A Monkey on a String
On Saturday, April 2, we took our Florida-acclimated tushies to the relatively freezing cold Louisville, Kentucky to see the last Reds spring training game of the spring.
It felt weird to be back in the midwest after so long in Florida. At the beginning of our trip, we never would have thought that we'd grow accustomed to, even miss just a little bit, the constant need to apply sunblock, the bizarre restaurant hours, and the mysterious odor of wet dog that had, in our minds, come to mean vacation. Friday night spent at the Marriott in downtown Louisville was lovely, with its comfortable beds utterly free of unidentifiable stains and its fuctioning drawers with nonbroken handles, but it just wasn't the same knowing that there weren't 300,000,000 giant cockroaches scurrying around just outside our door.
Nevertheless, we were able to push through our nostalgia on Saturday morning to make it over to the Louisville Slugger stadium to watch the Reds play the Blue Jays. As usual, we went in as soon as the gates opened, almost two hours before game time. We staggered around the stadium, trying to find places to keep warm while we waited for the game to begin. The gift shop was one such place, and was doing a bustling business selling tons of miniature bats, presumably for fans to burn for warmth.
Finally the game was starting and we huddled together under a blanket in our seats right there beside right field. Seated right behind us where a gaggle of teenaged girls who were hooting and giggling at all the players they thought were cute. The Blue Jays' right fielder wasn't anyone they seemed to know, but they thought he was cute anyway and tried to get him to look their way.
The giggling girls redoubled their attention-getting efforts when the bottom of the inning rolled around and the real object of their affections, Austin Kearns, took his place in right field. I rolled my eyes and grinned as the girls tried to get up the courage to shout to Kearns about what a hottie he was, but getting embarassed at the last minute and turning their shouts into barely more than what we could hear in the row in front of them.
That was probably why I was so surprised when Kearns turned over out direction and waved.
Two of the girls caught the wave and swooned. The third had missed it and, emboldened by what they thought was encouragement from Kearns, started calling to him to wave again. I rolled my eyes again. He's got a game to concentrate on, I thought. There's no way he's waving again.
That was probably why I was so surprised when, a couple pitches later, Kearns turned our direction and waved again.
The same two girls swooned. The third had missed it again, apparently not finding Kearns actually hot enough to check out for more than a pitch or two, or possibly just having the attention span of a gnat, as teenage girls are known to have. Since the girl had missed the wave yet again, the group again started yelling out for him to wave again, this time assisted the adult woman who had accompanied the teens to the game.
It was the sort of display that makes you suddenly understand why so many of the players suddenly take a serious interest in their shoes as they walk onto the field. So many of the fans don't just see these people as entertainers; they start to see them as puppets, as trained monkeys on whose strings they can tug and expect to see a trick. Oh the arrogance!
I, of course, am not so arrogant as to think that I have the right to just demand that any entertainer, any person at all, hop around for my personal amusement. I am, however, arrogant enough to think that Kearns was actually waving at me. Well, us. We had, after all, just spent the last two solid weeks going to all of the Reds games in tiny little stadiums where the players absolutely could have seen and even come to recognize us, and we *did* usually sit on the right field side.
Stupid, maybe. But even if it's a total hallucination, it's a hallucination that makes me feel that much more connected to the game and the players. It was a fantasty that gave me a fuzzy warm feeling, warm enough to stick out the rest of the nine innings, long after the ashes of my souvenir bat had smoldered and gone out.