Monday, July 29, 2013

My first pitch

Back from a weekend in “the Land of Enchantment.” That’s what it says on all New Mexico license plates. I guess “the Land of Methamphetamine” was too long. But I could just be watching too much BREAKING BAD.

I was in Albuquerque to throw out the first pitch at an Isotopes game. Almost every word in that last sentence requires an explanation. My writing partner, David Isaacs and I wrote THE SIMPSONS episode that introduced Springfield’s minor league team. Since their big industry was the nuclear plant we named the team the Isotopes. It was the goofiest atomic particle we could think of on the way to lunch. A later episode had the team possibly moving to Albuquerque. When the city did get a team they decided to name it the Isotopes. It’s become a fan favorite and merchandising hit. And nothing strikes fear in the hearts of opponents like a chemical element.

Also, my KABC Dodger Talk partner, Josh Suchon (on Homer's right), is the new voice of the Topes so it was nice to hang out with someone who still has a job in baseball.

Stayed at the very decent Airport Sheraton but was originally given a wheelchair access room. The mirrors were at my waist (ideal for Anthony Weiner photo shoots) and the dresser drawers were on the floor. It was like reliving GULLIVER’S TRAVELS.

Headed right out to the ballpark. No time to visit the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, where his ashes have been mixed in with the concrete. Some say it’s a lovely tribute, others say the contractor was just cutting corners.
Isotopes Park is the Taj Mahal of minor league stadiums. Especially compared to the dumps I called games in during my AAA days. Tampa Bay or Oakland should just move there. Sure, capacity is only 16,000 but that’s still way more than those franchises are drawing now. The nickname for the park is “the Lab.” I guess I’m not the only one watching too much BREAKING BAD.

This was breast cancer awareness weekend so the Topes wore pink uniforms. Ty Cobb was spinning in his grave. D.H. Lawrence was spinning in his… walls.

They should have sold pink teddy bears at the team store. I’m telling you, BREAKING BAD is really big there.

Talk about a slow news day – I was the subject of a press conference. I’m not used to TV interviews so I just thought, “What would Gloria Allred do?” I gave my SIMPSONS spiel and vowed to repeal the latest abortion restrictions in Texas.

Just when I started to think I was a big deal, Josh told me I had to leave the radio booth in the third inning because Ronald McDonald was coming in. There’s nothing more humbling than being kicked out of a room for a clown.

We never got to the third inning, however. Rain started falling in the first. Josh said, “We can play in this.” A moment later the sky opened up and there was a monsoon. Wind gusts up to 90 m.p.h., lightning bolts slashing through the ink black clouds, and quarter-inch hail. “We can play in this.”
The storm was so ferocious that it lifted the giant tarpaulin off the field and blew it into the stands – thus creating the most unusual fan giveaway in the history of professional baseball. The temperature dropped from 91 to 59. I was getting emergency texts on my phone – flash flood warnings, power lines down. This is so different from L.A. where they warn you that Hollywood Blvd. is closed for the ESPY Awards.

Ironically, the Topes’ opponent was the dastardly New Orleans Zephyrs. A zephyr is a gentle breeze. I thought of that as the thousand pound tarpaulin blew into their dugout.

The Luke Bryan concert at the Isleta Amphitheater was interrupted when attendees were asked to flee for their lives. Bryan tweeted that he was “bummed.”

Woke up Saturday morning to partly sunny skies, flooding, and the power still out in parts of downtown. Walter White had to delay his daily shipment. Overheard in the hotel coffee shop as I picked the jalapeƱos out of my Frosted Flakes (they put them in everything there): GUEST ONE: “My G4 reception was really shitty last night.” GUEST TWO: “Fucking AT&T.”

Driving around, the “enchantment” continued. Gazing at all the uprooted hundred-year-old trees I was reminded of the Pelennor Fields battle scene from LORD OF THE RINGS.

Didn’t get to Santa Fe, home of many beautiful historical artifacts including Ali McGraw.

You can buy cheap turquoise jewelry in Albuquerque at any 7-Eleven, and there’s a Disco store for your next party. That’s probably where the Isotopes got their pink uniforms.

So the Friday night game was suspended after eleven minutes and resumed on Saturday as part of a doubleheader. Albuquerque won 8-5. Time of game: 23 hours, 11 minutes.

