Sunday, October 26, 2014

Observations From The Third Deck, World Series Edition

Friday, I was lucky enough to attend game 3 of the World Series. Hitting a World Series game has been a dream of mine since I was old enough to be called out for being terrible at baseball (as opposed to when I was younger than that and simply lacked the small motor skills to do things like "catch" and "throw a two-seamer", and so, when the opportunity materialized (courtesy of friend and occasional Sportsthodoxy contributor), I went. 

Now, I have been to a lot of baseball games in my time. Majors, minors, good games, bad games, games where I helped heckle Von Hayes into incoherent confusion and games where Mike Schmidt turned around and gave my dad the finger. (True story. I swear.) I'd even been to a playoff game before - though that was in Atlanta, so it didn't entirely count. But there is nothing like a World Series game. A few notes from the seething cauldron of orange-and-black noise that was AT&T Park...

We got there two hours before game time. Everyone was just milling around the park, watching BP, having a good time. Royals fans in blue mingled in the crowd. There was some good-natured ribbing back and forth (as opposed to good natured ribs, which are what you get at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City) but you'd see blue and orange sitting down at the same table, and friendly discussion. After the game, when Royals fans had gathered over by where the MLB Network guys were doing their spots and were cheering lustily, then you heard a few "those guys are obnoxious" comments. The solution that, of course, is to win games...

Early going, the game looked like it would get messy. Both starters were having a hard time putting hitters away and throwing strikes, and only a few great defensive plays by Lorenzo Cain kept the Giants from blowing things open against Mark Guthrie. But somehow, they just kept going and going and going.

The giant American flag they ran out there for the Star Spangled Banner literally came apart at the seams. The crowd let out a low "oooooooh" that circled around the stadium as the rip just kept going and going and going. Nobody tried an awkward on the fly fix, but when it came time for the folks holding it to make it "wave", things fell a little flat.

Giants fans are the absolute worst when it comes to following whatever instructions get posted on the video boards. "MAKE SOME NOISE" comes up and they stay silent. "WHEN WE TELL YOU AFTER THE FIFTH, STAND UP TOGETHER AND HOLD THESE SIGNS", and of course everyone's already standing and holding up the signs before the countdown starts. It's not their fault, the UX design for such things is terrible - they'll have the organist play one of those sequences designed to get everyone clapping at the same time they exhort fans to make some noise and another graphic comes up telling them to wave their rally towels, and so they've given up on the whole enterprise and just cheer whenever the hell they feel like it. Which, to be fair, ain't a bad thing.

Brandon Finnegan throws hard. Really hard. 

There is no truth to the rumor that the giant statue of a baseball glove in left field was modeled so that Barry Bonds could rest his head in it comfortably.

Royals manager Ned Yost's decision to let his pitcher, Kelvin Herrera, bat with a man on first remains mind boggling. One, it's the World Series. Two, Herrera had never had a professional at bat before. In his life. Anywhere. Giving him his first hacks in a close game in the World Series seems cruel, as well as a waste of an out (especially with thumpers like Billy Butler sitting on the bench waiting to pinch hit). Three, Yost's usage of Herrera - a slow call, followed by a quick hook - suggests that his mound presence wasn't so valuable that you'd waste a scoring opportunity because of it. But, as has been noted elsewhere, you can make a lot of dumb decisions and still come up a winner if your bullpen doesn't let anyone get a hit.

I raided a souvenir stand before the game - needed to load up on things for folks back home - and for my 6 year old niece, I picked up a stuffed Kung Fu Panda doll. The vendor looked at it and said, "You'd better buy that fast - I don't think they're going to be selling those after the series ends."

There were multiple Huey Lewis sightings. Before the game, he did the official "Play ball!" 7th inning, he and the remaining News sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame". No wonder he named that album Sports.

Yost also let Mark Guthrie bat in the sixth, and then pulled him almost immediately in the seventh. The mind, it boggles.

McCovey Cove was a madhouse, boats packed in cheek by jowl, with the occasional kayak darting in between. Police boats were constantly moving in and out, presumably reining in the more party-minded before they fell overboard or banged into another boat, and as the light faded all you could really see out there were the blue lights and the fragments of other boats they illuminated. 

Kung Fu Panda made an amazing late-inning grab on a spinning one-hopper that abruptly bounced the wrong way, and nailed the batter at first. Brandon Belt made a great snag of a shot in foul ground and made the play. Lorenzo Cain was, well, Lorenzo Cain. Fans of defense, this was the game for you.

For all the talk about the Royals' shutdown pen, the Giants' pen wasn't too shabby, either. 

Along with Lewis, Steve Perry showed up to lead the crowd in "Don't Stop Believing". This is apparently a tradition, and it's kind of awesome, watching Perry dash around the park and engage with fans while the music blares and everyone sings along. I'm just hoping they don't dedicate "Separate Ways" to Pedro Sandoval, whose contract is up after the World Series ends.

Royals fans - and there were more of them than you'd think - were clustered into tight groups around the stadium, little blotches of blue in the orange and black. The biggest one was way the hell and gone up in the right field seats, and every time the Royals did anything, the place erupted with LET'S GO ROYALS! At which point the locals would rally with LET'S GO GIANTS! and the whole thing would eventually dissolve into a mass shouting of LET'S GO FNURFHLRGHHS.

I've never been in a stadium that went from zero to insane as quickly as AT&T did that night. The place would be positively sedate - and by "sedate" I mean >30% of the audience was checking their smartphones - and then suddenly there'd be a two ball count on a Giants batter - any Giants batter, it didn't make a difference - and the place went berserk. Towels flapping, people screaming, feet stomping - it was a glorious madhouse. And when you got to ball three, well, that's the sort of insanity that the World Series is supposed to be.

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