September 1, 2004

Sticking With the Boys of Summer

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“A footlong? What’s a footlong?” he asked, looking up at me, scratching the back of his head. That was my cousin Jacob, six years old, and at his very first professional baseball game.

“It’s good,” I told him as he scowled at me. I had promised him a corndog, but wasn’t able to deliver due to the small selection of stadium delicacies. “Here, you’ll like it,” I said, handing him a long cylinder of tin foil. As he opened it, his face lit up like a Christmas tree, and I realized my work was done. Regardless of who won or lost, my cousin would never forget his first trip to the ballpark.

We raced back to our seats for the first pitch, and quickly sat down between our dads, and cousin Nick. Our excitement grew with each curveball and slider. We all roared when the home team scored its first run, a solo homer jacked over the right field wall. We didn’t watch the Yankees beat up some poor AL East team that night. Heck the home team didn’t even win, but none of that mattered. We didn’t need any of it to still have a good time.

While I was only back in Buffalo for a week, the game with my family was a perfect ending to an almost perfect baseball-filled summer. It started with anxiety — I was worried about living with four strangers, yet somehow we bonded over endless games of MLB 2004, and homerun derbies that kept us from things we should have been doing, like policy presentations and — in my case — laundry. We arranged our lives around it, planning out stadium-esque meals.

While some of my summer co-workers spent All-Star Monday in front of books or at gourmet restaurants, I spent mine over a stove making beer-cheese soup with three of my roommates. While most trios of a Republican, Moderate and Liberal in D.C. were at each other’s throats, you’d have mistaken us for brothers from the way we kept up and talked about the game.

Baseball was a bonding element in the office as well. Most of the other interns complained about how staff members would give them the cold shoulder, and were often surprised when I disagreed with their assessments. Then again, they never tried analyzing the Garciaparra trade with the systems administrator, or discussed the wildcard race with the staff assistants. (Lacing up for the office’s softball games didn’t hurt either, except if you were Elizabeth Dole, who almost got hit with a pop-up foul ball when we played her office. Her team won the game, though, so I guess it all worked out in the end.)

Other interns left amid handshakes and cordial waves, yet somehow I couldn’t get out the door without that last hug, or having someone cram a business card into my hand. A kid from New York, I made more friends and connections watching Red Sox games than I ever thought possible. Buying a few $6 pitchers at Rhino didn’t hurt either.

Is there really a hard point or a moral here? I suppose there could be. Much like anything else (especially things at Cornell), I suppose the bonds of baseball are what you make of them, which is why you should work to find fellow fans on your floor. Everyone always brags about the Cornell network, but I think there’s something to be said for Red Sox Nation. There’s just something magical about a group of guys (and girls) — no matter what their ages — bonding over grilled meat, freshly cut grass, and the hard crack of the ball against a wooden bat (even if it’s on TV, or in your gamecube). I know I’ll be called crazy, especially with football season set to start, but this Fall — or at least until they stop playing games in the Metrodome — my eyes are still on the boys of summer.

Archived article by Matt Janiga