As soon as we got home from church, my daughter went to work on The Sign. It is my birthday, and I'd found out this morning that the four of us were going to the game this afternoon. I make a mental note to check baseball-reference to see if the Reds have ever come to town on my actual birthday -- I certainly can't remember it. This will be my son's first major league game. Actually, I guess its his first baseball game of any kind, except for Fisher-Price Triple Hit in the back yard, where every hit is a home run and we spend most of our time bouncing up and down at home plate, like Dunn and Kearns and Lopez used to do every time the winning run came in. Still, he's only 20 months old, so I guess that's pretty good. My daughter, a kindergartener, has been to a few games in her short life, but she doesn't really remember them clearly. Baseball is all about memory, but it isn't always clear memories -- weren't we all watching Game 6? Didn't we all see Rijo pitch one time? But baseball is also about a steady rhythm, and those memories are made as much by the repetition as they are by the lightning-blast of a single game.
Anyway, back to The Sign. She had decided that we had to have a sign to take the the game with us. Never in my life have I taken a sign to a game. Maybe once had I thought of some witty line that would be perfect on a big banner hanging over the left field upper deck, but I'd never even gotten close to making it. And yet, here I was, Sunday morning, coloring in the neat letters with the baseball serifs, "Go Reds. Beat Them. YAY! YAY! YAY!" She borrowed my Reds shirt to get the logo right. It was beautiful.
Our tickets were in section 135 in AT&T Park, down the third base line, about 20 feet foul, on the field level, tucked up under the upper deck. Shade and shielding from the wind, which is ideal in San Francisco. My daughter and I planned to take the chance to get right up to the fence, and shout to Adam Dunn between innings: "Adam Dunn, Hit a Home Run!" We'd played with that cadence since she was 20 months old.
We got to our seats in the middle of the second inning, delayed by a parking snafu. Griffey and Dunn had the day off, so Freel was in left. And yet, as we sat down, we had a 6-0 lead. The field was shimmering in the sun, the grass that color of green that only baseball fields seem to be, the infield a rich brown, the sky light blue. Our four layers of clothes that all San Francisco baseball fans bring to games -- even in August -- lay tucked away in our bag. My son was bouncing up and down with the organ, and I'll swear he shouted "Charge!" after that time-tested call. It had turned out to be "Little League Day," and each kid got a pretty nice full-size (for a kid) wood bat.
We watched the game, and we watched the kids. The guys in the seats in front of us were wondrous at the Reds unknown pitcher as he hit 96 on the radar. "His offspeed pitch is faster than Zito's fastball." He was right. Volquez looked great. You could get better stats on him from Pitch/fx, and you could get a better scouting of his locations on TV. But it's not like hearing the ball smack into Bako's glove from 400 feet away, and you laugh till you cry with your wife at the kids' reaction to the cartoon cars on the scoreboard.
Phillips hit a nice shot into the bleachers, and another that hit the foul pole right in front of us. He's been struggling; I figure The Sign broke him out. Encarnacion had a couple of beautiful plays, one in the 6th. Votto, I think, had a nice slide on an infield pop-up, and almost doubled off the runner at first. Sure, Phillips lost one in the sun, but on a day like today, no one really cares.
This is what baseball is all about. I love the stats as much as anyone, and more than most. I want to know win probabilities added and runs created and dominance ratios. But today, at the game, it wasn't really about all that. Fantastic time with your family. Friendly people at the ballpark. Gorgeous summertime weather. A Reds win doesn't hurt either. A couple of kids holding The Sign and clapping for every play. Take me out to the ballgame, indeed.