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Gone to the park.

At one point in Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, he’s writing about attendance patterns at soccer games (of course he calls it football), when he brings up the example of some woebegone provincial team that finished in tenth place in the fifth division.

Hornby mentions that the team averaged a certain number of fans per game — say, eight hundred, or a thousand. But based on their lowly status and their poor standard of play, he asks a logical question: Since no games of real consequence got played that season, why, really, should anyone have gone at all?

In related news, yesterday morning I went to see preseason exhibition baseball between two Division III teams, Fisher College of Boston and Anna Maria College of Paxton, Mass. (The college is near Worcester. The game was in the far-Boston suburb of Northborough, where exists a three- or four-diamond layout of Astroturfed baseball fields that is frequently used by college teams.)

It was February 16, and probably 40 degrees outside. The Fisher players in the dugout were wearing their street parkas. No one on either team will play professional baseball. The game did not count.

I begin to wonder why I go to these things.

I have no business imagining the first live local baseball of the year as a sign of winter’s end. For one thing, the winter has been relatively meek and no great trial to live through. And for another, it can snow here for another two months; the presence of baseball is no trusty harbinger of warmth or comfort.

Still, I go.

The trappings of major league and even high minor-league baseball repel me more and more, but these unknown kids haven’t soured me yet. The crowds are tiny at these games; I can get close enough to hear the first-base coach burp. The gates are open to all, for free. And somebody besides the players’ parents and girlfriends ought to show up sometimes, just like those couple hundred British somebodies who go to watch bad provincial soccer.

And, I dunno, it’s just part of the personal mythology at this point. I go to these games. If I didn’t, I’d have to do something else.

I take pictures so I’ll remember the day, if not the play-by-play specifics. And when I get back, sometimes I write them up here.

My chief memory of this one, if I retain any, will probably be Fisher’s team. They were predominantly Latino, and they conducted their business in Spanish, with contagious elan. When the Fisher players would reach base, they would look back at the dugout and wave or gesture. It felt vaguely boastful, but not enough to occasion a fastball to the ribs the next time around.

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Other than that … well, only a day later, there aren’t that many memory tracks remaining from my first ballpark outing of the year. I’ll post a few more pictures, nothing all that remarkable.

I imagine the Brits who go to see Pontefract Collieries F.C. or Glossop North End don’t remember everything they see either.

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