The Adventures of Baseball Annie:
An Open Letter to Annies

Melissa Hughes

Ladies:

I'm embarrassed. Hurt. Enraged. One among your ranks has taken the game I love, the one thing that has remained constant for me through good and bad (bad dates, bad boyfriends, bad jobs, bad roommates) and turned it into something shallow and empty.

Let's establish one thing very clearly. I love the ballpark. I go as often as I can afford, and because the park I adore is an ugly, yet affordably priced Shea Stadium, it means I get to go a lot. "Keeps me off the streets," I'm fond of saying.

I love the game, my team, my ballpark so much, that I'd sooner go alone than not at all. I've sat through games played in bitter cold, so cold you almost, that's almost, wish the season started a little later. I've sat through two-and-a-half-hour rain delays. Three times in one week during that series with the Cards last season. Why do I do this? I do this because I'm a woman with an ugly swing, which severely limits the ways I can help my team. If plunking down my dollars and braving the elements are the only things I can do, so be it. I own a warm coat and the cheapest seats are a measly nine bucks. And I've got the lungs to cheer all night like it's Game Seven of the World Series.

But recently, I met a woman who was willing to "take one for the team" in a different kind of way. She was cleverly disguised as a fan, in fact she looked an awful lot like me, sitting alone, poring over a media guide, paying rapt attention to the game. She knew a lot about the players. She knew the rules of the game. She knew when a nice play had occurred, cheering wildly at all the appropriate intervals.

We got to talking that night, and I thought what I'd found was a kindred spirit. Finally, someone who understands why I arrive at Shea two-and-a-half hours early just to watch batting practice. Someone who knows why one never leaves a Mets game early. Or any game, for that matter.

She ruined it for me.

She was subtle, so subtle that I can't believe how long it took me to figure out she was nothing more than your basic Baseball Annie.

She often recognized that certain players were...cute. I won't lie. They are cute. Adorable even. So I just laughed off her little crushes. Everyone has different reasons for loving baseball, and if that's the reason that floats her boat, fine by me.

It wasn't until I got to know her better that I realized she has two things that are dangerous in combination: obsession, and too much free time. She would concoct all manner of schemes to divert their attention. I would gently remind her that this was their day job she was tampering with. "They love it," was her glib reply.

She sent them letters - with pictures. She left her number at the ballpark. Call their hotels when they were on the road. Petitioned to be made a ballgirl. (Ballgirl? She's 29.) Waited outside the players' parking lot after games. Once, she even went to the ballpark after the game had ended (she watched it on TV) to assume her post outside the players' lot. Shea is in Queens. She lives on Long Island. It's not exactly around the block.

I find myself embarrassed, ashamed that the players, my boys, might see me at a game and identify me as a groupie, the friend of that blonde girl who's always hanging around. They've seen me with her. I'm the one who sits by her side as she pelts them with cheesy come-ons. Oh, the shame.

I don't know what bothered me most, that she fooled me for so long, that I identified with her in some way, or that she involved me in so many of her schemes without my knowledge. I am actively avoiding her, a chore I wouldn't wish on any fan. I let the machine pick up, and she calls during games when she knows I'm awake and watching. I dread the inevitable day I see her again at the ballpark. But in my way, I do look forward to sitting alone, anonymous in the crowd, giving myself up to the collective cheering, becoming a part of something bigger than I could ever be on my own - the team.

I propose that all of you who see yourselves as you read this do me a simple favor: sew a scarlet "A" for Annie on your sleeve so I know who you are. Actually, it needn't be scarlet, it can be the color of your favorite team. This way, the players will know who you are and, most importantly, I'll know who you are. I promise I won't spit on you or pull your hair. I'll just gracefully sidestep you on the way to my nine-dollar, nosebleed seat.

Embittered but dealing,

Melissa

Melissa Hughes thinks Mr. Met can kick your mascot's butt. Throw down the gauntlet at mh@strikethree.com.

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