The whole nine innings

Malini Ramaiyer

malini graphicIn the Ramaiyer household, the living room is always occupied. Glued to the screen, my father normally follows whatever sport is on ESPN while I try to switch to Grey’s Anatomy.

But last Friday, I decided to sit through a whole baseball game with my father to see what kept him so captivated throughout the summer. With the Oakland Athletics up against the Seattle Mariners, my father generously explained the stakes while peeling potatoes for dinner.

The A’s started off the season successfully with a 72 – 44 record and were projected to be the top team in the West. But ever since they traded star-player Yoenis Cespedes, the team has been on a downward spiral.

Trying to make myself excited for a three hour game, I sat down and turned to Pre-game Live on ESPN. I checked the guide, and apparently these two oldish men had already been sitting and discussing the upcoming game for 17 minutes.

Besides the astonishment that they could talk for so long about how other men hit balls, I almost got a seizure from the numbers that constantly appeared on the screen. All I saw were mugshots and percentages, baseball fans and more percentages.

The spectacle of me watching sports brought the whole family to the living room, so I had moral support for my treacherous journey through the recesses of the MLB.

The first batter from the A’s goes up — Coco Crisp, that’s an actual name? The batter who seems to be named after a sugar cereal taps the bat on the plate and breathes as if performing a ritual.

Jason Paxton from the Mariners pitches, and his bat barely flinched.  Is Coco blind?

My father explained that Crisp passed because it was a bad pitch. A pitcher’s mistake is a ball, and a batter’s mistake is a strike. Four balls is one walk, and three strikes is an out. I tried to predict which pitches would be a ball and which would be a strike.

First pitch: Ball! Strike.

Second pitch: Ball! Strike.

Third pitch: Strike! Foul.

None of the players shave as a superstition so they looked like shamans in tights, chewing gum and never smiling. However, only nine of these uncouth players have to cover one whole field — no wonder they never smile.

My family went out to get dinner. It was just me and the game. Focus Malini.

The score was 1-2 with the A’s down, but the A’s had the bases loaded after two walks with two outs. Jed Lowrie comes up to bat, and I focused in.

My noisy family had swarmed back. Right when I opened my mouth to tell them to shut up, Lowrie struck out. According to resident umpire a.k.a. my father, he should have passed and made it a ball. With the A’s back on defense, the game had hit a plateau. The bottom of the eighth and the score hadn’t changed since the sixth inning. The players had been at it for two hours already, and I was mentally exhausted.

Baseball is like a game of Sorry. You rarely ever roll ones or sixes to break out of your home, but when you do, the game becomes a race to the finish. The batters rarely ever break their ruts of balls, strikes and fouls. When the batter actually does get a hit or steal a base, the game wakes up and slaps you in the face with mere seconds of action.

And so at the top of the ninth, the game begins again. I guess seventh and eighth innings filter out the weak — my father wanted to switch to the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers game at 9-0, but I was going to go the whole nine innings. Suddenly, the A’s were getting on the bases. They had a sliver of a chance to win.

Two outs for the A’s already. One more, and the game would be over. The A’s batter walks up emotionless. Five pitches: ball, strike, ball, strike and strike — he’s out.

A game that ran for three hours ended in three minutes.

My dad cussed and switched to the more positive Giants vs. Dodgers game. Then he moved back to watch postgame analysis.

I was a little more upset. I had just struggled through three hours, and the team lost.

From the reason the pitcher suddenly throws the ball to first base to the difference between a ball and strike, at least I understand how America’s favorite past time works. The gray area begins with the tenacity of the players to go on for three hours everyday. They were to play the next day and the day after. I got even more tired just thinking about it.

Baseball is a game of commitment and vigilance through and through, commitment and vigilance that I didn’t have. While I nodded off, pitcher Jason Paxton served up his 96th pitch. While I wandered onto Twitter, the umpire called on every pitch. While the A’s played for another three hours the next night, I slacked and skipped the game for a party — the A’s won.