This Week In Baseball Obsession:
The Exciting Adventures of Baseball Annie

Melissa Hughes

Baseball Annie: This is about the least offensive name for the women who hang around the ballpark after the game. She's not looking for autographs, though she is collecting players. But the stats she's interested in have little to do with on-field performances. Got the picture? You can find her name and number scratched in little black books and in the clubhouse backhouse. AKA: Groupie

- From "Ladies Day - One Woman's guide to Pro Baseball" by Catherine Rondina & Joseph Romain

All names have been changed to protect the inane.

I had just arrived home from another grueling graveyard shift and donned my jammies, when a ringing telephone roused me from a dream inspired by the Mets' recent 14-0 victory over the Reds. (In my dreams, Rey Ordonez can hit.)

"People who love me don't call me at this hour."

"You're going to the game tonight, aren't you?"

"Hi, Diane. No, I'm sleeping."

"I missed a phone call by that much. I know it was him."

By him, Diane meant the ballplayer she tracked down during their last road trip. After half an hour of conversation with a woman he'd never met, this ballplayer, we'll call him "Bill", beseeched Diane to call Shea and leave her number for him. She did.

"He probably called to invite me to the game. We have to go..."

I knew that tone. Converting this into a solo mission would not be easy.

"Call me back at 2:30. I'll decide then."

Needless to say, my well-meaning friend ruined any shot I may have had of achieving much-coveted REM sleep.

2:43 P.M. Ring. Ring.

"Grrrr."

"You're going, right?"

"I have nothing to wear."

"You're going, right?"

"My skin is bad."

"You're going, right?"

I decided to play the trump card. "I've got menstrual discomfort."

"You're going."

4:03 P.M. I am dressed, medicated, and off to the subway.

5:26 P.M. We meet in the usual place, tickets in hand, and enter into an unconscionably ugly Shea Stadium.

In an effort to encourage people to "Show up at Shea," (I swear, this is their actual marketing campaign) fans are allowed to watch batting practice from the field level two-and-a-half hours before game time.

This is where Diane is in her element.

"Where is he," she asks, with her usual lack of subtlety. She scans the field impatiently from her perch just above the dugout. She beckons to him under her breath, using her usual assortment of pet names.

She starts adjusting herself - her breasts, her hair, even paints her nails right there in the stands. Then comes the inevitable onslaught of self-doubt.

"What if he doesn't think I'm attractive."

Let's take a moment to describe Diane, shall we? She's 5'10, blonde, thin, big hair, big cleavage, big smile. She looks just inviting enough, without looking trashy. Bill, on the other hand, will never be described as attractive. Ever.

"Diane, the Mets are lucky enough to have fans, much less groupies. I'm sure he'll be very attracted." Insert exasperated sigh here.

I distract myself from "GroupieFest '98" by watching batting practice. Admittedly, this charming display of testosterone-fueled athletic aggression is quite sexy. As usual, Diane attracts more than her fair share of attention from players and fans alike. And, as usual, she is oblivious to any of this. She is too busy asking anyone within earshot if they've seen Bill. I resign myself to being "the gorgeous blonde's friend."

"Diane, if that guy had a spoon, he'd be eating you up right now."

"What guy?"

I pointed (I guess that lack of subtlety was catching) to a player on the opposing team, we'll call him Ted, who was standing behind the batting cage, engaged in animated conversation with a bat boy. "He's not as cute as my Bill," she said, dismissing him, "and where is he, anyway?"

Next thing you know, the very batboy who was listening to Ted mere minutes ago has sidled up to Diane.

"I know this is going to seem very strange. I know it sure seems strange to me... Ted wants to know if he can meet with you. He wants to talk to you."

"Whaddya mean?"

"You know, like, meet up with you after the game."

"Which guy?" she asked, disgusted that anyone should cut into her prime Bill-watching time. Again I pointed out the ballplayer who, this time, was doing his best not to look at Diane as he held his bat, well, erect.

"Ugh. Well, let him down easy. Tell him I said I'm very flattered."

I simply couldn't resist the urge to grill the batboy. I asked him a couple questions:

"How old are you?"

"Twenty."

"Are all of them around your age?"

"No. I work for the Mets," he said, belying the Astros' uniform that he was wearing, "Most of the guys [on other teams] are around eighteen years old."

"Besides this, what's the craziest thing a player has ever asked you to do?"

"This is it. I can't believe I'm doing this. I'm in disguise," he said, unzipping the ankle of his warm-up pants to reveal his uniform.

"Well, I hope Ted tips you well, despite the outcome of this little venture."

He grinned. "Me too," and he scurried away.

GASP. "There he is," Diane inhales sharply, as Bill trots onto the field.

The back arches, the chest is thrown forward, the smile is pasted on the game face. Bill saunters onto the field, not giving Diane a moment's consideration. "He didn't even look up here," she wailed, "how will I get his attention, so I can tell him who I am?"

"Yell out his name," I replied. I regretted it as soon as I said it, half-afraid that, in her current state, she just might do it.

She raised herself up, sitting on the back of her seat. She perched atop the dugout, like a shiny hood ornament. "You do realize, don't you, that he really is just ugly as sin," I say, baiting her.

"But he's a Baseball player, and I really want to be a Baseball Player's Girlfriend."

I was just launching into my diatribe as to why this was twisted beyond all reason when he looked.

At me.

I signaled to him with one finger, just as a teammate sought him out. The teammate caught my beckoning gesture, shook off my sign, and busied Bill in conversation. But the play was on, and in no time Bill was standing face to face with Diane.

She mouthed her name, he said it back, and she nodded as the slow look of recognition crossed his face.

A conversation took place. She even remembered to introduce me. Her memory failed her, however, when it came to recalling the entirety of the dialogue.

"What did he say after I made that funny comment."

"What funny comment? I didn't hear you say anything funny."

She hit me. Hard. "You know what I'm talking about. He said something clever. It proved he has a sense of humor. What was it?"

I had to laugh at the sight of her, her face all scrunched up, struggling to recall every minute detail of a conversation which, for all intents and purposes, resulted in Bill saying he'd call her.

"It went really well, didn't it?"

"Yes, Diane."

"You know he's gonna call."

"Yes, Diane."

"He really is ugly as sin."

"Yes, Diane."

When not tapping out lovely prose for Strikethree.com, Melissa Hughes ponders how desperately she needs new friends. Help her conduct her frantic, ineffectual search by emailing her at Melissah@earthlink.net.

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