On the walk to the ferry tonight. When I have time, I like to walk by AT&T Park on the waterfront side. It’s always cool to see the stadium, something of a waterfront jewel, landfill be damned. One of the features along the water frontage is an arcade where you can see into the ballpark from field level–you’re essentially standing just behind the right fielder. During the season, fans are welcome to take in the game for free from that vantage point; your turn lasts three innings if it’s crowded, and it’s nearly always crowded.
I’ve always found something sweetly pleasing about a ballpark as it empties out after a game, and among the favorite games I ever attended were afternoon dates at Wrigley Field when you could drift down from the cheap seats after the last out and just sit and watch while the last players cleared the dugout and the grounds crew started its postgame rituals. There’s a way in which the field is still alive for me though the play has stopped. You can still see what happened out there, the traces of arcs, parabolas, curves, lines, vectors all nearly still visible. The physical qualities of that space–the color of the grass, its texture, the shadows on the field, the immense and unconquerable but somehow finite and intimate distance to the outfield walls–have a power of their own that speaks as you linger, a power independent of the action you’ve just taken in. (I don’t think the modern major leagues allow much loitering in their amusement complexes now, and the field never seems as close as it used to. On the occasions I have tried to just hang out, there’s no going down to the expensive seats after the game, and the general experience is one of being hustled out as if your $20 or $30 or $50 or $100 entitles you to just so much and whatever that is it’s been used up. Go on home now.)
A ballpark after the season ends is a different story. Melancholy, a place deserted by everyone and everything that gave it purpose. The spaces, those unfathomable distances, are voids. No arcs or parabolas there. Until that changes, which they say happens next year, if we wait.