Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Batting Practice

I used to catch batting practice quite often. I'd get out there when the gates opened two hours before the game. I don't know why, but the A's and Giants have always opened the gates two hours before game time. Of all other cities I've visited, I can't recall any of them opening gates any earlier than an hour and a half before game time. Why so late?

Showing up early at the park is just magic when the crowd is going to be small. There's a peace and quiet to be enjoyed, even with the music playing during BP and infield. The home team always took BP first, and were on the field when the gates opened. Teams switched after a bit, and the visitors could be seen taking full BP. A lull found itself between BP and infield. More quiet. Some times during BP, pairings of power hitting players might hit a number of homers, even quite a few in the case of, say, Canseco and McGwire. Most teams had weak hitting players so there wasn't great urgency to shag balls, but a glove on at all times was the norm.

After infield, the ground crew dragged the infield and applied the chalk for the batter's box and base lines. Many players did wind sprints. Alfredo Griffin was one such player. I used to yell at him, "Aaaaaaal-Freeeeee-Dooooooo!" He took to giving me a small wave behind his back each game, telling me how he appreciated it. Finally, one game he sent out a bat boy to the bleachers to give me a bat. Unbroken, black bat with pine tarred tape. I had him autograph it a few years ago. It's been a long while since I've been that early at a game. Maybe soon.

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