The final out

The Aces season is over.

Whilst Sydney and Perth fight it out for the right to face Adelaide for the ABL Championship, at Aces Ballpark in Laverton the players have long since hung up their gloves and racked their bats, the infield Astroturf has been neatly rolled up and sent away for dry cleaning, and the more-than-reasonable quote for an extra shelf in the trophy cabinet has been added to the shred pile.

With this post, Outside the Hangar ends. In season 2014-15 I attended 19 Aces games in person and watched online at least part of around 20 more of the 46 they played. At the end of most games, the scoreboard was covered in a bunch of numbers that made bad reading for Aces fans. Somehow, though, it has been the most fun I’ve had with sports for years.

Was Saturday evening a disappointment? I wanted to see every single seat filled for Justin Huber’s retirement game, but the stadium wasn’t half full. And for newer and first-time fans, I really wish it had been a more dynamic game, and one without the vicious southerly wind that made every smashed line drive land in an outfielder’s glove like a gentle Frisbee toss. But, on the other hand, that is the sport of baseball, and I’d hate to pretend it was something else: the contest between pitchers and hitters where some days, the guys with the ball in their hand just win and win, and then win again – until somebody makes that great or terrible play which changes the game.

I did my bit to build the occasion by bringing a couple of family members along, and was glad for the additional task of explaining elements of the game, because for the first time since they dropped out of playoff contention, I was really nervy for an Aces victory. They fell behind, edged ahead and then stretched their lead to 4-1 in the seventh on this awkward but daring Adam Engel baserunning play – the kind the Aces have seemed to be on the wrong end of all season – and I was out of my seat and punching the sky:

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Hesitation on the mental basepaths

Unless there is some sort of misguided public outcry which forces me to cover the Aces away series this weekend, this eighth post to Outside the Hangar will also be the second-last of the season.

The Aces fifth homestand delivered so much enjoyment – things that would’ve seemed remarkable to me if foretold pre-season: Deglan’s record-breaking homers, social media-powered meet-ups (verification in this charming blog), a game completed despite an apocalyptic weather forecast and (remarkable for 2014-15 only, I hope) the Aces winning close games Saturday and Sunday.

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If the apocalypse is going to happen anyway, may as well experience it at the ballpark.

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The Fellowship of the Diamond

In the early 1980s, St Kilda FC was a club struggling in what was then the Victorian Football League (struggling, that is, in the same sense that dinosaurs “struggled” when an asteroid struck Earth in the Cretaceous period). In the era of their highlight-reel captain Trevor Barker, and in a league of twelve teams, St Kilda finished last in seven seasons out of fourteen.

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Along with our dad who was a Saints member, my brother occasionally went to the Saints’ home ground Moorabbin Oval, and sat with a group of men (and no women, I think) who must have been regularly flabbergasted, angered, bewildered, or numbed by the ineptitude of the team they saw on the field. In particular, he remembers one bloke who sat in front of him and rather than yell abuse or encouragement, simply shook his head and sighed a long “Geeeez…” over and over again. Continue reading

It’s always sunny at the ballpark

Whenever I think about watching baseball, I’m picturing something like this:

Sunday in glorious Canberra.

Sunday in glorious Canberra.

Somehow it’s never cold or uncomfortable, it’s always the Friday before a long weekend, I’m not worrying about something at work or preoccupied with remembering to stop for groceries on the way home. And whilst I’d like the Aces to win, surely it’s not that big of a deal, right? I wouldn’t sit there getting wound up during a close game, right?

Right?

Hmmm.

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My own mid-season slump

Each time I jump in the car to head to the ballpark, I guiltily set the radio to Gold 104.3 and put the volume up (especially for the 7:35pm starts… leave home at 7:05 and get no ads, nothing but music). It’s a bit out of character for someone who grew up in the eighties but doesn’t own a single hits album, or any top ten album at all from the era – I’m more of a Throwing Muses, Nick Cave, Breeders kind of guy. My personal great eighties music moment is this Dead Kennedys video, in which front man Jello Biafra gives us a twenty-second pre-song mime. Anybody on the planet who knows what it means, message me:

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A face in the (small) crowd

You won’t have to read too deeply into the internets to find sport used as a hackneyed metaphor for something else. But sometimes the tables are turned – “the People’s Theatre”: just one of the clichéd metaphors used to describe sport, usually applied to huge crowds and occasions which capture the imagination of the masses. But those of us lucky enough to see the Sydney Blue Sox play the Melbourne Aces on Sunday were treated to something else: actual theatre – in fact a range of the performing arts, including vocalisation and even some graphic design thrown into the bargain, as Blue Sox manager Jason Pospishil mimed a near-perfect rendition of an oversize floating home plate – or was it a giant strike zone?

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Back on the Base Paths

Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch remains one of my favourite books, even though I don’t watch one-tenth of the soccer I used to. It’s an intense and funny memoir of what it means to be a pathological sports fan. The proof that the narrative holds for a fan of any team in any sport is its two movie adaptations – a pretty ordinary one which is faithful to the book, and a kind of schmaltzy (but actually quite enjoyable, because baseball) version with Boston and the Red Sox taking the place of London and Arsenal. Feeling in a gentle romcom mood? Treat yourself to 10 seconds (but no more, please) of the trailer:

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