Jack and I embarked on a quest a few years ago to get to every Major League Baseball park--there are thirty. With a little effort and a few years gone by, we have made it to ten now. Looking back, and then looking forward to what we have yet to get to, I realize that it has not been the experience I had been expecting. My original thought was that if we did this, I'd get to see all these cities. The ballpark would be a bonus. It has been the opposite, and I am surprised at how satisfying that seems to me.
Each ballpark has its own personality, and the city wraps around it, embracing that personality with its people. Pittsburgh has a stunning skyline view from its park, while Wrigley's Field is like a step back in history. Cincinnati, right on the wide Ohio River, has a Southern flavor with its paddle boat theme. Minneapolis was sleek and modern in a big city with a small town feel--or was it a small city with a big town feel? Each stadium seems familiar with its similarities, and yet unique because of its location, its people, its club history, and its tradition.
Woven through all these parks is a common culture. The shirts and hats. The hotdogs and nachos. The National Anthem and the flag. The seventh inning stretch and singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". I feel so American at a ballpark. I feel so united with everyone there. I feel like there can be world peace and healthy rivalry at the same time. Fads come and go at the ballpark--the wave being one on the way out. And hopefully YMCA. But some have a clinging power that will last for decades. Who can't help wanting to holler "Hey-O" like Harry Belafonte? Or anticipate the bugle and call to charge?
Have I mentioned they play baseball there? Known to be a slow-paced game, the ballpark provides distractions and entertainment aplenty. There's the "Fan Cam" panning across the stands putting shots of people on screen for their five seconds of fame. If you dance really well you can stretch that fame into half a minute! Some stadiums now have the "Kiss Cam" which could be embarrassing if that cute guy you're with is your brother! There's the mascots cavorting around the field and varying amounts of organ music. And while you're waiting for the club to change pitchers, you can buy peanuts, beer, cotton candy, pizza, sushi or pretzels. Foot-tall florescent cocktails with foot-long straws to match are consumed along with ice cream sandwiches and fresh squeezed frozen lemonade.
And they play baseball there! We love the players. We love the fans. We love the game. Oh beautiful, for spacious fields, for enthusiastic waves of fans, for purple pennants, and green and blue and yellow, above and about the rim. Baseball, O Baseball. God bless you for all the forgetfulness of troubles you give us, for all the fanhood that unites us, for all the excitement that you thrill us with. Impart to us brotherhood that goes beyond your walls, joy that lifts our spirits, and contentment with your simple pleasures. You are the American pastime, presentime and futuretime--a little cosmos of what is best about us as Americans. Thank you.