This Week in Baseball Obsession:
Drinks with Ballplayers

Melissa Hughes

A quick recap: My favorite Baseball Annie, Diane, is currently floating on Cloud Nine after a recent, successful outing to Shea Stadium. She made contact with the player she'd been haranguing, and he assured her he'd call. Great. Can I watch the game now?

No such luck. Instead, I was treated to a full nine innings of her obsessing over him. She missed some truly amazing defensive plays from the oft-maligned Rey Ordonez, not to mention a rare display of offense from some rather unusual sources. (Where'd we get this Tatum guy anyway?) I tried to get her head back in the game by reminding her that nice Mets at-bats would be few and far between this season, at least until we get Hundley back, but she was in the middle of a rather offensive display of her own.

I suffered through it, wondering if maybe I wouldn't have more fun attending these games alone. I used to go alone all the time - in fact, that's how I met Diane. She was sitting in front of me, poring over someone's media guide, trying to glean a deeper knowledge of the object of last season's obsession.

We parted company after the Mets kicked some Astro, and Diane vowed to keep me posted on any developments. Actually, I was kind of curious as to how it would all pan out. The target of her hero worship seemed nice enough, but he was clearly a slow-witted, homely mid-westerner, with a decided lack of humor. He was, in a word, a hick. It doesn't make him a bad ballplayer, or even a bad person. I just failed to see the appeal.

I could tell when I answered the phone the next day that the news would be good. Diane spared no details as she breathlessly told me of their conversation. He invited her out for that night, pending the weather. He was fairly certain they'd have a rainout, in which case they'd be getting together. It was not a date per se, he'd merely be disclosing the location of the bar where he and a few other players would be drinking that night. It was enough for her. "I'll call you back when I know where we'll be going. Pray for rain."

We? How'd I get roped into this?

"I know from extensive research that he lives on the Upper East Side, just like you. I'm sure they'll be drinking somewhere in the neighborhood. I told him you lived near him and he said to bring you along. I'll betcha he brings Mike to meet you."

God I hope not. Mike was the other single cutie-pie on the team. I certainly hope a physical description of me to this guy was not based on my appearance with Diane at the game. I was dressed for warmth, comfort, and little else. I leave being a sexpot to her.

As much as I resented getting ensnared in all this, I quickly reasoned that drinks with cute, single ballplayers beat working that night's graveyard shift any day, so I called out of work and debated what to wear.

The game was called, and so was I. Would you believe the super-secret drinking location of the New York Mets is actually this little place around the corner from me? It's quiet, and they know the owner.

It was a learning experience all around. Not only did I learn a thing or two about hicks, but I learned about Diane as well. It turns out that he was very nice guy, who had a stable head on his shoulders, not to mention a fairly raucous sense of humor. He had me in stitches the whole night, much to Diane's dismay.

And then there was Diane. She sensed his waning attention, and responded by throwing herself at him. He was clearly not impressed. At one point, Mike came over and, taking a good look at Diane, proceeded to greet her as if they were long lost friends. This baffled Diane's date, who thought she had pursued only him. Little did he (or I) know that Diane had tried, and failed, with Mike only one week before. Mike excused himself, and Diane's date quickly followed, presumably to hear Mike expose Diane for the Annie that she is. That was the last we heard of them that night.

She gathered, and rightly so, that it had not gone well. She glumly retired to my house defeated and worn. While I removed my contact lenses, I heard her on the phone. "I left your number for them at the bar - in case they want to call us or drop by," she informed me matter-of- factly.

At this point, I was truly beginning to doubt her position as a fan. Not to mention her mental health. She seemed knowledgeable enough about the sport and, like me, tried to get to the ballpark as often as she could afford. But this was a side of her I didn't care for and couldn't understand. I chalked up this latest act of lunacy to sleep deprivation.

"You're tired. Go to sleep, Diane."

The next morning saw the sun shining, birds chirping merrily, a light breeze blowing out from left - in short, ideal baseball weather. She hadn't planned on going to that night's game, but I'd been looking forward to it long before our recent round of "Meet the Mets." It was clear that the thought of me being there (with her alleged dating pool) without her bothered her a great deal. She promptly invited herself along.

It was the first time I can ever remember dreading a trip to the ballpark. She drove me crazy during the subway ride to Shea with further obsessive ranting. I even flat out told her to shut up a couple of times. A catfight on the #7 train? I'm game.

We ended up on the third base line, which was unusual for us, but we found this new perspective intriguing. "You can see right into the Mets' dugout," Diane reasoned. The game was barely underway, when I glimpsed something that made me rub my eyes with both fists. Could it be? Nah. I had to get a better look, just to be sure, so I dug out my trusty binoculars and trained them on the section of seats next to the Mets' dugout that is reserved for the owners. Sure enough?

"Oh my God, Diane, its Tommy Lasorda."

"Who?"

That was my first definite clue that Diane was something less than a Baseball fan.

"Tommy Lasorda. You're joking, right? Please tell me you know who he is. Please. Even if it's a lie."

That's when she first noticed my binoculars. She borrowed them, presumably to get a better look at he who bleeds Dodger Blue. Instead, she directs them into the Mets' dugout. Whatever. I was too busy watching Tommy manage this game. ("Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain?")

"What are they doing?" she asked.

"If they're smart, they're culling pearls of wisdom from Tommy Lasorda."

"No, in the dugout."

I take the binoculars and have a half-hearted look. The players on the bench, every one of them, were engaged in a bizarre series of hand-jive, all directed at Diane. It started off with them pointing at her and shaking their heads no. Next, imagine if you will the gesture one makes to imply that someone is crazy. Take your index finger and point it towards the side of your head. Now turn. Combine that gesture with hearty laughter, thumbs-down, and rather directed pointing, and you've got one less-than-subtle, team-wide rejection notice.

"That sound you hear," I said to her softly, squelching my own desire to join in their mirth, "is the fat lady singing."

Any person with a fair amount of shame would have left the ballpark at once. Not Diane. First, she tried clumsily to defend her position. When she got no backup from me on that one, she started to plot revenge. I realized how little I knew this woman, and how little I cared. Two fries short of a Happy Meal, that's what she was.

The whole experience left her drained and, in an unguarded moment at the top of the sixth, she started to blurt out things that she's done to get closer to "her boys."

Shock and horror don't even begin to describe my reaction to the stories she told. I was disgusted. Revulsion set in when she revealed how many of these plots involved me. By now it was the bottom of the sixth and I couldn't take it another moment. I asked her to leave. It was like she didn't even hear me. "I have to go now to catch my train back to Long Island," she said, her voice flat with defeat.

I enjoyed the last three innings of the game ten-fold after that. It wasn't until I had completed my happy little dance of victory joy and departed for the subway that the full terror of what had occurred set in. How would I be able to "Show up at Shea" again after what had transpired? They saw me, have seen me several times, with that stupid girl who doesn't even know Tommy Lasorda when she sees him.

The next few days, we'll call them my recovery period, were spent engaged in obsessive ravings of my own. I recounted my tale, without embellishment (it would hardly be necessary) to my friends, who were suitably appalled. I started screening my calls. If I ever hear from her again, it will be too soon.

I'm laying low for a while, catching my beloved team on TV. Thank God for cable. The next time I go to the ballpark, it will be with saner friends. That's it, a large group of sane friends. Yeah, with plenty of boys, some kids, my cousin, maybe even bring my mother for good measure. If you call, leave a message at the sound of the tone.

Melissa Hughes is in hiding, but you can still reach her by e-mail at mh@strikethree.com.

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