|Ian Kinsler -- second baseman|
|Matt Harrison -- Pitcher|
|A view of stadium from my seat.|
Growing up, I was not a sports fan. My dad was. Sports on tv was new and Daddy watched every televised game he could catch.
My disinterest was challenged when my daughter, Deidre, joined a soccer team, then softball. She played soccer through junior high, and pitched fast pitch softball through her senior year, but then other activities caught her attention.
I was never athletically inclined, which probably accounts for my disinterest in sports but about twenty years ago, I stopped on the figure skating event of that year's Olympic games -- because I liked what ever music was playing. I was stunned when the man picked up the woman with one hand, skated across the ice with her in the air, then flipped her --head over heels in front of him. She landed on her feet and they skated side by side as if that whole sequence was NORMAL.
And I wondered, "How do people get their bodies to do things like that?" Hell, I can't even dance.
The figure skating had my attention for a while. At some point, though, I missed a season and when I tried to watch again, the contestants were a whole new crop of up and comings. My favorites were gone.
My total disinterest in sports returned and stayed for many years.
My husband, Ronnie, had about as much interest in sports as I did unless he was in a "football pot". Even then he didn't much care who won as long as his numbers were in the final score.
Two years ago, in 2010, right after Ronnie was diagnosed with cancer, the Texas Rangers went to the World Series for the first time. It was late in the summer, but we became Rangers fans. We got to know the names and faces of our team players, which ones were most likely to thrill us with a homerun and which ones we could depend on to bring the runs in. We whooped and hollered through September and October. When the Rangers didn't win the World Series, we were disappointed but we had a new passion, Texas Rangers Baseball.
By the time the 2011 season started, though, Ronnie was paralyzed. He watched several games sitting in his power chair. But as his body began to shut down, so did his interest in worldly things.
After he passed away in August, I watched the Rangers go for the World Series again, but my life had changed so drastically in such a short time, I don't remember much at all about that competition or anything else I did through most of that fall and winter.
By the time the 2012 baseball season started, I was ready. I had a new friend and co-worker, Dawn Dockum, who is a Rangers' fan, to share the games with.
I have learned that pitching a baseball in the Major Leagues has become an art, backed by a lot of science. And hitting those different pitches – sliders, curves, off speed pitches, and fast balls at 97 mph, is increasingly difficult for even the best hitters like Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, David Murphy and Mike Napoli.
There is also a mind game that goes on between the pitcher and the hitter that I was unaware of until recently. I thought baseball was a "hit or miss" challenge, but it is so much more than that.
The announcers say things like "That was a knee level slider but he (the pitcher) couldn't get him (the batter) to chase it," which indicates to me that whether the pitch was labeled by the umpire, a "ball" or a "strike" the pitcher threw it -- where he threw it -- on purpose in an effort to get the batter to swing.
One night, I was biting my nails as Joe Nathan threw 3 "balls" in a row to the last batter in the final inning in a very tight game. One was high, one was low and one was way high and I wondered, "What's wrong with him tonight?" Then the announcer said, "Those aren't mistakes. He 's doing it to keep the batter's eyes moving, to keep him off balance."
It is as much a psychological game as a game of skill and ability.
I marveled one day as I watched Elvis Andrus with his back to home plate catch a hard hit ball, then spin completely around and accurately throw the ball to the first baseman. If I had turned around that fast, I would have been so disoriented, I'd have taken ten minutes to figure out where first base was. Elvis' atheliticism reminded me of the graceful figure skaters that I'd watched so many years ago.
One announcer explained that plays like that are not happenstances. They practice, practice, practice those amazing manuevers -- just like the figure skaters, only ball players are constantly dealing with the "wild card" of which way is the ball going to go and at what speed?
"You need to go to a game," Dawn told me several times. "There's nothing like the atmosphere of being in the ball park!"
This past weekend, thanks to Gary Silverman and my friend, Tina Haapala, who works for Mr. Silverman, I got to go to the Rangers' Ball Park in Arlington and watch Matt Harrison pitch to the Chicago Whitesox.
Driving up to The Ball Park was an experience all its own. It is an awesome stadium. It's next door to the Dallas Cowboy's stadium, Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor, so the entire area just screams "You're gonna have a good time!"
We paid $12 to park but we ended up about as close as one can get to the front entrance. That was awesome. Our section was in right field and as soon as we found our seats, I could see all the familiar figures out on the field, Ian Kinsler in his traditional uniform style with his stockings over his pant legs, Nelson Cruz was right in front of us and Matt Harrison was warming up.
We'd met Gary Silverman, and some others at Pappadeaux for an early dinner before hand so I didn't get a ball park hot dog. I did buy my 2 year old grandson, Seth an Ian Kinsler t shirt, and for my great niece, Samantha, I got a pink Rangers outfit.
I was impressed that everyone around us was so friendly and courteous. Behind me, across the aisle, a man bought one of the two foot long hotdogs. It looked like it was fully loaded with all the trimmings plus chile. As he was trying to get to his seat several chairs over from the end, he dropped it -- all over a man in front of him.
There was a lot of groaning and apologies and laughter as the man who got dumped on took it with a sense of humor.
Everything settled down and the ball game was well underway, when I heard a commotion from that same area. I turned to look. The hot dog dumper had gone and bought another two foot hot dog. When he headed toward his seat carrying his food as carefully as possible, everyone within dumping range, including the man who had already had been dumped on, vacated their seats and let him pass. A tremendous applause -- equal to Mike Napoli's homerun, went up when the man was seated with his food.
At the beginning of the 9th inning, the announcer told us that there were 47,580 people in attendance, another sellout crowd. As far as I knew there was no trouble.
The Rangers didn't win the game. That was a bit of a downer. I like to see them win. They are so excited and animated when they win.
But I don't use the word "lost" because when players are as good at their sport as all these guys are, they cannot be classified as "losers" in any sense of the word.
Thanks again to Gary Silverman, Tina Haapala, The Texas Rangers, the Chicago Whitesox and all the good folks who make an evening like that happen. It was great! I had a wonderful time!