When I was in the fifth grade my teacher, Louie Poluzzi, loved the N.Y. Giants. On game day he would go into the office and rewire the intercom to broadcast the game over our loud-speaker. I always looked forward to game days as we seldom did any work and we had an excuse to cheer and jump around which made the day go by so much faster. I never followed the players, their stats, etc. and even to this day about 60 years later, I still don’t. But, I love the games. I love watching the pitchers change from a fast ball to a change-up and then all of a sudden throw in a slider or a curve ball and watch the batter swing off his feet only to swish air. Because I was born in San Diego I listened to Padre games and occasionally went to a game. When I moved to Hawaii after high school there were no major league teams, no minor league teams, but there was a triple A team called the Hawaiian Islanders. I lived in the neighborhood so went to a lot of the games. They were held in the “Termite Palace”. I’ve never learned its real name but I certainly understood where the name came from! It’s warm in Honolulu. Termites love the weather and swarms of them hovered over the field like so many little ‘copters waiting for the seats to empty so they could get back to work eating what was left of the poor stadium. But, the games were such fun. Hawai’i loves its sports.
Years later I moved to the Big Island of Hawai’i and discovered that the entire island was in love with the San Francisco Giants. All the games were broadcast on the radio and when the internet was born one could follow the games on comcast. I gradually became addicted to the games and would hook up my computer at work to earphones so I could occasionally catch an inning or two between patients. It was all I could do to keep from cheering aloud at a good hit, home run or a pitch that caught an opponent off guard.
I was lucky enough to have two boys. I don’t think they loved baseball as much as their Mom did but they did enjoy playing in Little League. My work schedule was perfect as I could take them to practices on my two short days during the week and go to the games on the weekend. Toward the middle of the season we had “The Tournaments”– 17 of them in a row, week after week, and I was in heaven. I’m pretty sure I was the only parent that looked forward to the games every weekend. My boys were never the stars of their teams, but I think they enjoyed playing. However, times change and they were on to other sports…soccer, aikido. I still had my Giants.
Then, years later, the boys gone to college, I was able to cheer again when Winter Ball teams formed throughout the islands. We had a nice stadium in Hilo and though the crowds were never huge, we were large enough to generate noise. I was probably the most enthusiastic. One evening as I stood yelling and cheering a man game up and asked if I would like to play in an on-field contest during the seventh inning stretch so, of course, I said sure. In my shorts and sandals I went on to the field and was given a little minnow net and told to try to catch three balls as someone tossed each from the top of the stands. The first one was lobbed rather gently and I had no problem catching it, so the next one was made a little more difficult. Thrown a lot harder, I had to run to the side but managed to net the second ball as well. By this time I had the people in the stands cheering me on. The last ball was thrown way up, way back and I had to back-peddle as fast as possible. Just as I reached the area of the ball my sandals caught on the grass and I went down, heels over my head, but my eyes still on the ball and, lo and behold, caught the third ball in my little net. I felt like a major league outfielder warding off a winning home run! No game, no points, but I did win $75 in gift certificates and had memories to last a lifetime. And, I had a ball signed by Ichiro Suzuki who was playing on a Japanese Winter Ball Team.
When I moved to Maui there was no baseball broadcast. No one cheered for the Giants. No longer any Winter Ball. I have withdrawals between Oct. and April. However today was opening night of baseball. I have discovered that ESPN broadcasts games, not necessarily the Giants, but today I was able to watch the Padres beat the LA Dodgers and that was almost as much fun. I don’t recognize many of the names. The teams change every season so it’s hard to hold on to names and numbers and for me it has always just been about the game.