Acuna, or Harris, or d’Aarnaud, or Ozuna, or Olson decide to send one my way. These guys can hit.

The guy in front of me is wearing a Mets shirt. I can spot maybe a dozen Mets fans in our area. I figure that there could be as many as 142 Mets fans here tonight surrounded by 42,356 screaming Braves fans. I like our odds.

More exactly, he is wearing a Keith Hernandez jersey. Class act, MVP quality first baseman from the 70s and 80s. Mets guy and his buddies have the Italian look. Dark skin. Slick hair. Accents sharp enough to cut leather. I’m guessing transplants from Queens who probably share my opinion of that other NY team from the Bronx.

I tap the big guy on the shoulder and show him my glove. “You know if a home run comes our way, you’re gonna have to bow out and let me have it.” I figure it can’t hurt to try and set some rules before the game gets under way.

Luckily, I got a chuckle out of that bunch. “You can have any baseball you want. We’re here for the beer.”

Again, I like my odds.

As it turned out, I was the perfect setup for the oldest joke in the world from back when the Braves couldn’t win a peewee game. What do the Braves and Michael Jackson have in common? They both wear a glove on their left hand for no apparent reason. Not one ball was hit my way.

I had forgotten how much this place rocks. The game was great. The division lead on the line. The antics between innings were fun. Emily and I even researched the Braves organist.

Matthew Kaminski has played his Hammond SK2 for well over a thousand home games for the Atlanta Braves since 2009. He’s witty. He teases the opposing team. He’s hilarious if you like musical comedy. He gets the fans into the game. The AP described him during last year’s WS as the “not-so-secret-weapon” behind the Atlanta Braves’ winning season.

BTW, there was also a great ballgame going on in the middle of all this frenzy. We smacked the Mets on their Queen-sized behinds and took the lead going into the last three games of the season. I could feel for the Mets and Mr. Hernandez guy in front of me, but I’m okay if they go down in flames.

I will admit, however, that the later it got, the more I kept checking my watch. We were past my sleepy time by the fourth inning. By the seventh inning, we were into my nod and whiplash time. I mean if I was home. When we started the eighth inning, we were well into my usual lights-out-head-on-the-pillow time. My body and my eyes were starting to feel my age.

I’m thinking, “If I were Everett, Laura would carry me to the car in my pjs.”

I gave notice to the group that Grandpa was checking out. We had the game in hand, 5-3. The Braves closed out the top half of the 8th with a ground ball double-play. No worries. We made a stop by the facilities before hitting the road.

I had some friends from Columbus at the game last night, too. They texted a pic from their seats. I sent one back from our seats. We never saw each other at all.

Well down the interstate on the way home, my phone rings. It’s Tim and he shouts over the phone, “Braves Win. Braves Win.”

“Man, what a game,” I said.

He started in on me. “I’m just calling to check on you, making sure you’re not asleep driving. I’ve never talked to you this late past your bedtime.

Barry is with him. “Just think of it as practicing for retirement. Stay out late. Get up when you want. I’ll be up by the crack of 10 in the morning.”

Funny guys. Mr. Hernandez Mets guy treated me with more respect.

What a game. Go Braves!

One thought on “The Night Game

  1. First MLB game I attended was a Braves game*

    *They were playing my Reds @ Crosley Field. Warren Spahn vs. Jim O’Toole. You were about Everett’s age at the time, Grandpa.

    “BASE-bawll! They will come. Most definitely they will come!”

    Like

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