I was the kind of kid who much preferred playing sports to watching them. I would watch football on TV with my buddies but I couldn’t wait till half time when we could go outside and actually run a few plays ourselves. As an adult “guy,” I never could get worked up over Joe Montana in the Playoffs. In fact I often lead Bald Eagle Watching trips in late January called Super Bowl Escape. Now I have attended a few professional games, but my seat always seemed to be so far away from the action. Binoculars help but I get distracted. At Candlestick Park I kept a bird list during a Giants game. I saw 15 species from the stands. My best one was a great horned owl that I could see roosting in an Eucalyptus tree.
Ah but now I have at long last discovered the joys of watching summer baseball, but not those millionaire players. Here in the North Bay we have our very own minor, minor, minor league team the Sonoma Crushers. Get it, like crush grapes. Their color is, guess what? purple. And the mascot is a huge dressed up bear known as the Abominable Snowman. Every time I take my 11 year old son to a game I feel like we are walking into a Norman Rockwell time warp. Oh look, there’s gramps and nannie, and over there is Aunt Bee and Opie. In the bleachers everyone gets real friendly, real family, real fast. Good will and cheer abound, whining babies are tolerated, rambunctious kids are forgiven. And there are no obnoxious drunks yelling obscenities at the ump or the opposing teams. We usually get seats right behind our dugout, I mean 10 feet away. The kids can come down and talk to the players and get all the autographs they want and it doesn’t cost em a cent.
Last year the Crushers finished in the cellar. But what the heck, that didn’t stop thousands of fans from coming out for the season opener. At four bucks for a bleacher seat, you can’t beat the entertainment value. And on a bright summer afternoon it is possible to find that increasingly rare commodity, innocence. I do have a stadium bird list, but there are no owls on it yet.
This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.