I don’t like sport. Excepting my netball glory days (goal shooter, I was very good, thanks for asking), I have only two vivid sport memories from childhood. The earlier is of a tantrum I was throwing, for reasons I can’t remember. I do remember being curled up with my dad in his armchair, being comforted. Or so I thought. My kiwi Dad likes to think of himself as quite the comedian, and when my mum wandered in to ask what was wrong, he responded ‘the All-Blacks are playing the Wallabies tonight and she doesn’t know who to barrack for’. Of course, this only made me cry more, as I was 3, and didn’t understand the nuance of my father’s humour, or his commentary on identity politics. But I digress.

The other memory is of the day in year one when we received forms to sign up for tee ball. My best friend’s mum was volunteering in the class, and asked if I was going to sign up. ‘No,’ I responded matter-of-factly, ‘sport is for boys.’ When I regaled this story for Kat at the gates of the Barbagallo Ballpark on Friday night, she said ‘you’re part of the problem, Lucy’, and I said, ‘Kat I was 4,’ but again, I digress.

Pelican gets offered all sorts of weird shit for free. Among the most useful are the movie tickets, which keep us in Innaloo most weeknights. Among the least are offers of like, software, or something. I always make special effort to read the press releases that are sent from a Hotmail account, or in plain text. These are the ones offering us free tickets to local amateur theatre projects, or a copy of someone’s self-published debut novella. Anyone who knows me knows I love to lean in, and I deeply respect the audacity of someone who’s volunteered to do the marketing for their local LotteryWest funded organization. When we got an un-MailChimped email about the baseball, I was obviously hesitant. Until I read this:

Similar to a 20/20 cricket game’s atmosphere and entertainment plus the added bonus of $5 pints of beer, I believe games should be thriving with 18-25s.

Yes, you read correctly. $5 pints. Finally, a PR person who gets it: we go where the booze goes. So we put on our best Sport Furs and caught an uber to Thornlie for local baseball champs’ the Perth Heat’s opening game.

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When we arrived we got chatting to the cutie at the ticketing booth, who delightfully confirmed that ‘the alcohol is so cheap, man.’ We excitedly walked up the stairs into the stadium to be greeted by an Americana dreamscape. In the car on the way over we’d spent about 20 minutes deliberately misquoting Friday Night Lights – Clear Hearts. Full bladders. Can’t leave. – and I was pleased to see the vision in my head of what this would look like was entirely accurate. A lit up scoreboard too bright to actually read, huge floodlights, and players with dad bod in crisp white uniforms smeared with red dirt from the pitch. It was hot.

Naturally we gravitated towards the bar, and were confronted by the evening’s first disappointment. Yes, you can get a $5 pint. Of mid-strength. Just like a game of baseball, we’d been played. Miffed, I forked out the extra buck for a $6 full-strength Hahn’s Super Dry. The man next to me at the bar stroked my fur, uninvited. This is a kangaroo court, I thought to myself.

Irritated but undeterred, we mingled about, trying to pick up the vibe. I wholeheartedly endorse any place where adults are invited to get on the piss and children to play in the same vicinity. That is healthy. That’s what makes this country great. I was surprised and delighted by the strong community feel of the event, and seeing children run frantically after fly balls was charming, even for a cold, ancient crone like myself. I learned that baseball has bat boys, the way tennis has ball boys, who wear mini versions of their team’s uniform. Halfway through the game, the children all run across the pitch, for reasons I could not decipher. It’s pretty adorable.

We eventually found seats about four rows back, between first and second base. The gentleman directly in front of us spoke with a thick American drawl and sat with his two kids, clearly excited about the game, and clearly a bit irritated by our presence. We later learned he’d driven from Northam for the match, because it was his birthday and ‘baseball is just…’ – I assume the trail off means like, really, really important. At one point the crowd erupted in boos, and I politely asked him if he could explain why. He said plainly that the umpire had made a bad call. I was touched that he had assumed we had even a rudimentary knowledge of the game, and opted not to enquire further.

At about 8:30, between innings, the commentators ask everyone to stand, stretch their legs, and sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game.’ This was probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and unfortunately by the time I realised what was going on I had left to get another round. I stopped at the top of the bleachers to watch, and this text message exchange with Kat, who did not stand or sing, ensued:

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The Heat won, and they all jumped all over and rubbed up against each other when it happened, and it was nice. Afterwards, we circled round the pitch/oval/green/whatever it’s called to where the players were gathered to see if we could get their attention, but it proved difficult. They were all so deeply involved in conversation with baseball WAGs and their kids. I was so touched by the community spirit of it all that I was almost not annoyed by the fact that our uber back to the eastern suburbs cost $40. Tickets to a game are usually $16, which makes it a pretty cheap night out for people who live in the Thornlie area. Can I get a lift with you to the next one?

 
Words by Lucy Ballantyne