I drove to Elmwood Park on Sunday afternoon and parked in the shade of a tree that was probably older than Omaha, the city where the park is located. I tilted the seat back and found the Kansas City game on a local AM station. The Royals were playing the New York Yankees, and I could tell by the clamor in the background there was a big crowd in the stadium. Most had come to see Derek Jeter one last time. The great shortstop is hanging up his cleats at the end of the season, and this is the only Kansas City stop for the Yankees this year.
There are not many things I like more than listening to major league baseball on the radio, especially when a master like Royals announcer Denny Matthews is behind the microphone. Denny knows when to talk, but more importantly, he knows when not to talk. That’s the secret of great radio play-by-play. Most guys today think they’re obligated to fill every second of air time with sound their voices. Trust me gentlemen, you’re not.
In the second inning Derek Jeter stroked a single to left field. While he took his place on first base, I took stock of what was going on around me in the park. Across the road golf carts darted around on the rolling fairways of the city course. People walked dogs on long leashes and kept small children on short ones. I mean that figuratively about leashes on the kids. There were walkers and joggers and bicycle riders on the asphalt path. The smell of grilling hamburgers floated on the breeze, as did dandelion seeds by the thousands, so many they looked like snow flurries. I closed my eyes, hearing only the radio and some chirping birds, and I went to that place that is midway between sleep and consciousness. It’s one of my favorite places. I don’t know how long I stayed there, but I came back just in time to hear Denny say, “And Jeter strikes out swinging.”
I sat in the car for a while, long enough for Jeter’s turn at bat to come back around, and I tried to think about as little as possible. That’s not an easy thing for me to do, because I am a natural worrier. But I did my best, and it was relaxing, and when I heard Denny say, “Jeter grounds out to Escobar,” I decided to take a walk.
Elmwood Park is west of downtown Omaha, just a couple of blocks from Warren Buffet’s house. I know this because I looked up where he lives. You can find almost anything on the Internet these days, and that’s kind of scary if you think about it. I had always heard Mr. Buffett had a normal house in a normal neighborhood, just like a normal guy, and it’s true. He lives on a corner lot in an older neighborhood, one with nice homes but hardly extravagant. I don’t know why I find this interesting, but I do. I’m a long time admirer of the Oracle of Omaha, but I’m also bit of a geek when it comes to famous people.
After taking a turn around the park I went back to the car to check on the game. The Royals had a 2-0 lead and Jeter was at the plate again. I listened long enough to hear Denny say, “Jeter flies out to Gordon and that’s the inning.” Then I went back to my walk.
I walked past affectionate couples on blankets and families having picnics and birthday parties with excited children and a large group of young people playing what appeared to be a game of soccer, but with a Frisbee instead of a ball. Every ethnic group you could imagine, with the possible exception of Native Americans, was represented somewhere in the park, and everyone was getting along just fine. Living in the homogenous suburbs, I don’t get a chance to see things like this very often, and when I do I take it as a hopeful sign for the future. I imagined Rodney King smiling down on it all from heaven, or somewhere.
After my second loop around the park I decided it was time to go. I started the car just in time to hear Denny call the final out of the game. The Royals had won by a score of 2-1. Derek Jeter was left standing in the on-deck circle. There would be no last minute heroics from the Yankee captain today.
I thought about how it had turned out to be a pretty good afternoon, then I drove the short distance back to my hotel. It was almost five o’clock, and you know what that means.