Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of fulfilling every father’s dream… taking my son to his first Major League Baseball game. O’Connell Trio made the journey to Nationals Park to see our hometown team (that would be the Washington Nationals) take on the visiting Marlins of Miami. Though the game was a loss for the Nats I couldn’t have imagined a finer experience. Prophecy fulfilled.
Of course my thoughts went to my own first MLB game, just a few years ago and a few miles up the road. It was August 25, 1990, and the scene was Yankee Stadium. I was eight years old, same age as my son now, though that’s about where the similarities end. Well, there was one other, but more on that later.
When I was a kid (that’s going to be a theme here) neither the Nationals nor the Marlins existed. There were no teams in Washington or the entire state of Florida. I saw the Yankees play the Brewers that afternoon, and no it wasn’t interleague play. Interleague play wasn’t a thing then; the Brewers played in the American League. One of seven teams in the AL East. (Six divisions of five teams each now.)
When I was a kid you showed paper tickets to get into the park. I’m not even sure how we got the things. Mailed away for them? Stood in a line? Took our chances with a scalper in the parking lot? Yesterday I had the “tickets” on my phone, on something called the Ballpark App, on which I could also buy team merchandise or anything from the concession stand. Anything. I think at my first game I had a hot dog. Yesterday Franklin ordered fried shrimp and my wife got a lobster roll. Yup. To be fair she also went old school with a lemonade, though while the lid still had the hole for a straw, getting a straw in 2022 is about as likely as Shoeless Joe Jackson getting a lobster roll. The no-straw thing was about my only complaint. Any other problem I had was easily solved using the Ballpark App. Just text your issue and an attendant will come to your seat. Or deliver what you ordered from the souvenir shop.
Just like the old days.
But there was a bit of continuity from my first game to Franklin’s, an amazing coincidence showing the seamless through-the-years transition of our national pastime.
Both games featured my favorite player of all time, Don Mattingly… sitting on the bench.
Yeah, for my first game in 1990 Mattingly was out with a back injury, the famously afflicted back that kept Mattingly from duplicating his ’80s dominance into the era in which I actually went to the games.
But it hasn’t kept him from managing.
And yesterday afternoon, there he was, again on the bench, manager for the Miami Marlins.