Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/8/2017 (780 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
I had some time on my hands last week, so I decided to become an expert in professional baseball.
This came about because my buddy Bob and I were invited to sit in a fancy suite at Shaw Park and watch the Winnipeg Goldeyes do battle with the Sioux City Explorers.
So there we were on a beautiful Thursday evening in Winnipeg, relaxing in the suite owned by CJNU 93.7 Nostalgia Radio, which broadcasts the Goldeyes games, and trying to wrap our heads around the concept of baseball, which has never made a great deal of sense to me.
The truth is, when you are sitting in one of those luxury suites at the ball park, you don’t so much watch the game as you are vaguely aware of the game.
It’s kind of like you are attending a swell cocktail party when, suddenly and without warning, a baseball game breaks out beside you.
The way it worked is we would all clump together inside the suite, eat our weight in deep-fried pickles, deep-fried chicken strips and deep-fried ribs, then casually stroll outside and try to understand what was happening in the game, which involves things like "strike zones" and "relief pitchers" and "ground-rule doubles."
It was Turn the Clock Back Night at the ball park, so before the game even began, we "fans" were treated to a nifty concert featuring a Beatles tribute band that looked and sounded exactly like the Fab Four, provided they were all wearing ill-fitting wigs and spoke with imitation British accents.
While the concert was fun, the excitement was definitely ratcheted up during the game, which featured a near-death experience that you will think I am making up but is completely true.
What happened was Bob and I were sitting in the seats outside the suite when a player — no, I do not remember which team he was on — took a mighty swing and smacked a pop fly that sailed backwards over the protective net and rocketed directly towards my head.
As a natural athlete, I casually reached up and snagged the ball before it could injure one of my friends in the box. Ha ha ha! I am, of course, lying. What I really did was duck and hide my head between my knees, which allowed the ball to blast directly over me at something approaching the speed of sound.
As I sat there, bravely hunched over in the defensive position, eyes scrunched shut, here is what I heard: "EEEEEEK! THUD!"
The first sound was emitted by a lovely woman sitting behind me, who managed to move her head sideways at the last second, whereas the second sound was the noise made by the speeding ball as it bounced off the window in front of the box where the lovely woman’s head had been a fraction of a second earlier.
Naturally, after resuming an upright position, I turned around, smiled at this mildly shaken woman and said, "Ha ha ha," to let her know I was glad she was uninjured and, had there been any real danger, obviously I would have "taken one for the team," even though I wasn’t wearing a mitt, so my hand would likely have been severed by the speeding ball.
After that thrilling moment, we all needed to calm down by consuming more deep-fried snacks, after which my buddy Bob, who played the game when he was a kid, attempted to teach me the rules of baseball.
"Those guys in the white pyjamas are the Goldeyes," Bob would explain as I nodded my head to convey the concept that I was listening intently. Then Bob would add: "And that guy with the long, flowing beard, the one who looks like the guitarist for ZZ Top, he’s the pitcher."
I became so confident in my knowledge of baseball that, at various points, I argued the finer points of the game with some of the other fans in the box.
For instance, my buddy Sierra Noble, the award-winning Winnipeg singer-songwriter with the voice of an angel, explained to me that baseball was a far better game than football, whereas I complained that during a standard baseball game you could physically leave the ball park, return a library book, then come back and still not miss any of the action.
By the way, Sierra and her band leave in a few days for a month-long trip to Europe, so if you happen to be in Germany or the Netherlands, make sure to catch her act.
The thing that fascinates me about baseball are the "signals" the players and coaches use to communicate with each other. For instance, I watched one Fish batter scratch both arms, hoist his cap five times, rub his belly, then waggle the bat about a dozen times over his head, which apparently is baseball code for "I am going to hit a line drive," or possibly, "If I manage to get on base, please bring me several hotdogs because I’m getting extremely hungry."
I also attempted to impress everyone at the game by explaining how, earlier in the season, I had brought my dog Bogey (a.k.a. "Mr. X") to the ball park to promote the Goldeyes’ bid to set a world record for most dogs at a single sporting event.
But everyone scrunched their faces in disgust when I pointed at the pitching mound and said: "My dog pooped right there."
"You mean he left a mound at the mound," my buddy Jim Ingebrigtsen chimed in.
Anyway, we were all getting tired and Bob had to get up early for CrossFit, so we skipped out during the 10th inning, though we kept listening to the game on CJNU on the ride home, which is when it got really exciting.
After dropping Bob off, I ended up sitting in my car in the garage, bug-eyed with excitement as the Goldeyes almost pulled it out with a three-run homer in the 11th inning, but ended up falling 8-7 to the Explorers. As an expert, I’d say it was definitely the best game I ever saw, especially the part I heard in the garage.
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.
Updated on Monday, August 28, 2017 at 8:27 AM CDT: Adds photo