Life can be difficult. Very difficult.
Like those daily decisions. Should I go to a baseball game in Dunedin (Blue Jays), Clearwater (Phillies) or Tampa (Yankees, ptui!)?
These are the times that try men’s souls.
Last week, hiding from the Maine winter in sunny Florida, I decided to investigate the Phillies for the first time. The Philadelphia team plays in Bright House Field, a wonderful, comfortable stadium right off Route 19 in Clearwater. The opponents of the day were the upstart Washington Nationals. I got there just in time to meet two gentlemen, who were visiting, naturally, from Philadelphia. I liked them right away because they had two extra tickets and offered me a $34 seat in right field.
It was a rare cold day in Section 202, high above right field. Naturally I was in short pants. But I did wear my L. L. Bean’s chamois shirt, which probably saved my life. I love baseball. Sure it was a windy 57 degrees, but it was not snowing like it was in Camden.
The goddess in front of me sat down carrying a mimosa in a champagne glass.
“They are free,” she said. “Mimosas and bloody marys.”
I hopped up to investigate what I assumed to be her hallucination.
“It’s true,” said the busy bartender. “Free from 10:30 a.m. to the first pitch.” He was so busy that he could not explain this largesse. So I took my “Mary” and went back to my seat because the first pitch (1 p.m.) was only seconds away. But I decided to return to Bright House Field, just as soon as possible.
It is a great ballpark with great sight lines and a centerfield grass section which looks like Florida’s biggest picnic area. According to the scorecard, the “seats” are only $5. I love this place.
Call me a pig, but I appreciate the Hooters girls. The park has a “Hooters” section where you get all you can eat and drink, served by beautiful young girls. I didn’t ask what it cost because I simply did not want to know. They also have Hooter Girls in right and left field, to catch foul balls.
Along about the third inning, a National batter hit a scorcher over third base, a fair ball. The Hooter girl, who shall remain nameless, calmly caught the ball and handed it to a nearby child. Unfortunately the ball was still in play and the batter got second base, free of charge.
The event was caught by the cameras, aired on national broadcasts of Sportscenter and now airs on YouTube. You can look it up. The embarrassed HG tried to hide her face in her oversized baseball glove. Too late.
On yeah. The Phillies won easily 6-3 and the game will be remembered for Phillies ace Ray Halladay throwing behind National Tyler Moore after National hurler Stephen Strasburg hit Phil Chase Utley with a pitch.
No pitcher is allowed to admit they tried to hit a batter.
“It slipped,” Halladay said of the alleged retaliatory pitch. “I mean, really, I think that’s not necessarily the case but we do need to protect our guys to an extent. I’m not saying that’s what happened. . I don’t think you want to do it but, you know, it wouldn’t have been the worst thing had it got him after getting one of our good guys.”
The two teams have a bit of beanball history: Philadelphia All-Star left-hander Cole Hamels hit Washington rookie Bryce Harper with a pitch last May, and then was suspended for five games after admitting the pitch was intentional. Big mistake. The Nationals went on to win their first East title last season, ending the Philadelphia’s five-year run atop the division. But this was spring training, after all and no one took it too seriously.
My favorite part of the game was when the monstrous Phil Ryan Howard came to bat with the bases loaded. The theme from “Phantom of the Opera” was played over the loudspeakers to rattle the pitcher but Howard grounded out weakly to end the inning. I liked that.
The menu at Bright House Field appeared endless, with Philly cheese steak (natch), blintzes and pretzels the size of your head. Thirsty? Beer is everywhere, of course. If you missed the free Bloody Marys, you can visit the stand which featured 100 beers from around the world or visit Frenchy’s Pavilion in left field where precious little attention is paid to baseball.
I shall be back to Bright House Field as soon as possible. I am a Phillies fan now.