A funny thing happens when you move across the country – your life changes. You leave behind everything you knew for the unknown, for adventure, for… work. In a matter of days, you become a citizen of a new town, make new friends, find a new favorite watering hole. It’s all different. The people are a little wacky, the bugs are enormous, and the weather is weird.
But as you drive around town and check out your new stomping grounds, you happen upon a spot of dense traffic, cursing under your breath that you didn’t find an alternative route. Finally the traffic breaks and you see what caused the backup – a baseball stadium. Droves of people file into the parking lot, and the smoke from the tail-gater’s barbecue wafts through the air. You decide to pull in, pay the $10 fee for parking, and buy a ticket off a scalper. The price may be a little hefty, but at this point it doesn’t matter. An unseen force is pulling you into that ballpark.
You maneuver your way around the park and find your seat – all the way at the top row of the upper deck – and have a seat. The smell of Nathan’s kosher all-beef hotdogs hits your nostrils and the shroud is lifted. The reason that ballpark was irresistible is because even though your life is changing at breakneck speeds, baseball remains constant.
You go grab a hotdog and a beer ($15 for a hotdog and beer? Yowza.) and on the way back you see someone wearing a Cubs shirt. You’re not even at a Cubs game! The Cubs are nowhere near here! But you’ve found one of your own! Naturally, the both of you hit it off and chew the fat for a few minutes.
When you get back to your seat, the people around you empathize with you about being a Cubs fan, even though they never have had endured the pain of the Billygoat curse. For a moment, nothing has changed. Everything is perfect and right in the world.
The next batter hits a double down the line and the infield dirt leaves little puffs behind his cleats as he hustles into second base. Amid the dust and tangle of bodies at second base, the umpire signals “safe!” and the stadium roars to life. Which two teams are playing, again? You can’t remember, but it doesn’t matter. Baseball is baseball the world over.
The sun begins to descend toward the horizon and long shadows are cast on the infield. Visions of Wrigley dance across your mind as the shortstop tosses the ball and the first baseman scoops it perfectly out of the dirt. The satisfying snap of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt is something of a melody as the batter goes down looking and it’s time for the seventh inning stretch. You “root, root, root for the Cubbies” and those nice Minnesotans offer to buy you a beer or a sandwich or whatever your little heart desires and of course you say yes, because it’s a free sandwich! (Or beer. Whatever fits your fancy.)
As you sit with other baseball fans, discussing the anomalies of the game, you wonder to yourself, “is this heaven?”
No. It’s not even Wrigley Field. It’s Fort Myers.