Beth and I went to a White Sox game last Wednesday courtesy of their opponent that night, the Houston Astros. More specifically, courtesy of the kindness of Kevin Goldstein, and old friend who happens to be a bigwig in the Astros front office. (Beth posted about Kevin’s story a couple years ago.)
The seats were terrific—behind home plate just on the first-base side, and given the source of the tickets, in a section dense with Astros fans. We quickly sensed that these weren’t just any fans—they were on every pitch, cheering strikes and outs every time the Houston pitcher retired a White Sox player. They were polite, joyful, terrific fans. One young guy—who looked like he could be out there playing—would shout “peanut” every time the Astros retired the White Sox and headed to their dugout. Someone asked why “peanut,” and he said, “When we were in high school, he used to call me watermelon head, so I called him peanut head.”
An older man (older as in the neighborhood of my age or thereabouts) and woman watched every pitch, somewhat nervously. They looked like Hispanic versions of the parents of the neighbor kids I grew up with—blue collar types who exuded solid reliability.
Kevin, who lives in Illinois and would normally attend, couldn’t be at the game because he was locked up in a room back in Houston with his colleagues during MLB’s annual draft. I emailed him to thank him for the tickets, and told him that we were sitting with a great group of Houston fans who were really into the game. He immediately wrote back, “Velasquez debut group?”
Aha! I used my magic phone and learned that 23-year-old Vincent Velasquez was making his first major league appearance. I suddenly felt even more lucky to be at that ball game. I got swept up in it all, and at one point, during a break in the action, I walked over to Victor’s father. “Is that your son pitching,” I asked. He said yes. “You must be very proud,” I said, shaking his hand. “He looks like he’s going to be terrific.” He immediately pointed to his right and said, “This is his mother.” She and I shook hands, I said congratulations to her, and took my seat.
Of course, business is business, so I was still pulling for my White Sox. But the feeling in that group transcended loyalty.
Many of the guys on the field that night make millions and millions of dollars. But for Victor and his family, I really don’t think that had anything to do with what they were feeling. And I was privileged to feel a little of it with them.