It is said that three things define the American way, namely BEER, BURGER and BASEBALL. After years of relishing on burgers and boozing beers, it was time to complement the American way with a game of “Baseball”. Coming from a country where cricket is the only way to sports nirvana, other sports seem paltry. So, it was not the game that attracted me, but the idea of burgers and sipping cold beer in the stadium that did. I was a total dumber when it came to base-ball basics. This was going to be my first ever baseball game watch.
Atlanta Braves Vs NY Mets
Place: Turner field, Atlanta
Time: Friday Sep 28 2012, Evening 7.30 PM EST.
The Turner field is located right in downtown Atlanta and it is challenging to reach the destination on time in the heavy traffic, especially when there are planned events in and around the downtown. Street vendors, from caps, t-shirts sellers to peanut sellers lined the narrow streets leading to the stadium. Street performers singing and playing music gave the area around the stadium the look of a country fair. I was overwhelmed by the over pouring game enthusiasts in and around the stadium. Inside the stadium the dazzling flood lights and a huge LCD screen so enormous I had never seen one before caught my attention immediately. Billboards displaying flashy advertises, pretty cheerleader girls dancing at one corner of the ground, delicious smell of burgers and hot dogs and the distinct aroma of beer that engulfed the stands , seemed mystifying. Before stepping in the stadium, beer and hot dogs were the only things on my mind, more than the game and I was happy to see them all around. Cheap tickets got as complimentary gifts for generously donating blood to Red Cross association on the blood donation day at work, put me on the top deck of the stadium from where dragon flies that crowded the nearby flood lights seemed bigger than the base-ball players on the ground below.
Amid cheers, yells and waving boards from the fans, the game started rather sluggishly. The game was between the home team Atlanta BRAVES and NY METS. So BRAVES had the crowd behind them to cheer at large. One player of the BRAVES with the baseball bat in his hand positioned at one corner of the stadium was ready to face the opponent NY MET bowler. Other NY METS positioned themselves at different positions on the ground to stop the ball. The field positioning, the batsman and bowler reminded me of the game of cricket which I was very much familiar. It looked bit similar. The MET threw the ball at the BRAVE man so fiercely it seemed as though his intention was to blow the batsman. The BRAVE man tried to hit the ball several times but missed each single time. The crowd sighed in disappointment. Several BRAVE men came forward to try to hit the ball but no one was able to hit it well. A few were just able to hit it across the ground and had to run hard after hitting to reach a circle marked at some distance before a fielder could stop the ball and throw at the person standing at the circle. There were only sighs and boos in the stadium until one man arrived when everybody got to their feet, and clapped, cheered and chanted “Chipper .. Chipper.. Chipper.. Go Chipper Go!!”. I understood he was some baseball god, a renowned veteran of the game, who had arrived on the ground to blow everybody’s balls (I meant to say hit every ball thrown at him.. don’t think different 😉 ). However, to everybody’s disappointment, he too missed every ball thrown at him.
Then there was the turn of the METS to try to hit the ball. And the same hit and miss ball continued. There was one lucky MET who was able to hit the ball, and he hit it hard, so hard that the ball disappeared in the dark sky. Everybody cheered and shouted frantically. There were fire crackers, the cheer girls danced to celebrate his feat. His happy face was displayed on the large LCD screen as he waved his hand to the crowd to demonstrate his victory. Now I understood, the key to the game was to hit the ball right and hit it really hard so that you don’t have to run. And if you cannot hit it hard and are just able to push the ball around the field, you run, run like crazy to reach a circle marked at some distance before the ball is stopped and that’s how you gather some points towards winning. If you run and make a full square you are a champ. But you have to be quick; else you will be declared out. By the end of the playing time, the BRAVES were not able to hit many balls well, while the METS hit some balls really hard. Clearly they had balls of steels that night. They were declared winners. The METS however were cheered coldly by the spectators, as it was not the favorite home team.
For a person naïve in base-ball, it hardly mattered who won. All it mattered was the fun at the end of the day and a good Friday evening spent cheering, sipping beer, hogging the dogs and to be part of a wonderful live gaming experience.