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The 2017 baseball season officially began at our house on a beautiful 80-something degree day in Lakeland Florida. The Pittsburgh Pirates were in town to play the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium lakelandjokermarchant  and I was sitting four rows behind the Pirate dugout for my first spring training game experience. lakelandpirates2lakelandpiratesThe Pirates brought their bats to this game and jumped on Detroit’s Ace, Justin Verlander lakelandverlander  in the second inning when Francisco Cervelli lakelandcervilli  jumped on the first pitch of the inning and launched the ball out of the park. Jose Osuna hit another homer over the left center field wall and the rout was on. The third inning saw seven Pirates cross home plate powered by Jordy Mercer’s lakelandmercer  grand slam and a solo shot by Adam Frazier. The game ended with an 11-1 Pirate victory and a great start to our ‘official’ beginning of the baseball season.

The trip to Lakeland almost didn’t happen due to the flu bug I wrote about last time. My Jane was on her third day of flu when game day arrived and couldn’t go. I struggled a long time with staying near My Jane in her time of illness or going to the game. My decision to go to the game reminded me of the old golf joke that went something like this; lakelandgolf (Rodney Dangerfield who got no respect!) On the golf course one day a funeral procession drove by on the near-by road and one of the golfers on the seventh hole stood still and bowed his head in respect while the procession passed the golf course. One of the other golfers, in the foursome, praised the first golfer for the respect he showed and the first golfer replied, “It’s the least I could do. We had been married thirty-two years.”. . . I went to the game anyway!

Arriving at the park, lakelandme  I sold My Jane’s ticket to a guy standing in line at the ticket window. Michael lakelandmichael and I became friends as we shared our love of baseball with each other. We had much to talk about since he was originally from Scranton, PA before migrating to Connecticut and eventually Florida by way of The University of Miami. He had been doing some work in a near-by community, finished early, slipped into the restroom to change his suit and tie for casual clothes and headed to Lakeland. He had never been to this stadium and was excited to make his first visit as a Detroit Tiger fan. I had more opportunity to cheer then he did during the game. We both sang along to The Village People’s “YMCA”

The Village People, with lead singer Ray Simpson, second from left, perfom the song "YMCA" during taping of the American Bandstand's 50th anniversary show Saturday, April 20, 2002, in Pasadena, Calif. Members of the group, from left, are Jeff Olson, Simpson, David Hodo, Felipe Rose, Eric Anzalone and Alexander Briley. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

with the rest of the crowd and cheered the little fellow who ran from the right field foul pole to second base and back to win a prize. Neither of us guessed where the two out-of-town girls had traveled from for the game. They came from Chicago which is famous for having the longest street in American. You never know what you will learn at a baseball game.

To add to the fun the guy sitting on the other side of me moved to Florida a year ago from Butler, PA. Michael, the guy on my right side and I just smiled at the beginning of the game when the public address announcer told us the temperature in Pittsburgh was 39 degrees. You never know who you will meet at a baseball game.

Michael is a lawyer. As might be expected when a lawyer and a pastor get together there is an easy flow of conversation to include streams of thought into why, how, where, what and who. The conversation was stimulating and gave me some confidence in our ability as a country to get through the current political state of affairs and find a path to protecting our environment and providing safety and security for all the citizens of this country as well as those fleeing unspeakable atrocities around the world.

You never know what will happen at a baseball game!

See you next time.