By Olivia Carville
Olivia Carville, 24, is a visiting journalist from The Press, a daily newspaper in Christchurch, New Zealand. During her two-week internship with The Seattle Times she tried to attend a baseball game but mistakenly bought tickets for a soccer match. Friday, on her last day before leaving the country, she saw the Mariners play the A’s at Safeco Field and wrote about the experience.
There is something oddly romantic about baseball: the crack of the ball kissing the bat, couples canoodling in the seats and the crowd bellowing in unison “Take me out to the Ballgame”.
But the romance quickly dies when a batter takes a whopping swing and the bat slips from his gloved hands, spiraling at ferocious speeds straight into the crowd.
After a tumultuous introduction to American sports, I attended my first baseball game Friday night. And it was going pretty well until an 8-year-old boy was hit by a flying bat mere rows from my seat.
Not to worry – the Little League player survived. And he was actually really stoked that he got to keep the 35-ounce weapon.
David Fairwell received a standing ovation from the crowd when he bounced back up, seemingly unscathed, after being struck down by the wayward bat. David, who plays for Mill Creek Little League, was rushed an ice pack by a medic, and like a true sportsman, he didn’t even shed a tear.
After all, there’s no crying in baseball, right?
Now this experience may not have scarred David, but it sent some pretty clear warning signs to me.
From now on, for my own safety, and that of those around me, I have decided to end my brief infatuation with this sport. I truly believe it is for the best that I end this short-lived fling.
I should have known this wasn’t going to work out. A few days earlier, I was left red-faced after attempting to get to a Mariners baseball game and winding up at a World Cup qualifying soccer match between the United States and Panama.
And when I finally did get to the right game, what happens? An unsuspecting child was hit by a flying bat! Karma, surely?
Friday’s game may have crushed any future I had with sport, but I did manage to appreciate the magic of an all-American pastime while it lasted (almost three hours, might I add).
The stadium was glorious, the grass was in perfectly mown stripes, the red diamond thing was raked down obsessively by Safeco staff and the players’ uniforms were primed and pressed.
Almost every member of the crowd was adorned in either a hat, T-shirt, massive foam hand or some other form of baseball merchandise – which they swung wildly above their heads in the hope of scoring 15 seconds of fame on the big screen.
I was opened up to a whole new wondrous world of grease and calories – corn dogs, Crackerjacks, churros, garlic fries.
I have seen firsthand the sweat rolling down the face of the man wearing a hot-dog hat, parading his produce religiously around the stands.
I have witnessed the U.S. national anthem being sung live in all its glory and the players standing side-by-side, hands on their hearts, spitting, scratching and yawning throughout.
I can also now fully appreciate how ridiculously challenging baseball is.
They made it look easy in the movie “Angels in the Outfield,” which was my introduction to this game as a child in New Zealand. Back in my old primary-school days I am sure we used to hit a much bigger ball off a tee, but there was no pitcher standing on one leg hurling a ball 100 mph straight for your face.
I was fascinated by some of the bizarre rituals the batters go through before taking a swing. It’s as if tapping the bat on your shoe, looking at the sky or scuffing the dirt five times is going to secure a home run.
And I found it equally amusing watching the teams hanging around the dugout either spitting sunflower seeds on to the field or gyrating their hips in some form of wacky contemporary-dance/practice-swing routine.
I even picked up some crucial general knowledge at the game that is sure to come in handy at a pub quiz some day: the tights and knee-high socks look I expected is old-school baseball. These days, the players actually wear pants!
So my affair with sports is now over. I have to go back to New Zealand, where the closest I’m likely to get to a game is when I’m flicking through channels. But I have to say, if I was ever to fall back into sports arms – I wouldn’t be looking for football or rugby. It would most definitely be for baseball.
Just watch out for those flying bats!
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