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Following tradition by taking in a baseball game with grandson

Writer enjoys a rite of passage with his 8-year-old grandchild at a Batimore Orioles game, creating a special memory to last a lifetime.

May 20, 2013|Bill Dwyre
  • Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Fernando Rodney, right, celebrates with teammate Jose Lobaton after defeating the Baltimore Orioles.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Fernando Rodney, right, celebrates with teammate… (Patrick Smith / Getty Images )

BALTIMORE — As long as there are 8-year-olds, there will be baseball.

Bud Selig has produced revenue-sharing and value-escalation. He deserves much credit. The mothers of this country have produced a never-ending supply of baseball customers. They deserve more.

Once upon a time — Sunday, actually — a grandfather accompanied his 8-year-old grandson to a major league baseball game. His granddaughter was there too, but she had a friend with her. If you are a 10-year-old girl, you cannot be seen in public at a baseball game with your grandpa and little brother without a friend along. It is the law.

The game was at Camden Yards and matched the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays. Grandpa was told he must root for the Orioles, only they are to be called the O's. It is the law.

There are 9 million worse places to spend a Sunday afternoon than at Camden Yards. The 37,000 or so who were also there seemed to feel the same way. Camden Yards has been around for 21 years, but features a nice mix of new and old. Baseball is a traditional game. Its stadiums should reflect that.

Grandpas and 8-year-old grandsons going to baseball games is traditional. So is grandpas, who also happen to be sportswriters, writing about it.

Grandson walks to the stadium dressed in black and orange, Orioles, er, O's colors. He carries his fielder's glove because you have to have your glove ready in case you get a foul ball and because you just got a Manny Machado baseball card and Manny Machado hits the ball way far and sometimes foul balls bounce away to somebody else if you don't have your glove on and then the kids at school laugh at you.

He doesn't walk so much as hop a few steps and then crouches into his batter's stance and takes a few imaginary swings. So we call him Casey, as in Casey at the Bat.

"What's that, Papa?"

"It's a famous poem about a baseball player."

"Did he play for the O's?"

"No, for Mudville."

"They aren't in the league."

There is no conceivable response.

We pass a person with a sign, asking for money.

"I feel sorry for homeless people," Casey says. "It would be sad not to have a home."

Grandpa is delighted with his level of social consciousness.

Casey's sister says, "I hear that you shouldn't give them money because sometimes they use it to buy cigars."

There is no conceivable response.

The conversation turns to the intricacies of baseball.

"You know, Grandpa, you can't slide into first base."

"Yes, you can."

Casey's mother, superb in the area of quality grandchild-producing and useless in so many others, says, "No, you can't slide into first base."

Grandpa reminds them that he is an expert, that he sees many games every year. They respond that most of those are Angels games.

There is no conceivable response.

The seats are up high. Even Manny Machado couldn't get a foul ball up there. But the glove is never far away, and the view is perfect.

We arrive in the first inning and by the third it is time for hot dogs. Perhaps the first sentence of this column needs to be amended to read: As long as there are 8-year-olds and hot dogs, there will be baseball.

It is difficult, handling a hot dog, drink, fries and a Manny Machado foul ball glove. That prompts Casey to notice that there are no cup holders at our seats, as there are in other parts of the stadium. Grandpa tells him Grandma wouldn't like that because she is really into cup holders and buys her cars based only on the quality of the cup holder.

Casey looks at Grandpa, but there is no conceivable response.

The O's aren't hitting much, the Rays a little more. Grandpa notes that the Rays have one player named James Loney, another named Fernando Rodney. The scoreboard says Loney is batting .359 and when Rodney earns the save in the Rays' 3-1 win, the announcer says he already has eight this season.

Grandpa tells Casey he used to know players by those names who played for the Dodgers and Angels, but with those numbers, they must be different people.

Two innings after the hot dogs, it's time to try the kids' pitching and hitting cages in the stadium concourse below. The line features fidgeting children and moms with picture-taking phones. Casey throws three fastballs that register 32, 35 and 32 mph on the speed gun, then connects solidly on the three pitches from the batting machine.

"I love baseball, Papa," Casey says, en route to ice cream. "I want to play in the major leagues. Do you have to pay to play?"

There is no conceivable response.

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