This is a long mostly personal story, but I thought it was appropriate to share here, partly because we’re now into the offseason and there’s not yet as much baseball material to discuss, and partly because I have no idea where else to share it. I hope some of you might enjoy reading it.
Back in 2012, I was fortunate enough to get my firm’s tickets for the last Cubs game of the season, a game against the Houston Astros. The seats were absolutely amazing – literally the first row, right next to the Astros on-deck circle, and immediately next to their dugout, so that if I looked to my right, I was looking directly into the dugout.
I mention this game for a few reasons. It was a lot of fun to have such great seats. I had never sat so close to the field for any game before, let alone a major league game at a historic park. It was a markedly different experience to be so close to the players and so close to the action. I understand I was fortunate to get the tickets, and not everyone will have such a chance, but if you are ever in a position to get tickets like that, even if it requires a bit of a splurge, I recommend trying to make it happen once.
Part of the reason I got the tickets was because no one else wanted them, and I’m guessing that no one else wanted them because the game was absolutely meaningless. As I mentioned, it was the last day of the year. It was a day game on a gray Wednesday in October. And the game featured two 100-loss teams. In fact, I think the only other time a game featured two 100-loss teams was the prior game in this series! (I’m sure the Baseball Reference Play Index could confirm or contradict this.)
This was the Astros last game in the National League. With interleague play in full effect, that didn’t mean as much as it might have 25 years before, but it was still a fun quirk, and I’m glad I was there for it.
The game was my then-3.5-year-old daughter’s first baseball game. I pulled her out of pre-school and let her skip her nap so she could come to the game with me. And I’m very proud to say that even though her mom offered to pick her up early, she stayed through the whole game and had a blast. I would say that the great seats played a role in that – and maybe they did – but I will always remember the first thing she said to me when we got down to the seats. She pointed to the upper deck and said, “Daddy, I bet you can see great from up there!” I had to laugh. Also, sitting right next to the dugout and having a little kid with you all but guarantees you a baseball. And in fact we got one from Astros 3B Matt Dominguez. To add to the storybook first-game experience, the Cubs won on a walk-off single (by clean-up hitter Bryan LaHair, who also homered in the game!)
In retrospect, it’s pretty remarkable that five years after these 100-loss teams faced each other in this meaningless game, both teams have World Series titles. I’m sure someone smarter could say something here about tanking, but I prefer just to observe that five years before each of these teams had reached the pinnacle of success, they faced each other at the depths of baseball incompetence. There’s something poetic about that, it seems. Baseball is great, and I’m glad it’s in my life.