Friday, August 29, 2008

Ballpark Grandness

There's a moment unlike any other in baseball for me. It's when I walk into a ballpark for the very first time. Coming through the tunnel, or through the doors, or out from underneath the overhang of the deck above. It's the moment when I can see the inside of the park from the inside of the park. All of it.

Each of my 18 times I've entered a ballpark for the first time (Oakland Coliseum excluded since I grew up with it), I had previously seen the park on TV or in photos a million times. I had developed a flavor for the feeling of the park - a grossly distorted one. But a distorted feeling that only lends to the grandness of the park itself from how it really looks and feels. Television and photographs give a distorted sense of the horizontal. Especially the depth dimension. The vertical dimension isn't distorted much at all. So the overall sense is that the stands of the park are tall, yet far away. Fans sitting on the other side of the park look like ants.

But upon entering, the horizontal distortions are immediately corrected. The distant verticalness of the stands are suddenly brought up close and personal. Two opposing feelings are generated simultaneously, and mixed together. The vertical suddenly becomes more vertical, giving a feeling of extra largeness, yet the corrected closeness brings the vertical toward me, giving a feeling of greater intimacy. The mix is far more wonderful than can be expected.

My first experience with another ballpark outside the Bay Area was at Anaheim Stadium in 1985. The exterior facade from the parking lot was one thing, but entering the park was another. I will never forget walking into that tunnel. I caught a glimpse of the stands on the opposite side of the park. But all I had was tunnel vision of that group of seats. It was so much closer than I could have imagined! Then, breaking out of the end of the tunnel brought the whole ballpark into my sight, overwhelming me with a grandness and intimacy that would be experienced another fifteen times to this date. I love ballparks.

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