Monday Musings: On Baseball, Crowd Dynamics & Apple Pie…

Billings Mustangs

The Billings Mustangs at Dehler Park in Billings, MT

Last week hubby was offered free tickets to a local baseball game, and since it was on my “get-out-and-be-more-social list” to attend a baseball game this year, away we went. I hadn’t been to the ball field since they tore down our old Cobb Field stadium, so I was curious to see the new Dehler (pronounced “dealer”) Park, and obviously I hadn’t been to a baseball game in…well, more years than I can remember. Aside from a few years in grade school when I remember proclaiming myself a Dodgers fan (not sure what I was thinking there – a California team? Really?), I’ve always found baseball kind of a boring sport to watch. Then again, I was always bored with golf until I married a golf fan, and now I watch enough that I know the main players and actually find it interesting (when I’m not rolling my eyes/yelling at the idiotic commentators, that is). I can generally enjoy nearly any sport if I know enough about it…the major exception being boxing, which I just cannot handle (turns my stomach to watch people beating the crap out of each other – and I have a pretty strong stomach…I think it’s mostly the head/facial trauma that does me in).

In any case, I wanted to give baseball another shot. It is the quintessential all-American sport, after all (don’t get me started on football – they lost me when players started switching teams every frickin’ year – and I was a Broncos fan through an insanely long losing streak and years of subsequent mocking).

Our minor league baseball team is the Billings Mustangs in the Pioneer League, and they’re a “farm team” for the Cincinnati Reds. I suppose that means if I were to watch Major League baseball, I’d be sort of obligated to be a Reds fan, eh? Except according to my husband, Pioneer League is pretty much the bottom of the barrel, so it’s a tenuous thread, and…Cincinnati, Ohio? Yeah, no. Even if they do appear to be fourth in their division. I say “appear” because I just spent far too long looking at baseball stats and rankings on the MLB site, and I’m still not completely sure I understand how it all fits together. Men say women make things too complex, but seriously…have you ever looked at how sports are “organized”?!

Incidentally, I noticed that the White Sox are playing the Red Sox tonight. Does that turn the field pink if it rains?

Yeah, yeah. I see your eyes rolling…

ANYways…back to our local ball park. It’s been unseasonably cool here, so we weren’t able to stay for the entire game, and left during the 7th inning stretch. But I have to say, I really enjoyed the whole experience, and a big part of that was just the general ambiance of the crowd. It’s the first time in a long time that the majority of people were *not* checking their cell phones every three seconds. In fact, I saw very few phones in hand, even among the teen contingent. It was refreshing. People were talking to each other, watching the game, watching kids run around (and the free-range kids really weren’t bothering anyone…no real whining or screaming, just laughing and busy), and just having a good time.

It actually made me think of my childhood. It felt like a small town rodeo crowd…something I do have a lot of experience with (when you grow up in Montana, rodeo is the prevailing live “sport” to watch). Everyone’s relaxed, laid back, and friendly. I was far more comfortable at that baseball game than I often am in a crowd these days, which was a nice change.

And for the ladies…baseball uniform pants are…thin. If you need a cheap thrill, you can probably find one on the field. Just sayin’. You’re welcome.

We had reserved seating, but we opted to sit on the general admission bleachers instead, since the actual chair-seats aren’t all that comfortable for my husband. Errant balls have a tendency to fly into the section we were assigned as well, and while I know people like to catch balls, I was just as happy to be out of the normal line of fire. We had a great view from where we ended up – both of the field and the crowd – and I was quite surprised to find myself actually enjoying the game itself, rather than being bored. I still can’t tell the difference between a good and bad pitch, but I never could, and that’s what umpires are for. For the most part, I kept up just fine, and it’s always fun to watch a local team because the whole “who to root for” question isn’t one at all – the home team is “yours”.

We had hamburgers on the company that gave us the tickets, but hubby also bought me nachos, which are my go-to concession food at any event, so that was fun. And I was actually kind of bummed we had to leave, even though my feet didn’t thaw out until several hours after we got home (and yes, I was wearing socks and tennis shoes – the first time I dug my birks out this year was July 4th). I’d like to attend once when the weather’s nice enough to stay out the whole evening comfortably.

Believe it or not, when I got home, I was actually craving apple pie. Which is totally cheesy, but it sounded like the perfect end to that particular evening. Maybe because in high school and college, that’s what we’d do after going to something fun like that – hit Perkins for pie or a chocolate chip cookie sundae, and I was already in that nostalgic frame of mind.

Not having any pie, or the wherewithal to make a pie at that hour, I settled for a cup of warm apple cider, which pretty much hit the spot. Next time, I’ll be sure to have pie at the ready. Or convince hubby to stop for some on the way home. Perkins is right across the street from the ball park, after all….

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