Let me just come right out with it at the beginning: I cannot wait for that first time I get back into a cheap seat on the first base line, plastic cup beer in hand, setting sun shining in my face and the faces of other beer and baseball-loving Erieites as we watch a group of men chase their big league dreams with our city’s name stitched across the front of their uniforms. The SeaWolves home opener is set for Tuesday, May 11 (full schedule here), and I’m not missing it.
We’ve all given up plenty during the past year, and especially now that the shutdown-iversary is upon us and the vaccines provide some light at the end of the tunnel, now feels like the time to plan out that first, best reintroduction to whatever it is you miss the most.
For me, it’s baseball. Now obviously, the birthday parties and risk-free get-togethers with loved ones will top most lists and deservedly so. That’s a given. I will absolutely be hugging members of my family in a way that makes them very uncomfortable, very soon. We’re not talking about that.
I’m talking about Erie events. For some of you, maybe you loved Presque Isle but found the sheer volume of the unmasked masses a bit too risky even being outdoors. Nothing comes close to a live baseball game for me. I’ve never been a big concert guy, not hugely into restaurants although I’ve got some favorites, and hockey’s never lit my lamp. No, I need a baseball game.
There’s something especially great, something pure, about the minor league game in particular. On every team you have a mix of talent: the high draft pick still figuring out the professional game, with overwhelming physical talent that flashes and disappears like a firefly; the old veteran who’s soaking in one last summer under the lights, who knows his chance at stardom has passed but relishes in outsmarting the hotshot kids; and everybody in between. They’re all coming or going, just like all of us in the bleachers in some other way, and we all get to witness that brief moment of intersection.
Living here and contributing to whatever success this city’s had that warranted a pro team’s existence is a point of pride, too. In the immortal words of David “Big Papi” Ortiz: “This is our f***in’ city!” When the news hit initially that Erie’s team would be eliminated as part of a nationwide contraction of minor league affiliates, I took that personally. It hurt. When that was reversed and our SeaWolves were saved, I felt the appreciation that can only follow a near-death experience. I won’t turn down a chance to see a game after nearly losing that chance for good.
Then there are my kids. Those hooligans weren’t old enough to handle a ballgame in 2019, and 2020 was supposed to be their year. (Narrator voice: 2020 was not their year.) I’m so excited to get them through the turnstiles with their too-big baseball caps, bribe them with some popcorn or ice cream or whatever it takes for them to sit still while I begin to paint some broad contours of the game into their minds, then inevitably leave in the fifth inning when they’re bored and have to pee and haven’t been still since the national anthem. I’ll love it all.
Maybe baseball isn’t for you. It’s fine (it’s actually not fine at all and we’ll fistfight over this later because you’re wrong but for the sake of the article let’s just move on). Surely you have your eye on some event around Erie from which you’ve been deprived this past year. What post-pandemic activity are you looking forward to the most?