The Old Ballgame

It was an average Thursday night. The crowd waiting to get into Truist Park was a biblical mass. There were too many people to comprehend.

Everyone was sweating through their undergarments. The smell of human armpit odor was in the air.

It was a sold-out game. Forty-odd thousand baseball fans stood waiting for the sacred gates to open. There wasn’t a frown in the bunch. Almost everyone in this crowd was cheerful.

That’s baseball for you.

At its heart baseball has always been about fun. Plain and simple. At ballgames, most people are glad to be there.

You’ll see kids in jerseys, laughing with each other. Mothers smiling, bouncing babies on hips. Old men with bright eyes, wearing leather mitts that predate the Eisenhower presidency, telling stories about “the Say Hey Kid” and “Hammerin’ Hank” to their grandchildren.

And that’s the beauty of this game. It is one of the only American institutions remaining wherein people of different persuasions, ages and creeds can find a common bond, and boo in unison at the same umpire.

A place where all God’s children can come together and pay $18 for a beer.

That’s probably why I love the game so much. Because there are no divisions in a ballpark. Here, you’ll see all cultures. All classes. All kinds.

Guys who drive Peterbilts brush shoulders with men who drive Range Rovers. Bankers and attorneys stand alongside millworkers and pipe fitters and cheer for the same home run.

A home run which was launched by a 24-year-old Afro-Dominican who earns more money per fiscal year than Pope Francis.

The gates opened.

Children in line started vibrating with enthusiasm. Parents hoisted toddlers onto shoulders. And the throngs began moving toward the City of Joy.

Truist Park, 10 miles north of Atlanta. A 1.1-billion-dollar ballpark and real-estate development that makes Disney World look like a trip to the gastroenterologist. This place is nothing but a fun zone.

Even the guy scanning tickets was having fun. He scanned my ticket and said, “You ready to kick butt tonight, boss?”

“I’m ready to win,” I said.

“That’s my man,” he shouted.

Then he high-fived me.

It was a firm, strong high-five. The kind that you remember for several minutes thereafter.

In real life, you don’t get many high-fives. But you get them in ballparks.

My first beer of the evening was purchased from a vendor who carried a heavy ice chest over his head.

“ICE COOOLD BEEEER!” he shouted to each passerby.

I asked how he liked his job.

“Man, I walk eight to ten miles every game. I run up bleachers all night until my legs burn. I work like a mule. But people are so generous. They tip me better than any job I ever had. I’ll make more money this week than I made all month last year. I love it here. You don’t meet any sad people at a baseball game.”

And he was right. I was looking around and I didn’t find a single long face.

So it was an all-around great night. But frankly I don’t remember much about the game. Not because I don’t love the Braves. I do.

I’ve been rooting for the Bravos since I was a young guy and the Superstation broadcast their games for free.

I loved Dale Murphy, I remember the Sid Bream slide, the 78-pitch game thrown by Greg Maddux, and I recall with fondness almost every time coach Bobby Cox threatened an umpire.

But the reason tonight’s game was so good has nothing to do with nostalgia. Not for me. Tonight’s ballgame was a great experience because I rarely see so many joyous people in one place.

There was the “Kiss Cam,” when the jumbotron showed images of random people in the ballpark kissing.

There was the booty-shaking contest, when my wife and I bounced our hindparts together, high in the bleachers, along with thousands of others who danced to Bill Haley and his Comets singing “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”

There were the crummy hotdogs. The overcooked hamburgers. The stale French fries. The tasteless nachos, served in a plastic batting helmet.

And there was the height of the evening.

It happened during the seventh-inning stretch. And it happens at every Braves game.

This anomalous event occurs when 42,000 stand to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

These are ordinary humans. People who disagree on virtually everything within our society. These are people who would rather eat dirt than find common ground.

But tonight, the entire stadium took to their feet, cheered and made music together. Everyone hollered. Everyone knew the lyrics.

Some raised plastic cups into the air as they sang. Little girls sat on the shoulders of old men. Teenage boys bellowed alongside their dads. Strangers high-fived hard enough to break their wrists.

And for a very brief moment on an average Thursday night, everything was okay in America.

And well. That’s baseball for you.

46 comments

  1. Susan Newsome - July 9, 2022 7:04 am

    Luv luv luv!

    Reply
  2. Sandi. - July 9, 2022 7:39 am

    Truist Park sounds like a magical place. Sean, I like your sketch of the bat, glove and baseball accompanying this feel-good story. You could illustrate a book after writing it.

    Reply
  3. Leigh Amiot - July 9, 2022 8:07 am

    Had the joy of watching the Braves play the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver last month with my older son and his family. My son, a Colorado transplant originally from Georgia, wore his Braves shirt, and my little four-year-old granddaughter cheered, “Go Wockies, go Bwaves!” A young man smiled at her. My son bought us all Dippin’ Dots—you can tell he’s doing well in life—and informed me that the purple row of seats at the stadium represent the mile high mark. Honestly, I don’t watch a lot of baseball, but I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Rockies play twice, and the take me out to the ball game experience was everything you say—plus the Braves won that night!

