I did something I’ve never done before, went to a minor league baseball game. In Nashville, we have no major league baseball team, but we do have AAA ball. Our team, called the “Sounds” is affiliated with the Oakland Athletics since 2015, but “affiliation shuffles” happen from time to time and minor league teams are traded like free agent players. I suppose the grass always looks greener under another team.
Having lived in great baseball cities like St. Louis and Chicago, I’ve been to a number of major league games and was a big baseball fan at one time. I had games down to science for a while. I knew how early to go to beat the crowds, where to park, how to beat the prices on the overpriced cokes, where the best cheap seats were, what inning to leave to get out before the traffic jam — all the essential information. I followed all the statistics on players and knew who was what and where the team ranked, all the stuff being a fan is made of.
Of course, the minor league is a different world. Before they had the new downtown stadium, old Greer field sort of reminded me in a nostalgic way of Wrigley Field in Chicago. Now a shiny, new, state-of-the-art, downtown stadium has been built for the Sounds with a view of the downtown skyline. People rave about food options that are better than traditional ballpark fare, such as fried chicken. There are giveaways and promotions, a lot of advertising, and family-friendly entertainment. There are fan hosts, mascots doing stunts between every inning, kids parading around the field, and a “rah, rah” guitar-shaped scoreboard.
In minor league ball, the idea of the game is to play well enough for the team to not have to play for the team anymore. (Read that again if you need too.) So much for team spirit. That also means the team is never going to be really good because the really good players go on to the major leagues and live happily every after — sometimes. Often, however, they are not quite good enough and get sent back to the minors. It seemed like a status thing to have been up – a taste of fame, I suppose.
I didn’t know who anyone was, what kind of player, or even what they position they played without looking it up, which took a lot out of the game. Fortunately, I had a friend who follows baseball and knew who had been sent up and back and who had never been up. I missed having the play-by-play explanation that I used to get when I took my portable radio along at the major league games.
The action was pretty good. After major league ball, of course, there was something not quite the same. They missed double plays, didn’t get the good hits, didn’t steal, and didn’t field as well. My friend says that’s why it is called “minor league” ball. Now they were not bad players, mind you, they still were good athletes — just not great athletes.
What was missing was the spectacular plays and super stars that give major league ball its excitement, the impossible to catch ball that is caught, the base that is stolen right under the pitcher’s nose, the long hard hits that go where they are suppose to go just when they are needed, and the sometimes unbelievably cool control of the pitchers. Major league baseball is more than just a game. It is a continuing display of great athletic prowess and super ability. You know you are seeing something special.
But, all said… I did like the minor league game. It was still baseball and there was an air of reality about it that has been removed from the majors. The great thrills were missing. The promotions between games and the refreshment vendors seem to hold the attention of the crowd more than the actual game itself. Of course, when they are losing that does not especially help crowd enthusiasm either.
They tell me that the word “fan” is a shortened version of “fanatic.” If I went more often and got to know the players, who knows? Maybe I could be fanatic again.
©Sheila Moss 1999-2016
Baseball is sometimes called the all-American sport. Do you go to games, watch on TV, or have better things to do with your time?