If you were to ask just about any adult over the age of, I don’t know, let’s just say 40, “What’s the National Pastime of America?” Inevitably one of the first descriptors would be Baseball. There must be some reason why Baseball captured the attention of a nation – I know other countries celebrate Cricket, Soccer, Golf, etc. But here in America, it was, and perhaps still is, Baseball.
As a kid I have no memory of the first time I picked up a bat or a ball, nor do I remember any desire to run out into the backyard and play. If we ever got a baseball card, then that along with a clothes pin made for great motorcycle sounds on our bikes. At the same time I have no real clue of any national team experience. It was, after all, in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Life included many national things, but baseball was not on my radar.
When we lived in Seabrook, I remember dad going to a game with my Uncle Walter. He would rotate the experience between the kids, and by kids, I probably mean the boys, of which there must have been an age limit on who could really enjoy the experience.
Back then it was the Colt 45’s, the precursor to the Astro’s. They played in a stadium close to downtown Houston. I remember going there with Dad and Uncle Walter and my cousin Lyn. I remember little about the game, but more about the experience. We sat in the nosebleed section, maybe even at the very top of the stadium. I remember getting a pennant. I remember peanuts. I remember simply hanging out with the guys.
Fast forward a few years and my son is totally consumed with the concept of baseball. Jason has spent his lunch money and bartering power to garner a collection of 14,000 cards. He was deep into the statistics of the game. He had a favorite player, Darryl Strawberry. I remember when he and my mom would taunt back and forth about who was better, it was Jason on one side with Darryl, and mom on the other side with Craig Biggio (I think!). Mostly, they were names I had no clue about! When Jason finally quit collecting baseball cards he donated them to our youth pastor to be used as hospital gifts for kids undergoing surgery. Jason gave me a few of players I would know, someone I went to high school with. And of course, I still have them… I throw nothing away.
Back in those days I worked in downtown Houston for Texas Commerce Bank. I worked various positions within IT and normally worked from 7am to 4pm. Several times, and I cannot say how many, Jason would hop on the bus out in Northshore and ride downtown and meet me at my job. We would hop in the car and drive out of downtown and through the Medical Center on the way to the Astrodome. A quick stop for dinner at a fast food place, a quick run into the grocery store for a big bag of M&M’s, $3.00 for parking, $4.00 for adult ticket, $1.00 for a youth ticket, and then a big soda in the stadium. For about 15-20 dollars we would have a father-son night out that I have vague memories of when I was even younger.
We would sit in the outfield. It was open seating. And all around us would be other boys his age enjoying the batting practice of both teams. They would have their baseball cards clipped to a long string, and dangle them over the outfield walls hoping a player would saunter over and sign their card. Balls were tossed up into the stands.
It was a grand ol’ time.
Well, last Sunday evening, Jason came to spend a couple of days with us. We sat around the fire on the porch… Talking about stuff, life, Emma, and… well… just stuff. The next morning Jason worked remotely from the dining room table all day Monday while I worked in my office upstairs.
In the afternoon we headed down to Century Link field to do something we haven’t done in nearly 25 years.
Watch the Astro’s play ball!
Of course, they were playing our only Northwest local team, the Mariners. King Felix Hernandez was going to pitch for the Mariners. Both teams were on losing skids. It was not an exciting game, truly. There were some home runs, and fast runners, and other great hits, but it was just a so-so night with only mediocre attendance. In fact, I was able to get seats just 4 rows from the dugout on the third base line. Our row never filled up – only 2 other guys joined us. The row in front was mostly empty and row behind was totally empty.
Amazingly, the food at the baseball arena is much different. No more simple hotdogs, now the have kielbasa’s, Ivar’s seafood, Hot Chocolate, and Starbucks Coffee…
It was nice just hanging out with Jason doing something we did 25 years ago.