I will admit to being a baseball fan. However, to be honest, I am no longer a fan of attending baseball games. Don’t get me wrong; I used to love going to games, where I was happy to submerge myself into the Zen of things baseball: the slowing of time; the sudden spurts of activity; the seemingly endless metaphors between the action on the field and real life.
But that was before two things happened. The first was becoming a father and the second was getting older.
One at a time.
To my now jaded mind, the only way to attend a baseball game is to go with fellow fans. Moments of high performance can be appreciatively shared with a nod and a smile; the contemplative quiet called for during an extended dual between a pitcher and batter can be savored; the sudden explosive action of a great play in the field or a home run can be properly cheered and appreciated. None of this is possible when attending a baseball game with a small child or worse, small children. They are almost immediately bored. They are hungry, all the time. They need to use the potty at the most inconvenient moments. They want to lie down on the filthy concrete floor, covered as it is in beer, soda, peanut shells wrappers, etc.. They need to puke, because they ate too much junk food. Did we really need to schlep to a ballpark for this?
Getting older has taught me one terrible lesson: our time here on this earth is limited, and it should be spent in pursuit of that which is most important to us. For some people that pursuit is going to baseball games or, bless them, golfing and/or fishing. Sadly, at this point of my life I perceive these admirable pursuits as nothing but temporal black holes, which require an investment of time that I just cannot countenance when there are still Beethoven sonatas to learn, Schoenberg string quartets to study, and music to be composed.
(My father, who passed away in October of 2017 at the age of 92, figured out how to remain a baseball fan while retaining control of his time. He’d record the games of his beloved New York Mets on his DVR. He’d only watch those games that the Mets won, and he’d only watch those
Having said all of this, there is a moment in attending a baseball game that I miss, a moment that I always loved when attending a game. Growing up in South Jersey, we used to go to games at Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. The stadium opened in 1909, and by the time I starting going there in the 1960s, it was run down. Many Phillies fans, being what they were (are?), were already inebriated by the time they got to the park and would urinate on the exterior wall of the stadium before going on in. Connie Mack Stadium itself was a big, old, brick and terra cotta building. The ramps inside were dark, dank, and smelly, and the brick walls were blackened with age and soot. But then there was always the moment, the moment we’d be squeezed from the bowels of the stadium and enter the open air, to be greeted by the magnificent, impossibly green field, where anything was possible. What a moment!
For performers, very much the same experience is to be had in a theater, concert hall, or opera house. (I’m not referring here to the audience members, who enter the theater through wide glass doors, to be enveloped by the impressive breadth of the lobby, surrounded by grand staircases and lit by chandeliers.) Performers have no such entry. We enter the hall through a small door at the side or butt end of the building. We pass through security and then, depending upon our role, either find our dressing room or go backstage and unpack our instruments. The backstage of any symphony hall is a gritty place. The walls are high and black. The chairs and tables are cluttered with instrument cases, coats and jackets, umbrellas, and various other personal belongings. Ropes, hoists, and huge power boxes and breakers are everywhere.
But then there’s the moment. The moment when you step onto the stage and see the house: the seats sweeping upwards to the balcony; the lights; the color (typically red) of the seats; the decorative and acoustic woodwork; and the audience slowly filling their seats, a place where anything is possible! For me, it is and always will be a fantastic moment, one that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of.