Mustard Over America: A Baseball Odyssey

 

 
July 4th, 2016. A retrospective.

Who would choose to attend a Yankee – Red Sox baseball game rather than an action packed competition between the Glens Falls Dragons and the Amsterdam Mohawks of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League? Certainly not me. Ortiz, Texeira, Sabathia pale in significance to Kintzer, Hooper, Miranda and the burgeoning stars from Colby, St. Johns, Siena and the Grand Canyon University baseball teams. And, if J P Bruno’s Bar and Grill, Chic’s Marina and the Kearny Auto Group think the Glens Falls Dragons worthy of sponsoring, well, that is good enough for me.

I drove from Brant Lake to East Field in Queensbury, capacity 7000, where for $5 I bought a general admission ticket. (The only kind). Kids’ tickets were $3 and, although I wondered why senior discounts were not offered, $5 seemed like a reasonable price. Upon entering the stadium I was welcomed by an 8 foot tall green costumed dragon, Glens Falls mascot.

On the night I chose there were only 200 fans, for reasons I still do not understand. Why does a major power like Amsterdam draw fewer fans than less important cities like Saugerties and Oneonta? In the future, I intend to research this issue. Of course, the advantage of fewer attendees assured me a seat in the third row behind home plate, a decided improvement over my last ballgame at Yankee stadium when I sat in the uppermost row of the fifth tier and not even the field was visible except for the semblance of a diamond and what appeared to be dots in four corners.

Dragon’s baseball is a family outing. Children of all ages attend and one youngster in a blue T-shirt and a green and red Dragons baseball cap raced back and forth brandishing a broken bat, injured in batting practice. (The bat, not the boy.) Players chatted with spectators and sold 50 – 50 tickets for the grand drawing. In fact, two of our children, Toby and Sam, retrieved a foul ball (captured when Sam lay on the ball to protect it from a horde of attacking spectators.) The ball was signed by a multitude of Dragons players. Sam and Toby are considering selling the ball on eBay before it is confiscated for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

I discovered the highlight of the evening at the hotdog stand. I visited the concession immediately before the game, determined to avoid the disaster of the summer before when the stand ran out of Budweiser beer in the bottom of the fifth. I debated ordering the sausage and pepper roll which cost $4.50. For $2 I could purchase a hot dog or hamburger. Considering the present volatile economy in America I opted for the $2 hot dog, thus saving $2.50, which I intend to invest and grow.

Hot dog in hand, I journeyed to the table of condiments and squeezed the yellow bottle of French’s mustard onto the hot dog. The mustard missed the hot dog and hit my hand, my shirt, and the table. That is when the defining moment, one that would make the evening memorable, occurred. In the very midst of mustarding someone shouted “Play Ball” and as 200 fans rose to their feet and doffed baseball caps, a recording of the Star-Spangled Banner wafted over East Field. This was truly Americana!

But I was left with a dilemma. What should I do? Stand at attention and stop mustarding until the anthem ended? Finish wiping the mustard off me where French’s mustard had gone awry? Buy a red and green Dragons hat so I could take it off out of respect to the ramparts red glare? An existential quandary.

Then I observed the man next to me, a rugged man in a white sleeveless T-shirt, whose beard was in danger of dripping into the mustard I had projected onto the table in my shot heard round the world.

How was my neighbor reacting to this solemn moment when our national anthem inspired the throngs at East Field on a July 4th weekend? What was the proper etiquette? I observed his every action. Nonplussed, he placed his right hand over his heart, squeezed mustard with his left-hand and sang the Star-Spangled Banner with a slight lisp since two front teeth were missing. At the concession stand a line of people waited patiently for the conclusion of The Star Spangled Banner, hopefully before the Bud ran out.

That was it. The diversity of America exhibited once again before the Dragons and the Mohawks took the field. Two hands gainfully employed, working in harmony. One hand, the designated mustard squeezer, one hand above the heart, and the Star-Spangled Banner sung in a man’s sonorous voice. What could be more American, a microcosm of this country, proving that if the cacophonous symphony of mustard and a patriotic song could co-exist there was hope for our currently troubled country.

And, in the background, Dragons and Mohawks valiantly battled on the playing field of life. (Perhaps, a slight exaggeration.) That scene symbolized what Makes America Great. No need to look further.

With deep satisfaction, and hope for the future, I returned to the daunting task of cleaning up the mustard.

 

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