Not all ballgames should go nine innings, even tie ballgames. Is it necessary to have a winner, I sometimes think? Can we not appreciate seven innings of rich, rip-snorting baseball and then, satisfied, go home?
Later, my editor reminded me that plenty of people leave before the end of every single game. In the seventh inning, the fifth, whenever—at some point in the game’s latter half, you’ll see people start to trickle out of the ballpark, then stream out as the game wears on.
Preludes do not have to chirp out the tone of exactly what is to follow. A boys choir gave a slow, elegiac, almost mournful rendition of the National Anthem last night, some of the crowd singing along as if in sympathy, and the mood of the ballpark was a touch graver afterwards, in that liminal moment before the game’s first pitch. It was thrown, minutes later, by Durham Bulls newcomer Merrill Kelly, a fastball that rode way up and in on Indianapolis’ Josh Harrison, who spun out of the way—and the game announced its character with a tower-buzz of excitement.
Triple-A is right below the majors, of course. There are some games here that seem no different from big-league games, in terms of quality of play. I’m thinking of games like this one, a memorable pitchers’ duel between major-league bound talents Mike and Minor and Matt Moore, from 2011. Back in 2010, when Dan Johnson was having his way with the entire International League on the way to winning its MVP Award, every time he stepped to the plate he brought the game to a major-league level.
Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch in Ghost World. Courtesy of United Artists and Granada Film Productions.
“Ghost world” for two reasons. Topmost: I’m writing this on June 12th, an off-day for the Bulls. It’s the date on which the just-finished-high-school narrator of Aimee Mann’s wonderfully wistful song (warning: bad video!) of the same title asks aloud if it’s the longest day of the year. It’s not—that would be June 21—but it’s such a good song, for one thing, and there’s something so touching about a very bright kid being wrong, especially in this moment just before a long, aimless summer, before all the uncertainties and humblings of adulthood commence.
Today, Adam Sobsey has a new Bull City Summer piece in the Paris Review Daily:
I am a pitching chauvinist. The mechanics of it are so complex, so cerebral, so deliberate—so difficult—that in the past, I’ve compared pitchers to authors and hitters to readers. Hitting a baseball is essentially reactive and instinctive; it seems like the sort of thing almost any big lug could do with enough practice, as long as he has wrists strong and quick enough to swing a bat, and decent hand-eye coordination.
If you’ve attended games at Durham Bulls Athletic Park so far this season, you may have noticed a new selection in concessions, the Nuke Dog, a hot dog named after Nuke Laloosh from the movie Bull Durham, made with a spicy pepper relish. This special dog—putting the “hot” in dog—is the brainchild of Samantha Swan of Chapel Hill’s Cottage Lane Kitchen, and last week it finished runner-up in a national Minor League Baseball food contest.