I was supposed to be writing something important this evening. One of those the-world-is-burning–type articles. But baseball started, and I got distracted.
While the first official pitch of 2020's abbreviated 60-game regular season won't be thrown until this weekend, Monday night’s exhibition game between the Giants and A’s took my attention away from the world for a few innings.
As the sun set yesterday evening, I sent out a text of distress, asking a good friend for their streaming password so I could watch the A’s broadcast. Once the eagle landed, I was in business: I poured a healthy portion of boxed red wine into my favorite mug, and pulled my beanbag chair so close to my 32-inch TV that I considered wearing a mask as well.
I promise you my intent was to watch a little bit of the game and write that article later. But baseball has an all-consuming effect, especially when it's been away for so long.
I mean, it’s the middle of summer, and I hadn't seen a single home run. So when Oakland A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty dropped a bomb in the bottom of the second inning, I excitedly clapped loud enough for my neighbor, the self-identified “OG vato” from Santa Cruz, to hear it. He’s a big-time Giants fan, and just about every time we cross paths in the apartment complex, he playfully demands I take my A’s cap off. I never do.
Ah, the power of sports. Bringing people together, even when we disagree, and even when we’re apart. Or, um, supposed to be apart: there’s still a pandemic going on, but somehow there were groups of men gathered in a dugout on each side of a white diamond in Deep East Oakland.
I couldn't fully get into the game; the mental notes and health critiques kept popping up.
On the plus side, I noticed the way the TV announcers—normally in the same booth, an arm’s length apart—stayed apart in adjacent booths, divided by a translucent glass, and still maintained fluid communications.
On the eerie side, I kept focusing on the cardboard cutouts in the crowd. It started with a Where’s Waldo-esque game of looking for familiar faces on the poster boards. Then, as the TV cameras showed the “crowd” from different angles, it turned into a blatant reminder that this was far from a normal baseball game, both funny and scary. It didn’t help that when I first noticed the relief pitchers sitting in the rows behind the traditional bullpen, not too far from the fake people, my initial reaction was, "Oh—they’ve got moving cardboard cutouts too?!"
On the questionable side, I kept thinking about potential health hazards during the game. Some players wore masks, some players didn't. The umpire stood close to the catcher and batter, calling balls and strikes. I thought: does he have a mask on? (He did.)
I noticed violations of the no-spitting rule. How will they enforce it? Can they enforce it? Spitting and baseball go together like police and brutality; you can’t have one without the other. But you know how it goes on this land: there’s a difference between what’s illegal and what’s enforced.