August 24, 2010
"Clearly, baseball was always intended in our very essence; without it, our humanity was incomplete."
— David B. Hart
You got what David Hart calls your "oblong games," those played on a rectangle within a fixed time frame whereby two sides attempt "to penetrate the other’s territory to deposit some small object in the other’s goal or end zone." And then there’s baseball performed upon a more perfectly calibrated field of play with no time limit.
Actually, it mattered little from a perch way down the third-base line just above the confluence of the outfield grass and the warning track that the physical action being played out at Spring Mobile Ballpark was minimal at best.
Not to say that the game was not afoot, that intricate tactical strategies were not being subtly altered with each pitch. But to the casual fan who wasn’t attempting to interpret signals between the managers on the bench and either the catcher or third-base coach and from them to batters, base runners, and position players, it must have been somewhat difficult to maintain interest. With neither team able to solve the opposing pitcher, action was as scarce as cheap suds.
But to the initiated, those with the inside scoop on the progressive intricacies that make up our wondrous national pastime, just hanging out at one of America’s most beautifully situated ballparks is satisfying enough. Hits and runs are icing on the cake.
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It’s about pondering the imponderable while the geometric tacticians in those quaint uniforms play out their intricately evolving contest down on the field. There is also time, of course, for peanuts, Crackerjacks, the occasional unfiltered wheat beverage, and slippin’ down to a pair of empty seats overlooking the pitcher’s mound.
Earlier in the afternoon there had been the relatively short jaunt up the Center Creek drainage of the Heber Valley to where Smokey and his hunting buddies annually set up their base camp for the archery season. This bunch plays out their own subtle games with each other while their quarry is busy grabbing a midday power nap before both resume their evening rituals. Zingers and one-liners soar like arrows at 9,000 feet.
Meanwhile, back along the third-base line, the pitching duel between the Sacramento River Cats and our Salt Lake Bees continues to roll along, interrupted only by strikeouts and the occasional ground ball to a yawning infielder. Until, that is, the decision is made that my turn to check in with the beer vendor has once again come around.
Of course it would be during this interval that most of the hits and all of the runs of the visiting squad’s 3-to-nothing shutout of the home team would take place. That’s OK! In the meantime I was able to learn about the ongoing issues the guy running the keg tap was having with his cash register. Hey, I felt his pain!
Actually, it was my turn to get the short end of the stick. The entire week had been epic, to say the least. Making a wrong move had proved quite impossible. Tuesday had me joining twenty-some mostly hard-core Dylan aficionados from my peer group front-and-center at Deer Valley for yet one more great show in the bard’s recent series of Utah stops.
Like baseball, Dylan’s shtick plays out with more than a few eccentricities of its own. The more one brings to the table, the easier "it" is to "get." It certainly helps if you have at least a passing familiarity with his immense body of work. You wouldn’t want the line "Something’s happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?" to apply to you.
Thursday featured both a relatively violent midday thunderstorm and an exquisitely performed evening concert down at Red Butte Garden by longtime Park City favorite John Prine. Although Prine’s songs, for the most part, are probably more easily accessed than Dylan’s, they are of a similarly quirky character-driven nature.
Back at the ol’ ballgame, however, with the moon over the Wasatch waxing nearly full beyond the left-field wall and the equally quirky Bees offense continuing to wane against the River Cats, another Hart axiom lingers: "Comparing baseball to even the most complex versions of the oblong game is like comparing chess to tiddlywinks."
Maybe that’s the L.A. Dodgers problem this year. They probably confused the hit-and-run with the "Sicilian Defense." At least that’s how it looks from the third-base line.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.