Last night we went to the New York Yankees.
This was our first baseball game. We went with our neighbours and some of their baseball-fanatic friends so we didn’t just spend three hours just eating (amazing) crinkly fries, foot-long hot dogs and sliders and drinking Miller Lite, watching men with tight buns.
Of course, that is not a bad way to spend an evening but there were some pretty exciting things going on on the field too.
The Yankees – who, with their navy blue pin stripes, surely are the nattiest dressers in the league – were up against the Baltimore Orioles, who apparently are doing better than the Yankees this season so it’s important that we, yes we, whopped their asses.
Alex Rodriguez (aka: A Rod, aka: former squeeze of Madonna and Cameron Diaz) was playing as Designated Hitter.
From what I can tell, this means that the player is so good that this particular team member doesn’t have to tire himself out with any pesky fielding activities and only comes out for the hero-winning big hits. It’s kind of a honour.
To add to his A-man status, A Rod was wearing the team’s jazzy 1920s-style plus fours (the rest of the team were rather boringly in regular long trousers), which I should imagine is a bit like a straight man wearing pink – only the ones who are really assured of their masculinity do it.
As Todd, the baseball fanatic and fact man we went with said, when you earn a quarter of a billion dollars a year, you can wear what you damn well like. Yes that is right folks, $250 million of crisp green backs per annum. Whisssstle.
Also on the field was Mariano Riviera, a legend so great – one of the best pitchers in the world (which actually means in the U.S. – because the rest of the world don’t play baseball, but anyway…) – that he came only in the 7th inning (there were 9) and ran across the field to a standing ovation to his own song, Enter the Sandman by Metallica.
He’s one of the greats, with a 12-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, he is MLB’s all-time leader in saves (608) and games finished (892), (thanks Wikipedia).
I don’t know what any of that actually means really, but dude, the guys got his own song.
‘Mo’ too seem to have reached such legendary heights that he only has to play a bit of the game.
So there was I thinking, well these baseball players have it easy, with their billion dollar pay checks, short play times, celebrity dates and natty outfits. Until Todd pointed out that there are six games a week, every week from April until October. That’s a lot of games in anyone’s book. It’s not like they sprint around for an hour and a half like they do in soccer, but the game doesn’t have the same stop-start beefy lethargy of American football either.
So here are the (very) basic rules, as I’ve gleaned them (true baseball fans might want to look away now):
- Baseball is basically a cross between of cricket and rounders. It is scored like cricket, with innings and wide/no balls (which are called simply ‘balls), and runs but looks like rounders (with meaner bats).
- There are nine innings, in which the pitching (fielding) team must try to get the batting players out, by either catching a ball or striking a ball, or by picking up a hit ball and throwing it to your team-mate on a base before the batsman can get there.
- Striking a ball is when the batter misses three times consecutively (three strikes and you’re out!). The strike zone is much smaller than in cricket – from the kneecaps to about the belt area, which is why it looks like the ball is being thrown so low.
- A player on base has to run if another player wants his base, so the team have to keep moving. It’s perilous being on base for another reason too – if someone is caught out, then every player on a base is also out.
- You can also be tagged out – like in ‘tag’ at school; if you are chased and touched with either the ball or a glove holding the ball as you run between bases.
Other rules are:
- When the sweaty guy selling beer says ‘last orders’, he’s lying (but buy one anyway; $9, ouch)
- Monkey nuts are the best-value snack in the stadium ($5, huge bag)
- People who learn the words to YMCA before they go to a game will achieve greater audience participation satisfaction
- When you have your own song and a standing ovation every time you walk on field, you’ve hit the big time, baby