Monday, July 16, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary - XII (Even If You Don't Give A Flying Wallenda About Softball, This Might Entertain You...)

In order for the following story to make any sense, you’ve got to know a thing or two about our league and about Boston in general. So, if you weren’t expecting to learn anything today... Surprise!

The Flames play every Tuesday and Thursday. Our games are scheduled for 6:15, 7:45 or 9:15. We play our games on Clemente Field, which is located in a section of Boston known as The Fens. There’s another team whose home field is located in The Fens. You may have heard of them. They’re called the Red Sox.

When the Red Sox are on the road, parking is no problem for our games. We all park in a lot behind a bar on Kilmarnock Street, which is about one block from Clemente Field and about two blocks from Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. The parking there is free because this bar sponsored our team until this year. They’ve since gone out of business.

(Despite the way we’ve played sometimes this year, there is no correlation between our play and the fact that the bar went out of business.)

When the Red Sox are home, parking is a problem. The lot behind the bar sells parking to Red Sox fans, at about $25 a pop. Every other lot or parking garage in a one-mile radius raises their rates to a similar price. There are no spots to be found on the streets, of course, since most of these spots require a resident parking sticker. Lucky Red Sox fans arriving two or three hours before the game take the few metered spaces. Even if you find one of the resident spaces open, and decide to park there without a sticker, the police cruise all night looking for illegally parked cars and towing away offenders.

The best option for many of us is the parking lot at the Museum Of Fine Arts. It is located beyond our outfield, adding another two or three blocks to the walk to Fenway Park. This makes it just far enough away so that most Red Sox fans don’t consider it as an option. The price for this lot is lower than the $25 (or more) being charged at other places on Red Sox game nights. As a matter of fact, if you’re a member of the Museum – or you can wrangle a membership card from someone else, such as I do from MY WIFE – parking is just $10. The possibility also exists that you might even find an empty metered space on the street where this lot is located, thus making your parking a freebie.

(The other option available is to take the T, Boston’s public transportation system. I used to do this on nights when both the Flames and the Red Sox played. The problems with this option are numerous.

First of all, I had to leave my car parked in Newton – where I work – and walk about a half-mile to the train station. Then the ride itself was about 20 minutes, usually during a time of day when finding a seat was an iffy proposition. The nearest station to Clemente Field is then another half-mile or more walk. All of this was done wearing my full softball uniform and carrying a bag containing my bats, catchers mask, glove, cleats and other stuff. Since the train was generally filled with Red Sox fans on the way to their game, I looked like some sort of middle-aged wannabe nutso baseball player – which I suppose I am, in a way, but let’s not get into the psychology of this whole thing.

Finally, on the way back, I repeated the whole process. This time, though, I was sweaty and dirty. I’ve got to say, this did help me to get a seat on the train – and a seat for my equipment bag, too, some nights – but I felt even more conspicuous than I did on the trip to the game. After all of that, I still had to drive home from Newton – another 15 or 20 minutes.

Add it all up and it comes to two hours (or more) of travel filled with embarrassment AND it still cost me something like $2.50 for the train. I decided a long time ago that I’d rather pay $10 to park at the Museum, have a short walk and not look deranged.)

This past Thursday, the Red Sox were in town and we had a 9:15 game. It was the best of both worlds. I would get to pay for parking and I was guaranteed to arrive home no earlier than 11:30, smelly and dirty and needing a shower before bed, with work beckoning the next day. I did what any sane man would do. I quit the team.

No, no, no! Just kidding! Since when am I a sane man? What I did was arrange to take Friday off so that I could thoroughly enjoy the game without worrying about when I would get home. And I decided to drive in to the game about an hour earlier than I usually might, so that I’d have plenty of time to try and find a free parking space. If no free spaces were available, the Museum Of Fine Arts lot would be my backup.

I was in the area of the field at around 7:30. This is for a 9:15 game, mind you. I spent about a half-hour cruising the many streets around both our park and Fenway. Finding absolutely nothing, I then resigned myself to parking at the Museum. I drove over there.

When I got to the Museum, the lot was full.

“Shit,” I said to myself, which neither changed the capacity of the parking lot nor made me feel much better, but it did neatly sum up the situation.

