Auckland, New Zealand is over 6500 miles from LA. It also happens to be where I live.
In New Zealand, although Baseball is one of the fastest growing sports, few people follow it, and the majority of the population would be hard pressed to name more than half a dozen MLB teams. You see a lot of Brave’s and Reds hats in the street, but when you ask (and I do) the majority of wearers don’t actually know what they’re wearing. If people know the game even a little bit, they know about the Yankees (cheers, Babe Ruth) or Oakland (cheers, “Moneyball”) or the Indians (cheers, “Major League”) or the Red Sox (cheers, “Cheers”)
Which is why the last 48 hours has been so enjoyable for me.
Last night, my wife had a birthday. I was watching the Sox-Angels on MLB.com, when our families started arriving for dinner. Bottom of the 9th, trailing by 4, trying to be polite; I turned the game off.
Then, an hour later, I got a text message from my friend Mike. I seriously cannot reprint it here. You would be angry. As was he. You see, Mike’s from Connecticut, and a lifelong Red Sox fan. Beantown passionate. The Hamilton driven comeback last night did not make him happy.
So I invited him to watch the series decider. And in the interest of replicating the right atmosphere, I invited two other friends – Chris, another Sox fan, and Damien, who is a typical New Zealander; knows nothing about baseball.
So here’s the scene. Noon on Monday, NZ time. Live on pay TV; Sunday Night Baseball. Do the time math yourself. Angels – Red Sox. Weaver – Lackey. Chips, pretzels, Sam Adams beer (which they have only just started importing here, and was my peace offering to the Boston fans). Four guys in the room, and to prove our provenance, I’m wearing a Trout replica jersey I bought at the Big A last year, Chris a Dustin Pedroia number his folks brought back from Boston 3 years ago, and Mike a Carl Yastrzemski T-Shirt that he got…oh who cares, he’s earned it. He’s serious. Damien is wearing a black T-Shirt, and checking emails.
Bottom of the first. Mike Trout homers. Good start. For me.
Weaver pitches out of trouble in his first two innings. then settles to throw a gem.
Lester looking damn good in Anaheim, for a change. Wrong uniform, but.
Meanwhile, in a house in a suburb of a city in a country that most people in Anaheim probably think was made up for Lord Of The Rings, four disparate personalities are having a great day. Damien is asking questions, like “what’s the difference between a ball and a strike?”, that we take turns answering patiently. Mike argues that he wanted Trout to win MVP last year, but mainly because he hates Cabrera for taking the “most recent triple crown” title off Yastrzemski. Chris laughs at Mike a lot, because Chris is “Boston” but not “F$%#%ing Bahwstawn”.
And a few hours later, we part. The Angels win, but the Sox fans are okay with that. They got outdueled, they have a better record overall, they were at my house. Whatever. Our uninformed friend will watch another game, I guarantee you that. The fact is, down here, baseball is growing, but still tiny.
Down here, they call Soccer “the beautiful game.”
If they’d been at my place today, they may want to reconsider.