With the larger-than-life MLB playoffs approaching, Bob Varettoni connects with the brand of baseball played on a stage that’s just right.
There was no one but a German shepherd in the dugout of the best baseball game I saw this summer.
Their pitcher was tired. He had just walked the leadoff batter – and a player came charging out of the Sharks’ dugout to serve as third-base coach with a runner on first.
The pitcher turned to the shortstop, said something vaguely obscene, and all the infielders trotted to the mound and conferred for a few seconds. When they dispersed, the shortstop was the pitcher, and pitcher was the shortstop.
One of two black-suited umpires said, “Play ball,” in a disarmingly young voice, and on the first pitch, the batter launched a pop foul that landed at my feet.
I picked up the scuffed ball. “Hey, a little help here!” the catcher called out from the other side of the chain-link backstop. So I threw the ball back onto the field.
Baseballs, after all, cost $14.99 each at Dick’s Sporting Goods – and the players here pay all the equipment costs. They aren’t millionaires, and the only people watching them besides me were a few family members and girlfriends. This was, after all, just a bar league game in Chatham, a few weeks after the Cape Cod Baseball League had ended play.
I had seen the ballpark’s shining lights in the distance on an ordinary Thursday night and had wandered over to watch twenty grown men dress up and play nine innings… just for love of the game.
This week, everything surrounding Major League Baseball’s postseason will be different than the game I saw that night.
The stands will be packed.
The only dogs on duty will be sniffing for explosives.
Every foul ball hit into the stands will be kept as a souvenir – or sold on eBay.
Everything will be different… right up until the moment the umpire says, “Play ball!” Then the rules of the game will be the same, and every grown man on the field can relive his boyhood until the final out.
It’s an immutable fact: The lights may be brighter at Camden Yards, but the beer is just as cold in Chatham.
(Photo Credit: Author)