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Let’s go down to the ball park…

You can’t experience America without going to a baseball game. This was what the voice (one of the voices) in my head told me as I crossed the Atlantic.

I sat there, trapped in my seat at 33,000ft, making out a list of all the places I was going to visit, the food I would eat and every other American experience I could think of, and a trip to a baseball game was one that I had to experience.

Now, as any of my friends and family will tell you, if you can’t eat it, relax on it or catch it with rod and line, then I’m not much use to you.

I used to play our national game, hurling, but found that chasing a small ball around a field with a big stick while trying to avoid 15 other guys with sticks chasing the same ball was not for me. Especially not after I saw what one of those ‘sticks’ did to a friend of mine who put his hand out in an attempt to catch the aforementioned ball. Let’s just say, the broken fingers were the least of his problems.

Anyway, I never understood the obsession with all these ball-based sports, so there we are…

However, I am glad I got to experience baseball and everything that goes with a trip to the ball park.

Getting ready for the first pitch at  Clipper Magazine Stadium

Getting ready for the first pitch at Clipper Magazine Stadium

In Lan-kiss-ter, the local ball team is the Lancaster Barnstormers and I was off to the Clipper Magazine Stadium on a glorious summer’s evening to experience not only the baseball but the complete show that is a night at the ball park.

And what a show it was; there was a carnival atmosphere right from the moment we arrived.

The stadium was like a theme park, with carnival rides for the kids, music, and pre-game entertainments that included a frisbee-catching dog, mascot racing and competitions for tickets to see One Direction in concert. That last one had every pre-teen girl in the stadium on her feet rushing to sign-up to be included in the draw.

Swing batter, swing...

Swing, batter, swing…

Tonight, the Barnstormers were about to take on the Bridgeport Bluefish and, if the excitement in the stadium was anything to go by, it was going to be a hell of a game. Or was that the chance of One Direction tickets?

I’m going with the impending baseball game and I was looking forward to immersing myself in all things baseball. It was going to be a great night.

A great night, that is, if you understand baseball, which I didn’t (and still don’t, by the way) but I settled into my seat and prepared myself for this American institution.

Now, I had help to guide me on this baseball journey and while I listened intently to the sage words of my companion, I have to admit that 99 percent of what was going on was, and still is, a complete mystery to me.

Listening but not getting it at all...very confused...

Listening but not getting it at all…very confused…

However, there was one tradition I completely embraced. Before the first pitch of the game, we had to get our hot dogs and beer. It’s the law apparently, and I didn’t want to get arrested. So when in Rome, as the saying goes, or in this case, when at Clipper Magazine Stadium, you need to get your hot dog and beer before the first inning gets underway (that’s baseball for the start of the game).

And, let me tell you, while the play on the field was really confusing, the hot dog and beer was really great!

So, settling in, the evening unfolded. At the end of each inning, there was more entertainment and prizes to give away. T-shirts were launched into the crowd using a giant catapult, the mascots danced around the stadium and kids were taken on to the field to take part in races and other prize-winning games.

There was one home run, one of the few times the bat actually connected with the ball, and the commercial advertising during the game was a sight to see.

A few times, the batter managed to hit the ball out of the ball park. This didn’t count as the ball went out over the back of the stadium behind where the batter and umpire were standing. But, every time this happened, the big screen immediately flashed up a ‘I hope he has insurance’ sign followed by the sound of breaking glass and then an ad for the local insurance company.

Clipper Magazine Stadium

Clipper Magazine Stadium

Brilliant.

Each of the nine innings were brought to us by various local companies. The free t-shirts and baseballs were sponsored by another company. Indeed, every aspect of the night’s entertainment was connected with some company or organisation. The evening was a huge outdoor advertising venue for local businesses and groups.

At the seventh inning, we all rose to our feet for the ‘seventh-inning stretch’ and the singing of the baseball anthem: ‘Take me out to the ball game’.

It was a most enjoyable evening. I’m still in the dark when it comes to the ins and outs of baseball but when it comes to a great night out, especially where there is beer and hot dogs on offer, then
I confess that I might, just might, mind, become a convert to America’s national game.

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