Sunday, January 13, 2008

In Which Tommy Meets a Real Life Baseball Dude

In Which Tommy Meets a Real Life Baseball Dude

Well, your old pal Tommy and his buddy Steven decided to take advantage of a Saturday off to wander down into the wilds of Georgia to attend a baseball convention in the dead of winter.

The Atlanta Braves held their Braves Fan Fest (or whatever the hell) at the World Congress Center, this past weekend. There were to be games and prizes and rides. At least, that's what I gathered. There were also to be opportunities for autographs. And oh, what opportunities there were.

The trip began with yours, truly, oversleeping a few minutes. I closed the night before, and despite the alarm going off at 7:15, I managed to lounge around for an extra 15 minutes. After a couple quick e-mails, met up with Steven, and we jetted down to Atlanta.

Jetted, that is, until you hit the ubiquitous road construction that seems to hover 20 miles north of Atlanta. It's odd what you remember sometimes...the first thing that popped into my head as we sat in traffic somewhere around exit 269 was that on a day the previous baseball season when I'd found the opportunity to head to a ballgame at Turner Field, that I'd texted the girl I was trying to go out with about how I always seemed to get caught in traffic when I went to Atlanta. Thought about texting her for shits and giggles, but figured I'd really get neither out of the action.

We parked at Turner Field. There's something weird about a Major League baseball stadium during the offseason. Or any time there's not baseball being played. It's like an empty church.

There's also the novelty of being able to drive around at will. 99% of the time I've ever driven around Turner Field, it's not without 23,000 stops and starts due to the fact that there are 40,000 other people trying to get either to or from the stadium at the same time. So, the novelty of going 50 towards the stadium was not lost on me.

There was a shuttle ride. To the World Congress Center, which was hosting both the Braves fan fest and a big honkin' boat show.

And then there's wandering around the convention.

Now, I'm a veteran of comic conventions galore. I'm used to wandering a crowded room filled with oddly-dressed folks, carrying goods to and fro in order to secure a signature.

There were slight differences: Steven correctly pointed out that the crowd was much better groomed than your average Comic Convention crowd. Better smelling, better dressed. Better manners, on the whole. Can't think of any particular time that I was looking at anything around the building, and had some greasy-faced, 400 pound Buffy the Vampire fan step in front of me to get a better look at the Xena sword in the plastic case.....

There's not a lot to report about the convention floor. Wandered it for a couple of hours. Thought about buying a game used Antonio Alfonseca cap, mostly due to my fascination with his having six fingers--the thought of owning the cap was pleasing in a P.T. Barnum kind of way. I abstained, however. I ended up not buying much of anything, outside of an overpriced piece of pizza.

Well, after wandering the floor for a while, Steven and I decided to get in an autograph line.

Now, I'm not one who goes nuts over autographs, right? Not normally. On a scale of 1 to 10, on how excited I'd get over some dude drawing on my junk? About a 4. Maybe a 5, if it was Ryne Sandberg. And definitely not if I'm being asked to pay extra.

But Steven and I had exhausted pretty much everything there might have been to do on the floor. There were a couple autograph areas set up, and there were signs everywhere that autograph sessions were "treasure hunt" style. What that meant, essentially, was that none of the Braves players or alumni would be announced, as to when they'd be signing autographs.

The gamble was this: You had a line. You stand in it, for as long as it takes to traverse the length of the World Congress Center floor, and whomever is sitting at the table when you reach the front of the line? That's whose autograph you get?

We joked with each other: What happens if you get to the front of the aisle, and it's Rufino Linares? Or Oddibe McDowell? Or Third Base Coach Brian Snitker?


There is a moral here.

It is: God LOVES Irony.

Steven and I stood in line. Mostly shooting the bull. Catching up. Since he started a family, and since he and I both work like botards, we don't hang out like we once did. I don't want this whole post to come off as a complaint. Because truth be told, it was cool to hang out with my best friend for a few hours.

Even if it was to stand in line for 3 hours, to find out that we'd be getting an autograph from Charlie Leibrandt.

Or so it looked.

We prayed. Please...Please...don't let us stand in line to have Charlie "Losing Pitcher" Leibrandt sign our baseballs.

God Answered.

At 4 PM, the changing of the guard took place. Leibrandt left. And a gentleman I did not recognize sat down.

"Shit," we said. "Who is it?"

Within moments, it became apparent.

Wouldn't it be funny, we had said, if we got up to the front of the line, to have Rufino Linares, or Oddibe McDowell sign our baseballs?

Or Third Base Base Coach Brian Snitker?


Judging from the reactions of the other fans, and the line that had stretched from one end of the World Congress Center to the other which disappeared, Steven and I weren't the only ones who felt that way....

Perhaps the funniest part was watching people find other things than what they'd originally intended to get signed. Steven and I had taken baseballs. Other people had baseball cards, team sets. Sad fact is, there aren't many ballcards with base coaches featured. And really? I somehow felt like it'd be a waste of a perfectly clean baseball, too. I (and a lot of other people) ended up getting Braves bumper stickers signed.

It wasn't long after that Steven and I had to wander North back toward Tennessee. Steven took himself a free sample of Full Throttle energy drink, which he took one sip of, and left in a garbage can....

A stop at Starbucks for a cup of a coffee, and a spine-rattling (literally) tram ride back to the parking lot, and we were off.

I laughed, saying that the wait in line and the ultimate prize of an autograph from a third-rate third base coach was something of a metaphor for a few events in my life over the past couple of years....big, big buildup where I get my hopes up, and a big old pile of goose turds as my reward.

But today, I'm a touch more philosophic.

They say that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I worry about how much I work. Sometimes, I really don't take the time to appreciate the actual time spent...

What's the saying? Life's a journey?

Maybe it's time to do a little more journeying.

And we'll just chalk up the whole "Brian Snitker" autograph thing as a lesson to file away for another day.

Y'all have a good day, alright?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home