I used to loathe baseball. But when I married a man who nearly attended umpire school and who coached high school baseball for 12 years, I realized I’d have to start paying some attention to the sport.
So I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Wait Till Next Year,” her memoir about bonding with her father over America’s favorite pastime. When I had kids of my own, I read it again. And now, occasionally, I even find myself at a Phillies game, as I did on a recent Saturday with my husband and three children.
My vacillating until the last minute before committing to going worked in our favor, letting us watch ticket prices tumble online to a point where we could afford a handful in the nearly nosebleed section for the first game of a Phillies-White Sox doubleheader. When we finally set out, my son in his Phillies hat, his twin sister in her Cole Hamels shirt and my husband and 3-year-old in their Roy Halladay red, we were already running late.
“Jonathan Papelbon annoys daddy,” Georgia, 6, said, as we sat in traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway, listening to the game’s start on the minivan radio.
“Why?” I asked, marveling that my daughter already knew more about this sport than I did.
“Because he always fiddles around before he pitches.”
When we eventually neared Citizens Bank Park, we decided against trudging the 10 blocks to the stadium in the heat with our three kids from the cheap lot where my husband usually parks. So Jeff steered us into a closer, more expensive one. Only after we’d already handed over $15 did we realize we were navigating through a sea of tailgaters. College students lumbered around with beer cans and sat on coolers swilling Miller Lites. One group had even set up a DJ.
“Probably not where we wanted to park,” my husband said.
“Those two men don’t have shirts on!” Jane, 3, exclaimed.
We passed a man hawking margaritas as we entered the ballpark. “Eight percent, oh yeah!” he cried. “Get your buzz going!”
Kenny Chesney crooned over the sound system—”Sit right here and have another beer in Mexico”—as we finally clambered into our seats. I did want a beer, but I was afraid I would dehydrate. A swollen storm cloud loomed overhead. Little breeze stirred the humid air between the close-crouched bodies.
Forget the baseball; where’s the Phanatic?
“Water is running down my face,” a woman behind us said.
“It’s so hot,” Georgia complained. “We should’ve gone to the pool!”
“I can’t see the Philly Natic,” Jane lamented.
Jimmy Rollins momentarily distracted us from the heat. “Come on Jimmy!” fans called. Two balls and two strikes, but then he got a hit. Applause scattered around us, until a White Sox player starting arguing with the umpire.
“Get him out!” a man hollered.
“Give him a beer and send him to the air conditioning!”
“Give him the hook! It’s hot out here!”
“I want to see the Philly Natic,” Jane whined.
Unfortunately, my daughters and I missed his first appearance when we took a bathroom break during the fifth inning. But eventually the Phanatic jumped back atop the Phillies’ dugout, jiggling around in his suffocating green fur.
“He’s dancing!” Jane shouted.
“He must be hot on there,” Georgia said.
But our older daughter clapped when Darin Ruf hit a home run, tying up the score 3-3. I even heard Georgia mutter, “Come on, Chase,” when Utley finally came up as a pinch hitter. Griffin sat focused through eight innings, clutching his glove, hoping to catch a foul ball.
And as we headed out at the top of the ninth, reaching our minivan just as the storm clouds emptied, the Phillies and White Sox were still neck and neck.
A 41-minute rain delay gave us time to make it home to see the rest of the 11 innings on TV. We were disappointed to learn, just before bedtime, that the Phillies lost, 5-4.
It was too late for our kids to stay up for their team’s 2-1 victory in the second, 13-inning game. And we never did see the Phanatic shoot hot dogs out of his cannon into the stadium seats.
But we can always wait till next year.
Courtenay Harris Bond blogs about the her life with three kids, a dog and a husband.