Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Play Ball: College Baseball in Ann Arbor

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I have lived in Ann Arbor for more than 19 years. In all that time I have never attended a University of Michigan sports event. It's not that I dislike sports; I like some quite a lot. I just have never taken the time, made the effort, to go to a live game. In some cases that's because I just can't see going to a basketball or hockey game both of which hold little interest for me. Football can be a lot of fun to watch, at least it is on TV, but I've never felt like plunking down the money to go to one of the big games though I suspect I would have a good time especially if I could go with a friend or two. I'm sure sports like track and field events or swimming events draw people but they're not going to draw me. That leaves baseball and its kin (softball). I've known a stadium was downtown somewhere but until a couple of days ago I hadn't known exactly where. Until a couple days ago I had just pondered going to a game. I decided a couple days back that it was time to actually go to a college baseball game and that if the weather was going to be nice the next time the Wolverines played in town I would go. Tuesday rolled around and the weather was very nice indeed. It's about a mile and a quarter walk to the baseball field that nestles in by State and Hoover. I got to the game just as it was starting. I found a few hundred other people, of all ages, scattered in the bleachers. Two definite camps of fans: the Wolverine fans and the fans for the Eastern Michigan Eagles. I bet the most ruckus ones cheering and jeering the teams were the students. That is how it probably should be. The day was bright and clear with no real wind. You are more than close enough to the field to hear a ball when it strikes the catcher's glove. I doubt their is anywhere in Ray Fisher Stadium that you cannot hear the clang when a hitter manages to put his bat upon the ball. Personally, I prefer to sound of a wooden bat but I suppose I'll just have to live with it.

I wish I could have found a radio station that was streaming on the Internet (yes, the U-M website says coverage exists but whatever the station is they require you to run Microsoft Silverlight to stream. Way to go CBS Sports you picked a tool that no mobile device supports), but I did not (if anyone reads this and knows of a radio station that does stream on the Net do let me know). I missed out on plenty because of this but I was so close to the field that I could easily watch segments of the game and have enough fun that way. At least enough fun to make me feel my $5 ticket was well spent money.

Baseball is about many things. Some of them include running goofy contests for the fans like the how-fast-can-you-eat-the-hot-dog content, the dirtiest car in the parking lot contest (granted I guess no one knew of that one ahead of time), and the trivia game. Then you toss in a great experience like the Junior Announcer inning where a kid gets to introduce the batters during a home half inning. I bet the kid today had a real thrill. I know I would have. Of course, you also have classic traditions like a seventh inning stretch with a sing-along of Take Me Out To The Ballgame. Some things just have to happen. A good live sports event is more than just the game. It's true you want your team, home or away depending on your particular stance, to play well and win but a good event should have more than that. A good event brings people together and sparks community growth. The community could be as small as a couple of friends out for a day of fun, a couple on a date, a family outing, or something much bigger. A good event also gives you the chance to forget about the wider world and escape into some real world fantasy. The fantasy that you could be down there on the field playing too or at least that your hollering and hooting might help your team win the game.

Today I took part in a bit of that and had a fine old time. Perhaps I will go again and if I am lucky maybe I will be able to get a friend or two to go along. After all an experience shared amongst friends is far better than one shared with like-minded strangers even if that isn't a bad experience.

Posted via web from Ken Knight's posterous

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