THE HOME TEAM
The home team was the Gary Railcats, of Gary, Indiana. Gary, Indiana is the birthplace of Michael Jackson and was recently the murder capital of the United States, though the population has since dropped to under 100,000, so it’s no longer eligible. Gary was at one point an important steel town, but isn’t anymore. Gary’s Wikipedia page says the History Channel films their show “Life After People” there. Gary’s “sister city” is Fuxin (China). The only other time I’d been to Gary, before this game, was on a Boy Scout trip when I was 11 or 12, when we stopped at a rest stop to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken and a bone came out of my chicken and cut my chin bad enough that we had to find the first aid kit to put a band-aid on it. There is also a minor novelist named Gary Indiana.
Tickets were buy one, get one for a dollar. The stadium was called “The Steel Yard.” The other team was the Sioux City Explorers, or, possibly, “X-Plorers.” I learned before the game that both teams are “independent” or “unaffiliated,” – not part of the single-A, double-A, triple-A farm system that feeds into the majors – meaning that these teams are part of a league that offer the lowest quality professional baseball available.
We got there 40 minutes early for some reason, during which time my friend’s friend bought a hat. It was dollar hot dog night (limit 4). I used, for the first time ever, the sentence “I’ll take four hot dogs, please.” The stadium had a full arcade room, which I’ve never seen in a baseball stadium before, and a playground where the centerfield bleachers would have been if there were centerfield bleachers.
We sat sort of behind home plate. Basically everybody at The Steel Yard sits sort of behind home plate. The Gary skyline we had a view of was full of smokestacks that occasionally shot fire. There were train tracks just beyond the stadium on which there was never not a long-ass freight train.
My friend and I began drinking heavily before the game started, which makes this difficult to remember. I remember the microphone didn’t work for the national anthem, but the stadium was small enough that the woman could just yell it and we could all hear it fine. I know the Railcats won on a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 9th, which I think is called “a walkoff.” The final score was either 12-11 or 16-15. Someone hit a stand-up triple. One of the players was named Craig Maddux.
I remember the mid- and between-inning promotions were endless. I recall a raffle with a shitty prize. There were teenagers dressed up as hamburger buns trying to put ingredients between each other. There was something about throwing plastic fish into a pair of giant pants. At one point, all the children in the stadium were in the outfield. After the game, I remember standing and throwing a tennis ball towards a kiddie pool on the pitcher’s. I don’t know why.
One guy in the crowd got hit in the face by a foul ball, which prompted several team representatives to surround him and make him sign legal waivers. A foul ball also hit a beer vendor in the concourse. Foul balls generally seemed more dangerous at this game than at major league baseball games, because the stadium was so much smaller. The distances between the batter’s box and things a foul ball could hit were much shorter as a result. Also, the net that usually stops foul balls from hitting people was much smaller than other ones I’ve seen, for some reason.
A bit earlier, a player from the away team got thrown out for arguing with the umpire. After the game was over, we saw the guy outside the stadium wearing flip-flops and track pants while texting on his cell phone. I remember my friend wanted to ask him what he had said to the umpire get kicked out, but I told him not to, because it would have been too depressing.