By Brad Meltzer
“You can have them,” my friend offered.
“No, that’s OK,” I replied.
“I’m serious,” he said. “They’re yours.”
“We’ll be fine,” I said. “We already have tickets.”
“But these are 20 rows behind home plate. They’re perfect.”
“I know, but like I said, we already have tickets.”
“Did you hear what I said?” my friend asked. “Twenty. Rows. Behind. Home. Plate. It doesn’t get better.”
And so the conversation went the day I decided to take my volunteer Little Brother to his first-ever professional baseball game.
It was a perfect night. The peanuts were fresh, the grass was recently mowed, the hot dog buns were soft (not too soft—not mushy—just right). Ryan (not his real name) was 10 years old; I was almost 30. Without a doubt, going to the game was a big deal. Why? I wasn’t sure—I wasn’t even that big a baseball fan myself. But surely every kid should have a chance to go to a real baseball game.
To commemorate the event, we even went to the local sporting goods store earlier in the week to try on some baseball mitts. I tossed Ryan one of the smaller-sized gloves, then continued rummaging through the aisle, looking for a baseball.
“How’s it fit?” I asked.
He didn’t answer.
And by the time I turned around, I understood why. Instead of putting the glove on his catching hand, he had put it on his throwing hand. The wrong hand. I couldn’t believe it. Ten years old and he’d never, ever worn a baseball glove. So now it’s the night of the game. The sun is about to set at Camden Yards, the home of Maryland’s beloved Baltimore Orioles, and I’m ready to show Ryan how real baseball is enjoyed. I buy a hot dog, grab a program and even pick up a bag of peanuts. Sure, I want to give him the full experience, but I also don’t want to spoil him—which is why I cringe when Ryan asks me the all-important question: “Where are our seats?”
It’s a simple question. Where are we sitting? Are we in the outfield? Along the first base line? Back in the upper decks? In many ways, where you sit affects your whole view of the game. Indeed, I thought the same thing myself when my friend offered me his season tickets a few days earlier. It was an incredibly thoughtful offer; Chuck’s seats were 20 rows behind home plate. As he said, they don’t get much better. But as I prepared for our visit to the ballpark, all I kept thinking was: “If I take Ryan to those incredible seats, won’t I be sending him the wrong message? Won’t I be spoiling him, potentially ruining all of his subsequent ballpark visits?” Sure, I obviously was overthinking it, but I made my decision: It’s better to take him to seats in the bleachers, then slowly—after a few games—work our way to the good seats up front. Teach him to appreciate the world. That’s the better life lesson.
So there we are, walking up to our seats in far left field. In truth, they are bad seats. We can barely see home plate, much less the infield. The only thing we are close to is the scoreboard, and even then, it’s on our far left. But as we find our aisle and make our way over to our seats, Ryan studies the view and takes it all in. He looks at the bright-green grass—the glare of the lights—and all the people surrounding us. And then, this 10-year-old boy who never has been to a ballpark in his entire life turns to me and says, “These are the best seats in the whole place.”
I almost fall over right there. A wide smile takes his face. And mine.
As I said, it was a perfect night. But somehow, it just got better.
© Brad Meltzer