Some 2,513 insane people (and I) paid American money to sit in the midday sun in Tucson on a weekday in June to watch a baseball game.
It's truly amazing, seeing as how I hadn't spent money (American or otherwise) to watch a baseball game since the infamous Major League Baseball strike of 1994. I really didn't need to do it this time, either. I could've sat in the press box, but I wanted to sit up in the stands with the real people.
I'm a moron.
The reason the game was being played at such an ungodly hour marked the first public appearance of the other side of the double-edged sword that had heretofore been referred to as Greg Byrne's Latest Great Stroke.
Someday, when Greg Byrne is commissioner of the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the NCAA—all at the same time—people will look back in wonderment and say, "That guy was once the athletic director at the UA."
It was Byrne's idea to move the Wildcats baseball team away from the friendly confines of on-campus Sancet Field. (The reason it was friendly was that so few people showed up to the games that no one ever sat close enough to anybody else to bother anyone.) After initial resistance from Wildcats purists subsided, the Cats moved into Hi Corbett Field in Reid Park.
Having once been home to the Tucson Toros during the glory days of Pacific Coast League baseball in the 1980s and '90s, Hi Corbett had been largely laying fallow in recent years. The city of Tucson was willing to rent it out for a reasonable amount, and the UA was a willing tenant. It was one of those rare business deals where both sides won, big-time. Attendance exploded to where it was nearly triple what it had been at Sancet Field. The Cats drew more than 5,000 people for a Friday-night home game against Arizona State.
The good crowds coincided with a really good Wildcats baseball team. The UA applied to the NCAA to host a four-team, double-elimination regional tournament, and its request was granted. Again, the fans showed up in droves. Then, the UA caught a break when North Carolina was upset in its own regional, allowing the UA to host a best-of-three super-regional against St. John's. (After sweeping St. John's, the UA is now on its way to the College World Series.)
Here's where the other edge of that sword comes in: The NCAA super-regionals are telecast by ESPN. You know how I always complain about the Arizona Interscholastic Association? Well, the AIA is just wrong a lot; the NCAA is evil. Somebody decided that, in order to accommodate television, the starting times for the games in Tucson would be noon on Friday, June 8; and noon on Saturday, June 9.
The Friday game was quite an adventure.
• In between innings, the loudspeakers blared with songs that included "Hot! Hot! Hot!," "Walking on the Sun" and "Hot Blooded." It was really funny, like a prostate exam.
• Greg Byrne had suggested that everybody wear white to support the team and to help deal with the heat. There's no way I'm wearing all white; NASA might think one of its weather balloons had crashed.
• I went to the snack bar and bought a SIX-DOLLAR (!) soda in a souvenir cup. I also bought a hot dog. Let me just say that the Wildcat Weiner is never going to replace the Dodger Dog.
I put only mustard on the hot dog. People who put relish on a hot dog obviously had a troubled childhood, and no one should put ketchup on a hot dog. In fact, putting ketchup on a hot dog should be a class-D felony.
• I sat all the way up at the top of the bleachers along the left-field line, away from all humanity. About 20 rows down from me was a kid with a baseball glove. Ever since I stopped being a kid, I've caught a few balls in the stands at professional and college baseball games. I always give them to kids; like I really need another baseball, right?
So, a foul ball goes into the stands a couple of sections over, and this guy makes a nice one-handed catch of it. Immediately, some idiot in another part of the crowd starts screaming, "Give it to a kid! Give it to a kid!"
I'm thinking to myself, "Shut up! Give your mama to a kid!" There's no way I would give the ball to a kid with that guy yelling at me to do so.
• Later, this huge guy shows up wearing a Cubs hat, shorts and an unbuttoned button-down shirt. The guy's got a gut the size of Kanye's ego, and a splint on his right pinkie finger. I spent the middle three innings trying to figure out how it might have happened. All of the possibilities involved nacho cheese sauce and/or toilet paper, so I stopped trying to figure it out.
Arizona fell behind, 5-0, tied it up, and then fell behind 6-5 in the top of the 10th before coming back with two runs in the bottom of the inning for the win.
It would have been better had they done it in the ninth.