One of the things that has been a part of my life since before I can remember is baseball. Some of my earliest and favorite memories are going to baseball games with my family. We would always get there early and tailgate. We would then stay for a good part of if not the whole game. We were of the firm belief that we paid for nine innings and if one left early you weren’t getting your money’s worth. If the game happens to go into extra innings, well that was just free baseball and how could that ever be a bad thing.
But it wasn’t just the game, it was the whole experience. I am writing mostly about the tailgating that occurred before game. This usually consisted of a sizable meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken and plenty of sugary drinks for the kids and alcohol for the adults. After the gratuitous stuffing of faces and guzzling of bottomless libations we would play catch. We almost always brought our gloves and a ball, but one day we forgot the ball. My dad, being the ever creative nut that he is, pulled an orange out of the car. Who carries an orange in their car? Nobody, but he had one.
So we started playing catch, with an orange. Now oranges are great as a fruit, but as a spherical throwing object they don’t have quite the same structural integrity of a baseball. After a while of tossing the orange it inevitably split. Juice was spraying everywhere and I quickly resigned myself to no longer being able to play catch. But not my dad, after we eat the orange the guy just pulls another orange out of the car. Who has two oranges just rolling around in the car?
We split the next orange after some rough throwing. No matter, the man had an entire bag of oranges just rolling around in his trunk. Who keeps that just laying around? My dad, that’s who. We played catch until it was time to go into the game, with oranges! We went to a lot of games, because it was a good thing to do as a family. I seem to remember that many of the games were either against the Cubs, or the Expos. My dad liked the Cubs because he grew up in Illinois near the Chicago area, he lives there now as I type this.
The Expos I think were somewhat of a statistical fluke. The only advantage of going to games against the Expos, that I saw, was that we got to hear the Canadian national anthem in addition to the U.S. National anthem. The reason the Canadian national anthem was played is because the Expos home city was Montreal. In 2004 the Expos folded and moved from Montreal to Washington, D.C. At that point they were renamed and became the Nationals.
Fast forward to this summer. The Padres, who hail from my home city of San Diego, are visiting D.C. and playing against the Nationals. I currently live in Maryland, very close to D.C. My pawns are finally old enough that we decided to take them to their first baseball game. We didn’t get to tailgate because the location of the National’s stadium doesn’t really lend itself to driving there. But we did go to the game. We even made it through six innings before the pawns temperaments gave out. Overall it was a very enjoyable experience and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit nostalgic.
We ate hot dogs instead of chicken, and the pawns had water instead of soda, but it still took me back. The weather was hot and miserable, nothing like those perfect San Diego climates, but still the pawns stuck it out like real troopers. The Padres ended up losing, which made me a little sad, but we all wore our matching Padres shirts, and that was much to my delight. My son wanted his Nationals shirt about halfway through the game, but even that couldn’t dampen my spirits. For me it was about bringing a bit of my childhood to my own children. It was about setting up or continuing a family tradition that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Next summer the tradition will continue and I can’t wait.