At Greensboro Grasshopper games, a pair of black dogs performs several on-field tasks. During select innings, they retrieve bats from the batter’s box after the ball is put in play. They bring baseballs to the umpire. They even perform tricks during a between-innings promotion. But the best part is after the game, when the dogs – Babe and Yogi, if memory serves – at least at the game I attended a few days ago, are allowed to run the bases and play fetch after the final inning is in the books. One of the dogs runs the bases perfectly, stopping at each of the four corners to touch a base/plate with its nose. The other one takes a shortcut around the grass. Then they chase balls deep into the outfield. Dogs being dogs, one of them took off sprinting, then pulled up a little short of the warning track, squatted, and made a nice deposit in left field grass. It was unexpected, but really, what do you expect? You let a dog run free, and it’s going to behave according to its instincts.
There is a parallel between those dogs and the three members of this year’s Great Baseball Road Trip. The festivities came to a close with a flight back to Minnesota on Monday morning. Games in Greensboro (Friday), Zebulon (Saturday) and Durham (Sunday) finished off a run of seven minor league games in North Carolina in six days. All three members of the trip are college graduates – generally reasonable, intelligent and productive members of society. Get us out on the road for a week, though, and societal conventions take a back seat to the same instincts the three of us had when we all became friends in junior high. Basically, every joke imaginable was in play. Nobody was safe from a sudden attack, be it physical or verbal. You throw that ball deep enough into the outfield, and it’s not just dogs that become dogs. Men become boys.
We broke no laws. We violated no moral codes. Yet Monday morning, it felt as though I was re-entering society in some strange way. No longer will days be filled with multiple hours of live minor league baseball. No longer will the biggest dilemma be which roadside attraction to stop at, which concession stand to visit or which PlayStation game to pop in (a World Cup was won Sunday night by the USA, by the way, and once again it’s not wrong to call the three of us – who were all on the same team – heroes). It’s now time to start eating a healthy breakfast and to remember that not everybody thinks it’s funny when you call them a [redacted]. It’s time to stop listening non-stop to early-90s rap (OK, it’s never time to stop doing that).
It’s time to say goodbye until next year to the GBRT, an annual event that is as much about baseball as the Super Bowl is about football. The sport itself is the centerpiece, but the associated spectacle is the part that often makes the lasting impression. I enjoy my reality, but I also enjoy the escape.
One week out of 52? That’s just about perfect.