bunt sign

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Once in awhile there's a baseball game that's played by major league players not for money, status or pride, but for the love of the game. Today's game was the last of the season, and it meant nothing in the standings. Most of the players who started for the Giants were the lowest-paid members of the team. Many of them seldom even get into a game. The only reason to play this game at all was because it was on the schedule.

And yet it was one of the most entertaining games Eric and I have been to. On the field, the young guys played with enthusiasm and spirit. In the stands, the fans were in a gloriously jovial mood, jubilant over the team's overall success this year and happy to see a major league game played by athletes who were clearly loving what they were doing.

Almost as entertaining as the game was the ferry ride from Larkspur to the ballpark. The boat was crowded with people of all ages, friends and families, looking forward to sharing the experience of a day in the fresh air and sunshine. We stood on the deck and watched as the boat left the terminal and headed across the Bay. When it got too breezy outside, we went in and stood near the window.

In front of where we were standing was a bench, and on that bench sat a family that could have come out of a storybook (or a sitcom). Younger brothers teasing older sisters, small children climbing all over their parents, teenagers amiably trying to ignore the chaos, and not one cross word or overreaction to spoil everyone's good mood. I doubt they all get along that well all the time at home, but I found it Rockwellian in its poignant beauty.

At the game we sat high behind home plate, near the very top of the upper deck. We had a clear if distant view of the field and its spectacular surroundings. There really isn't a better place to watch a ballgame than Pacific Bell Park, and you meet the most interesting people there, too. Next to me sat two women who were obvious fans of the team, just like us. They cheered at the same times we did and groaned at the same mistakes we noticed.

On the other side of Eric was a man who made it his business to get to know the people around him. He made faces at the tiny boy in the row in front, and he joked with us before, during and after the game. We even made a bet with him about the upcoming playoffs, although we'll never see him again so we won't be able to collect.

We always have fun when we go to a game together, and the fact that this was the last game of the season made it special. It's likely nothing could have spoiled the day for us, but everything was perfect anyway. Even the weather was exactly right, a comfortable San Francisco fall day.

The next time the Giants play, it will be an intense game, with a possible World Series trip on the line. This meaningless game played by the extras in the cast reminded us of what baseball is really about. The business of the game receded for a few hours and the joy of it flooded back to us. All forty thousand of us.

Pacific Bell Park

Boats in McCovey Cove beyond Pacific Bell Park.

The ferry ride from the park back to the terminal was almost as much fun. The team won, everyone enjoyed the day, and now we were all headed home. It made for a very congenial atmosphere, the kind of glow that stays with you for awhile. It'll be something to remember in the dark, wintry (baseball-free) days looming ahead.

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