It’s called “The Area Code Baseball Games.”
I tried to look it up, but it says that my “server” can’t find it. I’m not certain it is really trying. A lot of times I give up early looking for stuff. Maybe, like house pets, computers adopt the personalities of their owners. In which case, it’s my fault.
The “Area Code Games” are like a national tryout, an organized showcase for promising prospects, around sixteen to nineteen. (I’d be more specific if my stupid “server” wasn’t so lazy.) Based on individual trials measuring the players’ abilities, around two hundred of the best young players in the county are invited to compete in games in front of something like five hundred big league scouts offering contracts, college coaches dangling scholarships and sports agents, promising… hopefully things they can actually deliver.
I have known my friend Shelly since we were six years old. His grandson, Tray, who’s played organized baseball since he was seven, had earned an invitation to the Area Code Games. We were driving to nearby Long Beach (about 25 miles from our home) to experience the opportunity and watch a talented ballplayer in action.
To accommodate all the assembled candidates, there are four games scheduled during each of the five days of competition. The game my friend’s grandson would play that day began at five P.M. We left the house just after three-thirty.
Although the drive was predicted to take about thirty-minutes, we did not reach our destination for over an hour-and-a-half.
Welcome to the California freeway system on the weekends. (Or any day, actually.)
One thing you need to know about me – you don’t actually need to know anything about me, but it helps for this story:
I pride myself on being on time for things. No, it’s more than “I pride myself.” I get maniacally crazed when I’m not.
Almost from the start, it was apparent that we would not make the beginning of the ballgame, this frustrating awareness immediately jangling my nerves.
There were extended periods when traffic on “The 405” was at a complete standstill. At one point, we accessed two different GPS systems, considering faster alternate routes. The devices offered conflicting information:
THE CAR’S GPS SYSTEM: “At the next intersection, turn Right.”
Three seconds later…
THE PHONE’S GPS SYSTEM: “At the next intersection, turn Left.”
I’m like, “Come on guys, get it together!”
Dr. M’s selected audial accompaniment, Gilbert and Sullivan’s chattering “I’ve Got Him On The List” did nothing to alleviate my agitation. Though I did add, “The cheater in the ‘Car Pool Lane’ who's driving by himself.” I’ve got him on my list. And he’ll not at all be missed.
Reaching a state of heart-pounding anxiety, rising incrementally with the each interminable delay, I imagined a Coroner’s Report on me, saying,
Cause of Death:
We arrived finally at Blair Field – home of the heralded Long Beach State Dirtbags – about ten minutes after the beginning of the game.
Discovering immediately that there was no place for us to park.
Cruising the vicinity, we got a text from inside the ballpark informing us that the game before the five o’clock game was running considerably late. We had not, in fact, missed anything. Triggering a follow-up imagining:
Cause of Death:
(Though you hate to succumb for a ridiculous reason, I have a feeling my chances in that regard are about fifty-fifty. “How did he go?” “He was late for a ball game… that was ultimately rained out.”)
It was difficult to find a parking space because the attendees of the previous, extended game had not yet departed. As that game drew to a close, we appropriated a spot vacated by an exiting relative or friend, there to cheer on some hopeful we had no interest in whatsoever. (The kid will probably wind up in the Hall of Fame.)
Entering the stadium, we found our party and out seats. We could finally breathe comfortably. We had made it to the game.
The previous game mercifully over, they now watered the field, touched up the batter’s box, there were warm-ups for both teams, some inexplicable delays…
Bottom Line: The game we had come to see began an hour-and-a-half behind schedule.
And, as it turned out, my friend’s grandson was not starting.
If we had arrived an hour-and-a-half late, we would have still have been on time to watch the player we had come to see race onto the field.
Generating competing reactions:
The thrill of being present for a meaningful audition.
And the awareness of endangering my health agonizing over a situation entirely outside of my control.
My obsessive behavior made me intensely angry.
Which did not help my health either.
Tomorrow: What I intended to write today but I spent too long talking about myself. You’d think that I would have learned by now that…
There I go, making it even longer!