Baseball Among the Cows

(musings of Spring Training adventures in Florida)

Part 1

Finding your seat-2001


Just the other day I noticed that I had to flip over my calendar to the month of March.  This had to come to me as quite a surprise, considering that I had spent much of February in bed with various aliments such as bronchitis, minor surgery and something that Mrs. L. calls roto-virus. 

“You probably caught it from one of the kids, there’s a lot of it going around.”

Whenever I catch something, there’s always a lot of it going around according to Mrs. L.  Funny thing, though, I don’t remember any my kids returning from deepest Africa, so I wonder where the kids picked up roto- virus. 

If you were wondering whether or not I was sick on draft day, take a look at my draft picks.  You are all very welcomed. 

So I emerged from my cocoon of self-induced stupor, and took a look around, yep there were the signs; Indian Hawthorne lavishing displaying their white flowers, (despite the best efforts of my children to pick their seeds last fall), our Charlie Brown tree sprouting tiny nubs of leafs and, of course, my neighbor mowing his lawn three times a week. 

I placed a thoughtful finger upon my chin and declared, Holy Cow! It’s time for spring training! 

I deftly mortgage my weekends to Mrs. L. though the end of September (remember, I have three kids) and sat down to the USA Today to determine which game to attend on my first free weekend. 

Two choices were available, LA versus the Mets in St. Lucie or the Marlins versus the Astros in Kissimmee.  Now, I wasn’t interested in either LA or New York, however I had never been to St. Lucie and since the ride was over an hour to the stadium, I called ahead. 

There was some trepidation on my part; I have learned from experience that the Spring Training complexes tend to reflex their teams’ attitudes.  Upon the second ring, a pleasant female answer the phone and we had a splendid conversation until I asked about tickets for today’s game. 

The only seats left were in something called the upper deck.  I instantly became weary, ‘cause upper decks in Spring Training are about as rare as an enjoyable trip to my in-laws.  I told her I would like to purchase a ticket; such was my appetite for baseball.  All of a sudden, her New York upbringing leaped out from its hiding place and announced, “I can’t take ticket orders over the phone, so if you want a ticket, you’ll have to come to the stadium, and hurry.”  Click.


I quickly dialed up the Astros.  A charming Texan drawl answered the phone.  I believed I startled the young woman by asking if there were still tickets available.  Apparently, I was the only human south of the Mason-Dixon Line to think that Florida versus Houston would sellout. 

In fact, she was so helpful that she explained exactly how much I would be fleeced so in order not to startle me upon my arrival to the venerable Osceola County Stadium.  I am, according to my sisters, one of nature’s great cheapskates.  She was very apologetic; “Seems like everything goes up every year.”

I glanced at my watch, layered myself with so much sunscreen that I resembled one those swimmers ready to challenge the English Channel, fueled up ole Shakey and off I went!  The drive from my house to Kissimmee is about 50 miles, most of it on an old 2-lane highway, 35 miles of it without a stoplight. 

Now this road almost made Reader’s Digest 10 Most Dangerous Roads in America.  However, at the last minute, it was dropped from the list, apparently, drivers in Boston became indignant at this thought and generated a few more moralities to bump us from the list.  Due to safety constraints, and the fact that engineers cannot leave an enjoyable ride alone, the road will become four lanes next year.  I’m shocked, because it will ruin a great drive through orange groves and cattle ranches and that it will cost 100 million ducats (see paragraph above).

I arrived at the stadium, paid my four dollars for parking, mumbling all while, and then I’m sent into this side lane for parking.  My spot frankly looked like trouble, involving backing out upon leaving.  I realized this is my penance for questioning why I must pay four bucks to park in a field that hasn’t needed mowing since Labor Day.  I get out of the car and head for the ticket window. 

Now the good Lord above only has two simple requirements of me while upon this earth.  One is to spend some time with all of the stupidest people on earth, and two, to always pick the wrong line.  I’m sure by now you’ve guessed the punch line. 

This being Florida and not Chicago, there are only four ticket windows, and only one of them is selling tickets for today’s game.  The others are handing out will call or tickets for future games.  How many people are willing pay 4 dollars parking  on game day only to purchase a ticket for next week’s game?

The line for our window is not long, only about 7 people.  The problem being, the four gentlemen in front of me had been waiting since early February to purchase tickets to the Braves game and decided Hey! since we’re still here and paid for parking, let’s go to today’s game. 

The other holdup was an older lady that had to review each seat location individually, and then decided to lecture the teenage girl in the window about the faulty wisdom of not accepting her credit card for the cost of the transaction. 

After many years of attending games by myself, I have learned that single ticket purchasers have unusually wide selection of seats to choose among.  My only request was to be placed on an aisle. 

She happily exclaimed, “I have a seat directly behind home plate, third row.”

“Is that near an aisle?” I asked.

“Wow, aren’t you lucky to get this seat.”

“Yes, um, thanks, but is it near an aisle?”

“Seven dollars change and here’s your ticket.”

“Section 102, Row C, Seat 8, that doesn’t sound near an aisle,” I meekly exclaimed.

She turned to her supervisor or grandmother, I wasn’t sure which, “I sure gave him a great seat.” 

I then became very wary, because, at that moment, Grandma gave her a high-five.

Resigned, I went into the stadium, bought a program, three bucks, 40 pages, with exactly 37 and ½ pages of ads.  Purchased a coke in a tub the size to make a Kentucky moonshiner envious and headed to my seat. 

I showed an usher my ticket and he pointed to my seat, yep I was directly behind home plate, right next to the camera and radar shed you always find in a stadium.  Problem was that I had to climb over 7 people with the combine age of 807 to get to the seat. 

“You’re kidding right?”

The usher turns up his hearing aid for this. 

“Nope, that’s your seat, ain’t it a great one?” 

“No it isn’t, there’s seven people I have to climb over to reach it.”  Other ushers stop what they are doing, as in an EF Hutton commercial.

“They don’t mind.”

“Yes, they will.  Look at this coke, do you think I’ll make through the game without getting up?”

“They’ll understand if you have to go to the bathroom and will move for you.”

At this moment, Jose Lima discovers the conversation and motions over the rest of Astros to get a better view.

“It looks to me that those people haven’t stood up since the Carter administration.”

I’ve hit a nerve with this; I’ve found the one guy in Florida that actually voted for Carter.  “Well, that’s your seat.”

“How about I take another seat?”

Smirking, the usher starts quoting rules about sitting in the wrong seat.  Mind you it is 10 minutes for game time and the stadium is less than half full. 

Snickering is heard from the Astros on the field.

“Tell you what,” the usher whispers to me, “Sit over here, they haven’t sold that seat to season ticket holders.”

Resigning, I take my new seat, and by the sixth inning, I have had to move more times than a MASH unit.  The usher is nowhere to be found, off taking his afternoon nap, I presume. 

Now, you may think that this is a long introduction and I have yet to discuss the actual ball game.  Well, you see, it wasn’t much of a ball game.  The Marlins scored enough runs to make your average XFL team blush and the Astros couldn’t find their third hit until the 9th inning. 

Did get to see Billy Wagner mow down the Marlins, one, two, three and I did come away with the impression not to touch Jose Lima with a ten foot pole this year.  You see, it’s not often a manager pulls his starter early in spring training because he gave up three dingers..

Final score, Marlins 17-1.