Do you ever have two people in your life who have never met, they come from two totally different worlds, but you know they’d hit it off? …they have so much in common but would have never met without your intervention?
Baseball and Opera are these two “people” in my life. They have so much in common, but couldn’t be farther apart.
Both are a three to four hour diversion from my busy, anxious life. Both have heroes and villains that wear costumes, set on an elaborate stage. Both follow an old, strict, comforting format. Both take years of training, persistence, grit, and a bit of divine intervention to allow the performer to even set foot on the field. Both can be listened to, but the listening is a pale representation of actual attendance. Both existed before I was born and will thrive after my inevitable demise. Most importantly, both take me on a blissful journey and ennoble me.
This is baseball and opera.
If you’re a baseball fan, please attend an opera. If you’re an opera fan, get out to the ballpark.
My first stop was at my Uncle Max’s restaurant in Lexington. I had a couple glasses of milk and a monkey-bowl of meatloaf. Max is a man who can get things for people and I don’t mind doing favors, especially for people who have been so generous to me. So I accepted the box and jumped into a tricked-out, turbo-boosted Subaru street racer sporting California plates and headed north on Interstate 75 for a 76 mile drive to a bustling city nestled on the Ohio River. Now the city is named for the brotherhood of soldiers who served under General George Washington for at least three years during the Revolutionary War. When Washington refused to be King of the United States, insisting instead that a Democracy must exist, he was given the nickname of the Roman citizen who did the same thing in the 300’s B.C., Cincinnatus.
I crossed the Ohio River and turned left onto Vine Street and pulled into The Westin Hotel to valet park the Subaru. I grabbed the box and walked into the hotel. I called my brother to tell him I had arrived and heard his voice behind me say, “It’s hot!”. We hugged and boarded the elevator and ascended to the 14th floor to the room of Josey Wales. When we got in the room I handed the box to Josie, I mean, my brother and he set it down and opened it. He was delighted as he pulled one of the mason jars out and stared at the clear liquid inside. “This can grease a lot of wheels”, he said. I figured it must be holy water or something.
We took the elevator down to the lobby and exited the hotel and began walking to the Great American Ballpark. As we walked he told me things about the team that no one outside the clubhouse could ever know. As is tradition in Cincinnati, we stopped at Skyline Chili for a coney dog and then continued to the ballpark. When we arrived at the park everyone was happy to see Tim and many of the security folks remembered me from the last couple years. We went through the doors of the visitor’s clubhouse and into a weird world. Once inside we took a hard right turn and walked to the coaches’ locker-room and found some familiar faces. Bruce, Billy, and Dave, the “Lifers” and a newer inmate, the great Cub infielder, Shawn Dunston. As Tim lay on the floor and began to stretch, I began to write this on my BlackBerry.
Tim asked if I wanted to walk, which I did, so we walked through the clubhouse towards the field. Having watched each game this season I knew almost everyone. Tim introduced me to some players and clubhouse attendants and then he exchanged Leprechaun noises with a naked Brian Wilson. We walked through the dugout onto the field and then into deep left field. We walked along the warning track from foul pole to foul pole. Then we did it four more times. Then we passed the Red’s bullpen in left-centerfield and walked out the back side of the ballpark. We picked up steam as we strode behind US Bank Arena and then climbed three flights of stairs. At the top of the stairs I saw that we were on a giant bridge that spanned the Ohio River. We went for it, power walking across to the Kentucky side. It was 92 degrees and very humid so I was dripping with sweat but good to go. When it was done and we returned to the field we had walked six miles easy. When we returned to the coaches’s locker room I took an ice cold shower and tried to cool my core temperature. Tim found me a new shirt and we sat and drank ice water for 30 minutes.
We then went back to the dugout to watch the Reds finish practice so the Giants could start theirs. Bochy was filming staged interviews for the Showtime reality series “The Franchise” and Tim remarked how surreal that whole experience has been. Tim went out to hit infield fungo and I grabbed some sunflower seeds and started munching. I was visited by a very cheerful and interesting Tim Lincecum. Eli Whiteside and Jeremy Affeldt also took time to chat and are absolutely charming people. Andres Torres immediately recognized me and ran to give me a hug.
About 6 pm Tim said it was serious time so I gave him a hug and walked back through the clubhouse and grabbed a Subway Italian sub and sat down and began to eat it. Guillermo Mota grabbed me a water and gave me a fist bump. After I ate I left the stadium and walked through downtown Cincinnati back to the Westin. I went up to Tim’s room and called the front desk to bring my car from the garage. I drove back to Lexington and am listening to the game now as I edit. I love extra-innings.
This was a cool day. Tomorrow my wife Michelle and I will be taking someone to the Reds/Giants game who has never been to a MLB game before!