Under the First Base Bleachers

January 24th, 2012 / #baseball, #bliss, #work

One of my favorite things to do was play baseball with the kids.

When I was a mascot for the local team, I got to do a lot of that. Many of the players on the field were playing for their lives: if you’re not a top prospect in the trenches of A+ minor league baseball, sometimes only a hair of ability and a pinch of luck are all you’ll have to cling onto as you play your fading youth away in front of an equally fading group of local septuagenarians. Every evening around 7:00, they emerge from their cozy bungalows on the edge of Florida’s Suncoast to soak in one of the last small town traditions that can still bring half of America to the edge of their metallic bleacher seats.

While those players hit and caught and threw and tagged and ran and won and lost and lived and died, I had my own past time underneath the first base seats. A stick ball game with kids, usually in elementary school and especially competitive in middle school.

Before my nightly ill-fated race from first to third after the bottom of the second, I stepped up to home plate: a point where three cracks met in the cement on the empty concourse floor. I pretended I was a right handed Carlos Pena, aligning the middle of my strike zone with three subtle whiffs of my plastic bat. Strike one.

I always swung at the first pitch. I was a notoriously easy out.

Ball one.

Strike two, looking.

I make a faux argument with the oldest boy there, the de facto umpire among the bunch. Chest bumping might ensue, but this ritual is less formal than the event taking place on the field 50 feet away. Anyway, they don’t have the gall to eject me. I practically own the place.

I dig into the cement below me. That’s it, I think: “I haven’t got time for this. Plus, you are just a bunch of kids.”

With my four fingers of blue fur, I grip the yellow bat that somehow slipped past the elderly security guard at the front gate, and I point it skyward. I have a similar diet to that of the Babe, and he could pull it off. So why not me?

The all-time pitcher winds up, apparently oblivious to the fact that there is no solid wall behind me. If his pitch makes it past my mighty bat, it winds up in the grass lot to the west of the ballpark. He doesn’t care.

The pitch comes. It is damned hard to see through my black mesh mask. The ball’s even harder to see a second after my bat swings through the encroaching bogey and sends it careening off of the underside of the first base bleachers.

I take two victory laps: one around the closed concessions stand that witnessed the mascot miracle, and one from first to third in my obligatory losing bid in the race between the second and third innings.

I lost every single race against a child I ever ran. But no loss can erase the fun I had standing tall over Dunedin’s own field of dreams.

One of my favorite things to do was play baseball with the kids.

On Bandwagons and Blue Jays

May 31st, 2009 / #complaints, #sports, #video, #work

I have been extremely derelict in my duties these past few weeks, but I have a good excuse. Two of them, as a matter of fact!

First, like the rest of the state, I have been glued to the television watching the Orlando Magic try to get the big orange ball into their hoop.

I’m actually kidding.

In reality, I cannot stand that all of a sudden folks are jumping onto the Magic bandwagon just as fast as they did with the Rays last year. Now, I understand that there may be some hardcore fans of Orlando basketball, but from an admittedly cursory look at Facebook status updates and newspaper coverage, it seems to me like that most of my comrades from the Tampa Bay area have either been very secretive about their allegiances or this is another case of spontaneous bandwagon jumping.

Don’t get me wrong. I have been watching the games and I would like to see the Magic win it all in the Finals, but I find it humorous that folks can get so enthusiastic one week about something that they didn’t know anything about the week prior. And to anyone reading this who has had a legitimate love affair with the Magic prior to this playoff run, please forgive me and remember that the bandwagon tirade doesn’t apply to you.

A side note, though: Dad and I were discussing the extremely amusing prospect of starting a short basketball league wherein all players must be 5’7” or shorter. But that is neither here nor there.

The second reason that I have been so suspiciously absent is that I have begun my second tour of duty in Dunedin. Much to my delight, we still have many of the regulars, but Calvin doesn’t show up any more. Maybe he got promoted to AA.

I will now leave you with a video of the great D-Jay busting all sorts of moves this weekend. If you are in town, be sure to come out to a game. The $6 tickets and mascot revelry makes up for the abhorrent play of the team.

Confessions of a Night Owl

February 21st, 2008 / #observations, #work

Lately, my sleep schedule has been very thrown off. It seems that I can’t adapt properly to life with employment. Despite the fact that I now get up in the morning (technically) for some sort of obligation Monday through Friday, I still find myself going to bed after 3:00 in the morning.

Which brings me to my point, here. Today, the lovely Sarah Jones and I were discussing how early we got up every day for high school. I woke up at 5:00 in the morning every day. As a reference point, that’s less than two hours away from now. Man, if I knew then how my biological clock would operate now, I’m pretty sure I would have dropped out of school completely.

Seriously, it amazes me how much more devoted to my studies I was in high school. It makes me feel really guilty about how I live my life now.

But not guilty enough to go back.

Just wait until I get it into a sleeper hold

February 19th, 2008 / #funny stories, #random, #work

I know that the legions who have kept up with my life these past five years can attest to the fact that I am the moral foe of many a chair. However, I have managed to come away from the epic battles I’ve had with my companions as the victor, literally sitting in them until they become decimated skeletons of their former selves. For proof, click here and here.

