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Recent wisdom, gossip and conjecture:
How to See a Ballgame, Part II
Uff da! From the new, plush Strikethree.com offices in the heart of West Seattle, it's Baseballhead, where we feel the media has a whole lot of 'splainin' to do after John Rocker went to New York and only got a souvenir baseball.
In fact, the Braves' visit to Shea turned out to be such a non-event that papers were stuck filling space with articles about Ken Griffey arguing with his dad (imagine that!) or Father Guido Sarducci's homer-fetching Portugese water dogs in San Francisco (awwwww!). We, however, have the much-anticipated sequel to our wildly successful "How to See a Ballgame."
In that chapter I provided you with guerilla tips for getting into the park. But now that you're there, what do you do? Where's your seat? Is all the food outrageously overpriced? Are you required to buy two caps, a program, and a full meal at the ballpark, like the "Fan Cost Index" says you are? And is that weird-looking old guy wiping my seat with a dirty rag really an usher? Let's find out, shall we?
Welcome to the Pleasuredome
As you enter the park, two things will likely happen: 1) A kindly older gent will tear your ticket; 2) A younger, much less kindly gent will make you open your bag and/or feel it.
The first is pretty straightforward, except that more parks no longer tear tickets, in favor of bar code readers that instantly tell the team when you entered, which gate, what path you are likely to take to your seat, and the chances of selling you a collectible logo helmet keychain.
The second, however, is the scourge of thrifty fans everywhere, because it necessitates hiding your canned or bottled beverages either with layers of disguise, or on your physical person (there are no pat-down searches at any big-league park -- yet). This has been well documented in the famous article, "Smuggling Food," and even more strategies will follow.
The Green Mile
If you happen to be in one of MLB's newer parks, you may notice the colorful array of concession and gift stands on the way to your seats. You may also notice that your seats are an awfully long way from where you entered the grounds. These two observations are not coincidence. The goal in the new ballyards is to tempt you with food, drink, shiny baubles, and possibly even cell phones. To break your will, cloud your better judgment, and take your money.
Don't give in. Together, we can get through this.
You are about to hear the seven most important words to anyone taking in a major-league baseball game. Forget them, and may God have mercy on your soul:
Eat before you go to the game.
I will never for the life of me understand what goes through the heads of people who, after tearing through three dishes of Nachos Grande, four hot dogs, eight beers, six sodas and two deluxe helmet sundaes with extra nuts, declare a day at the ballpark much too expensive for a family anymore.
Walk around the park, especially if you arrived well before game time or if it's your first time at the park. Take in the sounds and sights, and make note of food you might want if you should get hungry later. If your park allows it (and most do), go up/down to the concourses on other levels, and see how the other half lives. Find the wacky mascot and boo it loudly (so what if kids start crying).
Back that Ass Up
With the game about to begin, it's time to find your seat. If you've followed my advice so far, you already have an idea where you'll be sitting. However, don't just charge in unless you're really sure of your section, row, and seat numbers.
Some ballparks divide their seating by sections, others by aisles, and some possibly by Disney characters. Dodger Stadium, for example, puts all the odd sections on one side of home plate and the evens on the other. If you have seats in section 26, then simply walk one down from 25 and try and kick out the people who are "in your seats," people will look at you like you flunked the $100 question on "Millionaire."
Worse, in the old Kingdome, the seats were divided by aisles, with odds on one side of the football end zone and evens on the other, with chairs 1-16 to the right of the aisle and 100-116 on the left. This is a major reason why they blew the place up.
So if you aren't absolutely certain where you're going, ask the usher. He (or she, if you're in the good seats at Chavez Ravine or Le Stade Olympique) is there to help, and you don't even have to tip -- no matter how carefully he wipes down your seat. However, the number of parks with these tip-fawning ushers is dwindling -- the worst I've seen was Tiger Stadium, where after swabbing my deck (so to speak), one usher just stood there.
Fortunately, I waited long enough that he realized those ten people at the aisle were going to get away if he didn't move fast, but I swear he gave me the evil eye a couple of times during the game.
If you notice any large view obstructions -- save the high-school basketball team seated in front of you -- look at your ticket. If it doesn't make note of the view-obstructed nature of your seat, go to the nearest "fan service" booth and raise hell. If there's another seat to be had, you'll have it. Good luck at Fenway, however.
Would'ya Like to Have Something to Eat?
At some point during the game, everyone feels like they might want some food or beverage. Let's face it, a cold beer or soda is downright necessary on a hot summer day at the ballyard. However, remember at all times that you're about to enter a world where you are at war against the Major League Baseball team running the stadium.
Your goal: eat and/or drink as thriftily as possible, while avoiding items like the "small" Coke. The team's goal: convince you that the only way to truly enjoy this sport is through conspicuous consumption.
Your secret weapon: food and beverages that you have smuggled into the park.
Fortunately, the aforementioned food smuggling article has that particular base covered. Still, there may be a reason for purchasing from the ballpark's concessions: You waited too long to eat your Subway roast beef melt, which has coated the entire bag with liquefied cheese food product; your 16-ounce Pepsi fell out of your empty Pringles container in front of park security; you fell victim to heat-induced hysteria.
Whatever the reason, almost every park has a bargain item or two, and I'm not referring to the airline-size bags of peanuts. You'll have to do some looking, and be open to various food and beverage options, but you'll find something. For example, Safeco Field has a "hidden" espresso counter that serves lattes and mochas (hot or iced) for -- gasp -- exactly what local coffee shops charge.
In many parks, the regular hot dog is a good buy (especially at Dodger Stadium or Jacobs Field), or even a great one if they supply free sauerkraut. It's like including a salad with the dog. Of course, this is considering you like sauerkraut.
Disregard the hot dog advice in Boston, where I hear they use Fenway Franks to divert traffic at highway projects. Also in Baltimore, where the cost is close to what you'd pay to keep Peter Angelos on retainer.
Ahh, I could go on forever. But we'll leave it to next time, when we'll discuss heckling, crowd participation and strategies for different types of baseball outings. Until then, get out there and see a ball game.
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