Needless to say, the metered spaces on the street were also filled. Now, there’s a garage on the other side of the street from the Museum. I had never parked there before, but the sign saying the lot was full also suggested parking in the garage. I started to drive into it. Then I saw another sign.


Well, hell, our game wouldn’t be over until 10:45 and I wasn’t about to take the chance of having to ride the T home, smelly and sweaty and getting stares from all of the Red Sox fans, while my car was overnighting in Boston, and then having to come back early the next day to retrieve it and pay for the privilege, too. So I kept driving, looking for some reasonable place to park.

(You know I didn’t find one, right? Why the heck would I be telling you all of this if I found one? So, let’s skip ahead to where I actually park the car.)

I ended up parking in a garage on Longwood Avenue, about a mile-and-a-quarter from Clemente Field. The good news was it only cost six bucks. The bad news was it was a mile-and-a-quarter from Clemente Field.

I now got all of my equipment from the trunk of the car and started walking. It’s perhaps 8:30 by this time. I tried to figure if there was a shorter way to the field than returning up Brookline Avenue, which is how I approached the garage by car. I decided to walk Longwood and then take a left somewhere, trusting my instincts to approximate when I’d be parallel to the field.

I ended up turning left onto Avenue Louis Pasteur. This was pretty much the first good decision I made all day. It came out about a block from the park. However, I had to walk past the building that at one time housed Boston Latin School. I went to Boston Latin, TWICE. I hated it. As a matter of fact, I hated it so much that I made a special trip back to piss on the building about 25 years ago. I would have enjoyed doing so again, making it an every-25-year tradition, but I didn’t have the time to spare. I kept walking.

(The story of my stints at Boston Latin, and how I came to be enrolled there two different times, is a sad and interesting one. It does, however, include me pissing on the building, which was the highlight of any time I spent there and that should tell you just about all you need to know about it. I’ll tell you everything you DON’T need to know about it some other day. But right now, back to Suldog The Softball Bum, in that thrilling adventure, The Long Walk To Clemente.)

I got to the field at maybe 8:50 or 8:55. When I started talking to the other guys, they all told me how they had found spots at this place or that place or some other place I had gone by about six times already that evening. Jack Atton and Keith Goodrich both told me about how they found FREE SPOTS ON THE STREET BY THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS.

See, I came to the game too early. The Museum was open this evening. That’s why the lot was full, as well as all of the spaces on the street. However, the Museum closes at 9pm. That’s why the garage was only open until 10:30, because they figure that’s more than enough time for everybody to clear out, even the employees. If I had been smart enough to put two and two together, I would have been able to dope out the fact that some spots would open up by around 8:45. Instead, I was just a doofus parked in a different zip code from where our game was being played.

That’s just the story of me getting TO the game. I could also tell you about getting home. As a matter of fact, I think I will. I hope you packed your lunch.

Jack Atton was kind enough to give me a ride back to the garage on Longwood Avenue. We walked to his minivan, conveniently parked at a metered space over by the Museum Of Fine Arts. I threw my bag in the back and we took off.

And, about 300 yards later, we stopped. The Red Sox game had let out and there was traffic, both auto and foot.

The first thing we stopped for was some of the foot traffic. Two extremely cute girls waited at a pedestrian crosswalk. Jack, being a gentleman, let them cross. As soon as they stepped in front of us, about twenty guys came out of the woods and also started crossing. It was like seeing a pretty girl hitchhiking, so you stop and pick her up. As she’s about to get into the car, she says, “Wait a minute…” and five goons come out of the bushes and pile in. You’ve been sucked in.

Jack leaned out the window, smiled, and yelled at the guys, “You’re taking advantage of THEIR good looks!” The guys gave a thumbs-up and an alcoholic yell. The Sox had won and everybody was in a good mood. We finally moved on and then came the vehicular variety of traffic.

Jack is one hell of a driver. I had never taken a long ride with him before, but I saw him in action on this trip and it was pretty cool. He weaved in and out of traffic with that minivan as though he were Dale Earnhardt at Daytona. I sat back and enjoyed the performance. As a former Boston cabbie, I had to admire his skill behind the wheel.

When the traffic became so thick that it was impossible to weave, Jack really showed his stuff. He turned left into what appeared to be a cul-de-sac. He went to the end and there was an alleyway between buildings. Unfortunately, a car was parked right in the middle of the alley, blocking any egress.