Well, apparently the battle continues, though the chairs are gaining a stiff edge on me in my old age. Yesterday, as the FSPA Director was talking to me in the office, I only managed to simultaneously rip off two pieces of plastic from our newest computer chair. And, you know, since the chair belongs to work I’m kind of obligated to fix it.

You may have won the battle, chair, but not the war.

On second thought…

February 18th, 2008 / #college, #girls, #work

Recently, I decided to make an effort to stop my mother’s constant suggestions that I become a member of the working class, so I got a job in the College of Journalism here on campus. The job is really pretty awesome. I get to work with the Florida Scholastic Press Association, which was a constant entity throughout my years of high school journalism. Every day, I’m emailing or calling the very advisers and board members that made the organization work when I was a part of it. I’m now part of that core that makes it work, and that can get to be such a trip.

Bonus nerdy points for the fact that they have a blog and a podcast, even if they aren’t updated too much.

But the point I wanted to make here today wasn’t about my newfound calling. No, it’s about the college in which the office is housed. Since I’m a Political Science major, I never really got involved in the journalism school. Although I feel like they’re all giving me the stink eye when I walk through their hallowed halls, I know they’re not really eying me like that.

But I’m eying them. Friends, the College of Journalism on the campus of the University of Florida is the building with the most pretty girls I have ever seen in my life, save for sorority houses and this quaint little café in Micanopy. I think it’s because of the type of field journalism is: it allows you to be in contact with people while at the same time maintaining some academic credibility. All of the ugly girls go to engineering school. All the opinionated, pierced, and tattooed girls major in Political Science or some other soft science. But in the College of Journalism, you get the best mix of brains, beauty, perk, and poise that the university has to offer.

Uh oh, you guys. I think I picked the wrong major…

Faster than a speeding bird

June 16th, 2005 / #awesomeness, #work

At minor league baseball games, there are usually a bunch of scouts with radar guns behind home plate who keep track of how pitchers perform.

Tonight, one of them clocked me at a depressing .86 miles per hour during my nightly race around the bases with some lucky kid. They say, though, that I improved since my last race, which was run at .84 miles per hour.

The sad thing about all of this is the fact that during the competition, even though I must lose, _I’m trying_.

Almost Famous

June 12th, 2005 / #work

In my line of work, you get to meet some pretty unique people. There are the regulars, the grumps, and even the quasi famous.

My good friend Calvin is a regular and has been going to A league baseball games ever since I was a baby watching the Clearwater Phillies from the comfort of my dad’s arms in the bleachers at “Jack Russel Stadium”:http://www.ballparkwatch.com/stadiums/past/jack_russell.htm. The Phillies have since relocated to a fancier ballpark, changed their name, and got really, really bad, but Calvin remains steadfast in his support of local baseball. Now, he comes to every Dunedin Blue Jays game, every time sporting a ball cap with the logo of any team _but_ the Jays. But I don’t mind; his quirkiness gives me something to do every day.

There’s also Bob. Bob sits two rows directly in front of Calvin and is a man of about 60 years. Peering out of his thick rimmed black glasses, Bob takes it upon himself to inform me nightly that “I’m going in after this inning.” While this could have the potential to get old after a short while, it doesn’t. I like Bob, so I let it pass. One time, I accidentally knocked over his cup of Mountain Dew, so in addition to his suggestion that I will soon become the star pitcher of the Dunedin Blue Jays (a notion that is actually not so far-fetched with this team), we have a running gag that if I’m within twenty feet of his soda, he and Calvin surround the cup with their hands as if it were a flame that they did not want to be snuffed. That’s always a gas.

There’s also Annellen, who sits on the third base side, a strange location for a local that pulls for the home team. Usually, the third base side is over populated with visiting fans and ballplayers’ hot girlfriends. Anyhow, Annellen is my favorite. She’s about 55, is as skinny as a rail, and has short, dirty blonde hair in the form of a bowl cut that sometimes covers the top of her gold rimmed glasses. Our inside joke is that she always arrives late. Without fail, if it’s the middle of the second inning, you can probably look over and see her walking up the steps to her seat from her smoking sanctuary on the main concourse. Her greatest attribute, though, is her laugh. Remember how Urkel chuckled? You get all of that snorty goodness and more when Annellen lets out a hearty guffaw. It’s wonderful.

There are more regulars, but I have yet to learn their names. There’s Man Who Sits On First Base Side Who Calls Me A Giant Blue Chicken; there’s Woman With Way Too Much Makeup And Outrageously Large Diamond Rings Who Sits Behind Home Plate; and who could forget Man With Randy Savage Mustache Who Repeatedly Suggests That I Trip The Kid During My Race Around The Bases. Oh, how I love my newfound family. Christmas’ll suck when I have to buy greeting cards, though.

In addition to the local yokels who come to support their team, there is the occasional party pooper.

