I drove past Coors Field last week. It was an accident. I was doing my best with a rental car in a town I’ve never driven in to find a hotel that looks like who knows what, and then off to right, there were a bunch of bricks. Oh.
It surprised me. Some expansion teams choose to fling their parks to outer suburbs, where there’s room to park and generate a baseball-only mini-economy; in older baseball towns like ours, the city springs up, then the park, and then we operate our lives around it. Such was the case with Crosley Field, but in the end its location worked against it. I’m told that as the neighborhood surrounding the park began to disintegrate, so did attendance. It wasn’t a fun family trip anymore. The team almost left.
The sudden appearance of Coors Stadium in the windshield was startling because there was no warning at all. It just… showed up, and I felt as if I was accidentally intruding on another family’s front lawn. This was their grass, their purple seats, their fake forest in center field.
I’m accustomed to a great amount of fanfare when approaching a ballpark: THIS IS WHERE WE PLAY BASEBALL. YOU MAY HAVE HEARD OF US. BEHOLD OUR NEON SIGNS AND GIANT BILLBOARDS. From certain angles of downtown, you can see straight to the river, and there is a great intake of breath from the streets surrounding Great American Ball Park before a person actually gets there. There is none of this business of suddenly springing an MLB venue on a person.
They put their baseballs in a humidor at Coors Field, you know. The altitude and dryness mean that the balls want to fly higher and farther, and I get it. I hear you, baseballs. I feel the same way about Colorado. Cincinnati Beth is perpetually exhausted, scrambling in the wake of deadlines, and wondering where the next sack of gummy bears is coming from. My acne clears up; I engage in conversation with strangers; my crops are watered. Colorado Beth cheerfully arises at five for a sunrise hike, grades papers ahead of time, and gets the side salad in place of the fries. I am my best possible self in Colorado. I am a freaking delight.
This doesn’t mean I am doomed to unhappiness in Cincinnati. This town knows me as I am. I am my fullest self here, for it is the location of my first steps and last call. This downtown sees my snapping responses and my sleep addiction, my late arrivals and darting away from human contact. This is where I go to the doctor, who weights me and sees me naked, and where Kroger is well aware of how often I buy macaroni and cheese that begins as a bright orange powder. Great American sees me with the makeup off, and it understands. I might strike up conversations with total strangers at higher altitudes, but, like undertaking exercise out there, I can’t imagine that it would last too long. At some point, I would find myself emotionally at sea level once again.
And so I am content with the red seats of the river town. Our ballpark runs up to the very edge of who we are, and sometimes that’s ugly. Sometimes it’s tornado warnings and 80% humidity and dirty slush in April.
And that’s fine. It’s who we are. We let our baseballs be themselves here.