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Wednesday April 23rd 2014

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The Local—Take Me Out To The Ball Game

By James Hagan

Like many others, I’m eagerly awaiting next year’s debut of Pensacola’s Double-A baseball team, The Blue Wahoos. While I was hoping the team’s name would have been the Pensacola’s Ya’ll Must Have Forgot, in honor of Roy Jones Jr., I have little doubt that the Blue Wahoos will be a great attraction next year for the Community Maritime Park. Until the team makes its way into town, however, baseball aficionados like myself have to get our fix by watching the major league’s playoff races come down to the wire at the end of this month.

Whether you’re doing the tomahawk chop for the Atlanta Braves, rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers to complete a small-market miracle or are, like me, a fan of the greatest franchise ever created in sports, the New York Yankees, there are a lot of great places in downtown Pensacola to catch a game. Recently, I ventured out to downtown’s premier “barcade” Play Pensacola to catch a Yankees/Red Sox game.

Watching baseball, especially at a bar, is an experience unlike watching any other sport. For one, a baseball game is the only sporting event that may never end. There’s no clock, there’s no time limit, there’s no sudden death. This can prove problematic when after watching the now three-and-a-half-hour baseball game you tell your girlfriend you’ll be home in 20 minutes, only for a team to tag your closer for three runs to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth and send it into extra innings. And at that point, who could possibly blame you for ordering another beer? Oh, that’s right, your now ex-girlfriend.

Because baseball is, in my opinion, still Americans’ Past-Time, it is important to drink American beer while watching it. We can leave our fancy import beers for soccer matches and tennis finals. I like to stick with a good Yuengling draft to calm my anger after the stupid ump makes his stupid call on a ball that was clearly a third strike.

Another potential pitfall of watching baseball at a bar is that it inevitably leads to debate. Who’s a better player—Mickey Mantle or Ken Griffey Jr.? Should each league have a designated hitter? Is Cliff Lee a robot sent from the future? Such debate has been known to derail an otherwise pleasant night of baseball watching.

My experience watching the Yankees and Red Sox at Play featured all of the above. There was the realization that the game was going to last over four hours, there was the prodigious amount of Yuengling drinking, and there was the heated debate over whether it’d be cooler to enter the ninth inning as a closer to the strains of “Enter Sandman” or “Welcome to the Jungle” (a question that will be argued throughout time immemorial). However, the stupid ump did finally get the stupid call right with a called third strike to end the game with a much-needed Yankees win.

The first round of the MLB playoffs starts at the end of the September, and there is really no bad place to watch a game. Whether eating chicken wings at New York Nick’s, bellying up to the bar at Seville, or waiting out a pitching change with a quick game of Skee-ball at Play, watching baseball is one of the best ways to while away a fall evening. Just be sure to have enough money to prevent getting thirsty in the top of the 15th inning, and try to convince your girlfriend that it’s a good night for her to go check out “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” After all, this game may take a while.

About “The Local”: James is a graduate student in English literature at the University of West Florida, a frequent patron of downtown bars, and a devoted fan of just about every sport you can imagine, including figure skating. An avid rooter for the New York Yankees, Florida Gators, Los Angeles Lakers, and any other team that wins a lot, James is often called a bandwagon fan. A resident of East Hill, James lives with his girlfriend and an angry orange rabbit. His girlfriend likes baseball. The rabbit…not so much.