For example, on the first night of my new profession, a man slapped together a string of curses that would make Eminim blush and violently pushed me, threatening to knock my defenseless avian block completely off. He didn’t use the word “avian,” though; he was sufficiently smashed from $1 beer Thursday.

You also shouldn’t mess with scouts from the visiting team. But they look so lonely out there behind home plate with their little radar guns and their scorecards. If you so much as touch one that doesn’t want to play with you, though, they can get awful intimidating.

However, all the negative Nancies that make my job less entertaining lose their effectiveness when I get to meet certain people. Mind you, I use the term “meet” very loosely: I’m not allowed to speak under my giant idiot suit. That said, I have been able, in the course of my working life, to be in contact with some nifty personalities.

The first week of my job, I played with Roberto Alomar, the 12-time All-Star that played with the Devil Rays for what seems like ten minutes at the beginning of the season. Later that month, I met the Hooters Calendar Girl of the Year. Her name escapes me at the moment, but when it comes to really good looking women, names don’t really matter anyway.

But Saturday night, and this is the greatest of my achievements, I got to entertain Mr. Brian Goff. The name probably doesn’t strike any chords, but in the Peterson household, Goff’s reporting on Fox 13 has been a staple for years. I remember watching him on the early morning news when I was a wee lad in the fifth grade. It was interesting to get to be in actual contact with him; it was even cool until he got a few beers into him and, as he walked down toward the concourse, announced to me so eloquently that “he had to pee.”

It’s tough to be a celebrity sometimes. To always be in the limelight and rub elbows with people of such caliber is a demanding life. But you know, I deal with it. So, if you’d like to do lunch at Sardi’s or discuss some contractual hubbub, have your people call my people.

Why my job is cooler than yours

April 23rd, 2005 / #awesomeness, #work

I don’t feel that my previous and rather nebulous description of my new job is sufficient enough to completely describe the awesomeness thereof.

Last Saturday as I was showering, my good brother Ian knocked on my door and said, “Dude! I’ve got the perfect job for you!” So, after getting dressed, I went to his room to see what the entire hubbub was about. It turned out that he had seen an advertisement on the Dunedin Blue Jays’ Web site about a need for a mascot. And here’s the kicker, folks: no experience was necessary.

So, after pacing around and dialing six digits like a little schoolgirl who just wants to breathe heavily into the receiver and hear that cute boy from English class answer the phone, I called a contact with the team and left a message regarding my interest in the position. I hadn’t heard back from them for a few days, so I assumed they had found someone more favorable for the position.

Therefore, when I got a callback on Wednesday of last week, I was adequately surprised. The good folks from the Blue Jays wanted to meet with me that evening before their game against the Lakeland Tigers, an offer which I immediately accepted. I met my contact with the team and we had a nice interview in the box office of Knology Park.

I returned on Thursday’s game against the Tampa Yankees to learn the ropes from Dave, a freelance mascot who knows what he’s doing. It was a good thing, too. I wouldn’t have had any idea how to do the mascot thing.

Then, on Friday night, it was my turn. I donned the outrageously warm blue fur and proceeded to mess with each and every person in the stands at least once. I raced a kid from first to third base after the second inning. He smoked me. After the last out of the third, I participated in a game in which I threw rubber chickens into the air and two kids with giant clown pants tried to catch them in their festively colored garments. By the time the fourth inning rolled around, I was atop the dugout and entertaining the cozy Dunedin crowd like there was no tomorrow. And when the game encountered the seventh inning stretch, I led the masses in a stirring rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

And by the end of the eighth, I was out of costume and restoring my original body temperature in the stands while watching one of the better extra inning ballgames of my short existence. And the best part of it all was that in normal clothes, no one in the stands was wise to my alter ego as D Jay, the happy-go-lucky Blue Jay.

I had a lot of fun last night. The only downfall of the job is its heat factor, but other than that, it’s a veritable perk machine. Free drinks; free baseball; the opportunity to say, “Hey ladies, I’m a mascot” and a schedule that mandates only 2.5 – 3 hours of work whenever I’m scheduled to appear. And the kids love me, so that’s nice too.

But the best part, my friends, is the fact that I am the first kid I know to actually be on the front of a real, live baseball card. One day, I’ll get some and sell them autographed for $19.99 on ebay.

Here's looking at you, Lord Durham

April 20th, 2005 / #work

Today, I’m attempting an unprecedented career move in which I will never, ever have to make the use of inferential calculus or epistemology. My vast knowledge of Canadian history might come into play, though.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you will be aware soon enough if it’s meant to be that way.

Baby, you're a rich man

March 8th, 2005 / #politics, #work

Wonderful news! Today, I officially qualified myself as a citizen when I received my first ever income tax return. I had to tax the little bit of cash I made this summer, but as a reward for taking a giant hunk of my money, Uncle Sam gave one third of it back!

That’s right, my friends, in my possession is a handy check signed by my regional disbursing officer in the amount of $50.34.

I’m now a man of means; now all I need is a girl on whom to spend it.