The cappuccino Linda ordered from Cafe Milano felt warm in her hand this cool, typical, June morning. They had woken up a little earlier than usual for a day with no classes to make sure they crossed the Bay Bridge before lunchtime traffic hit. There was always traffic. Their little flat on Haste Street seemed nearly a stones-throw from the stadium, yet sometimes the commute would take what felt like days. But that was all okay now. School was finally out for the summer and Linda was beginning to feel the weight lift off of her shoulders. Today, June 16th, was an important day for her. It was one of the few days that had a notation on her 2015 yearly calendar. This was the afternoon she got to see her favorite baseball team in her new hometown.
During her first year as a PhD candidate in pomology at UC Berkeley, Linda had found it difficult adjusting to the Bay. Sure, SF had In 'N Out and a full slew of top-rated restaurants, but she couldn't really find the soul of it. There were beautiful places to visit: Napa, Point Reyes, Big Sur, and even Tahoe was close enough. Maybe it was just because she was new to the area. Yet, driving the Bay Bridge over Treasure Island, she found herself finding the view quite beautiful. It wasn't cold, but it wasn't yet warm either. The sun was out, and the water below sparkled with the sort of brilliance she remembered from a time now long past. It wasn't that long ago.
She checked the weather of the city up north that she had so badly wanted to visit this week. It was beautiful. It's mid June in Seattle and the weather is phenomenal. It made sense, of course. The plan she had proposed months ago was quickly nixed. A split series vacation, watch one game between their two favorite teams in San Francisco, and then take a long weekend in Seattle to catch another. A family barbeque in Walnut Creek had taken precedence for her co-pilot. Gabe was driving, playing his music through his phone. She now looked over at him, a sideways glance he was genetically predisposed to miss. This was the second time he was putting on that hack, soulless version of "Wagon Wheel" by the guy who sang "Let Her Cry". Gabe was oblivious to subtlety and decent music.
With her own phone out, Linda decided it was time to put on some of her own music.
"Can I put on a song or two, G?"
Gabe was startled awake from day-dreaming about dogwood flowers and the girl he took to prom Junior year. Gabe didn't even know what the hell a dogwood flower looked like.
"What do you wanna play?" Gabe already knew the answer.
"Hand me the cord and you'll just find out."
"Can it not be Kanye?"
Linda loved the music of Kanye West. But she also respected his unabashed self-appreciation. She felt that in a generation full of people afraid to present themselves authentically, Kanye did so with great aplomb. Gabe, however, disliked Kanye in the same way that a St. Charles Terrier still yips and yaps at a passing deer. It was an innate tip of the cap to a meaningless past. A grudge held over a genius for an event bearing no weight on Gabe's own being. Something-something Taylor Swift didn't deserve that.
As Gabe's 2014 Dodge Charger eased across the Bay Bridge to the sounds of "Devil in A New Dress" and a parking spot was found, the clock turned 11:15. The couple walked from a well-found parking spot up to the gates of AT&T Park and paused a brief moment to catch the glorious feeling of watching baseball in the summer sun. Linda's first time catching a game in the Bay would be a beautiful game, she could feel it. This would be the first time she saw the Mariners play since she left Seattle.
She had looked at the lineup. Scrolling through her Twitter feed this morning felt more purposed than usual. She was forced in to cracking a smile when she saw who had gotten the nod to play shortstop on her first day reuniting with her favorite squad. The Dreamboat. His name sounded through her head with the same authority as Ajax Major. Brad Miller, a name Homer would have written in glory. The usual suspects were also there: Cano, Seager, and Zunino. James Jones, "Jimmy" to her, was playing in center. This brought a smile to her face. High socks were so ridiculous looking, especially when topped by the tight pants that these professional athletes were forced to wear. The new boys she wasn't so used to yet. Seth Smith sounds like the name of the dude who half-assed my cappuccino this morning. Even that first basemen who looked like Skeletor was scheduled to play. J.A. Happ was starting, and hitting.
Walking up to the stadium always bears with it a certain anticipation. For a game that is played in such drips and drizzles, baseball has a peculiar way of building atmosphere. They had bought the tickets for this game well in advance, the third base side. The way she became accustomed to watching the Mariners when she first moved to Seattle for school. It was 11:30.
"Do you want to grab a bite or just walk around a bit, babe." Gabe asked with sincere intent of making sure that Linda would enjoy this game, knowing that it was perhaps the highlight of her summer, and he had some making-up to do with the family barbeque.
