If there is one thing my dad left ingrained in me as a little girl, it’s the appreciation for baseball. My dad played on local league baseball teams all his life. Sundays were baseball days. My mom would pack food and a blanket and we’d all drive to a local baseball park in Los Angeles, California to cheer for my dad and his team. Did I mention that my dad had four daughters — no sons. I’m not sure if having a boy in the family might have directed the instruction on baseball away from me and my sisters. Either way, my sisters and I took to the sport. We each had our own bat and glove. We’d practice batting in the yard and trying to pitch strikes. We’d go outside and get a game going with other kids on our block. Who does that anymore?
Maybe we loved the sport because there were no grown-up expectations. Our game was a kid’s game. We’d set the rules, decide where the bases and home plate went and picked our own teams. Everyone was an umpire and majority-call ruled.
Opening days were great. My dad would drive us to Dodger Stadium where we knew we’d get a door souvenir. They’d hand out batting helmets, baseballs, bats! The excitement at the ticket entrance was unbearable! You could smell popcorn. Someone would be shouting out “Programs, programs!” Oh, and nothing beats the taste of a stadium hotdog! It’s just not the ketchup and the mustard and anything else you want to put on it, it’s the fact that the hot dog is an element of the experience. Crackerjack boxes – always. Back then, I did know the names of the Dodger’s players. Dave Lopes, Steve Garvey (who my mom thought was so handsome), Steve Yeager. And who didn’t know Tommy Lasorda?
It was back in the day when the team won three pennants and went up against the New York Yankees in the World Series. But I didn’t know any of that then. I just enjoyed being at the game and being part of the excitement.
Once inside the stadium, you’d catch sight of the field and the players warming up. You could hear the crack of the wood smacking the ball or the muffled sound of the ball hitting the center of the catcher’s mitt. Smoking inside the stadium was allowed back then. Crazy as this sounds, the aroma of cigar smoke, to this day, always brings back the nostalgia of being at the baseball park.
We moved out of California when I was nine years old to El Paso, Texas. I was lucky enough to arrive during the golden age of El Paso baseball. Their team was named The Diablos. They played at the Dudley Dome and games sold out all the time. This is important because we all know that football in Texas is king. But baseball had its spot in the Sun City. As we entered The Diablo Dome, we were handed a facial tissue we’d get to wave as we chanted “Bye, Bye, Baby” every time the visiting team changed pitchers. The home team dugout had “diablos” painted on top, while the opposing team’s dugout read “enemy.” It was always a fan and family-friendly event with lots of fun.
Since I moved to the Washington D.C. area from Texas several years ago, I’ve rooted for the Baltimore Orioles and now for the Washington Nationals. Heck, I even like the Yankees! I have an only child and he is a boy. You can bet that he was swinging a bat before he could throw a football. He played little league for 6 seasons until he hung up his cleats for Tae Kwan Do.
I came full circle with my love of baseball in 2008. Knowing the significance of the event, one of my sister’s and I traveled to New York City with our sons to witness the last game played at the old Yankee Stadium on September 21. The team that beat my L.A. Dodgers so long ago was saying goodbye to its historic home. It was a bittersweet experience for any baseball fan, knowing that the house that Ruth built would be no more.
You bet I still have a ball and bat somewhere in my garage, and no matter what kind of field it is, or how small or large the stadium is, I’ll always enjoy all the elements of a baseball game.