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Saturday, March 31, 2001

It's hard to buy tickets to see the Giants play baseball at perpetually sold-out Pacific Bell Park, overlooking San Francisco Bay. Eric and I will gladly take whatever we can get, even if it means riding the bus instead of taking the spectacular ferry ride across the bay. Eric was by far the youngest person on the bus today. In fact, most of the other passengers were even older than I am.

But they treat you well on this bus, for your money. We had donuts on the way down (which was a good thing since the Krispy Kreme stands weren't open yet). This was the next-to-last spring training game, and I guess they're saving the good stuff for the regular season, which starts Monday. And they gave us ice cream on the way back. Not just ice cream, actually, but It's It. The real San Francisco treat.

The game today was between the two Bay Area teams, the Giants and the A's. Since it was being played at the Giants' ballpark, the A's fans were in the minority. You couldn't tell it by the volume on the bus, though. They were all bragging about how great their team is, but we patiently explained to them that in a game that's just for practice, winning doesn't mean anything. (It's a good thing we had this discussion before the game, since the A's did beat the Giants rather handily.)

The last time I moved I threw out all of last year's sunblock, and I couldn't find any in the store yesterday. I was worried about being out in the hot sun all day, because I tend to burn quickly. Our seats were in the shade, though, in the higher rows of the first level, where we were underneath the second tier of seats. Pigeons roamed the metal beams above our heads, but that was the only threat. No sunblock needed.

This was the first time I've been in the field level seats at the park. I'm glad I had the chance, but I found out I prefer the top deck, where I sat almost every time I went last year. Eric tells me the second level is even better, but you have to know somebody to sit there. (He does, I don't.) I didn't like the perspective from the lower seats, and I really didn't like the fact that tall people sat in front of me, blocking my view of half the infield.

We were there an hour and a half before the game started, giving us time to walk leisurely around the perimeter of the stadium, checking out all the different views of the field. While we were walking along the arcade above the right field wall, there was a sudden flurry of excitement all around us as baseball started flying in our direction. It turned out Jason Giambi was taking batting practice, and we were in the line of fire. Several balls bounced near us, but we didn't really have a chance to get one.

It was a typical spring game. There were some good plays and some bad plays. Lots of different players got into the game. Some of them will not be around once the regular season starts, as the managers are still making last minute decisions about how to trim their rosters. Even with the cross-bay rivalry, the intensity of a game that really matters just wasn't there. At least, that's what I'm telling myself, since my team lost. When it counts, things will be different.

It wasn't just the players who need to get the kinks out. The public address announcer and the scoreboard operator were both a little slow. Weird glitches kept popping up, like wrong uniform numbers or misspellings in the player identifications. The outfield grass was a patchwork of different colored turf, not the smooth green it should be. And they really need to get those Krispy Kreme carts in place.

batting practice, an hour before the game

Watching the game while sitting in a group of older people is a different way to enjoy it. A lot of these people go on bus trips together often enough to know one another. And they don't go only to games, but on the various excursions that the tour company offers. So the atmosphere is relaxed and congenial.

Sometimes when you go with a smaller group, you don't know how the other people in your section will react to your comments. Eric and I tend to talk about the game more than more casual fans (who are often distracted by the pretty colors on the scoreboard and the incredible variety of food items available).

It's not that we take the games too seriously, but we think we know enough to pass judgment on who's playing and how they're playing. We often have advice for the manager (although they don't always listen to us).

Yeah, I have to admit that I'm a different person at a baseball game. I'm a little more outgoing and articulate. I have a lot more confidence in my opinions, so I'm more likely to argue a point.

Get me in a group of people who are talking about politics or current events and I'll probably stay in the background and listen. It's not that I don't have opinions, just that I tend to see both sides of most issues, and I have a lot of respect for the passionate way people feel about important matters.

There's no room for that in sports, where a lively discussion about the relative merits of two players or two teams can spark a kind of grudging camaraderie. It's nothing important enough to hate your adversary over (although some less evolved folks do just that).

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