Beyond winning and losing

Another poor crowd despite inflated attendance figures.

Another poor crowd despite inflated attendance figures.

It’s a dismal season so far for our Major League Baseball team.  The Diamondbacks have lost 13 more games than they have won and, with one of the worst records in all of baseball, trail the division-leading San Francisco Giants by a whopping 15 games.  No matter.  I always find many things interesting about a baseball game.  I am not hung up on winning and losing.

So, in attending yesterday’s game at Chase Field, another loss, 6-4, to the Cincinnati Reds, I found the following points of interest:

Just getting to the ballpark was a nice experience, if nothing else than for the 10-minute ride on light-rail in  a packed car.  And I say that despite choosing to walk with Nebra one mile to the rail stop in 106-degree heat.   During the ride, I saw a young woman, perhaps homeless, traveling with a kitten on her backpack.  I asked to shoot a photo but was flatly turned down.  “Just family and friends,” her boyfriend told me.  Then he had the gall to sit down across from me and ask, “Did you shoot a photo?”

“No,” I said.

“Are you telling me the truth?”

A franchise living in the past:  replica of Matt Williams, star of 2001 World Series champs

A franchise living in the past: replica of Matt Williams, star of 2001 World Series champs

“I’m telling you the truth.”  That seemed to settle his nerves.  It dawned on me he and his girlfriend were on the lam and feared they would be identified should the photo be bandied about.  He tried to be friendly then asked where I was going, who was playing who and what team I was rooting for.

“I usually root against the home team,” I said, speaking truth again.

Another point of interest lay outside the ballpark.  In 1998, at the end of the Dbacks inaugural season, I bought a commemorative brick to be placed in a section of the plaza for my son.  It says, “That’s my boy, Rhett, 1998.”  So I tapped my toe twice on the brick for good luck, as I usually do, noting that the writing was not worn away by the thousands who have no doubt trod over it in the ensuing 16 seasons.

Point #3.  Although I held season tickets for the team’s first five years, 1998-2002, and have warmed seats all over the huge stadium, this was the first time, I had sat in what is called a Club Box.  The Box seats, while located up high between the Upper and Lower Decks, offer great views.  The price is $48 per, but our seats were free.  A friend of Nebra’s had given tickets to her.  A food menu was stuffed into a cup holder in front of me, offering the usual fare for twice the price you would pay by walking down to the concession area.  That covers tax and service charge but tipping is extra.  We bypassed the service, and Nebra, feeling extra hungry, walked a floor down in one of the middle innings to by a hot dog for herself and bring back my usual, “Chicken Tenders & Fries,” which some call the “best buy” in the ball park.   My chicken dish costs $8.  In the days of old, I recall paying half that much.

An added attraction for our seats in Section 208 was that it was a magnet for foul balls.  Not that I came close to one.  A great amenity, though, if you are into that sort of thing.  But we were too high up for free T-shirts thrown up from 30 feet below.

What it looks like from a Club Box seat.

What it looks like from a Club Box seat.

Point #5 of interest.  I was able to shoot a long-distance photo of the budding Dbacks star, A. J. Pollock, with a cast on his left hand.  He was hit by a pitch the night before, resulting in a broken hand.  I took the shot before the game as he stood in a far corner of the dugout with TV cameras trained on him and, I suppose, questions being asked.  He may miss two months of action, all but killing any hopes the Dbacks have for a miraculous revival.

The game itself was entertaining.  Close at least.  And the fact that the Reds scored all their runs on solo home runs off pitcher Wade Miley, who has a reputation for throwing home-run balls while otherwise pitching fine games.

Another point, #7, was attendance.  Late in the game, someone announces the official attendance over the PA system.  Today it was 24,000 plus, the voice said.  The official attendance, however, is based on paid attendance, and includes tickets sold to corporate sponsors whose seats go empty much of the season.  The real attendance is the turnstile count, which measures actual interest in the team.  As you enter the ballpark, an attendant takes your ticket and scans the bar code with a hand-held device, all before you push through a bar on a gate called the turnstile.  Every time the bar turns it records someone entering the ballpark.  Add all the turnstile counts together and you have the number of people who are sitting in the stadium for a particular game.

Many of these players on line-up board will not return in 2015.

Many of these players on line-up board will not return in 2015.

The problem is the Dbacks and other MLB teams refuse to give those numbers to the media, which like chimps report the inflated number — the paid attendance.  Like today.  I estimated the ballpark about one-fourth filled and, so, an actual attendance of 12,000, half of what the Dbacks reported over the PA.  That inflated number is also the one you will read at the bottom of box scores under “A -.”

The Dbacks usually unshaven manager, Kirk Gibson, lumbered out to the mound several times on this day to change pitchers, and I’m assuming he won’t be doing that much longer than this season.  A few weeks ago, the Dbacks hired Hall of Fame manager, Tony LaRussa, to figure out what is wrong with the baseball side of the franchise and virtually gave him the keys to the palace.  So Gibson’s days seem numbered and this might be the last time I see him live, ambling with his stiff gait on the field.

And finally, point #9.  The Reds brought in their ace closer, Aroldis Chapman, to save the game in the 9th inning.  Chapman is a big lefthander who throws the baseball as hard or harder than anyone in the game.  In an era when pitchers are considered hard throwers by a speed of 95 mph, Chapman humiliates them with his triple-figure tosses.  He twice hit 102 mph in striking out the finals three Dback batters.  Chapman alone is worth the prize of admission.

A poster of manager Kirk Gibson.  Will he be gone before season ends?

A poster of manager Kirk Gibson. Will he be gone before season ends?

For the poor Dbacks, it was their third loss in a four game series with the Reds.  But it didn’t make any difference to me.  I enjoyed the afternoon immensely.










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