When you’re used to a press box the size of a standard single office and taking your notes down in the seats, walking into the box at a major league stadium can be a little bit overwhelming. The permanent desks, designated elevator, cafeteria, and well-supported internet connection can seem a wee bit much, but it’s ridiculously easy to get used to it, despite the surreality of it all.
The first batter, Almonte, singled, breaking up the seeming possibility of a perfect game that exists any time Yu Darvish takes the mound. In fact, the game would turn out to be fairly ordinary with Darvish allowing two runs but striking out eight and Felix Hernandez allowing one and striking out nine. The abnormally quiet offense continued their depressing trend, giving Darvish seven more innings of no run support, against a pitcher Texas has traditionally had success against. As fate would have it, neither ace figured into the eventual game decision.
While a game like this may be something un-extraordinary, especially in this season of generally low scoring games, for someone who spends most of their time in the more casual atmosphere of “the farm,” the experience was surreal and remarkable.
There’s something viscerally different about watching a game from the sterile silence of the press box, rather than the short seats of a minor league stadium. Even when you yourself are silent, watching the lower levels, you’re still surrounded by the noises associated with the game - kids screaming, the noise of the umpire, the muttered conversations around you. In Arlington, viewing the game from the middle of the stadium, some noises filter out, but the sound of ice chattering in plastic cups is clearly audible over everything else.
Occasionally, something will happen on the field that provokes a response from the silent masses, but the reaction is never partisan, and never more than a groan or a sigh. If, like myself, you find yourself perched in the third row, you realize how far off the TV broadcast is from the live action on the field. Though Darvish isn’t a particularly quick worker, with someone like Matt Harrison it would be easy to imagine that you could fall two or three pitches behind-but that’s not the point. You’re not here for enjoyment.
It’s somehow easy to forget fannish affiliations up there, behind the glass windows of the second tier of the Ballpark. Well, not really forget, but they disappear into the back of your mind as the quiet industrial feel of the place takes over. It’s somehow easier to just sigh at occurrences on the field, up there, where the most shock expressed is over a scorer’s discretion to call a play a hit, rather than an error. The loudest the pressbox got was when an overenthusiastic fan in a Derek Holland shirt decided to make himself part of the game story, and ended up being tackled fairly convincingly by a security guard. A second guard, of course, missed, adding to the general hilarity of the scene.
Of course, like all sports, everything can change at the last second. Everything typed above happened in innings one through eight-point-five, and then the Rangers pulled two runs off formerly untouchable closer Fernando Rodney. Kevin Kouzmanoff singled with two outs, Mitch Moreland worked a walk, Donnie Murphy willed a ball into an error, and then Rodney sealed his own fate with a wild pitch that brought home the tying run. At this point, Leonys Martin ended the game that had been a pitchers’ duel until then by dropping a single over the head of the shortstop and was dragged around the infield by his jersey by ecstatic teammates, for his troubles.
Like all parks, though, there’s something special about walking in when everything is quiet and still. Ballparks are just buildings, but it’s easy to make yourself forget that fact, whether they’re the smallest of short-season parks or the grandest of MLB cathedrals. Though, of course, that could be itself attributed to the inherent romanticism some bring to baseball. For the main members of the working media, perhaps it’s just an office building.
It’s easier to forget the players are people, sitting so high above them, unlike the low intimacy of a minor league park. It’s easier, also, though, to see them as a team, to watch the general movements of nine men trying to keep a tenth (or 11th or whatever) from running 360 or so feet around a diamond.
Though as a minor league writer, while it feels odd to be so separated, so distant from the game, it’s not as different as one may think. You’re still writing about a game, a game that’s a part of the American consciousness, and it still centers around a man and his struggle to miss a bat.