How the other half lives

Diablo Stadium

The packed left-field lawn seats at Diablo Stadium in Tempe.

After attending upwards of 30 Grapefruit League Spring Training games during my years living in Florida, I finally had a chance Sunday afternoon to see how they do it out West.

A couple of friends and I took in a Los Angeles Angels-Chicago Cubs match-up at Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., in which the visiting Cubs topped the hometown Angels for an 8-7 win.

One thing I learned quickly was that having tickets marked “lawn seats” doesn’t guarantee you an actual spot on the grass. The left-field grassy knolls were jam packed when we arrived midway through the first-inning. (We finally got to kick off our shoes and sit in the grass in the mid-8th to watch the Angels’ late comeback attempt, which fell 90 feet shy of forcing extra innings.)

On the positive side of the lawn-seat point, our standing-room-only perspective did give us the added benefit of being closer to the microbrew vendor. Fat Tire on draught versus Bud Light in a metal bottle? You make the call.

The more significant takeaway from a fantastic afternoon was how much of a joy it is to see baseball through the eyes from someone who is completely new to the American baseball experience. My friend from the Netherlands had never seen a ballgame, and sharing in her delight with her first ballpark hot dog, the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch and the many eccentric fans (i.e. the road-trip bachelor party dude wearing a gold construction helmet adorned with Bud Light bottles) was a great experience.

Sometimes you have to take a step back to once again appreciate baseball as more that just a favorite sport, but as a true national past-time that brings us together. This provided such an opportunity, and after many brutally cold snow-filled months, I am now juiced up for the ’10 season.

And, after the Netherlands’ phenomenal showing in the last World Baseball Classic, everyone from there should consider taking in a ballgame when over to the States on holiday.

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