I have a confession to make. Twenty one years ago I did something terrible. Something shameful. Something truly unforgivable. But before I get into all the gory details, I want to let you know that I was only 11 at the time. That’s not an excuse, merely context. Please keep that in mind.
It was August of 1997 and my love affair with baseball was in high gear. I was obsessed with the Cleveland Indians. I couldn’t get enough of the Tribe. Earlier in the year, my parents decided to go halfsies on a season ticket package with my aunt and uncle. They split the 81 home games right down the middle. My mom and aunt went to a game together, so each family got exactly 40.5 games.
I remember there was an evening before the season started when my mom and dad and aunt and uncle gathered in our living room in front of a large calendar with all the home games marked on it. They were there for hours, going back and forth about who got which game, looking at the promotions and giveaways and fireworks and matchups, taking into account the various vacations and camps and tournaments and responsibilities of each family.
It was an ordeal. But at the end of the night, both sides walked away knowing which 40 games they’d be going to, which game the sisters would be attending together, and, most importantly, they'd done the work of packing each and every one of the tickets neatly into two pristine white envelopes.
The specific date of the incident that still haunts my dreams was Saturday, August 9. The Indians were playing a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers at Jacobs Field, or The Jake, as it was affectionately known. The name of the stadium has since been changed to Progressive Field but I still call it The Jake because fuck that noise. What does insurance have to do with baseball?
[Editor's note: Baseball, like all sports, is a trifling, shameless, good-for-nothing, corporate-worshipping scoundrel when it comes to money. That, Kyle, is what insurance has to do with baseball.]
We had tickets to the first game of the doubleheader. Charles Nagy was pitching. I thought he was super cool. Even cooler than Chuck, though, was Omar Vizquel. He was the Indians’ shortstop and my absolute favorite player. I had a poster of him in my bedroom.
It was my dad and I that went to the game. I remember that because the face he made when I told him about the incident is still burned into my brain. That, and because when I told him I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the sixth inning, he didn’t say anything like, “Be careful!” or “Come right back,” or “Take your ticket just in case,” like my mom would’ve. He just said, “Okay.”
It was on the way back from the bathroom that it happened.
You see, there was a really long line for the men’s room. Like, incredibly long. And Omar was going to be up second in the bottom half of the inning. And there was simply no way I was going to miss Omar’s at-bat. I just couldn't allow that to happen. But after I shuffled through the line and peed and washed my hands and finally made my way back out into the concourse, I saw on the TV the Omar was already stepping into the batter’s box. So I decided to run.
I was really fast when I was a kid. This is not a brag, merely more context. Really fast.
So there I am, running like death is chasing me, weaving in and out of groups, dodging wayward wanderers, keeping my head on a swivel, searching for the path of least resistance. I was about a section away from our seats when I got greedy. I looked at the field for the briefest of moments, hoping to get a glimpse of Omar at the plate. When I looked back it was already too late.
Sprinting at top speed, I collided with a woman carrying a tray full of beers.
To this day, I still haven’t seen anything quite like it. The beer basically exploded from her solar plexus. It was like the beer was shot from a thousand individual beer cannons each pointed in a slightly different direction. If I had to guess, I’d say the beer reached its apex at approximately 15 feet in the air, leaving a blast radius about 10 feet in diameter. It was a massacre.
For as quickly as it all happened, I remember every millisecond in vivid detail. The pained look on that poor woman’s face. The collective gasp of the witnesses around us. The sensation of the ice cold suds raining down upon me. The shock and fear that seized my body at the realization of what I’d done.
I fell to the ground, and the plastic cups fell around me, bouncing and ringing off the soaked concrete. I looked up to see the woman, still holding the pulpboard tray firmly against her stomach, dripping from head to toe.
I scuttled backward, away from her, and stumbled to my feet. My brain tried to make my mouth say the word “sorry,” but all it could manage was a vaguely apologetic groan that trailed off as I ran away.
I thought of just running away altogether, out of the stadium, away from my dad, down to the trainyard, hopping in a boxcar that would take me anywhere but there.
I ended up back at my seat.
It took a moment for my dad to notice. He was a big Omar fan, too, and was intently watching him bat. When he finally saw that I was sopping wet, he asked what the hell had happened. When I told him, his face contorted in such a way as to display bewilderment and anger and sorrow and disappointment simultaneously, but also cycle through them, separately, over and over and over again for what felt like hours.
He quickly marched me back up the stairs, intent on finding the woman, making me apologize, and repaying whatever small fortune I had cost her. She was long gone. All that remained was a dampened oblong shape that marked the scene of the crime—already starting to bake away under the hot summer sun—and two small dry patches where her feet and my body had been.
We left after that. The Indians lost. Omar went 0-for-4. It felt like a fitting punishment, tbh.
I’m still ashamed of how selfish and cowardly I was that day. And I regret not apologizing to that woman in earnest. So, now that I have this platform, modest as it is, I figured I’d take this opportunity to say what I should've said all those years ago:
Ma’am, if by some strange chance you’re reading this, I’m sorry.