I will now recap the first six innings of Sunday's game, thusly:
Jalen: (Every half-inning when the A's were at the plate "hitting") "He caught it. He's out, right?"
2:30 PM - I'm as shocked as y'all. I thought there was NO way we'd still be here. To the boy's credit, he didn't take his eyes off the field once the game started. It was the start of the seventh inning and the A's had just four hits to that point (with only one leaving the infield), but our anonymous heroes were nursing a 1-0 lead in a game that was moving at a JV National League pace.
2:35 PM - And, from the "not shocked at all" file, Jalen remembers I'd VERY casually mentioned that Stomper personally appears at his sh*tty "Fun Zone" to take pictures and sign autographs for the kiddies during the seventh inning. Probably not a bad thing that we're leaving our seats, as Jalen has begun asking when he's going to get a turn to swing the bat on the field like the players – which leads to a dozen or so similar quips from fans around us: "Better not let him play or Beane'll just trade him away!" and "He can't do no worse than the players we got!" Tsk on the guy's double-negative. Jalen, cover your ears.
2:55 PM - Finally, the whole reason for the boy's sustained interest makes an appearance. Jalen runs up to Stomper, pushes aside a few smaller kids, high fives the elephant mascot and then runs back to the giant pre-owned pyramid of lightly gnawed Styrofoam blocks. In the meantime, I'd missed the Indians score two in the seventh to take the lead. Mrs. Bootleg had directed my attention to the same tiny TV from earlier. Stupid poetic justice.
3:00 PM - After the initial crush of kids had gotten their moment with the mascot, I dragged the boy back over. I did not blow an ungodly gob of money on tickets, t-shirts, printed propaganda, nachos, popcorn chicken, fries, pizza and a souvenir-sized cup of Dr. Pepper for the boy to be satisfied with a high five. "We're getting a goddam picture!" Relax, I told that to the wife, not the boy.
Elephants are less threatening without tusks. Thx, Ivory Traders!
3:15 PM - It was now the bottom of the eighth – still 2-1, Indians – and I asked Jalen if he wanted to leave or watch the rest of the game. "Rest of the game." OMG! Was it Roots or The Lion King where the African son is held up to the heavens for the locals to bask in his glory? Well, at that moment, I felt a pride similar to whichever movie it was from.
4:00 PM - A's lose, pride's gone.
4:10 PM - On our way up and out of the Coliseum's bowels, I notice some activity on the field. Kids…running the bases. Could it be "Kids Running the Bases Day"? YES! Needless to say, I didn't need to twist Jalen's arm.
4:15 PM - We're one of the last tandems they let on the field and, I'm not gonna lie, I'm nervous. These are the same basepaths that I watched Lance Blankenship, Felix Jose, Alfredo Griffin and Shooty Babbitt run during my youth. The attendants led us across the acres of foul territory that every out-of-town broadcaster is obligated to mention during a game. This wasn't the create-a-player function on my PSP's MLB '08 or one of the amoral bar lies I'd been known to spin to the b*tches back in the day. I was standing on a Major League field. And, I think Jalen was there, too.
4:20 PM - It's go time. The hard part has never been getting Jalen to run – it's getting him to stop. And, turn. He cuts first base at almost a perfect 90 degree angle. So far, so good. His sprint to second becomes a gallop into short left field. The attendants are yelling at us. They can kiss my Black ass. Jalen heads for third. And, everything was fine until the most screamingest harpy shrieked, "No sliding!" Of course, as any father of a four-year-old can attest, all my son heard was "Slide, n*gga, slide!" So, he falls on top of third base like any other shooting victim from one block away, then collapses on home. Unquestionably, the greatest moment in my short run of fatherhood and I'm pleased as can be to welcome these 360 feet into the top spot. Hope you enjoy your descent into second place "day Jalen was born".
Running real bases in front of a real A's crowd
5:00 PM - The boy lasted about 10 minutes on the BART ride back to our hotel, before passing out in a heap of red clay, grass stains and his mother's chainsaw snore. As we reach our stop, I'm tasked with hauling the 40-pound sack of potatoes that is my son back to our room.
5:05 PM - San Francisco is quite the hilly little liberal enclave, no?
5:10 PM - At what feels like the five-mile mark, Mrs. Bootleg asks if I want her to carry the boy. I'm thinking, "yes", but I can seem to breathe in enough oxygen for the word to run from my brain to my mouth. She mistakes the silence caused by the onset of my aneurysm for "steely determination" and walks away.
5:20 PM - My spindly little arms have cramped up and the ball-like pointy parts of my hips are protruding farther out from my skin than usual. The wind chill in The City has the should-be-used-to-it locals decked out in scarves and ski caps. Meanwhile, I'm sweating clean through my Rickey jersey. How do they wear these things in August?
5:25 PM - One of daddy's errant back spasms seems to jerk the boy awake. He graciously asks to be set down so that he can push the elevator button to our floor.
5:30 PM - And, so it ends for me. On the ninth floor of a cramped hotel in a city that's not my home. Save for the absence of a hooker and the description "bullet-riddled" regarding my body, this is pretty much how I always dreamed it.
Next: The rest of the trip!