A Photo Salute to the Little Things About Baseball

night game, Louisville Bats, Victory Field, Indianapolis

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my aversion to sports… [but] a boon from my employer facilitated tonight’s very special date with my wife at fabulous Victory Field, home of the Indianapolis Indians, our local minor-league baseball team.

(We took many photos for sharing, but the night and I are no longer young. Another time for those, I think, along with the story of how I earned those free tickets…)

I later shared the story of how I earned the tickets, but tonight we present the long-missing conclusion of the Great MCC Baseball Trilogy — i.e., those photos I said I’d share. With the 2013 World Series underway this week, pitting our old pastor’s favorite team against the guys from Fever Pitch, now seemed as good a time as any to recapture that date night my wife and I spent at Victory Field. Our best photos focused largely on the ephemera surrounding the showdown between our Indianapolis Indians and the Louisville Bats. We were more intrigued by the details around the edges rather than by the game itself. We’re weird, atypical Americans like that.

That’s not to say the game didn’t have its moments. Night games in particular are fun for me at Victory Field, chiefly because this was a rare excuse for me to remember what nightlife looks like. I’m not one for barhopping or full-price matinees, and nighttime is when all the best TV shows are on, not to mention it’s my key time slot for internet typing. Diversions from routine can be invigorating, though.

Before the magic would happen and the players would clutter the field…it all began with a clean, simple diamond.

Victory Field, Indianapolis

Beyond the walls of Victory Field are the supporting surroundings — the parking garages, the meandering throngs, and the new Marriott Hotel that was erected months before Super Bowl LXVI and looks like a giant blast shield.

Victory Field, Indianapolis

After my wondrous wife at my side, my second great love at ballparks is the food. Granted, this meatball sub was actually my wife’s dinner, but the principle is sound. My footlong reuben dog was sufficiently imaginative and splendiferous.

meatball sub, Victory Field

If you arrive early, loiter up front, remain polite, and pose as a small child, players will sometimes approach and offer autographs. Here, Bats catcher Nevin Ashley says hi to the locals, who may not know him by name but respect a bona fide player, even if he’s on the opposing team.

Nevin Ashley, Louisville Bats, Victory Field

Also milling around the field: various helpers watching one guy with a hose do all the prep work. It’s a testimony to his patience that he doesn’t call them lazy and turn the hose in their direction.

field hosing, Victory Field

Our free seats weren’t close enough to take award-winning photos of actual gameplay, but we were close enough to the Bats’ side to watch them warming up. Pitcher Tim Crabbe looks a lot less blurry than several other players my wife snapped in media res.

Tim Crabbe, Louisville Bats, Victory Field

Between innings are the customary random contests, where fans are startled out of their comfort zones or drunken stupors for the chance to win prizes from something — be it seat-number drawings, T-shirt catching, or Hoosier Lottery inflatable-ball tossing. It’s fun because state-approved gambling advertising!

Hoosier Lottery ball, Victory Field

Speaking of that most pervasive of all ballpark components: those sponsor logos certainly brighten up the place as darkness falls. And electronic sign-board technology has come a long way since I was a kid. If we wanted to know how poor a player’s stats were during a certain game, we had to wait till the next day’s newspaper told us. Thanks to today’s computer wizardry, if a player is having a rough night, everyone is notified instantly. Even audience members who forgot their glasses will be kept in the loop as the shiny LEDs pierce through their myopic haze. Because when one poor guy is shut out all night long, the world must know now.

electronic sign board, Victory Field

Though we enjoyed seeing the Indians best the bats 4-3, this was only our second-favorite game of the year. A few weeks later we made a point of checking out an intramural softball game in support of a close relative. The food was nowhere as inventive, the bleachers were less cozy, and no one was dressed as an animal mascot, but it was interesting to see baseball boiled down to its core essence, free of the shiny trappings of the bigger-budgeted arena.

softball

The immediacy and the raw talent on display in this version was, I think, a little more engrossing for us. Sure, it helped that we knew one of the players. I suppose it’s all a matter of what kind of stakes you have in the game.

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