If you are the type of ballplayer that feeds off the energy of 40,000 fans, whether they are with you or against you, then you were flat out of luck on Wednesday Afternoon in Baltimore. Flat being the key word here, as Camden Yards was vacant of fans and for the most part, noise.
Aside from the announcers, all you could hear was the sound of the ball hitting the glove or the bat – not really an eerie experience, unless you consider the reason behind it. It was just the relaxing sounds of America’s National Pastime. It was a catharsis, if anything.
What was eerie was the early and ongoing shots of the fans behind the black bars at the gates of the ballpark. As heartening as it was to see their cheers, it gave them the appearance of prisoners. This goes way beyond being symbolic. This is, and has been, their reality.
Adam Jones said it the best at a pre-game press conference in Baltimore. “What this city needs first is healing.”
Well, the healing began in a hurry once Alejandro De Aza’s name stopped echoing around the barren stands in the bottom of the first inning. The Birds had 11 players come to the plate and 6 crossed it. The statement was made, the game essentially over.
Of course, the circumstances had to play into the psyche of all White Sox players and will probably go down as the game they had the least desire to win during their entire careers. The Orioles had to win this one.
I can remember, some time after the tragedies of 9/11, eventually asking myself whether there would be baseball in New York, or elsewhere for that matter. It’s seemed so insignificant in the bigger picture, yet the question crept into the back of my mind for a reason. We all need a return to normalcy after a crisis.
You can’t even compare baseball’s importance to all the people who brought their brooms and dustpans to clean up the rubble in Baltimore. But what the hell else are we going to do? Just like the good people of Baltimore we have to pick up the pieces and move forward.
There is something very civilized about baseball and sport, in general, that still goes beyond the business side of it. The stadium or arena is a place where we can vent our natural competitive tendencies. The field is the place where we should fight our battles, not the streets.
Baseball takes a back seat to so many other things in life, yet it also unites us. It’s not really a matter of “the show must go on”, but rather the show should go on.