The more you take them, the more you appreciate them.
It can start on a quiet, sunny Saturday morning. Walking from the southside of the river Liffey to the shiny new Luas that departs from famous old Connolly station with it's rustic facade and constant construction work all around. Walking up the quays on the way to the Luas it's quiet, there isn't much going on around the financial centre of Dublin at 9am on a Saturday. The closer you get to the Customs House, Busaras and Connolly Station the busier it gets. The zombified late night revellers returning home. The homeless guys hanging out on the steps of the majestic Custom House. The few, angry looking white collar staffers on their way in on a weekend, and not happy about it at all, at all.
Lugging a sports bag that far leaves you with a welt on your shoulder. Adjust it a few times, consider grabbing a Subway, or maybe a coffee if you are still dragging after staying up to 3 am to watch MLB on TV. Getting on the LUAS heading out to the Red Cow Inn stop you pass right through the heart of Dublin City, right around Houston Station and out into the 'burbs.
If a team-mate is good enough to offer you a ride, you end up on any number of routes. For me the most prevalent is up the beautiful Royal Canal. There were many a sunny Saturday morning where TK and myself would stumble out of the apartment out to Gordy, who was sitting patiently listening to the great Damien Dempsey waiting for us two chug monkeys to get our stuff together. We would drive up through Baggot Street and the early morning traffic, up through Harold's Cross and finally Crumlin, before getting to Newlands Cross and the gas station where we would stop to stock up on water, powerade, donuts, packaged Mexican salads, bad sandwiches, popcorn, chocolate, pringles crisps, hot dogs and, if you are feeling lucky, lottery tickets for that nights coming draw.
Then there's the stroll to the field, where you adrenaline starts to pick up. Parking is in an adjoining estate, and you walk up to the entrance past the single file row of baseballers cars. Then there's the beautiful green fields of Corcaigh Park as you make your final walk up to the O'Malley Fields and your destiny on the day. A bad day at the plate? A tremendous days work off the mound? Two doubles and a few stolen bases or a 'five and dive' where 'their bats just found the ball'. Who knows, but it's all ahead of you at this point.
Irish baseball supremo/legend Mike Kindle being interviewed by 'Emerald Diamond' director John Fitzgerald with the beautiful O'Malley Fields behind him
The trip home can take a few shapes or sizes.
The canal can be an entertaining experience on the way home. With Vegas Valkys at the wheel recently a couple of us watched in amazement as a Dublin criminal ran from the Gardaí just feet from our car which was stopped in traffic. We watched in amazement as the skinny criminal ran and leaped full stretch into the Canal. The two perplexed Gardaí watched, literally scratching their heads, before calling backup which arrived in seconds. We had to move on at that stage, but our previously silent journey became a cacophony of debate and conjecture.
Then there's the days where it all does not go to plan. Baseball in Ireland is a funny little show. The veteran players, it means too much to us. We have become organic parts of our clubs and our friends on the teams are people we just don't want to let down. So, on a wet, damp, grey Dublin day where things don't go right, it can be a long trip home from the O'Malley Fields. You can get dropped at the Luas and sit silently amongst the sweaty GAA fans on their way to a big inter county game, or failing that amongst the obese Saturday shoppers. Fat people in America? Holy mackerel, Ireland can't talk. Take the Luas any Saturday and check out the percentage of obese people. It's eye opening. The Luas drops you in town and then you can either put the head down and dash home, or you can opt to wander around, maybe pick up something to eat or call in to a shop on the way home.
With the latter, you spend a half hour on the Dart stewing internally, your mind going over the game and what you could have done better, differently even. Then the Luas pulls up in town and you go from relative peace and quiet to being sucked into the Saturday heaving throng. Bustled by over laden shoppers and groups of burly Eastern European men, stepping over beggars, your ears assaulted by teams of noisy, high pitched teens wearing the kind of clothes strippers would be embarrassed to go out in.
Lower Abbey Street, on a Saturday, is probably reasonably close to Hell.
O'Connell Street, by comparison, is relatively peaceful, if only because of it's wide open spaces. The crowds are different too. Colourful tourists and grey drug addicts mix freely, the Gardaí watching amused from their perch against the walls of the GPO. You adjust your heavy sports bag on your shoulder and narrowly avoid knocking out a woman pushing a pram, she doesn't notice though because she's too strung out to care, and her boyfriend/husband, who is walking beside her like a hobbit with a bad hip, is too busy talking on his stolen phone about their next fix to notice. Then you turn a certain way and you are looking straight at the GPO and you wonder what Padraig Pearse would have thought about his City, that so many died for in 1916, being over run by scum bags, addicts, pushers and thieves.
Then there's the bus trip home from that side of the City, one of many buses that enter the City from the Houston Station side and trundle slowly down busy Dame Street. The bus first encounters traffic like opposition around Christchurch, the oldest and one of the most graceful parts of Dublin City. Dame Street is crowded too. The bus makes a couple of stops along it so depending what you are doing next, you could get off and just melt into the colourful throng in Temple Bar, or alight around the regal Trinity College and make your way up to Grafton Street.
You can start the rehab after a bad game with the help of Dublin City. Get off the bus at Dame Street, the cheerful 'Thanks mate' from the friendly bus driver something you don't get in every city around the world. Head down to Temple Bar, stop at Di Fontaine's for a good Pizza slice, maybe slip into Eamon Doran’s for a cold pint of whatever it is that does it for you. Heineken please.
Pick your bag up, head back into the crowds, your spirit refreshed a little, you can do it again next week and this time you will do it better. It takes a while to realise it, but making your way out to and back from the O'Malley fields, you really get to know your city a little bit better. It's all part of the journey, as they say.
It's a confusing city, sometimes superb, sometimes turgid, however it is an integral part of the Saturday Baseball Ireland experience. Like the games itself, sometimes it is awful, sometimes it is beautiful. It's always an experience.