    Reply
  4. Carol Jones - July 9, 2022 9:15 am

    Good one!

    Reply
  5. Jocelyn - July 9, 2022 9:17 am

    So True. Sports are the common ground

    Reply
  6. Clark Hining - July 9, 2022 10:49 am

    Love it Sean!!

    Reply
  7. Atticus Haygood Sims 111 - July 9, 2022 11:13 am

    Great story. I put it up there with the one about a tomato sandwich. ( I sent copies to family in Andusula and Jesup)

    Reply
  8. John Harris - July 9, 2022 11:17 am

    Sean, I loved your column today. It so happens my son and I were at Fenway Park last night checking off a bucket list visit for me. “Take me out to the ball game” was wonderful as always, but “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning was special, too. I agree with all you say about this divided country and baseball’s ability to bring us together. Here’s to you, and keep the good words coming. John Harris, Flat Rock, North Carolina.

    Reply
  9. Denise Walker - July 9, 2022 11:18 am

    Truth! And Braves games are THE BEST!

    Reply
  10. Cheryl Newsome - July 9, 2022 11:36 am

    Sean, the way you feel at a baseball game is the way I feel when I’m at a favorite bands’ concerts. You’re surrounded by excited people who share the love of the same thing/people you do. You sing. You dance. You get giddy off the energy and joy that hits you like waves. For a couple of hours, you forget all your daily worries and pains and you’re free to just be happy.

    Reply
  11. Joy Jacobs - July 9, 2022 11:37 am

    My dad was a die-hard Cubs fan. He died in 1991 and I still have his Cubs t-shirt and sweatshirt which I wore in his honor during the worlds series. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

    Reply
  12. Rosemary - July 9, 2022 11:38 am

    You voiced the feelings of my husband. He walks into a stadium, sees the field, and it literally takes his breath away. Go Braves!

    Reply
  13. Ann Thompson - July 9, 2022 11:45 am

    Yeah. Lifts me up reading this.

    Reply
  14. stephenpe - July 9, 2022 11:47 am

    I live in the same kind of area you do. And see these occasions that bring us altogether. High shools sports. I see lots of people I know that are polar opposites on so many things in America but our children once again seem to help us bridge the gaps. And what is more important than our children?

    Reply
  15. Cheryl - July 9, 2022 11:51 am

    And don’t forget about the school group that sang our national anthem before the game—always makes me tear up

    Reply
  16. Joseph+Flanagan - July 9, 2022 12:01 pm

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for writing this quintessential American story.

    GO BRAVOS!

    Reply
  17. Cathy Cooke - July 9, 2022 12:34 pm

    We’re a several generation baseball family. When my grandson was 3 he went to his first (minor league) ballpark. Even though I was behind him, I could see the awe and wonder in his eyes! It was a magical moment. Baseball does that to you.

    Reply
  18. Pingback: Sean of the South: The Old Ballgame | The Trussville Tribune

  19. Marianne Bryan - July 9, 2022 1:32 pm

    😊♥️👌🏻 baseball comrades!!!!

    Reply
  20. Patricia Gibson - July 9, 2022 2:13 pm

    We are still all Americans when it counts! Sounds like a fun time. I live South of Atlanta and I am glad when the Braves win, but have to be honest not a baseball fan ❤️

    Reply
  21. David Britnell - July 9, 2022 2:32 pm

    Enjoyed this very much!

    Reply
  22. LIN ARNOLD - July 9, 2022 2:55 pm

    My fondest memories of going to the Braves games was way back about 1980, in the REAL Braves stadium in downtown Atlanta. The Braves were having a lousy season. A friend of mine went with me to a weeknight game … the stadium had no more than 300-400 people in it. The Braves were losing. No one was surprised. It was the bottom of the ninth with 2 outs, the bases were loaded and Bruce Benedict up to bat. Everyone was packing up to leave. And then it happened … BRUCE HIT A HOMERUN!!!! The roar that came out of that stadium sounded like 5000 lions! I’ll never forget that night. Good memories.

    Reply
  23. Paul McCutchen - July 9, 2022 3:11 pm

    You are so right. I was there. There was a man, his son and grandson sitting next to me and my two son-in-laws. We had extra seats so we told them to move towards us so his young grandson would have a seat to himself. We found out they were from England and had never been to a baseball game. When we stood up to sing in the seventh inning he asked about the words so my son-in law pointed to where he could read the words. He said the same thing you said. Everyone seems to be having a great time. There were no political sides just St Louis and Atlanta. That was all that mattered along with hoping to catch a home run or even one of the warm up the outfielders were throwing around between innings. We had so much fun the girls decided they wanted to come next time. Shouldn’t have sent home pics.