"Let's walk for a bit. It's so damn nice out." She wasn't hungry and the Sun was glorious. They had grabbed a little bite at Cafe Milano. Scones have a certain way of filling one up. They took their time, AT&T was beautiful despite the apparent obstacle course that the designers had created in the outfield. The water beyond right field was picturesque. Beers out near left field beget their eventual pilgrimage to their seats.
The first inning passed unceremoniously as the sun warmed up the stadium more and more. The day was turning in to a real stunner. Linda couldn't stand the fog, but there seemed to be no worry of it today. Gabe had taken to flipping through the program he had grabbed on the way in, looking intently at the rosters of both squads, as if he could learn some information there.
"When did the Mariners get Austin Jackson?"
Linda honestly didn't know. He had appeared like some sort of specter in the middle of last season. She hadn't had much time to follow the team this year, but knew they weren't doing as well as anyone had hoped. She needed hope to watch baseball, and never found herself too in love with it to suffer through the pain. No, to her baseball was a means of connecting to the city she loved, and she couldn't stand to know it was hurting. The bottom of the second was beginning now that Happ had finished his warm-up throws.
"I guess it's just not Happ-ening, Lind."
Gabe was enjoying himself. Two Ballast Point Sculpins had been taken down while the couple had mingled and meandered near left field. Buster Posey, Gabe's golden boy, had singled to start the inning, and after a Brandon Crawford strikeout, Matt Duffy launched a two-run home run to left field. Gabe felt good. Being the sort of Giants fan that was raised an A's fan, he liked the feeling of winning, and didn't care enough about baseball to follow the painful times. Linda was resilient, however. After all, she was almost twenty-six years old and named Linda. She had tolerated plenty of scrutiny in her time. The third Sculpin in her hand was a welcome friend.
The game was passing quickly, and at the top of the 5th, the score still stood at 2-0. Just as quickly as the announcer had proclaimed that he was at-bat, Brad Miller saluted Linda's presence at the game.
Yes, the Dreamboat was alive and well, and unwilling to stand by while the Mariners rolled over on offense for another game. Their seats, close to the dugout down the third-base line provided a perfect view of Brad's solo shot to left. Linda couldn't help but yell along with a dozen or so other Mariners fans nearby. Brad was one of the reasons she felt so connected to the team. He was goofy, personable, talented, and hit home runs. Linda loved watching home runs. Gabe was sulking a bit, looking for a game that would be easy for him to follow, without any resistance.
"How about I go grab us a couple more beers?" Linda offered with sincere intent. She knew she had to raise Gabe's spirits and didn't want to have to deal with him sulking all game. You're still winning, you little baby. Besides, Linda needed a little time alone while watching the Mariners play. Gabe was a good kid, she just wasn't comfortable in his presence yet when watching a team that she felt such a certain level of intimacy towards. She took her time getting the beers.
On her way back to the seats, after the Giants had tacked on another run with an unlucky bloop single to right during the bottom of the 5th, making it 3-1 San Francisco, Linda felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. She set the beers down on the nearest ledge and checked it.
"Cano bibb night?"
What the shit? It was the number of an old friend.
"haha sorry. Cano bobblehead night? Damn autocorrect."
Of course he would. She didn't have time to deal with that right now. She was near the seats, and had to prepare for Gabe to gloat about his 3-1 lead. The top of the sixth was just about to begin.
It was then, when Robinson Cano stepped up to the plate, that she saw Gabe do the most disgusting thing she could ever imagine doing at a baseball game. He stood up, obstructing the view of the family behind them, and yelled, as loud as he could manage, "TWO THIRTY SIX! CANO! TWO THIRTY-SIX!"
Robbie preceded to pop out to center, but only then did Gabe sit down and stop yelling. Linda was mortified. The stadium had been relatviely quiet, despite the forty-thousand-plus fans in attendance, and Gabe had just forced seemingly every one of them to WATCH HIM INSTEAD OF WATCHING THE GAME. My god, I'm here with a monster. Linda was stunnded that Gabe had apparently, and quite suddenly, decided that the five-figure crowd was there not to watch baseball, but himself. This was something to take note of.
The rest of the sixth went well for the Mariners. After Nelson Cruz struckout, making two outs in the inning, Kyle Seager, "Ol' Reliable", singled to left, Jimmy Jones followed with a walk, and Brad stepped to the plate again.
