Happy Campers

At the conclusion of last night’s game I stopped before getting into my car to glance at the night sky. I fully expected some sort of astrological phenomena to appear in the heavens. At the very least I thought I would see all of the planets had aligned and that the moon had turned Sedona Red. There was no other explanation for what I had witnessed. Outside forces beyond the skills of mortal man must have influenced the outcome of tonight’s contest between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. How else would it be possible for the Diamondbacks to stake their opponent to a 6 run lead twice then come back to win the game in extra innings? This of course happens just hours after I lament that I cannot comprehend how the Diamondbacks had never beaten their expansion brethren in 7 previous meetings. While everyone still remaining at the end of the game (which approximately was the same number of people who attend a spring training game) were absolutely giddy at the long ball heroics of Tony Clark in the ninth inning and Chris Young in the tenth inning; I was more impressed with the accomplishment of Doug Davis. No I am not talking about his ability to last only 4 innings while giving up 7 runs on 9 hits including 2 home runs. While that was impressive from a Tampa Bay perspective, it is something that most Diamondbacks fans would prefer to forget. No I am talking about his one plate appearance in the second inning when he hit a full-count pitch up the middle out of reach of the fielders for his first hit since July 4, 2006. That’s the kind of history that comes around maybe once a lifetime so you better savor the feeling. After that much excitement you just had to wonder how the series finale could possibly compete.

We didn’t have long to wait before we would find out. After a 4 hour game the night before; these two teams would meet for the final game of the series in an afternoon contest. There is just something magical about afternoon baseball. Dakota and I always go to the afternoon games, it has kind of become a tradition. It is not quite as historical as an afternoon game in Chicago but then the local fans stand a much better chance of seeing the home team win than they do in the Windy City. I’m always curious to see what kind of turn out the Diamondbacks get when they have these games in the afternoon on a weekday. Historically these games actually draw better than the night games during the same series.

We parked in our usual spot and made our way to the ballpark. The area surrounding the ballpark was relatively quiet and sparsely populated. This didn’t bode well for attendance or walk-up ticket sales. We went through the turnstiles and into the stadium concourse. I saw a few of the regulars that I see nearly every night. There are a handful of fans who are dedicated and rarely if ever miss a game. There’s the guy down in Row 1 of Section 133 who always has a pen and is helping young fans get an autograph (I am becoming one of his biggest fans as I watch him assist those around him to get a player’s attention). There is Bullpen Betty who comes from her seats above the Diamondbacks dugout to clap for the starting pitcher and catcher as they come out to warm up (she has a routine she follows before every game, you can set your watch by it). There is the sign lady (she actually has a jersey that says “sign lady” on the back) who hand paints various signs that she brings to each game. There’s the old guy in section 109 who yells at the “big potato” every time Valverde enters the game (he is the only guy I have ever met who dislikes Rally Sally worse than I do). And of course there is Rally Sally who is now on her recognition tour for being named the Intense Fan during a recent game (I’ve now stopped eating Poore Brothers Potato Chips in protest). This is a group of fans I see pretty much every night and I have to wonder if they get as much grief as I do about their dedication to the Diamondbacks. Personally I think they are a lot more deserving than those Blimpie kids who get to accompany the players out to their respective positions before Sunday games. I think during Fandemonium that the team should acknowledge these diehards. After all, it would be kind of comical to see Rally Sally chasing after Eric Byrnes as he sprints for the outfield. The team needs more of these diehard fans.

Besides the regulars, I started noticing a lot of really small fans wearing matching T-shirts. As the game got closer, the sheer number of these midget fans grew exponentially. They seemed to colonize various parts of the stadium based upon their shirt colors. There was a flock of yellows in the upper deck beside Rally Sally. A gaggle of grays collected around Bullpen Betty. Pen guy had to manage a group of whites. As for me, I seemed to be magnetized to a herd of orange midgets none of whom were older than the age of 8. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what was going on. After wading through a sea of orange Oompa-Loompas all holding hands and walking about the concourse chattering like monkeys; I finally made my way to my seat where I stayed until the game was over just for my safety and my sanity. During the pre-game ceremonies the public address announcer welcomed the fans to Camp Day at Chase Field. Ah, now the pieces made sense. The Diamondbacks in conjunction with various children’s summer camps had provided tickets to groups of kids to experience a Major League Baseball game. What a great idea. When I was a kid our camp consisted of nature survival as we tried not to be eaten alive by mosquitoes or attacked by bears. Activities included creating deformed ashtrays and T-shirts with our painted hand and footprints. My parents definitely picked the wrong camp compared to these who got to go to a baseball game and have a free hot dog, soda, and popcorn.

It wasn’t just a few campers either. All told there were more than 12,000 of these kids in the stands all rooting for the Diamondbacks. It was Children of the Corn meets Meatballs kind of creepy. They all watched the game intently and were very obedient when the JumboTron told them to make noise they did. I had not heard this much cheering since the Red Sox were here. This was kind of like Red Sox Nation on helium as 12,000 small voices willed their Diamondbacks to play hard. The team responded by staking themselves to a 6 run lead. The Devil Rays too fed off the excitement (after all this crowd was nearly twice what the average attendance is at Tropicana Field) and came back to make it a close game. In the end though the mighty bleacher midgets helped the hometown Diamondbacks outlast the Devil Rays 7-4. In the process Diamondbacks pitchers struck out 12 batters meaning everyone in attendance got coupons for 44 ounce Thirst Busters which is just what every camp counselor wants their campers to have, 44 ounces of sugar rush for the bus ride back to camp. The kids were thrilled and everyone in the stadium with the exception of the 2 Tampa Bay fans left Chase Field as Happy Campers.

1 Comment

  1. Gloria

    I thought I was the only person who hated the flag lady-Rally Sally. She is an embarrasment to the Dbacks. We went to a game last year in Denver and she was the being obnoxious. The one you call Bullpen Betty is named Susan and I think she is a stalker. She started coming to the games in about 2000 and always hangs out by the pitchers. We go to quite a few Spring training games and she is always there. Lots of other fans call her the stalker, also.

    Your writings are very good and I’m glad the Dbacks have some great fans.

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