In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.
~ Yogi Berra
Then... and now
Its no wonder they call it America's game. It is such a blast going to minor league baseball games. I can remember being a kid (yeah yeah... no old guy memory jokes!) and going to my first minor league games with the family in Bakersfield, back in the mid to late '50s. The Bakersfield Bears... I would have been about 6 or 7, old enough to enjoy the food (hotdogs, sno-cones and peanuts, what more can a kid ask for?) and get to chase foul balls in the parking lot. Aaah... those were the days!
And as a historic sidenote to my Bakersfield experience... We lived on the east side of town, just off of Nile St. In fact I can still remember the address, 2008 Valencia. At the time Valencia was the last street on the north side of Nile. East beyond that was rolling foothills leading up to the Sierra Nevada west face and the Kern River canyon. We used to walk across the fields to elementary school. It was a great playground! Go out and catch lizards, jump off high cliffs into the dirt below (high at that age turned out to be about 5' when I went back as an adult) and jump into the whirlwinds that cruised around, filled with dust and tumble weeds..
There were also contacts with what today are rare and endangered species: the blunt nosed leopard lizard, California condors and Basque sheepherders. The Leopard Lizards were a trip because to a young kid like me they were huge. They ran on their back legs and would get all puffy and hissy if cornered. The condors were another matter. We used to lay on our backs in the field and watch vultures as they circled overhead. One morning on the way to school we tried that and what we got were condors circling and they were so huge they scared the heck out of us and we ran home and got a ride to school! I managed to get a close-up view of the condor in the '80s when there were only 3 remaining wild ones left in Central California. I went on one of my many photo drives up to Mt Pinos east of the Cuyama Valley and came around a curve in the road and there was this huge (and here I do not exaggerate when I say "huge") bird sitting on a rock at a point just off the side of the road. The bird launched into flight when I pulled over and I watched it as it flew away. I swear I could see it for miles as it drifted without once flapping its wings and soared off to the south and west. With a wingspan of almost 10' it is... noticeable.
Which finds me once again digressing from my topic. But it is pretty cool the territory one can cover in writing. Time and space become virtually irrelevant...
Anyways... I started out talking bayzboll. Then I moved on to California and started talking about the Bakersfield Bears and lizards and condors and Basques sheepherders... that Bears link goes to answers.com's rundown on the California League and its history. It seems the Bears only existed as the Bears for ten years, between 1957 and 1967. If any of the Emerald players drop in here for a donut... be glad you're in Eugene...
Watching the kids at the Ems games... the ones hanging on the dugout roof waiting for the players to sign a baseball or program... or better yet... being able to run onto the field in their uniforms... how cool is that!? I mean look at the faces on these kids (and they are about as young as they get for an organized sports teams):
And while they get to share the excitement of what they see as the big time, the players (and the coaches! I watch Greg Riddoch, Ems Manager, and it is obvious, his love for the game. And in my mind he exemplifies the best of the sport of baseball) get to present themselves as examples; as talented players and as men.
And speaking of being a man... I have to fess up... LynchMob (from over at MadFriars) points out in the comments on the Boys of Summer post, just below, that I was wearing a SF cap to the Ems' Opening Day game. I don't wear baseball caps much anymore, I prefer a bigger chapeau, one that serves as an umbrella against rain and sun, with a wide brim, made from felt... but that SF cap... represents years of wearing SF caps. When I was living at Opal Creek I'd wear my SF cap and folks would always say, "oh, a Giants fan eh?" And I'd havta say, "huh?"
They'd reply, "your cap, thats a San Francisco Giants cap isn't it?" And I'd get this puzzled look on my face (easy for me to do, being Scandihoovian and a long-haired hippie type) and say "oh. That. I always though it meant Smart Fella. Or Stinky Feet. My wife says something else..." and people would inevitably laugh. Hopefully they were laughing with me!
Now... I know this was started out to be a baseball post...
I swear I tried, I really, really did.