    Reply
  24. Kathy - July 9, 2022 3:14 pm

    Amen!!! Too bad we can’t capture that and ‘spray’ it all over the US and go back to being kind and forgiving. (Sigh)

    Reply
  25. Walter Mark Buehler - July 9, 2022 3:24 pm

    thank you, very inspirational!

    Reply
  26. Kathy Adams - July 9, 2022 4:03 pm

    My husband, son & I moved to ATL last year from the GA coast. The question we get most often is; “Why did you leave the island for the big city?” Well, here is the answer.
    We live 6 miles from Truist Park Stadium & my 34 year old son has his dream job! My son was born with a disability, he is MID- mildly intelligently disabled. He hasn’t had an easy life. School was hard, friendships did not come easily, life is just a little more complicated than most. Sometimes with a disability, comes an interesting ability. My son’s unique ability is knowing sports stats, names, numbers, player stats & especially the Atlanta Braves. Right after we moved here, a job became available to work for the Braves. Luke worked his first year at the Left field gate scanning tickets, greeting fans, handing out bobble heads & takes credit for helping take the Braves to the World Series! 😉. Seeing my son in his uniform heading to work with purpose, dignity & pride is just about the best thing a parent can ask for…..as beautiful as an island sunset. Next week there is a ceremony to hand out the employee’s World Series rings. Can you imagine the joy? Yes, baseball is more than just a game!

    Reply
    • Elizabeth - July 9, 2022 5:17 pm

      Kathy, what a wonderful experience for your son and also for you, to be able to see him doing something that he loves!

      Reply
  27. Ruth Ann Eadens - July 9, 2022 4:16 pm

    Oh, Sean , I feel the same way . But not about the Atlanta Braves. Although I am happy for those fans too. Put me in Diddle Arena at a Western Kentucky University basketball game and I am a happy woman . Goooo Hilltoppers! And icing on that cake is when my grandson is sliding that trombone in the pep . Did I already say Gooo Tops!!!!

    Reply
  28. virginia westlake - July 9, 2022 5:23 pm

    If you have a chance to see Facing Nolan, see it! Of course, Nolan Ryan didn’t play for the Braves, but it’s a great documentary about one of baseball’s legends.

    Reply
  29. Patricia - July 9, 2022 6:06 pm

    Thank you for sharing…I wish all of America could be like this on all things….Love your writing!

    Reply
  30. Sonny - July 9, 2022 6:16 pm

    Great true story!

    Reply
  31. Armand - July 9, 2022 6:26 pm

    An attitude of gratitude will never fail you. thank you Sean!

    Reply
  32. Joyce Hooper - July 9, 2022 7:25 pm

    This gave me goosebumps! I love America!

    Reply
  33. MAM - July 9, 2022 7:46 pm

    Baseball is THE American game, and, just as Sean said. it brings together everyone. I always love your writing, Sean, but I also enjoyed the several stories in the comments. Thanks for sharing them.

    Reply
  34. Ron J Fitzsimmons - July 9, 2022 7:51 pm

    To me, the essence of baseball was when that Toronto Blue Jays fan caught an Aaron Judge home run and turned around and gave it to a kid wearing an Aaron Judge t shirt. Phew. Good stuff.

    Reply
  35. Sissy Geist - July 9, 2022 8:30 pm

    😍 love it..America and Americans at their best…..God does less America if we just let Him.

    Reply
  36. Linda Moon - July 9, 2022 8:40 pm

    What a great way for you to celebrate your perfect scans, there in Truist Park! Everything’s okay for you and me and America, too!

    Reply
  37. Christine Peters - July 9, 2022 9:39 pm

    That made me cry. Joyful tears. Thank you.

    Reply
  38. Robert Chiles - July 10, 2022 12:46 am

    I remember the stretch at Cubs field, Harry Caray would say, “Okay, everybody up. I want to hear it, good and loud….

    Reply
  39. Lynette Shiver - July 10, 2022 1:40 am

    As usual, you nailed it! For all ages… Go Braves!

    Reply
  40. Slimpicker - July 10, 2022 2:38 am

    Sean, I am surprised that you never noticed the silent but very important division among hotdog eaters. There are the normal hotdog enthusiasts that only put mustard on their dog and the less educated folk who put catsup on their wiener dog. Bless their heart.

    Reply
  41. Patrick Williams - July 10, 2022 3:37 am

    The only thing to top the 7th inning stretch is the Sunday appearance of Timothy Miller in his full tux to belt out God Bless America. Brings down the house everytime.

    Reply
  42. Debbie g - July 10, 2022 3:48 am

    “Imagine all the people “
    Excellent Sean
    Love to you and Jamie
    And to us all

    Reply
  43. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 10, 2022 11:22 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  44. Anna Shaffer - July 12, 2022 8:54 pm

    Amen brother!!!

    Reply
  45. Karen Taghi - July 13, 2022 7:10 pm

    My favorite game!

    Reply

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