Thursday, August 15, 2013

My apologies to you, Mr. Hanks!

I must tell you Mr. Hanks, I completely disagree with you. There is crying in baseball, and plenty of it!

In fact, I can tell you specific times when I have not only cried but have completely balled my eyes out!  In baseball there is so much emotional going on, I don't know how there isn't more crying.

Yes, yes I know, it is a "guy" thing and men don't like to cry in public. Especially baseball players. It is such a gritty and psychological  game that baseball players actually cannot allow themselves to be seen as vulnerable. There is a code.  I get it. I will give you that much. But what I know, is that I do cry and there is crying in baseball.

Why? When? Where does this crying take place?

There are many times that crying is involved but I do know of  three specific times when crying in not only involved, but it is very very appropriate!

Here are three times where crying is involved in baseball:

Opening Day:   If you live in Los Angeles and have never been to Opening Day at Dodger Stadium you do know what you are missing. It is the essence of being an Angeleno and of being a baseball fan. I admit I did not attend my first Opening Day until later in life and now I'm hooked.  I think I have attended about 8 Opening Day games. The first few games I attended were with my son Eric and my niece Candice. Candice normally rents a limousine for the day and we plus a few of her friends pile into the limo and arrive at the stadium for a little tailgating before the game. I haven't joined them now for a few years and the Stadium has been a little more restrictive about tailgating. However, I believe it is very important to arrive to the game when the gates open, which is usually 2 hours prior to game time.
Our view from our seats Opening Day 2013
  Since it is normally in April, the chances that the weather will be picture perfect are quite high. You get your Dodger Dog, grab a beer and head for your seats. I personally prefer being in my seat early. For one, I don't have to deal with the crowd and secondly I feel like I am part of the action. What I mean, is I feel like I am not just a spectator but part of the whole show. It is a similar feeling when you are performing before a crowd. When I was in school and played the flute in the orchestra we were always instructed to be in our seats an hour before the performance was to begin. We (the orchestra) would get into our seats, polish up our instruments, warm them up a little, maybe do a little chatting with fellow musicians or maybe practice some of the more difficult pieces. I was in my element and I knew that was what I was destined to become.  So for me, being at the game early is almost the same feeling. 

Eventually, after both teams have come out to stretch and warm up, the pre-game festivities begin and so does my crying.

Every year the Dodgers put on different pre-game festivities. One year they set up a sort of  "Field of Dreams" event.  They would display the younger picture of a retired Dodger on the screen and then the actual player would come out to the field. It was beautiful. Eventually there was a group of about 20 or more old timers out on the field. Then they announced the current line-up and all players were out on the field. My description is not doing the moment any justice but it was an experience I will never forget. Tears were appropriate.

Every Opening Day is different and I always look forward to what the pre-game festivities will be.
One event that always takes place is a fly over. Normally it is the Stealth Bomber which always gives me chills. One year they had both LAPD and LAFD helicopters fly over in honor of fallen officers.  Right before every flyover there is the display of the flag.
Opening Day Dodger Stadium 2013

Due to the government budget cuts, there was no flyover in  2013. But these moments still bring on chills and tears. 

Pre-game Honors:  Before every game the Dodgers have special guests come out to the field for various reasons. Sometimes it is a corporate sponsor, sometimes it is an actor or some other performer. For Hello Kitty Blanket day they had a big Hello Kitty throw out the first pitch. If it is a certain nationality day they might have a singer from that particular nationality come out. Some games they have military personnel. In fact, this season they now have a "military person of the game" that is honored.

For me, the most moving honors are the heroes of the LAPD and LAFD. They will have the honored officer or officers come out and stand on the baseline. Then the announcer goes one by one to introduce each officer and explain what action the officer took in a particular situation. This always brings on the flood gates. If you know me you would know I am a staunch supporter of the police and fire department, but especially the police. And the stories and actions these particular officers have taken are extraordinary. All have risked their life to save another person.

There is one officer and story in particular I will never forget. Her name is Kristine Ripatti,  I knew of her story before they honored her at Dodger Stadium because I happen to read the article of the incident she was involved in when it happened.

She was attempting to arrest a man who had reportedly just robbed a gas station. He shot at her, hitting her in the upper torso and twice in the arm. The bullet lodged behind her bullet-proof vest. Her partner, shot and killed the suspect and was credited for saving Kristine's life by blocking the blood flow from her wounds. I remember the story because it seemed so senseless and tragic. I recall reading about how her husband, another LAPD officer, was informed of the incident and his reaction. It was gut-wrenching.  I followed the story through the newspaper and after a while it wasn't news anymore and I lost track of her. I knew she survived but I never knew what became of her. The incident took place in 2006.

Then, a year or so ago, there she was. Dodger Stadium, pre-game honors. She looked great and she was in a wheel chair, paralyzed from the waist down. I could not believe my eyes. What a moment. I was happy to see her and so sad to see her in a wheel chair. I thought about how she probably loved being a cop. I thought about what kind of strength she must have to be able to sit there and smile and wave at all the fans. It made all of my complaints and problems seem so trivial.  I cried then and I am crying as I write this.

She is now a motivational speaker, a body builder and she and her husband own and operate an officer safety product business. She also had a child since the incident. She and her husband had a daughter before she was shot.

Here is a link to her story:

World Series:  Yes, World Series. I cry at World Series games. No matter the winner. I know I shouldn't. These guys make millions of dollars and why should I be happy for them? They don't care about me! Right? Besides, it is not like they are saving lives.

But, it's baseball. Our National pastime. These guys who hit a ball with a piece of wood, who chew tobacco and spit and scratch themselves. I am happy for them and I cry when I see how full of joy they are. Because with all of the wars, the street killings, the world turmoil, we have these guys to transport us to another place. Because their joy is not about making the big bucks, it is about working hard and focusing on your work and seeing all that hard work come to fruition. And isn't that a great feeling? I cry because I know that for seven months these men have lived with each other, men of different ethnic backgrounds, some not even knowing any English, and yet they did something a team....through thick and thin. They may not be heroes like Ofc. Kristine Ripatti...not even close. But they are my heroes.

I remember for so many years I could never figure out why a team, when losing a game by a lot would not just yell "uncle"? Why bother? You are already down 10 to 0, bottom of the ninth, why bother? I asked one of my sons, Kyle, and he said "Mom, you NEVER give up. NEVER.". It took me some time but eventually it sunk in. Never give up. Never stop trying. Never stop trying to help others. Never stop helping your team. And when you's okay to jump and down......and it is definitely okay to cry.

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