Did you know you have a professional baseball team? It’s true. They are called the Pirates. Sounds familiar doesn’t it. Their colors are black and yellow, they play in a beautiful riverfront stadium and tickets are cheap. Tickets are dirt cheap. When I went on-line to find tickets the the season ender last Wednesday afternoon upper-deck seats were starting around 50 cents. 50 CENTS! You, literally, cannot buy a pack of gum for that.
Now I admit, the seasons haven’t gone the way you’ve liked. The team has let you down in the past. Some years they’ve just plain stunk. But they aren’t half bad now. I’m from Wisconsin. I have some idea of what it feels like to cheer for a loser of a team. A team that just can’t figure it out. Then one day something happens. A player comes along who isn’t that bad, then another, then a young guy out of the farm system works out, and all of a sudden you’re competing for a pennant. Maybe you win and maybe you don’t, but it sure is worth it when your team finally crests. You can wear your ball cap with pride. Puff your chest out a little further in October (now November).
All I’m saying is think about it. Not too many cities get a pro ball club in their town.
Now onto more important things.
Jason Grilli is a middle-relief pitcher for the Pirates. He is 6’5” and 225 lbs. He’ll be 36 in November. His season stats were not terrible but not great. That holds true for most of his career. He wears #39. Until Wednesday I had never heard of him.
Kathy F. is an usher at PNC Park. She holds down section 138 in the bleachers. She’s always busy wiping down a seat, pointing out the restrooms, cracking a joke and making sure nothing too mischievous happens in her section. Maybe a little mischievous, but not too mischievous. Until Wednesday I had never heard of her either.
After the last regular season game against the Braves, Wife and I stood for a moment by the outfield railing looking out. There is something melancholic knowing that no more baseball would be played this year. Players were meandering out of the bullpen’s headed for the clubhouses behind the dugouts. A long trail of players trudging towards the plate, carrying gym bags with gloves, cleats and baseballs in them. One player broke ranks and started speed-walking straight for us. He pointed past us to Kathy as he walked and she met him at the rail. He reached up and enveloped her in a big bear hug. It was a quick motion with no hesitation, and Kathy’s face had shock written all over it. Then he took his hat off and placed it in her hands. He was saying something to her, but I honestly couldn’t hear what he said. Then, just like that, he was gone. Back towards the dugout with the rest of the guys.
Kathy looked around at the half dozen of us, speechless at first, then filled with staccato-like bursts of excited utterings as she showed everyone the hat. She pointed out the inside where it Jason’s number and initials were written in black marker. Finally, she collapsed onto the front row bleacher bench, still reeling a bit with surprise.
I don’t know what Jason said to Kathy. I don’t know if they chatted throughout the season, or if she snuck him a hotdog into the dugout, or if he just wanted to recognize someone who he saw most days near the bullpen putting in a days work. I do know that he made Kathy F. feel special and the rest of us feel as if maybe not all ballplayers are over-paid, self-indulgent schmucks. And as we walked away from Kathy and her new ball cap I realized I already can’t wait till next year.