I will never watch a rain delay on television the same way again. It is a story I will carry with me for as long as I live.
The idea first occurred to me several months ago, when the Reds and Phillies dueled nineteen innings into the waning hours of the night, and then the wee hours of the following morning. I live less than fifteen minutes driving from Citizens Bank Park. Why, when I turned the game on in the tenth inning, had I not driven down to the stadium, just to see if I could get inside?
The idea recurred tonight when lightning repeatedly illuminated the horizon as torrents of rain pounded on the city outside my window. Working late at my dining table with the ballgame on the television, I knew the rain delay would be indefinite. No matter the hour, the Diamondbacks and Phillies were going to finish this game. Arizona was not going to make a one-night road trip across the country to play a solitary east coast contest. They would wait, and I began to contemplate.
My affinity for romanticizing baseball ultimately made my decision. Showing up late to a game is nothing noteworthy on its own. Yet, other sports unfold in a predictably linear fashion; games commence at their scheduled times, and proceed until the final whistle with few deviations or interruptions.
Baseball is subject to the elements, liberated from a stopwatch. Within the strict structure of a nine inning game, infinite storylines can unfold. When the fourth inning of a 7:05 start begins three hours into the game, baseball’s inherent absence of rigidity is exposed to be celebrated. For this reason, I wanted to abandon reason, exploit circumstance, and create a memory.
I surveyed the stands from the comfort of my couch. The scene resembled something from the stadium’s early years, when the royal blue of empty seats was widely exposed on a nightly basis. Chatting with a friend online, I proposed driving down to catch the last few innings. No more than ten minutes later, we were cruising south on Columbus Boulevard.
Parking was easy in the mostly vacant Lot K, and we dashed across Pattison to the first base entrance. While the Phillies staff appreciated our zeal and dedication, they informed us we would still need tickets to enter. After bargaining with a man selling tickets just fifty feet away, we returned to the turnstiles, and to everyone’s surprise, the green light signaled us to enter.
For three glorious innings, we sat along the first base line with a half-capacity crowd that had patiently endured inclement conditions for hours. We arrived in time for a Yiddish rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch for Jewish Heritage Night, and settled for bottled water after missing last call. For one hour and eighteen outs, we savored a cool summer night in prime seating at a game we were never supposed to attend.
I turned to my friend in the eighth inning and tried to put the moment into context: "No matter what happens, fifty years from now, I will remember your name when I tell my grandchildren about tonight."
The beauty of the game of baseball lies in its narrative tendencies. By attending tonight’s game in the way I did, I embraced the very nature of baseball, and engaged in its narrative to the fullest extent.