A single to center scored Seager, and closed the gap on the Giants, making the game 3-2. Brad was having a great game, and Linda felt her heart swell with pride. Here was her All Star. She stood and cheered, again.
"My boys aren't going down without a fight, G!"
"It's June babe, none of this matters."
Gabe was a little hurt, and Linda decided to back off. What could you expect from a man whose idea of being socially conscious was going to The Mission to grab a burrito. Here is a man whose idea of pain was watching Pablo Sandoval go to Boston. Pain, you don't know pain. Gabe was raised in Walnut Creek, was in his second year of law at Berkeley, and imagined moving to Mountain View once he finished school. This was his idea of a lifelong trek: simply driving to Alemeda from San Jose. They settled in to a conversation about just how hot it could get without the breeze off the water as the sixth inning came to a close.
"I'm gonna go grab something to eat. You want anything, G?" Linda was hungry and it was the middle of the 7th, beer service was ending soon, and the score remained unchanged. The early morning scones had worn off by 2 o'clock.
"Sure," said Gabe, "whatever you're in the mood for I'll take."
Bratwurst was first on her mind. You could send the girl to the University of Puget Sound, but you couldn't take the Eau Claire out of the girl. It was hard for her to describe the kind of joy she was feeling while at the game. Finally seeing her team play was amazing, watching Gabe and his atrocious yelling slowly fade away, even better. She decided to take her time, and headed to grab a snow-cone.
By the time she returned with food, the bottom of the 8th had begun and the Mariners were still losing 3-2. She had done some thinking, about the "Cano bibb night" text, the fact she could still here Gabe yelling while back in the concourse, and what to do about the sunburn likely developing. The latter was the least of her problems. Still, Linda felt good about the game. Her team had hung in there, despite going down early on, and had shown just enough promise that maybe they could find another run in the game before the 9th inning ended. Tom Wilhelmsen was in to pitch, a name she remembered from when she first started watching the M's. The inning started off easy enough; Joe Panik popped out to Kyle, Pagan, after getting thrown out of the game for arguing strikes, had to have Jarrett Parker finish his at-bat, a strike out looking, and the entertainment value was there.
But then Tom got wild. Two walks in a row and a little bloop in to the outfield scored another run, making it 4-2 Giants. Gabe was visibly more relaxed now. Sure enough, the bloop single by Duffy lead to a misplayed double which would score two more runs. 6-2 Giants, bottom of the 8th.
Gabe suggested they leave the game early, with the result firmly set. Linda reluctantly agreed. While she hated leaving early, she also did not want her lasting memory of the game to be the final three outs of a loss. It was her one chance to see the Mariners for the foreseeable future, and wanted her final impression of the game to be that of hope, and not of loss. They made it to the car as the 9th inning closed. Linda was still getting updates on her phone as the game ended.
"The Giants won, 6-2," Linda said matter-of-factly. You don't know what pain is.
"There we go, boys," Gabe had found his happiness with the result firmly and finally in his favor. The man, once reduced to a pouting baby by Brad Miller, had reason to smile. The mobile above his crib was moving in the wind from an open window. He was satiated.
"I told you that we would win it all again this year," Gabe was about to go on one of his well-informed tangents and Linda zoned it out, choosing instead to listen to whatever Kenny Chesney song Gabe had playing through his phone. You're from Walnut Creek, you dunce. Not Winters.
The night went as many others did, Gabe had made reservations at the Slanted Door. It was easy tonight, as the whole town wanted to be at the basketball game. He elected staring at his phone all night instead of being there. The food was good, but cliche. They made it back to Berkeley, and had drinks at Kips, the spot where they had actually first met, it seemed like a decent enough gesture but Linda knew it was more out of convenience than memory.
Never go to graduate school mixers. Linda couldn't decide if that was her mistake or Gabe's, yet that is how this all began. Now, here she was, at 10:39 p.m., flipping through her worn out copy of "The Art of Fielding" and remembering how she got brought back in to the game of baseball by this earmarked and highlighted work of fiction. Cano Bobblehead Night.
"Babe," Gabe began while in the midst of brushing his teeth, "I just wanted to say that I'm sorry I was in a bad mood during the game. You know how I can't stand watching the Giants lose. I wish that you knew how much it hurt me. It's kinda hard to describe. And I'm sorry you guys lost, too."
The last comment was made out of a pity that Linda didn't need.
"It's June, babe," Linda said with a smirk Gabe couldn't see as she turned away and flicked off the lights, "None of this matters."