The economy is in a shambles, my boss has been fired, my car is in the shop, and I'm getting over a bad bout of diverticulitis. Why am I so happy this week? Because, like Juror #7 in Twelve Angry Men, I've got baseball tickets burning a hole in my pocket, and only a few more days left until I get to watch an usher rip them in two.
I've seen a few Rays games in recent years, and I suppose I could make the three-hour schlep to Miami to catch a Mets-Fish game there (though thousands of locals who could walk to that park are staying away from it in droves, so why should I go?). But spring training has been the only regular opportunity I get to see baseball live. One year it was Mets-Braves at Disney; another year, Mets-Astros in Kissimmee. Last year, my officemate Johnni Gunnz and I finally made the pilgrimage to Tradition Field in St. Lucie. This year, the destination is Lakeland, the Grapefruit League home of the Detroit Tigers. The date is this Saturday, February 28th. The opponent, of course, is our Mets, at least those who aren't representing their nation in the World Baseball Classic.
Our buddy Tim, who we'll call Tigers Guy in Oveido, is a good friend, even though he has lousy taste in baseball. The three of us got down to Lakeland's Joker Marchant Stadium on a Saturday morning in mid-January, hoping to get some good seats. We got there about 9am, thinking that an hour before the cashier's windows opened would be good enough. We got a ticket for our place in line, #223, and learned that, to get a single digit ticket, we would have had to have been there at 5:30am.
The stadium was open for impromptu self-guided tours, so that's just what we did. No players, no coaches, no grounds crew. Just an empty ball park and a handful of fellow fans waiting for their numbers to come up. To keep the crowd from turning ugly, the concession stands were handing out free popcorn and coffee. We struck up a conversation with a few seasoned citizens from Canada, who were there to score Jays-Tigers tickets. We found out these gentlemen had numbers 18, 19, and 20, and that's when the wheels started turning in the mind of Tigers Guy in Oveido. T.G. in O is a salesman by trade, and the art of the deal took over automatically.
"So, you guys got some real good numbers, huh? You're going to buy all your tickets at the same time, right? So you don't need all three of those numbers, do you? Would you like twenty bucks for number 20?" This win-win model of free enterprise resulted in what amounted to a free lunch at Perkins for our septuagenarian friends. It turned out to have saved us at least three hours of waiting. The first eight fellows on line were the pros - they had stacks of cash, and they had their schedules marked and their orders filled out for the maximum number of tickets (16) to each of the Tigers' home games. In addition, online ticket sales were set to start at 10am, the same time the windows at the ballpark were scheduled to open. Fortunately, those windows opened about twenty minutes early, and we got in and got our credit card swiped at almost exactly 10 am. Had we waited for our original number to come up, it's a real good chance the tickets we wanted would have been gone.
They say the whole Tigers' starting outfield will be MIA on Saturday due to the WBC. The only Met I'm sure won't be there is David Wright. Who'll win? Who cares? Baseball is back, and I've got Mets tickets burning a hole in my pocket until Saturday.