Ace and I finally got around to doing one of the things that was on our to-do list during our travels — attend a Minor League baseball game.
Across America, dog-friendly baseball games are growing more popular. For several years, many Minor League teams have been sponsoring them, and the big leagues are starting to catch on. At least 15 Major League ballparks are holding dog-friendly games this season.
Just 30 minutes down the road, in downtown Greensboro, the stadium was a gem, the traffic was non-existent and parking was plentiful (and only $3).
Those are some of the reasons I find Minor League baseball so much more of a pleasure: The prices, for tickets or concessions, aren’t exorbitant. The crowds aren’t huge. The fans aren’t obnoxious. It’s just much more laid back.
On Tuesday night, the tickets were $6 each, and a “pooch pass” ran $3. Beers were $1, hot dogs, too. There was no extra charge for the sunset.
Everybody seemed happy, at least on Natty Hill, the grassy knoll in left field set aside for fans bringing their dogs.
What I liked best about it was seeing so many people bonding with their dogs, and bonding with other people’s dogs, and bonding with other dog’s people.
Minor League baseball, particularly on dog nights, offers a sense of community — something that seems to be fading away in America. We’re more connected than ever, thanks to gadgetry, but somehow more insulated, too. We’re “communicating” more than ever, but not saying much at all.
The Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Bowie Baysox, or the Toledo Mud Hens (and we’ve got to mention the Reno Aces) may not be the solution to that, but it’s nice to have a venue where you can look a person in the eye and exchange words.
Or, if you prefer, spend some time quietly connecting with your dog.
Either way, the dog’s there for you — whether you want to meditate or congregate.
In my book, when it comes to being social, a dog is much better than a BlackBerry or cell phone, Facebook or Twitter or Match.com — for the connection you make with a dog is much more clear and pure and genuine.
If dog nights at the ballpark weren’t already win-win enough, they also raise money for local shelters and rescues. All “pooch pass” fees at the Grasshoppers’ Tuesday night game went to Red Dog Farm, an animal rescue network based in Greensboro.
The Grasshoppers were holding two dog-friendly games a season, but this year dropped down to one.
We missed out on the pre-game doggie festivities, as Ace felt the need to make his mark on the streets of downtown Greensboro. Even though parking was right across the street, it took us more than 20 minutes, with his frequent stops, to get to the gate.
One inside the stadium, he stopped to meet some of the adoptable dogs Red Dog Farm had brought to the game. At first he had to check out every dog he encountered — and there had to be over 100 at the game — but eventually he became more selective.
Sitting on a grassy hill in left field — filled with people and dogs — proved a little problematic for him, as he kept sliding down. But we spent most of the time wandering around — me hydrating on $1 beers, Ace patronizing the many bowls of water placed about.
One red bucket in particular intrigued him. He thought he saw something at the bottom of it, and repeatedly submerged his entire head in it, not realizing all he was seeing was the raised surface at the bottom of the bucket.
A crowd gathered to watch and take pictures.
During nine innings of baseball, I answered the question, “What kind of dog is that?” 36 times; the question of how much he weighs at least a dozen; the question of how he got his head all wet about 10.
Back on our blanket on the hill, we enjoyed a sunset on one end of the stadium and, as the game came to an end, watched the moon rise like a pop fly over the other.
We’ll close with a baseball trivia question: Who was the first canine ever ejected from a baseball game?
Answer: Yogi Berra, a mascot for the Greensboro Grasshoppers. He was showing his ball retrieving skills between innings in a 2009 game (despite a stomach virus) when he stopped for a bowel movement on the field (an event noted in news reports and memorialized on YouTube). The home plate umpire, apparently offended by the act, ordered him ejected.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 15th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, allow, allowed, america, ball park, ballpark, bark in the park, baseball, bonding, communicating, community, connecting, dog friendly, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, events, grasshoppers, greensboro, insular, insulated, major league, minor league, north carolina, road trip, social, socializing, society, sports, stadiums, teams, travels with ace, winston salem dash, yogi berra
When I finally pulled out of Fargo, I was certain any visions of fall colors were over. No way, I figured, could any leaves still be clinging to their trees. Those winds, like a heartless gang of thieves, surely stripped them bare.
But, as Ace and I traveled west across the state, there were a few bright exceptions: groves of yellow-leafed trees — birch or aspen — that, by virtue of being tightly grouped together, still sported their fall colors.
The only way I can figure it, they were saved by the copse.
By being huddled together in a group, they – at least those not on the periphery — were able to keep their leaves a little longer. They, like early American settlers, bees in a hive and the huddled masses everywhere found safety in numbers.
You don’t hear the word “copse” that much anymore. In “Travels with Charley,” it shows up a few times. When John Steinbeck camped, it was usually in a copse, alongside a river, which is where you’ll generally find the copse — despite what you might have heard about donut shops.
Driving along, I wondered if the copse might hold some lessons for us humans, or at least remind us of some.
When pioneers set forth across America, they did so in groups, depending on each other, and each other’s skills, for their survival. When Indians attacked, pioneers circled the wagons, recognizing that forming, in effect, a copse, was the best defense. They established towns for the same reason — so neighbors would be close, so that help would never be too far away.
And long before that, cavemen and cavewomen learned — apparently from sources other than reality TV — that, by forming alliances, they could better protect themselves from the elements, evil-doers and scary creatures.
For long time Americans lived a copse-like existence. We established a home. We dropped our seed. We watched it grow. Once it did, it stayed around, mingled with other hometown trees and dropped its own seed. Children lived where parents lived. The apple didn’t fall, or roll, far from the tree; it stayed in its parent’s shadow, at least until it ended up in a pie.
Somewhere along the line, that went by the wayside. Children grew up and ventured off, carving their own paths. Mom and dad, once on the periphery of the copse, shielding us from the nasty winds, were relocated to places they can get some assistance with living.
The copse-like closeness has diminished not just in the family, but in the family of man. We’re less inclined, I think, to help each other out. Rather than thinking we’re all in this together, rather than the stronger helping the weaker, the richer helping the poorer, the franchised helping the disenfranchised, we look out for No. 1.
And the more insular we’ve become, the more we fail to stake up those in need of support, the more we turn away from those stuck out in the cold, the more robbers we produce.
In the 21st Century, when it comes to protection, we rely on the cops.
But maybe the real answer is the copse.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 30th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aspen, assistance, autumn, birch, colors, compassion, cops, copse, crime, criminal, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fall, foliage, groups, grove, help, insular, john steinbeck, leaves, north dakota, numbers, pioneers, robbers, safety, security, shelter, society, thicket, travels with ace, travels with charley, trees, winds