It is 6 p.m. on August 6. The rain is falling slowly but steadily, which means the Durham Bulls game has been postponed.
I, a person who doesn’t know anything about baseball, have a ticket to see the Durham Bulls, the city’s beloved Minor League Baseball team, play against the Memphis Redbirds. This will be my first Bulls game. But the cloudy weather delayed experience.
I spend my free time tracking down the extraordinarily active Durham Bulls Twitter feed and convincing my roommate, junior Ava Ganeshan, that this trip is a good idea. The number of professional sporting events the two of us have attended could be counted on one hand, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know what a ‘crackerjack’ is.
After three long hours, the Bulls confirm the the tarpaulin has been raised ground. Ava and I put on rain gear and face masks and hop in a car to Durham Athletic Park.
The air is heavy and humid, and my clothes are sticking to my body. The seats I have chosen are completely uncovered, and the rain is falling on our jackets. But the fans around us don’t seem to mind the weather. Umbrellas open and drinks in hand, they shout passionately – mostly unmasked – at the opposing team and, as if at the right time, begin choreographed applause rituals. Ava and I are notably out of our element, two ignorant underdogs in a crowd of devoted fans.
The game is associated with overpriced and too salty buttery popcorn and some obvious baseball-related accomplishments. Ava and I take turns feasting on our revelations.
“The pitcher’s mound is so named because the pitcher is standing on it and it’s a mound!” ” I tell him.
“The words ‘three hits you’re out of the old ball game’ are a real rule of baseball!” she adds, laughing.
“The phrase ‘peanuts and crackers’ refers to the actual snacks sold at the stadium,” I point out, pointing to the broken peanut shells under our feet.
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Finally, Ava and I slide into covered seats slightly to the right of the home plate to get closer to the action. To our left sit two passionate booing fans, determined to destroy the self-esteem of all Redbirds players. To our right is a popcorn-loving spectator, who isn’t afraid to criticize the athletes of either team.
“I didn’t expect a vibrant fan base for a triple A team, but the Durham Bulls fans were super fun,” junior Morgan Feist said after the game. “It was the energy of the crowd and the way the people were really in the game.”
Caught up in the palpable excitement of the stadium, I began to sing and applaud. Although I understand little about the score and the game, I blend in with the crowd, booing when the Redbirds (rarely) score and clapping madly when Dalton Kelly and Josh Lowe strike. the house runs back to back.
“There is a greater element of surprise in a Minor League game than in a Major League game. You never know if they’re going to catch or throw a good pitch, which makes for some fun times you can only find in minor league baseball, ”says Feist.
Towards the end of the game, the Bulls repeatedly “walk” as the Redbirds pitcher continues to throw shots out of the strike zone. (I had to look for it all.) Although the Bulls’ score climbs to 11 points in the sixth inning, the crowd erupts into thunderous applause when the Redbirds pitcher finally makes a good pitch.
You read correctly. We encourage the other team.
On Friday and Saturday game nights, the Bulls usually put on a fireworks display that can be heard, if not seen, across Durham. But because of the rain, the show is canceled tonight.
Durham Bulls fans, however, don’t need fireworks to celebrate the 16-3 victory. There are cheers and applause, and Ava and I dutifully join in.
Right now, we’re no strangers to the baseball scene that had just learned the basics of the game, groped the cheers and struggled to keep up with the applause. We’re fans celebrating an absolute Redbirds smackdown and savoring a home win.
“I walked in as someone who didn’t know anything about baseball, and left wanting to buy a [Durham Bulls] shirt, ”Ava said after the game.
It’s been a few months now, and I know summer is over, not because the Engineering Quad’s leaves are turning red and orange or because it’s cold in the air. I know it’s over because the Durham Bulls season is over. But Ava and I have some t-shirts to wear when the games resume in April.
Preetha Ramachandran is Trinity’s junior and senior editor-in-chief for the 117th volume of The Chronicle.