Undaunted, Jack did a three-point turn and headed back out into traffic. He again took a left, this time into a dead-end. No go. We turned and got back into the traffic one more time. Taking yet another left, Jack hit paydirt. This time there was an alleyway unblocked by anything. Jack wheeled the minivan into the narrow space and away we went, down one alley and then into another, leaving behind the traffic jam paralleling us to the right.

We had one more alley to navigate and then we’d be beyond the traffic and almost at Longwood Avenue. Problem was, there was a pile of five or six trash bags blocking the right of this alley. Well, no problem. We had come too far to be stopped by rubbish. Jack just gunned it and ran the damn things over. The sound of broken bottles and crushed cans echoed off the walls of the apartment buildings as we exited the alley. As we drove through the now traffic-free street, we both let out a sort of rebel yell. I would have given Jack a high-five, but he was driving.

Finally, Jack pulled up to the garage and I thanked him for a most excellent ride. After I claimed my baggage, he started on his way home. I went into the garage to get my car.

The garage attendant supplied the final crappy note of the evening. He was trying to be nice, but...

As I paid the fee, he asked me how my game went. I told him. He said that no matter what happened in the game, he admired someone of my age playing, period.

Now I felt like some sort of softball zombie, dug up and given a reprieve from the eternal dirt nap just long enough to get a few at-bats. Thanks, Buddy!

As you must imagine by now, I’ve spent all this time bullshitting because the games this week were very... I don’t know. What’s a good word? Stinky? That doesn’t quite capture the exact flavor, but it will have to do because I’m tired of typing.

We lost 13-6 on Tuesday. On the night of the amazing adventures detailed above, Thursday, we lost 22-3. That was pretty disheartening considering what I went through to actually get to the game. Oh, well.

We clinched a playoff spot, amazingly enough. The Ghost Riders dropped two games and we went in the back door. Five games remain and the only question is whether we finish third, fourth or fifth. Third is the goal, of course. The fourth and fifth finishers play each other in a prelim. It’s always good to avoid something like that.

There were some decent individual performances. Dave Vargas went 5-for-6 in the two games, while his buddy John – a recent recruit, unfortunately ineligible for the playoffs due to lack of games played – went 4-for-6. Jack had three hits and so did Brian Dillon.

We were missing a few regulars. Carl Hyman, our regular left fielder and currently batting .571, was on vacation. That’s a big hole. Jason Atton, the only guy on the team with a higher batting average than Carl, also couldn’t make the games this week. He works evenings and just couldn’t swing it.

Mike Vosseler, another .500 hitter, is out. Mike ripped up his knee a few weeks back and he’s in a cast. He hopes to make it back for the playoffs, but the general feeling among the rest of us is that it will be a minor miracle if he does. From his description of the injury, it sounds a bit too serious to rebound that quickly. A shame, as he’s one excellent shortstop. Brian Dillon has done a good job filling that position in his absence, but if Mike were there, we could swing Brian to someplace else and really tighten things up.

I went 1-for-5. I had a couple of decent pieces caught, but they weren’t so well hit that I sulked back to the bench or anything like that. I got under them just enough to give the outfield time to get to them, so that’s the way it goes. My knee is still weak, but that’s no excuse. It doesn’t affect my batting - just running the bases and fielding. I should be OK for the Bombers games on Sunday, which it must be by now considering how long I’ve been typing.

I’ll be back tomorrow with that story. See you then. Bring a sandwich.


Anonymous said...

God bless that garage attendent. I was throughly enjoying your "adventures in good parking (and driving)" but when I got to that line, it was so unexpected I laughed right out loud (and this was in the middle of my office where I shouldn't have been reading it in the first place)

Anonymous said...

The line that is overwritten says "God Bless that parking attendent". Just so you know which line I'm referring to.

Suldog said...

Yeah, that's the trouble with giving these things big double-jointed titles. The first comment always gets partially overwritten. Sorry!

CapCity said...

what's a flying wallenda? LOL! funny story - even if i'm not a baseball nor boston fan;-). really just came by to say hi.

Suldog said...

For anyone wondering about the title...

I figured it was well-enough known, but as usual I chose a cultural reference that anyone under 40 wouldn't get.

David Sullivan said...

Are you saying you are not a softball zombie?

Suldog said...

Well, OK, I am. But I thought I was hiding it pretty well.