Thursday, May 15, 2014

That kid is back on the escalator again

One of the most alarming things I've found as I attend baseball games this season is the disturbing trend that time continues to move on. Humanity has tried to stop this many times, but unfortunately there are no ways to create a Picture of Dorian Gray for all of us or even a Benjamin Button. We're going to get old. That's the truth of it. Unfortunately, for me, this has become more and more apparent over the last week in which I endeavored on an irrational baseball spree and went to four Mets games in six days. This might have been a bad idea since they're the Mets and they went 1-3 over that stretch, but it is what it is.

The big running theme, however, was that children are coming to games and are smart enough now to actually engage with. I should have seen this coming since I recently became an uncle, which is its own kind of weird, but it came into sharp focus on Friday night when a six-year-old kid was asking me to teach him the history of the Mets and I realized he was born after I graduated college. Then the kicker came when his nine-year-old sister kept telling me I was old and asked, "Were you alive for 9/11?"

Seriously? Is that a question people ask now?

On Saturday a group of 12-year-olds joined in with me to mock a Phillies fan who was chanting of his love for the Eagles, which was fine until I realized none of them were alive when the Giants played the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV. On Tuesday a group of teenagers at the Mets-Yankees game huddled over my shoulder to watch Game 7 between the Rangers and Penguins on my phone and they all made mention of the fact that none were old enough to remember the 2000 World Series (one wasn't born until 2002), and then there was last night, when I sat in the first row at Citi Field and faced a barrage of reminders that I'm a mere 14 months away from turning 30.

This was brought about by some absolutely awful parenting our entire section was witness to for three-plus hours. I was the lucky recipient of free tickets to the Masahiro Tanaka Show, and my seats were absolutely superb. This was a tremendous improvement over Tuesday night when I bought limited view seats at Yankee Stadium and found that not only was the view obstructed, but the right field foul pole matched up perfectly with the entire first base line. This is not a good thing.

The seats I had at Citi were superb not just for the intimacy, but also because it is prime foul ball or thrown-ball-from-the-field-or-dugout territory. In fact, the girl behind me caught a ball thrown to our section by Ruben Tejada that was just out of my reach. There was, however, one boy, who was not even sitting in the first seven rows, who at every half inning appeared at the wall of the dugout begging for a baseball.

No harm, right? After all, he's just a little kid looking for a souvenir. One baseball from a real live Major League Baseball player would bring a young child untold joy and excitement.

In principle I have no problem with this. Hell, as an almost-29-year-old man I do the very same thing. Here's the thing, though. When I get one baseball, I stop. There are only so many crowd-thrown baseballs to go around as it is, and if there's one thing the world doesn't need it's more Zack Hamples. This kid scavanged no fewer than four baseballs over the course of the evening, taking advantage of his overt toddler cuteness, widely-spaced buck teeth and all to essentially screw over the rest of the section, which, I might add, had several more ball-seeking children.

I know what you're saying. "Dave, he's just a kid. Relax." He is, in fact, just a kid, and he probably doesn't know one way or another that being a ball hog is selfish and irritating. But when his father is walking him up there every single time and then running back to his seat to hide so no one realizes it's a coordinated effort, bad etiquette is being taught while other kids are missing their own chances at creating the same memories.

Bare-knuckle capitalism has no place among kids in the front row at a baseball game. I had assumed kindergarteners were taught to share.

As I continued to see this child run over to the dugout at every inning break and get rewarded nearly half the time, I had one thought that continued running through my head, and that was of the great Brodie Bruce's obsession with the child on the escalator.

Every time I saw the boy sprint up to the wall with his father laughing maniacally behind him I could only think, "That kid is back at the dugout again!" My reaction was shared with amazement by most of the adults in the section, while the kids next to me were irritated that they could never compete with the ball-magnet elementary-schooler standing in front of them.

Was one baseball not enough for this boy and his Napoleonic father?

As I joked with the father behind me of how ridiculous the scenario was and commiserated with the boys next to me even if they didn't have the clairvoyance to bring a mitt, I told the one teenager next to me that the whole thing reminded me of Brodie's amazement and irritation in Mallrats.

"I don't know what movie that is," he said.

It came out four years before he was born. We've got to do something about this whole "time" thing.

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