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First outing of the spring!

Well, that was fun.

I just took in my first baseball game of the spring. I’m not exaggerating when I say it has been a tough winter. It has been, in fact, the worst winter in the history of weather records in the city of Boston. We had both the most snow and the coldest temperatures. The result was snow banks six and seven feet high lining my street for months, as well as transit shutdowns and a lot of general hibernation.

So here I am in Tampa–where my parents retired to some years ago–to see baseball and thaw out. The weather was a mere 66 degrees this morning and that felt so warm by comparison to me that I had no hesitation to get in the swimming pool with my mother, who teaches a water aerobics exercise class here for other retirees. (The pool is heated. Oh bliss.)

This evening’s entertainment though, was provided by the Tigers and Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Taking the mound tonight was Esmil Rogers, who was fighting for the fifth slot in the rotation. I say “was” because by the end of the second inning the consensus was that he had knocked himself out of contention with a performance that included five runs (only one earned because Rogers himself made a fielding blunder), five hits, and two walks. (He then pitched a one-two-three third inning, but the damage was done.)

Until the Yankees started to even the score, most of the amusement of the evening was provided by the people sitting in the stands around us. Perhaps it’s merely that we have spent the past two months in hibernation, so we’re unused to the company of others, but we seemed to have an interesting variety of folks in our section. Behind us was a British family. The mother explained a lot to her two kids throughout the game and it was clear he knew quite a lot about the game and yet she still got some things ever so slightly wrong. It was unclear which team they were rooting for, and the loudest her daughters got was while singing along to a Miley Cyrus song in between-inning music.

Then to our left was a group that included two boys, I would guess they were both ten years old. One was rooting for Detroit, one for New York, and like any well taught Little Leaguer, each had a complement of cheers and encouragements to shout at whatever player was wearing their team color at any given moment, even ones they had never heard of. The best moment, though, was definitely when Alex Rodriguez batted in the sixth. A-Rod can stir up the crowd merely by existing. But in this case, he had walked in the second and grounded out in the fourth on the first pitch. That meant when he came to bat in the sixth some middle-aged guy a few rows behind the kids decided it was time to boo mercilessly. He was no match for the “Let’s Go A-Rod” chant started by these two raucous ten-year-olds, which drowned him out completely. Also, the ten-year-olds were having a much better time.

Also, A-Rod got a hit. Oh to be young again.

Mot of the crowd had left when the Yankees replaced their entire lineup in the seventh inning, meaning that it was Ramon Flores and Nick Noonan and Slade Heathcott and Jonathan Galvez and Aaron Judge et alia who mounted a comeback after being down 8-2. They managed three runs out of an improbable rally that included two hits (Flores and Noonan), a hit by pitch (Heathcott), and three walks. The fact that it was then 8-5 was not all that exciting. After all, it’s Spring Training, and managers and players do not treat the final score as a sacred thing the way the fans do.

But then in the ninth Judge walked, and JR Murphy singled him home to make it 8-6. Then Castillo walked, bringing Ramon Flores to the plate. I managed to reverse-jinx him by both writing the “time of last out” entry into my scorecard AND saying to corwin, “Here comes Ramon Flores representing the winning run. Too bad I don’t think he’s a home run hitter.”

I was wrong. I haven’t been reading the scouting reports, and I was wrong in the best way. Cue Frank Sinatra. Because Flores then hit a walk-off three-run shot that had the sparse remaining die hards in the stands dancing in the aisles and singing along. The murmur in the restroom and on the concourses as we made our way out was “I am so glad we stayed to the end. I would have been so mad to miss that!”

Agreed. I would have been happy to just watch the Yankees take a drubbing while sitting around in 75 degree breezes, eating my first hot dog of the year (a bratwurst actually) and reminding myself of who plays for which team. (Yoenis Cespedes is a Tiger now? Oh right.) But instead we got to see a fantastic finish! Here’s hoping it bodes well for the season ahead?

Moral of the story: If there’s going to be something amazing in a ballgame, chances are it’ll be at the very end. If you want your money’s worth, always stay to the end.

(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)

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