You’re totally underrated. Did you know that?
We’ve ignored you for more than three months. Fact is, our unreasonable lack of respect for you goes back even further than that.
You’re low-class, we said. Inferior. The game had passed you by.
Hey, this isn’t all our fault. Even the people who aspire to sell you to us have devalued you over the years. With every new stadium or arena that gets built, it’s all about the luxury suites and the party decks and the mezzanines. You’re still there in abundance, but you’re not the focus. You’re not climate controlled. You don’t have a television or a sofa.
Those last two things have probably done more to make us forget your merits than anything else. The best place to watch sports is at home, many of us say. No traffic hassles. Cheap beer and food. Endless replays. Easy access to the bathrooms.
Home? The best place?
We’ve had some time to reconsider that.
One thing we’ve learned over that time is that nobody likes to see you naked. Sorry, that’s just a fact. We have that in common, you and I. That’s why they’ve been draping banners over you, covering you with ads, even placing cardboard cutouts of fans in front of you. In your current state, you are quite indecent.
But I want you to know something: We still need you. Maybe now more than ever.
I was reminded of this on Friday evening. I paid $5 to secure you at Calfee Park in Pulaski. About 1,000 other people did the same.
We had our pick of which one of you to take. First come, first served. Find a spot. Spread out. Kick back. Grab a snack and a frosty beverage.
The main event was to be a fireworks show, but there was something before that, too. The NRV Tigers, a 16-and-under club baseball team based in Christiansburg, had split its roster in half. They would play a seven-inning exhibition game under the lights at the home of the Pulaski Yankees.
How long had it been since I’d seen a baseball game in person? Almost a year? Gosh, I’d missed it. I get the feeling everybody else in the ballpark had, too.
It’s hard to say how many of us actually knew any of the players on the team; I sure didn’t. Even those who did couldn’t really cheer for one side or the other, as all the players were part of the same program.
Still, we needed to be there. And you were there to accommodate us.
First, though, I chose one of your friends, right on the front row, down the left field line. No good. There was a pole that partially shielded the view of home plate. That’s the thing about you guys. We never can be sure about you until we actually try you.
But eventually, I found you. You were about eight rows up, right on the aisle, nobody else around. You were perfect.
The boys played an excellent game. And that’s what they are, too: boys — right in that age where some have hit their growth spurt and others are still waiting, hoping, anticipating.
The pitchers are honing their nascent breaking stuff. The hitters are hunting fastballs and seeking gaps, as over-the-fence power is still a year or two away for most.
The Orange team beat the White team 6-2 in a game where the defense was surprisingly crisp, given the lack of baseball practice this spring. You gave me a great vantage point for it all, you general admission stadium seat, and I thank you for it.
Shortly after the final out, they turned the stadium lights off. The warm summer air touched my bare forearms. The sky began to light up with bursts of color. Patriot music played on the PA system.
I leaned back into you, and it felt just right.
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