For the second half of last weekend’s getaway, we spent a couple of hours at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, watching the Jacksonville Suns play the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
This may not sound like a big deal to you, but it was only the second baseball game I’ve ever been to in my (almost) 29 years. The first was three-ish months ago—it was a spring training game here in Bradenton, and the Pittsburgh Pirates played the Philadelphia Phillies.
Full disclosure: I have been a lifelong ignorer of baseball, which I know is sacrilegious to some of you. And it’s not because I don’t like sports—I am actually, and probably somewhat surprisingly, a huge professional basketball fan; a result of growing up in Orlando with a pro team in my backyard and a father who had season tickets (and great seats) for years. In fact, my dad and I used to play what we called “The Players Game,” and I am not kidding when I tell you that I could name every starting player—and many second-string players, too—in the NBA in the late ’90s. It was a source of pride for both of us.
Anyway, basketball was my dad’s thing, and so it became mine by proxy and then by love, and because my dad didn’t like baseball, I never paid attention to it, either, aside from a couple of painful T-ball games I attended because my brother played for half a second. Plus, I just didn’t get baseball. Swing a bat, hit a ball—what’s the big deal? That was my baseball-osophy forever.
But then I discovered that ACS played baseball for years and is an avid fan. And partly because I missed going to basketball games and partly because I was curious about this sport I’d ignored my whole life, I agreed to go to a game. And guess what? It was fun—so much fun that I thought going to another one for ACS’ birthday would be cool. And it was.
I don’t think I’ll ever be a crazy baseball fan, and I’ll always love the NBA and especially the Orlando Magic (don’t even talk to me about the Miami Heat). But there is something so rife with old-school Americana about a baseball game on a hot July night—sitting in the stands with other friendly fans, listening to the vendors hawking ice-cold beer and cinnamon-roasted almonds, watching the evening turn to night and feeling much-needed relief from the sweltering daytime heat, there’s something about it that just feels right. It makes you want to run around, barefoot, catching fireflies in a jar after you leave the ballpark, and then sit on a white-washed front porch somewhere, watching the stars come out. It makes you want to eat all that classic summertime food: hot dogs and lemonade and potato salad. It makes you happy to be outside, breathing in fresh air. It makes you appreciate tradition.
It makes you feel like summer.