Now came the moment I was dreading. Throwing out the first pitch and completely humiliating myself in front of 10,000 onlookers and the entire world via YouTube. My only goal: Please don’t become the next Carly Rae Jepsen. Then, to add more pressure, Dodger pitcher Stephen Fife (who was there on a re-hab assignment) volunteered to be my catcher. Great! I’m going to hit him in the eye, he’ll be out for the season, and I personally will have cost the Los Angeles Dodgers the pennant. My idol, Vin Scully, will try to run me down with his car.
I had hoped to practice before the games, but the groundscrew needed every minute to transform the Okefenokee Swamp back into a playing field. I had played a little catch with my son, Matt, the week before, but who’s real really sharp on six days rest?

Since it was in between games of a doubleheader, I was actually throwing out the ceremonial 363rd pitch. Amazingly, astoundingly, “enchantedly”, I threw a strike. I didn’t throw that hard – the ball might not have torn through Kleenex – but I did hit Fife's target. I will take it, thank you. The last time I was that relieved was when Roseanne’s talk show was cancelled.

The Topes swept the twinbill, and the “Extreme Locust Warning” proved to be a false alarm.

Thanks to Josh, John, Orbit, and the Isotopes for your hospitality and team room rate. Anytime you survive a monsoon and don't become an international laughingstock it’s a great trip. And thanks to the baseball Gods for allowing my first pitch to cross the plate. After all, “breaking bad’ also applies to curveballs.

For more misadventures like this I invite you to check out my travelogue book.  Just click here.  Thanks!


Spencer said...

Wasn't "Zephyrs" the team name on Mr. Burns's uniform in "Homer at the Bat?"

Michael Stoffel said...

As a fan of "In Plain Sight", I would wonder if everyone I ran into in Albuquerque was in WITSEC!

Dana King said...

I was in Albuquerque last month and was disappointed to learn the Isotopes were out of town. I did get a chance to drive by the ballpark, and it looked like a gem.

Weather was somewhat different when i was there, too. High 90s-100s every day. I got into my rental car after work one day and the external temperature read 119. I drove around to get dinner, run an errand and it got down to 109. At 7:30 PM. I could have used a zephyr.

Baylink said...

Is it bad that I thought "story pitch" instead of "baseball pitch"?

Jeffro said...

I can be sympathetic of Carly Rae Jepsen's awful first pitch. Did she fancy herself a good softball player? At least you didn't Baba Booey your pitch and hit an umpire:

The sad part is that Baba Booey played baseball/softball and boasted that he can throw a good strike on Stern before that disaster.

Bobby Heiss said...

Hum batta-batta-batta SWING! Good stuff Cy, up and in, low and away! Enjoyable read to start the day; what a drag to be griddled in traffic back in LA.

tb said...

High five for throwing a strike. That video of the tarp blowing into the stands, jeez, that was wild. Jalapenos in your Frosted Flakes! Ha!

chuckcd said...

Glad to hear you threw it better than Mr. Burns.

Now, can you hit?

Hamid said...

Ken - Off topic but Spike Lee has spoken today defending his use of Kickstarter, saying he's brought a lot of people to Kickstarter who'd never heard of it! Yeah, right.This topic's gonna run and run.

Lucy said...

Ok, now look. I am a native of Albuquerque and I can take a LOT of guff for my hometown, but the one thing I cannot abide is this sentence:

" I picked the jalapeƱos out of my Frosted Flakes (they put them in everything there)"

You absolutely did NOT have jalapenos on everything. You had green chile. There is a massive difference. Massive.

And in case you question the value of green chile, you'll note Albuquerque's green chile is considered America's Best Food.

Maybe it's your sad sorry LA taste buds that are lost, eh?

Meanwhile, thanks for the awesome baseball team name. And excellent first pitch. Congrats on not clanking it. Then again Lon Simmons just threw a first pitch for his 90th birthday and got 'er right in there too.

Breadbaker said...

Ironic that you mentioned the Texas abortion restrictions. Our one time to watch baseball in Albuquerque was the night of "Right to Life" night at the old Dukes park.,6564741
The sponsors of the evening were down one base line and the pro-choice group was down the other line. We were sitting behind the plate (because that is where we had bought tickets).

There was no violence and it was sort of a non-event, though I think some DJ actually wrote a song about it.

The denouement is that we won a door prize during the game, and it was for dinner at a local barbecue place. Since this was our one and only night in Albuquerque we had no use for it. But when we got home, I looked up the address of the local Planned Parenthood office and sent them the coupon. I got a nice thank you note.

Storm said...

..."Gazing at all the uprooted hundred-year-old trees I was reminded of the Pelennor Fields battle scene from LORD OF THE RINGS."


Cheers, thanks a lot,


A Fan said...

Go Topes!