I needed to take my mind off politics, off the internet, off anything heavy. We decided to take in the final night of the Reds vs. Mets series; the only place in the stadium we had yet to sit were the outfield bleachers.
The bleachers RULE. I felt like I was at a proper baseball game. Feet up, butt sore, the jumbotron at our backs. Four guys sitting behind us analyzing the game (“why would you walk the guy who has no hits?”), clapping for Bailey to get his third strike like they meant it. The sound bounced off the leather of the glove as the pitch reached the catcher; we felt the flames of the fireballs launched to our left with each strikeout, counting the Ks over our shoulders to our right. We’re right over the bullpen; watching Bailey warm up that close almost feels like we’re part of the team. I hold up my hand when the Reds batters step up to the plate and say “RIGHT HERE. Hit me with the ball!” which makes the guys behind us giggle.
The outfield players are way more fun to watch too. Ludwick gets bored with a batter and takes off his glove. Stubbs seemed to be staring up at the bugs circling the floodlights. I totally expected one of them to sit down and start making daisy chains.
In the 8th inning, it started to rain. (I don’t know why, but looking at the play-by-play, I fully expected it to include this fact. Why doesn’t it? Right there with “coach visit to the mound.” The rain, after all, was a player too.) A few bolts of lightning webbed across the sky; the guys behind us remind us we’re sitting on metal bleachers. People start leaving in droves. Those of us left behind wipe the rain from our faces and take up the cheering slack.
The bottom of the 9th. The bottom of the 9th! We’re losing 8-1, the rain is heavy and proper now, but we still hold on to our seats. You never know what might happen. I take a bathroom break; as soon as I’m in the bowels of the stadium toilets, Ludwick hits a single home run. When I get back to the bleachers, our bleacher buddies tell me I can go to the bathroom any time I want. I do three more times when the count is full because I’m suddenly superstitious. Raindrops splash my glasses, and I whoop as Cairo singles on a line drive and Bruce scores. Then Cozart bats in Frazier. Now it’s pouring, but it’s the bottom of the 9th and we are making a comeback. They can hear us up here in the bleachers, I know it. We’re the loudest, the wettest, the most death-defying. “I feel like a real fan now.” I bend over the side of the railing and see they’re warming up Chapman, optimistic for a 10th inning. Then, two outs, the infield dirt dark with rain, Valdez strikes out swinging.
But we don’t care. “We’ll remember this game,” says J in his soaked Cincinnati shirt, giddy, wet, and smiling.
You stay until the end in the pouring rain because the bottom of the 9th might just be the best part.