It’s Gnomeageddon!

Even before the season began the date of May 21, 2011 was circled in Sedona Red on my calendar. No, it had nothing to do with the fact that some crazed senior citizen was proclaiming the earth would end that day. No it was circled for a much more important reason.

Saturday May 21 had been identified as All-Star Garden Gnome Night at Chase Field. For 15,000 lucky fans they would have the opportunity to receive a limited edition All-Star Garden Gnome dressed in Arizona Diamondbacks apparel.

This is the second consecutive season that the Diamondbacks have offered a Garden Gnome as a stadium giveaway. Last year it was Homer the Garden Gnome with his dark beard standing ever vigilant protecting the garden from all forms of evil mishaps.

Normally by this point of the season my kids are begging their mother to please not make them go to any more baseball games with dad. They begin to look at going to the ballpark as some kind of punishment. I’ve never quite understood their point of view. I would have killed to be able to go to an MLB game with my dad.

My wife explains that the problem is not going to a game with me; the problem is going to 81 games every year for 14 years; that’s the problem. I’m still not sure I quite understand but then I am still petitioning that the baseball season should be longer not shorter so I might not understand the problem as well as I should.

There are several games each season that warrant arriving at the ballpark early. By early I don’t mean just before first pitch; I mean we need to be at Chase Field 30 minutes prior to the scheduled opening of the gates or roughly 2 hours before first pitch.

Now before you think I’ve somehow lost my mind let me describe what the situation was when we arrived at Chase Field at 3:30 PM for a 7:10 PM game. The parking lot where we normally park was already near capacity. We parked at the far end of the lot just inside the parking structure.

There were already groups of people trekking from the parking garage towards the stadium. We followed behind them walking quickly towards the Chase Field gates. As we got into view of the park there were already mobs of people standing rather impatiently in line waiting for the gates to open.

At the front of the line behind protective gates were the guest relations game day staff flanked by cases of All-Star Garden Gnomes neatly packed and waiting to be united with a lucky fan. Besides game day staff there were also security personnel hoping to keep the peace.

You may scoff at the idea that things could get out of hand over a lawn gnome or any stadium giveaway but I can assure you the threat of insanity is all to real. Having survived not one but two Beanie Baby giveaways in 1998 I can attest to the fact that chaos and violence will occur if there are not proper security reinforcements.

When the gates finally opened the mob surged towards the now open turnstiles. You didn’t so much walk as you went with the flow as fans in the back tried desperately to reach the front of the line before those in front got through the ticketing processing.

As the ebb and flow of the crowd pushed us back and forth through security I asked security if he knew how long these people had been here. He said he had arrived at work at noon and there were already people waiting in line. Tell me that’s now even a little bit crazy.

We made it through the waves of people and through the turnstiles each of us now holding a All-Star Garden Gnome. We walked through the main concourse excited to have successfully completed our mission for the Gnome.

As we walked by others who had likewise survived the mob we would point at each other’s gnome box and give a high-five to celebrate completing the Gnome quest. The 15,000 gnomes would last less than an hour after the gates opened and there were some 24,000 dejected fans who missed out on the opportunity to give the gnome a home.

The fans were treated to a great baseball game with the Diamondbacks taking the second game from the Minnesota Twins despite committing five errors in the field. In the end after the final out was recorded the fans began to make their way out of the stadium.

Walking out we were left with a final reminder of what this night was all about. A young boy was standing outside the gates with cash in one hand and a sign that simply read, “I’ll pay cash for gnomes”.

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