The air blowing in off Lake Erie isn’t chilly yet, and the sun shining on my shoulders feels like a nice warm blanket. I can’t believe I’m FINALLY at the park! The winter snow and ice are mere memories. I’m hanging with my buds and eating as many ballpark hot dogs, slathered in Stadium mustard, as I can get my hands on. It’s opening day and I’m having a blast!
In the seat, under my newly freed-from-snow-pants tush, is the one little reminder that spring is a fickle friend here in Northeast Ohio—my jacket. Still, nothin’ is gonna spoil this day, even the probability that it WILL get cold before the game is over.
The crowd is rowdy and feeling its oats as THE team takes the field. I wipe the lens of my binoculars and look my Indians over with a rush of optimism I know I’ll probably never feel again after today.
I see my favorites lined up and ready. They look strong and bold. They look undefeatable and brassy. This is MY team, and I just know that this year we’re gonna be ridin’ high in the World Series, come fall!
When the crowd stands up to salute and cheer the team, I join their raucous tribute and wave my Indians’ cap in the air. The camera of the jumbo-tron scans the crowd and I see my face, giant-sized mouth wide open, in a jubilant yell. My aisle mates point and everybody laughs good-naturedly.
The game gets under way as my team trots nonchalantly to their places on the field. The pitcher winds up and throws a fast ball to the inside corner…whoosh! Strike one! We cheer and stamp madly—let the games begin!
Fourth inning: the Indians are down three to zip, and some of the enthusiasm is beginning to wane. With it goes some of the sun, too, and a little pattern of scaly clouds begins to fill the darkening sky. It’s not very late and, already, the flag flying over the score board is blowing steadily. Its colors are unfurled, and its flapping is beginning to keep time with the strikes called by the umpire against my favorite players. I gesture for another hot dog and nurse it slowly as I watch the teams change places: three up, three down—again.
Seventh inning stretch: we all stand and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”—fervently, just to keep our lips from chattering as the Lake Erie winds whip over our measly jackets. As I sit back down, I huddle miserably and wipe an errant snowflake off my nose. The Indians are now down six to nothing, and I’m screaming like my row mates at how wimpy the team appears against a FLORIDA team. “C’mon, you bums!” screeches a fat guy hanging over the bullpen. “You’re playin’ against guys who never SEE snow!”
Ninth inning: I watch my team, their rears dragging, as they empty the field for the last time. I sigh. Why do I bother? I think as I shove my trash under the seat.
While I watch the Indians leave, I wipe the moisture off my binoculars, and something eerie shows in the round lenses: I see ghosts! Line after line of wispy gray matter, shapes like 3-Finger Brown, Lefty Groves, Babe Ruth, and is that Ted? Ted Williams! I watch in disbelief as all the old-timers, with the players of yesterday— drift off the field alongside my Indians team.
I train my binoculars on the crowd and see more ghosts! Boys in Red Ball Jets, girls in pink frilly dresses with patent leather shoes, men in suit coats and fedoras, women wearing swirl skirts and high heels-- dressed to the nines for a day at the park.
I blink and rub my eyes. Then it hits me. This is why I come to the park; that ever-present hope of spring--baseball and the promise of a nice long American summer in the stands. Hot dogs and Cracker Jacks…cokes and nachos…score cards and the All Star game. I love it!
I stand and take a last long look over the field—snow flurries are dimming my view, but I know spring has sprung, and nasty ol’ Lake Erie won’t rage forever. Soon, the sun will shine, and sunburns instead of chill blains will be the bane of the crowd, and all will be right with my world again. I tie my hood tightly against my frozen cheeks and smile.
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