Went To A Minor League Baseball Game


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. TC mark

image – Tom Thai


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  • Craig Duncan

    I would’ve chopped this article up Gordon Lish style. All you really need is this: “I went to a baseball game. A series of mundane events occurred in a mundane fashion. Thanks for listening.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504951716 Tau Zaman

      Yikes. People are just not allowed to catalog their thoughts on TC anymore? I think he was emphasizing the mundane events to make a point. What it is, I don’t know, I can’t psychically figure out the author’s intent. But I would guess it was a snapshot of the more boring pockets of America, as if to say, look how sad it is here. Look at these people flailing about.

  • http://twitter.com/niceflying Emma

    This is kind of like Notes from an Amateur Spectactor at Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Fights. YES! TC is one step closer to McSweeneys!

  • paige

    i thoroughly enjoyed this.

  • Melyssa Griffin

    Love your observantly dry sense of humor. LOVE.IT.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    4 dollar hot dogs = foul 

  • Lillian

    dollar dog night is THE BEST.

  • Anonymous

    I spent the summer I turned sixteen at an independent league baseball stadium in a town in New Jersey far more boring than Gary, Indiana (this is one reason why I went to so many baseball games).  There, I watched new players come up on the way to the majors, and old players come down, taking their final bow from an outfield wall covered with advertisements for the local Toyota dealership, and various sports bars.  Spending my summer nights in that stadium felt like going to church and therapy at the same time.  

    What one-timers and folks who go for the dollar hot dogs and cheap beer don’t realize is that this is the way the game should be played.  That this isn’t “the lowest quality professional baseball available” – not by a long shot – it’s the beginning of everything.  That summer at that small stadium in New Jersey, Billy Hall broke the record – in all professional baseball – for most career stolen bases.  That’s more than any Yankee, Dodger, or Devil Ray.  I remember sitting, rapt, through a 14 inning nailbiter on Fourth of July, ending at midnight, far past the firework curfew, when there were maybe 20 people left in the entire stadium, and we could all hear the relief pitcher scream out, “FUCK!” when he gave up an unearned run.  I’ve seen outfielders converse with errant seagulls and memorized the habits of crazy left-handed sidearmers.  I’ve seen grand slams and triple plays and shut-outs.  I’ve even seen a perfect game.
    It was at this rinky-dink, $3 a seat stadium, that I learned to love baseball, and realized that the true fans don’t need Jeter or a perfect sound system or Jennifer Hudson singing the national anthem to appreciate the game.  Mid-inning promotions and stupid mascots are the same everywhere.  But the runners also get to first base the same way at Shea as they do at Podunk Ballpark USA.  The tar smells the same, the ball crosses the plate the same way.  Except at an independent league baseball game, you can hear the crack of the ball on the bat without any sound delay.  You can see the tendons and muscles in the players forearms, and you can practically smell the grass stains on their knees as the result of an inning ending shoestring catch.  That I got to see all of this up close – really see it all – is something I will never forget.  

    • guest

      do you mean any Yankee, Dodger, or Ray? Devil Rays havent existed in about 3.5 years…it still works I guess because if you’re referring to posterity he could indeed have more stolen bases than any devil ray player had

      • Anonymous

        Yup.  I’m not sure if his record still stands, all these years later.  But I know he held it for a while.

  • Lani

    Bronwyn — thank you for that heartening perspective and takedown of some pretty condescending writing. It’s one thing to use your education as a tool to disdain people or institutions that you deem “mediocre” or “middle-American.”  But I think it’s much more original to embrace people for the flawed and wonderful beings we are. So what if the microphone didn’t work, and the singer had to belt above the noise? If anything, that shows a strength of spirit that many professional musicians are probably lacking.

    This article seems to me part of a disturbing trend in Internet writing. It’s become way too common to haughtily make fun of people, to remove yourself from earnest enjoyment of things so you can comment on just how small and pitiful they are. I think it’s kind of pathetic, and I think the writer here is capable of a lot better.

    There’s something just wonderful about an independent baseball league that Bronwyn gets just right. And you know what? I’d much rather pay $1 for a hot dog than the $7 dollars it is at any major league stadium.

  • best guest

    Ah, Gary Indiana: the armpit of the world. 

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