The following is just a peak into the experience of Barry Bond’s chase for immortality. There will be no investigation, no urine sampling or bloodletting. No asterisks, no suggestions or speculation. And even more shocking, no pictures. Just taking a look at a player trying to put his name among the loftiest of names in sports history – Babe Ruth.
I have never been to AT&T Park, formerly known as SBC Park and even previously named Pac Bell Park. (Guess AT&T is doing big things these days…) Obviously, it’s reputation as a jewel among ballparks proceeds itself and it certainly lived up to expecations. We, both my cousin and myself, set foot out of his apartment at Stanford’s Escondido Village (‘hidden’ because it houses graduate students…) for the park. Climbing aboard the CalTran, we got to our destination after about a half an hour interspersed with chatter and me trying to read my book – which wasn’t happening. After all, I am here for business, too.
Once in downtown San Fran, we stepped out to the train station and were immediately asked if we needed tickets for the game. Don’t know what sold us on that, since we did indeed need tickets, considering I was wearing my Dwyane Wade black pullover (very good attire for a sunny afternoon) and my cousin was wearing his Miguel Cabrera jersey/t-shirt thing. Seemed like a good deal, but we needed cash so we headed inside the Safeway to get some dough. (We didn’t want to mess with the ATM fees, so we bought some items and got cash back – I bought a bag of Doritos and a Pepsi. And the express lane moved very slowly because there was some little girl incessantly screaming, writhe in pain over her foot that was apparently run over by a shopping cart. Get used to it, kiddo. Life is tough.)
With our loot, we made for the stadium waiting to be solicited for tickets – and we found our man. He had two tickets in left field, section 137 row 5 seats 18 and 19. After consulting his map to see where the tickets where we asked how much and he said $50. As the master negotiators we are, we walked away and he said $45. We balked, then said forget it and walked. I would then tell my cousin that wasn’t too bad of a deal, since we were only paying a few bucks over face value, then we went back and made the exchange. Cloak and dagger style and off we went to the game.
The park is nestled on the bay and in between some meaningless business structures. Seemed very lively, but I would hate to be working next door – day dreaming – or even have to drive around at that time of day. I didn’t care, I was there to witness history.
So, we went in, smuggling our Doritos and Pepsis.
The park is nice. There are all kinds of sightlines available for you to watch the game from. If you are in line for, say, garlic fries, you can look down and see the game from behind home plate. There are plenty of TVs with the game going on, too. Speaking of TVs, walked right by Pedro Gomez – the beat writer for the Giants who seems to be on ESPN every five minutes. He seemed shorter than I imagined, but with a very large head. He was eating garlic fries…hmm…there must be something about those.
The first thing we did do, though was get settled into our seats. Very good view of the game in addition to the bleachers being ergonomically fashioned for your buttocks. You could even stand up in the LF section as there is a little walkway in front of the seats and just behind the wall. This was one spot to make my dramatic catch of ball #714.
So, the Cubs come up, big deal, and make their showing. Not why I was here.
Then the Giants get their turn.
There was so much anticipation for Bonds’ at bat that the first inning offensive eruption seemed to steal the thunder. A bases clearing double left first base open. Bonds was up and so was everyone in our section. Me, I kept sitting – betting they would walk him. And Dusty did.
In fact, the game takes on a different nuance when you are rooting for a single batter to get a hit. You don’t want the game to become a blowout or he could get pulled. You don’t want their to be so few outs or an open base when he gets up. Only strikes and challenging pitches for Barry, please. Otherwise we will all be subjected to the chicken dance song.
Damn, those garlic fries were tempting. And I was feeling hungry…so, we got up from our seats and raced down to get some eats while the Giants were hitting. We got very scared that the Giants were going to hit around in this first inning and Barry was going to get a second at bat. Randy Winn was already up again, in the bottom of the first. But did I want to lose my spot in line and risk missing the fateful #714? What to do! Garlic fries or Bonds’ home run ball?
And the garlic fries are definetly worth getting. $6 but hey, you dont get those every day. Thankfully, the Giants made their third out, and we got our food. For several days I am sure I will be tasting those delightful garlic fries. I could only imaging what life must be like in Gilroy, CA.
The rest of the game was interesting. Every time Barry would come up, we would rise. In these moments there was so much potential – to witness history, to be a part of history, to catch the ball and change the fortunes of your life. Whispers of catching the ball and gears churning inside the heads of all around about what would happen if fate dropped, literally, into their lap.
By a house. Divy up the money with my family.
But it never happened. Not on this day. There was no big scare, either, just anticipation. Barry came up, and the crowd held its breath – as did the Cubs dugout. But no fireworks.
There is so much pagentry surrounding this coming feat, too. In our section in LF, there was a man in an orange jump suit – looking more like an overgrown orange – with ‘8 Men In’ on it. Apparently 8 guys are roaming the outfield bleachers when Barry is up to bat, with accompanying camera men, to catch the ball and document it. ESPN is apparently producing this.
There is also security, both overt and covert, as well as cameramen roaming the outfield filming everything. All for Barry’s big moment.
When it happens, everyone will see it and somehow be included. Then all the opinions will be spewed forth like a roaring fire. There will be asterisks and accusations and defenses – all so finely crafted that no one will seem to have any real perception on the matter.
Which is simply a ball rotating in tiny revolutions on a particular course that only fate can disclose.