My wife's parents (I hate the word 'in-laws,' it insinuates that the only reason you associate with them is because of some law that makes you, I like mine) invited us to a Columbus Clippers game last night and we had a great time. The stadium, Huntington Park I think it's called, is perfect; clean and happy, bustling and cheery, the sight-lines are great and there isn't a bad seat in the place.
Ours were about six or seven rows behind the visiting team's dugout, in the game last night, The Lehigh Valley IronPigs. It's true. We'd had our obligatory hotdogs/brats, our drinks were in the cupholders, popcorn in hand.
The boys have gloves and we are casually chatting about shagging a foul or two and, where we are on the third base line, this is a real possibility. The third, perhaps, inning comes around and Nick sort of notices that some kids are runnung down the aisle and trying to get the ball at the end of The IronPigs defensive inning, when they come in with the ball. The boys don't really understand this... yet.
Enter an unforgettable teddy bear of a character in the guise of a bad-ass looking biker dude, henceforth and forever in my mind, "Harley Dude." He has a on Harley Davidson shirt with torn off sleeves, a bandana on his head, jeans and boots and, I just shouldn't say this but I am going to, is holding what is arguably one of the ugliest babies I have ever seen in his calloused, over-sized hands. He's is maybe my age, fifty or so, and his playful icy blue eyes are those of someone who has had a long, difficult and eventful life. I suspect the baby is his grandson. He is glowing with pride.
For some reason he overhears the boys discussing their hopes of getting a ball, and, being full of parental well-being (and a Bud Light or two) he engages the boys in conversation. The writer in me wishes I'd heard and noted everything said, but, I didn't. You see, the boys had moved over a few seats and were sort of liking the fact that it felt like they were at a game alone, so I was trying to just let them be.
Now, of course, I note the fact that they are talking to Harley Dude, I had actually looked at him as they were and his laughed lined playful eye had winked at me and I had winked back at him. International Dad code for "everything's cool, right?"
After some explaining from Harley Dude, they know what to do. He tells the boys that he will tell them when to go down for the ball and does, they go down and are unsuccessful, but understand how it works now. A little later Nick gets one robbed from what I understand, and however, finally scrambles for one, stretched out on the roof of the dugout after a bit of a scuffle in a later inning.
As he comes up the aisle, he gets a high five from sincerely delighted Harley Dude, who mouths to Marci: "I am so proud of him." You have to realize that many of the other fans have been watching, listening, engaging and otherwise involving themselves in this little drama as it is unfolding before them and they are all visibly pleased that N got one.
So now Nick has a ball and Zack does not, Harley Dude has to go and, as he stands, I shake hands with him, give him an affectionate pat, and thank him. He smiles, the baby smiles, the girl he is with smiles, my in-laws smile, the boys smile, hell, the whole damn section is beaming. But, who will help them get a ball now?
Not to worry, Orange-Shirt Guy steps up. He is a row behind Harley Dude and has seen everything. Well, he takes the boys down to the dugout, telling them that this is how he always gets balls, and begins to shout at the IronPigs, trying to get the attention of "number seventeen." I didn't really get it, but I could only guess that he knew someone down there, or... I don't know.
Just as he seems about to get the attention of an IronPig, the usher comes down, smiling, and shoos them all back into their seats, the end of that attempt. Still, there are a couple of innings left to try the Harley Dude method.
Finally, in the seventh, they go down and give it their best, shouting, jostling a little, but Blue-shirt-front-row-Dude ends up with it. He has seen them trying and turns to Nick and asks him if it wants it, Nick hesitates and I quickly get up and rush down to explain that N already has one but his twin needs one. Without hesitation he hands it to Zack who beams with delight. All is well in their world.
Everyone around has been following all of this and there is a collective sigh as twin parity has been reached. Everyone is smiling, happy, nodding at one another knowingly and generally feeling pretty good about the whole thing.
As well they should. I felt good about the whole thing, too. In fact, my faith in my fellow man was rekindled, my faith in decency and fairness, goodness and goodwill, and our collective ability to shine was renewed as well.
Thanks Harley Dude. Thanks Orange-Shirt Guy. Thanks Blue-shirt-front-row-Dude. It was like a baseball game in Mayberry thanks to you guys. You respected and celebrated these boys in a way that cannot be forgotten; you cherished them, you showed them community, grace and honor.
The IronPigs won, but I was watching a better game.
You know what? We all won.