My sons play baseball. Away games sometimes take us to interesting new locations far and different from what we see in the Valley. This isn’t a post about those locations, sadly. Instead, it’s a post about how I found myself yesterday at an away game, but yet at home, in the center of what I’d like to call the Hillbilly Hood.
I arrived a few minutes late to the game at a field in the middle of a run-down section of a larger town nearby. It’s not big enough to call a city, really, but it’s considerably larger in area and more populated. The field consisted of a rickety backstop and peeling benches for the home and visiting team. The field is in stark contrast to another we visited last week which included brick dugouts with shingled roofs, an actual bullpen, and and automatic sprinkler system that kept the field and dirt moist between games.
Let’s just say that when I exited my car at this field, I made sure to lock the door. While it wasn’t the hood, proper, the setting looked a little shady to me.
I opened my lawn chair and sat in the outfield by the third base line. In front of me was a group of parents whose boys play with my son. Behind me is a van in which are parents of another boy on the team. I figured I was in good company with parents whose kids were on our team. In a way, I was at “home” there with my own people.
I began observing people two batters into the second inning, as I usually do when the game starts to get boring. My attention fell on the man and younger boy sitting under a tree in front of me.
The man, probably in his early thirties, wore a black T-shirt and black basketball shorts. His black, calf-high Nike socks just covered the tattoo of the Tasmanian Devil on his left leg. A cigarette dangled from his lips, and as his son struck out the poor chap at bat he hollered his signature, “There you go!” at the field.
From behind I hear a loud honking and a deep voice yell “Yeeeaaahhhhh D.” I raise my eyebrows beginning to wonder what I have sandwiched myself between. It was beginning to sound like hillbilly hell.
The gent in front of me yells, “Les Go IP3” while pumping his right fist furiously and thrusting his pelvis forward. His son’s name is Issac Paul the Third. The thought of Thurston Howell the Third briefly crossed my mind and I had to shake my head at the stark contrast. Could you see Thurston’s dad hollering “TH3, Baby!”? Yeah, I can’t.
So after the fist pumping and pelvis thrusting, he lies down propping his upper body up on his elbows. He takes a long drag of the cigarette and, with all his might, loudly collects a wad of mucas and saliva in his mouth before expectorating into the street. Classy.
He is shortly joined by his “posse.” I call it his “posse” because as they swaggered up he proclaims, “Here come my boyz!” As they meet they clasp hands, pulling each other close for a chest bump at the same time making a dramatic gesture with their left hands.
“I got me some Bud Light up thar in the truck, dog” the one chap announces. His shorts (or should I say culottes?) hang down revealing a pair of plaid boxer shorts. Another gentleman agrees, “Mmmn hmm.” He has to be the father of the younger man. Same buzz haircut, only greyer. Same stocky build and beer belly, only slightly larger. He drops his cigarette in the grass and crushes it with a twist of his left foot. Boxer short boy shifts his weight and hikes up his drawers. Sexy.
IP3 strikes out another batter and, together they holler “There you go!” And the horn behind me starts honking again. The older man in front of me asks the boy, “You gone play football, boyeee?” complete with the upward inflection on the word boy like you’d hear in a rap song. He then collects his mucas and also spits into the road.
In the middle of the next inning, player on our team hits the ball high into right field. We have runners on first and second. Both runners take off at the crack of the bat. The opposing fielders both rush at the ball, colliding. The center fielder hold up his glove, triumphantly.
The fanatic behind me yells, “He dropped it…he dropped it.” Our lead runner scrambles back to second base. There are now two runners on second, so with a quick throw to first the other team has two outs on us.
The rational people in front of me start waving their arms and shouting loudly, “You can’t get the same kid out twice. He dropped it…That’s not right…Bullshit…” Completely perplexed, they wonder at how both the batter and runner who was on first could have both been called out on the same play.
I needn’t worry about the parents from the other team seeing this behavior and judging me thusly. They were too busy shouting back at us. In a dramatic fashion they shouted, bending their arms at the elbow, making the “I love you” sign with their hands, thrusting their shoulders forward while tilting their heads back and forth in an exclamatory fashion.
How wrong I was thinking that plopping myself among others who live in the Valley would make me feel at home. But, stupid me, I forgot my spitoon.