BE NICE TO KIDS DAY
My nine year old son has a thing for Chipper Jones, the
star third baseman for the Atlanta Braves. When he was five, he planned on
marrying Chipper (he followed the domestic partner debate closely), at
seven he simply wanted to be called "Chipper," and at nine he
matured to where he only checked the box scores every morning to see how
Chipper was doing.
So when Chipper and the Braves came to town to play the
Giants, there wasn’t much choice. The 9 year old put on his Braves hat,
his Chipper Jones jersey, grabbed his 10 year old brother and a friend,
and off we went to Candlestick to pay tribute to Chipper.
It was a Tuesday night, a school night. The wind was
blowing about 70 knots, the fog was rolling in, and there were no
promotions going on---no Beanie Baby Day, no Cap Day, no Bat Day, and
certainly no Be Nice to Kids Day, which might help attendance more than
The game started at 7:05, but we arrived at 5:05 to
watch batting practice, maybe grab a ball or two and get close to the
players, including Chipper.
The kids were pretty excited, for awhile. But after
their sixtieth attempt to get a player to acknowledge they existed, their
enthusiasm waned a bit.
Understand that this wasn’t during the game, when
players have the excuse that they need to focus. This was two hours before
game time, with players hanging out on the field with absolutely nothing
to do other than chat among themselves and shag a few fly balls.
The kids, and there were only about twenty of them
hanging out in the stands, were trying everything to get a player’s
attention. They even resorted to yelling MISTER Bonds, or MISTER Snow, in
case respect was an issue. But not even a nod in their direction, let
alone a wave.
When I was a kid growing up in San Francisco in the 60’s,
some of my best memories were summer days at Candlestick, Hal Lanier would
always throw a few balls into the stands during batting practice. Mays,
Marichal, McCovey---they’d notice us. That was all we’d ask.
This, of course, was before kids became
This game would produce no memories for any of
the kids who shucked their homework and braved the bitter cold to pay to
see a major league baseball game.
They were pleading, they were begging for a
player to throw them a stray ball or stop for a minute and sign their hat
or their program. But apparently making a kid happy was not in the player’s
There was evidence that they knew we existed. A
batting practice foul ball headed into the right field stands and, knowing
our attention was focused on the players mingling and not the batter, one
of the players was kind enough to yell "HEADS UP."
This was surprising. Considering their attitude, I
thought they would be amused to see a spectator bonked on the head and
carried out on a stretcher.
As the Giants left the field, the Braves began drifting
in for batting practice. Maybe the road team would be different. Maybe the
Giants were afraid of getting too close to their fans. Maybe Chipper would
be, well, chipper.
My nine year old was ready. When Chipper came
onto the field, he was only eight feet away. "CHIPPER! CHIPPER! HEY,
His 10 year old brother tried to help. "HEY,
CHIPPER, HE’S YOUR BIGGEST FAN!"
There’s Maddux, the Braves’ star pitcher.
"HEY, GREG, CHICKS DIG THE LONG BALL!"
It’s a line from a commercial Maddux did for Nike.
They paid him, the kids didn’t. No response.
Enough was enough. Most of the kids drifted away. Mine
sat down, cold and disappointed. A ball rolled into the causeway in the
right field corner. An usher retrieved it and handed it to my nine year
He was excited to get the ball, but it wasn’t exactly
what he had in mind.