My long-time friend and I have recently been communicating on a fairly regular basis. Which is a good thing. It often happens that when someone becomes romantically involved with someone else, you tend to focus on the object of your desire and the rest of us fall to the wayside. It happens. That's not said as an insinuation of any wrong-doing, it's merely said as a statement of fact.
But through mediums such as MySpace or Facebook, you can reunite with long lost friends and loved ones and my friend Stephen and I did just that!
We have been talking about this and that over the past few months and catching up here and there, looking at pictures and reliving the past (it seems the past is all I have anymore). And over that time, he began formulating a plan, unbeknownst to me. One day he asked if I was busy on a certain date, I happened to be free (cue Mr. Humphries: "I'm FREE!") and he never mentioned a thing for quite a while after that. Then, as the date got closer, he began to mention it again, making sure I was off and hinting that he wanted to get together for...something.
The date got closer and closer and he began dropping hints although I didn't know it. They were careful hints asking his Facebook friends who their favourite Phillies player was (so he could find out who mine was) and stuff along those lines. Finally, the day before, I was at the Art of Flowers (where you should get all your floral needs) and I happened to notice that the next day's Phillies game was in the afternoon. Hmm...the puzzle pieces began to fit and I suspected that this is what the surprise was.
I got up early, as usual, and the day was very overcast. I got dressed and ready, forgoing the sunblock three thousand since there was a threat of rain for the entire day. Stephen pulled up and lo and behold, he was wearing red. That confirmed my suspicions! I knew then and there that we were going to the game! I was SO DAMNED EXCITED!
Off we went up the Atlantic City Expressway, me chatting excitedly the entire way. I was a bit concerned about the weather but the forecast said that the area along the Delaware River (where the stadium is) would be rain free but overcast. Most of the rain would hug the coastline of New Jersey, where we just left. Before I knew it, we were going over the Walt Whitman Bridge and were traveling through South Philadelphia and the next thing I knew, we were pulling into the parking lot directly in front of the stadium! I love star parking! We got out and got changed. Stephen had thought ahead and bought me a Jayson Werth Phillies shirt and I put that on over my shirt and off we went into Citizens Bank Park.
Amazement! That's what I felt! Wow, I was amazed at the spectacle. First, we stopped by the front entrance and met up with Stephen's family. I had to make a pit-stop, as usual, and mark my territory. I was impressed with the bathroom facilities. Very big, fairly clean and easy to find. They were everywhere. We walked over to the edge of the outfield and I saw the entire field. I voiced my wonder out loud and one of the workers overheard me and divined that this was my first game. She informed me to go to the Customer Service desk to get a special certificate that says it's my first Major League Game. Off we went!
Stephen first took me for a tour of the stadium. And what a tour it was. The smells of the food were driving me mad with hunger, the vendors were all working their booths with trained efficiency, the calls of "cold beer" and "programs" and "souvenirs" with other hawkers adding to the controlled chaos. My eyes darted everywhere at once, trying to take in the entire scene before me, my nose caught every odor, my skin tingled with the excitement of the upcoming game. We made our way over to where we were to sit, right by third base and then wandered through the crowds of people to the main food area known as "Ashburn Alley". Suddenly, Stephen stopped short right by Bull's BBQ and reaches into his bag and pulls out two MLB baseballs. He then directs me to a little corner area past the kids playing games to a little booth where a gentleman was sitting, signing balls and other memorabilia. It was none other than baseball great Greg "The Bull" Luzinski! We got in line and quickly made our way to the front where Mr. Luzinski was gracious enough to take a picture with me. His World Series ring was incredible, by the way. We looked over the memorial wall and the bullpen where the pitchers warm up. Off we went back around and then stood in line for a sausage sandwich (he a soda, me a beer) and then got to our seats, which were ABSO-FUCKING-LUTLEY AMAZING! We were seven rows from the field, right next to the visitor's dugout and looking directly at third base. I was in awe and the pictures show it! I ran and got peanuts, because you GOTTA have peanuts at a baseball game, and we stood for the National Anthem. The singer was good, if a bit young, and she hit the notes at the end. A rousing applause and then it was PLAY BALL!
Our vantage point was great and very different from the view from the cameras on television. From where we sat, I could see the pitcher's throw which looks WAY faster than what you see on TV as well as the batter's stance, which is far different than the front view. The Phillie Phanatic did his shenanigans everywhere you looked and I was just astounded at how much fun everyone was having.
I was also a little jealous.
Yes, jealous. Everywhere I looked, there were kids and they had all obviously been there before and it took me twenty-nine years to see my first Major League game. Okay, in my parent's defense: I was the LAST kid you would ever think to take to a baseball game. The art museum, the theatre, a fashion show, something like that maybe but a sporting event...NEVER! I had no sports skills and was certainly not interested in watching them. Back then, I found them boring but now, I get to enjoy them on so many levels. One being the art of the game itself, the other being the HOT BASEBALL PLAYERS! And hell, with being gay, the names of the positions in sports have double entendre written all over them!
I found myself totally wrapped up into the game, though, and barely noticed the hot guys sitting all around me (especially the one in the red shirt right in front of us, right Stephen?). I definitely needed the seventh inning stretch. They had everyone up and standing, twisting this way and that, getting the blood circulating out of our butts. I also didn't notice that the sun, although hidden through many layers of clouds, was slowly burning my vampire skin. At one point, it drizzled so I thought I'd be safe. Later, I'd find that I got a hellacious sunburn. I bought a few (way)overpriced beers from the vendors that walked up and down the stands and cheered when "Light's Out" Lidge came out in the ninth and won the game for the Phils! I loved the camaraderie of the fans, all patting each other on the backs and smiling as they funneled out of the stadium. We had a munchkin with us, although he sat in another section, and they were doing a special promotion for the day. The kids got to "run the bases" and whilst our little guy got in line, I ran up to the concession stand to get a souvenir hat. I wanted a T-shirt but they didn't have them in anything other than super huge and I like to wear them out and about, not sleep in them. Back down near our seats, we moved up to the visitor's dugout and sat on that, waiting for the little kiddle's base run and took pictures.
Once all that was done, we packed up and off we went, back out to the car and the drive home, which I barely remember since I was on cloud nine...ten...eleven the entire time!
In the parking lot, Stephen gave me the Werth jersey and a T-shirt to boot! I also got a free pic of Raul Ibanez when I first walked in, the First Game certificate, the signed baseball and so many happy memories.
Stephen, thank you SO MUCH for giving me this amazing day! I owe you big time.