April is at long last over. Though officially spring, the weather in Norfolk or the Hampton Roads area is often miserable. It can and usually is cold, rainy and windy. Low temps often are in the 40s and sometimes early in the month in the 30s. While this is pretty pathetic compared to the Great Plains, Great Lakes and Northeast where winter doesn’t really end until like June, it is still a pain in the ass. Especially if you are a member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish. Since I am a member of said parish the weather here in April hath great interest for me. I think it was our first season here, I don’t refer to them as years, they are indeed seasons, that we went to our first home opener at Harbor Park. To be succinct we were totally unprepared for the climatological experience having just come up from Jacksonville Florida. In other words on the 3rd of April or whatever it was, we froze our asses off.
I really can’t remember if it was the 2004 or 2005 home opener the weather was quite sporty and very cold. The temperature at game time was 38 degrees. There was a wind coming out of Center Field blowing into our face at a steady 25-30 mph with gusts to 45. You can figure the wind chill yourself, but to say the least it was cold as hell behind the plate at Harbor Park. Now we came prepared. We had heavy jackets, long johns and layered clothing. Yet we were still cold as hell. I ended up spending a bunch of money on a Norfolk Tides blanket to go over us, instead of beer we were mainlining coffee and hot cocoa to try to stay warm. Despite all that we did to keep warm we were driven from the park by the 7th inning stretch. I’m sure that the ever patient Judy would have wished to depart a fair amount sooner, but there is something almost unholy and heretical to me about leaving a game early. It’s like doing the “down and out” after Eucharist at church. Catholics understand this, the people receive communion and continue walking out the door without waiting for the closing prayer and benediction. However, in this case, in order to keep warm I finally gave in and took Judy home. Weather of this kind has not been a singular experience in our stay here. I have spent a fair amount of money on jackets, blankets and sweatshirts at Harbor Park as well as a few other stadiums just to stay warm. Time and time again in April we have frozen our asses off watching ball games. I have talked with the Deity Herself about this but She has basically told me to “Suck it up” as it “builds character.” Since I have been labeled a character by some I guess that Her plan for me is working.
This year has been a mix of weather. We have had a couple of very nice nights for baseball. In fact I worn a t-shirt, cargo shorts and Birkenstocks on Tuesday night. Last night we were back to cold weather with a lot of wind. It was cold enough for me to leave my seat and try to stay warm. After making a deposit of my rental beer (one can never really buy beer) I went to get a to get a charcoal grilled King-Twist pretzel. I made sure that I stayed up at the warm fire produced by the charcoal at the pretzel stand as long as I could while eating my cinnamon sugar pretzel. After finishing this I took my second rented beer, a Gordon Biersch Marzen, and hung out with Chip, the usher for section 202. Chip is a retired Navy Chief who served in submarines. Over the past few years we have gotten to know each other. He’s a great guy. After a nice conversation with Chip I moved down the stairs to hang out with Elliott, the usher for my section 102 on the walk separating the 100 level from the 200 level. This is Elliott’s first year as an usher and he knows his baseball as does Chip. It is fun just to talk about life, baseball and faith with these guys.
So Elliott and I leaned up against the rail and talked about the game, life and family as I drank my rented beer. One of the cool things about being a season ticket holder is that the park becomes like a comfortable pub where you relax and enjoy life with people who love the game. For me this is pretty cool. No matter how tough a day I might have, the calm brought about by the simple view of the diamond settles and centers me.
While hanging out with Elliott I was able to grab a foul ball which had come straight back and bounced off the press box into my my hands. This was the second ball in two days that I had picked up. The first was the night before when I outran a couple of drunks for a foul ball that had come back over the grandstand as I walked to my car. Having kept that ball I gave it to the only kid left in my section of the stadium. This was a hearty lad not more than four years old sitting with his equally hearty family. Mom expressed her gratitude, the lad said thank you and it made me look like a nice guy and I still got to keep a ball. Actually, the times a Harbor Park I have got a foul ball I have given it to a kid. This is not because I am a nice guy. The truth is that I am like an evangelist for the Church of Baseball. I remember what it was like to get my first baseball at Anaheim Stadium when I got one from Angels outfielder Billy Cowan. I want to ensure that these young people join the one true church and not one of the apostate sects like football or basketball. As I said previous night I had picked up a ball that came over the grandstand while heading to the parking lot. Since I was the only kid out there I figured that it was mine, the drunks behind me who were stumbling to try to catch me would have to fend for themselves.
As it were the weather stayed cold and windy. I finally looked at Elliott and said “Thank God for Global Warming or we would really be freezing our asses off.” Elliott laughed and said that he would have to remember that one and use it. Chip also agreed. In April and early May I do have to thank the Deity Herself for global warning. Come July and August I will be arguing with her that She needs to cool things down and She as usual will tell me to stop complaining and enjoy the game at the Harbor Park Parish of the Church of Baseball.