It was not until about 11:30 AM, yesterday, that I decided I was going to attend the game. The long and short of it is that I was helping my Dad out in the garage when I was asked by a woman from Catalonia who is living in the area as an au pair if I would attend with her. I had to really think about this. There have been a lot of sad games I've attended and wrote about lately, I was already going on Monday as well, etc. It's baseball, though. It's Safeco on the weekend and I knew that the atmosphere would be fun with the Blue Jays in town. We head to the game and I pick up five other au pairs as well, all new to the States and from abroad. In total, three from Catalonia, one from Mexico, another from Germany, and one from the Netherlands. In total, they have watched a cumulative zero at-bats of baseball.
I revert to when my family first had our exchange student arrive from Paraguay when I was in high school, speaking phrases I know translate pretty easily in the head. I speak decent Spanish but don't need it. If you haven't read it yet, Matt wrote a phenomenal recap of the game and all it's wild events, but the seven of us arrive to the game exactly as a small child yells "Play Ball!" in to a microphone. I'm a little sad, I wanted them to see and hear the anthem before it all begins. That's part of the experience.
I have zero time to explain the rules of the game before it begins, no paper, no nothing; I determine that I'm going to need some beer. By the time we've settled in the Pen, beers in hand. There have already been two solo home runs and Taijuan is falling apart in the top of the 2nd. I'm torn between caring about that, and answering a million questions. Where do you start with a game that has so many layers? Balls/strikes? Innings/outs? Positions? I land on the innings/outs idea. Tai balks a run home, I just avoid that, tabling it for later.
There are so many unique words to baseball that I have to reverse translate in my head what will land with them, but I'm also incapable of throwing this together in Spanish. One of the Catalan women is picking this up fast while Tai is letting the score inflate just as quickly. "What is an out?" I'm asked. I really don't know what to say. It seems like a very philosophical question.
Three outs for each team, every inning. You get twenty-seven outs in total but the teams change who is on offense and defense after each three. Nine innings. There are four bases, you have to touch them in order to score. An out is after three strikes or the ball is caught in the air from the hitter or the ball reaches the base before the hitter gets there. You start to see the problem. Explaining the game in the context of a live, in-person account is rather difficult. Almost every rule of the game has a "but" attached and it gets messy fast. And then there's the strikezone. Foul vs. fair. I'm explaining the most complicated game imaginable to a group of people who are used to watching Barcelona play soccer. Was he off-sides or on-sides? How many goals did we win by? A triple play that hasn't happened since 1955 goes down. I throw my hands up because that would take me more than ten minutes to explain just to some random kid from Woodinville.
The game wears on and we're losing but I don't care, yet. It's the middle of the game and they have essentially stopped scoring. Judit asides to me, "This part is sort of boring, no?" I smile, "You have no idea." In the context of a game that had so much action, I'm thankful this isn't a 2-0 affair. One of the Catalan women wants to buy a shirt, but can't decide who to get. I recommend Nelson Cruz. There are so many away fans that I'm asked if Bautista is our best player. They accidentally clap along during a "Let's Go Blue Jays" chant, I warn them of the error, they then enthusiastically chant "U-S-A" when the times come. I swell with pride. They rise during "God Bless America" as it is sang the stretch, it's Sunday, after all. I have to explain that this isn't the Anthem.
We settle in some seats on the first level by the right field foul pole. For once, the Safeco ushers let some people take seats they don't have tickets for. I decided I need to start bringing more foreigners to this game. We were given free beer because of it, free seats, too. Safeco gained the Mariners six new fans because of their generosity. The seats allow me to really explain the game pitch-by-pitch. We get in to base-stealing after we see a few pick-off attempts, tagging up, deeper mechanics are discussed. I learn that in Spain there is a pick-up game the kids play called "Pitchy". It sounds like a mix between baseball and cricket and ten more bases. It provides leverage to discuss finer details.
There is one thing, though, that I would wager most non-baseball fans know about the sport: The Home Run. We've already experienced a couple as a group, but not while sitting in seats watching. "I don't think I will get a shirt, none of the players are good enough." Sandra is messing with me. Nelson Cruz steps to the plate with Kyle on base. He absolutely blasts a ball, upper deck left field. I don't have to explain a thing. The game is tied again. I get the chance to explain extra innings.
"Technically, this can go on forever." Probably not the words they were hoping for, it's the middle of the 10th and they are losing steam. Much has happened, the roof closed, the excitement early on gave way to some casual middle innings and then Nelson tied the game, but that momentum felt lost by the bottom of the 10th. I'm hoping so hard for a walk-off win, not just for myself, but so that they can see the excitement that really defines baseball. Hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror, that's the game, but shit, that's life, too. I let them know that at any point, if a Mariner hits a home run, the game is over. They yell for this outcome.
The rest, you all saw, or have heard by now. Franklin Guitierrez steps to the plate, falls to 0-2 (at this point, Judit is counting balls and strikes with me) and then he swings. Right off the bat I know it's gone, I have zero question. But what surprises me are the new fans around me, six of them, who rise in their seats, too. They have no context of the story of Guti, what that meant for us all. If the Seattle Mariners were a novel, they had read the equivalent of the inside cover, yet they stand and yell, like me. We are the same, then. We revel the same, we feel the emotion the same.
Before I go there, I wanted to paint that image. Sports span language, they span boundaries, they touch our soul in a place we reserve commonly for those closest to us. Heartbreak, elation, even the dullness and numbness of life, these are all emotions we attribute to our lovers, or to our favorite sports team. Seven newly-met people, six of whom speak the language we are all conversing in as a second language, enjoying a game that those same six folks are watching for the first time. We are euphoric and Franklin Gutierrez is literally flying between first and second. This feeling is why we follow sports, why we love baseball, why this site even exists in the first place. Everybody knows what a home run means. What it meant yesterday was a lot more than any of us expected.