Turning on my phone, laptop, or television and watching a baseball game is nothing new. It is an act that I do on an almost daily basis all year round. Most times my biggest concern is whether I will be able to watch the whole game I am seeking out while other days it is if there will even be a game I want to watch at all. For me watching baseball is a routine of my life, a slice of normalcy that I can use to ground myself. Over the past year, much of that normalcy has been shattered thanks to the oft-talked about fact that most leagues have not had fans attending games due to the Coronavirus.
It wasn’t until a recent game that it truly hit home for me what we miss without fans in the stands. Some leagues have been allowing fans in the stands, with the largest of those currently playing being Liga Mexicana del Pacífico. On a listless Wednesday night, I had a Charros de Jalisco versus Alogodoneros de Guasave game streaming on my phone as I was shaving for work the following day. My attention was only half on the game. Then Erisbel Arruebarrena stepped to the plate and my attention was completely taken by what I witnessed.
Arruebarrena has been a hot hitter for Guasave all year long. This is his first year in Mexico’s premier winter league and as he has belted homers at an alarming rate he has gained quite a following among the Guasave faithful. On this night he stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded and only one out in the bottom of the 7th inning of a game the Algodoneros were winning 4-3. As he took the first pitch for a ball I heard a little murmur. It was like a sound I had forgotten existed. The crowd, they were growing loud. When he took a pair of strikes the crowd grew louder still. I had put down my razor and picked up my phone. I was standing in the bathroom half of my face still covered in shaving gel, enraptured by the audience’s anticipation of what would happen next.
The next pitch was fouled off and then Arruebarrena swung through an Alejandro Martínez fastball and the at-bat was over. It only lasted a couple of minutes, but they were electric minutes. The crowd intensified with every pitch, the moment felt big, and I was reminded of how much I miss baseball fans being loud at a game. I, like most, have become accustomed to their not being any fans at games. While some leagues have had fans, I haven’t been privy to any big moments from those leagues. This was a big moment, I was present, and it felt normal to be included.
The fans will be back, it’s just a matter of when. That they continue to mainly be away from games is both smart and necessary at this point in time. This one at-bat brought back all the feelings associated with rabid fans getting loud for the moments that matter in a baseball game. I can’t wait until they are back full-time and a moment like this one will have a packed house instead of COVID restricted quarter capacity.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown