Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Zephyr Experience

It’s strange seeing how much I like baseball that I’ve never been to a New Orleans Zephyrs game before. Ten years later, free tickets fell into my lap, and I find myself in the middle of over-commercialized, nonchalant AAA baseball. The atmosphere at Zephyr Field is unlike any other sporting event I’ve attended. I’ve never been to a game where over 95 percent of the audience could care less about what was happening on the field. I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest that majority of the “fans” couldn’t tell you how baseball is played. Of course when it’s “one dollar beer night” in Metairie, it’s hard to care about anything. I too found myself lost in the humid buzz that only Louisiana weather mixed with lukewarm Bud Light can create. Good thing there was a scoreboard or no one would have known when to leave. Our seats were great; only four rows from the Zephyrs’ dugout. I’ve never actually been that close to the field since I’ve watched a high school game. Sitting that close to the action opened new experiences to game for me such as hearing the coach scream at the umpire and actually being able to understand what he’s saying. It was a relief to know someone at the ballpark cared who won. I also discovered what a buzz-kill a foul ball flying at your face can be. It was great to see that Minor League baseball still has the charm and aura that Bull Durham revealed to us. There’s nothing in a AAA ballpark that isn’t for sale to the highest bidding sponsor. It would be sad to see baseball whored out this way if it weren’t so amusing. Who can’t smile at the “Hamburger Helper Skillet Challenge” and the like in between innings? I can’t blame them; if the audience isn’t interested in the game, you’ve got to come up with something. Nothing compliments dollar beer night better than “Jewish Heritage Night” complete with Jewish baseball trivia (of course Shawn Green was an answer) and kosher food in the Coors Light pavilion. It’s wasn’t the Wailing Wall, but I’m sure it was the next best thing. And that’s the unpredictable gimmicky nature of Minor League baseball that keeps Americans and me coming back for more.

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