Well friends, fans and followers, a new season is upon us and it’s time for your sportswriter, Roy Madison to put away the cards, put down the sandwich, and pick up the pen. I should probably tell you what happened to me about a week ago. I was going through my usual pre-season ritual of shedding whatever dame I had hanging around, kicking any fellas having trouble with their wives and using my place as a test-flight for a second attempt at bachelorhood off the couch, emptying the ashtrays, and filling the fridge with Bud Light so as to not be interrupted in my efforts to report on the minutiae of another season of men at play, when I realized something was different.
Usually this time of year fills me with excitement and anticipation, but after years of seeing the same stories, and writing the same words about players coming up, going down, finding fame, losing grace, and not to mention the same old cronies in the press box pushing pencils and whatever else they can push around, I realized that I’ve been caring less and less about baseball. Which frightens me, fans. It fills me with a certain kind of palatable fear. Without baseball there is no way to view the constant flux of society through the controlled lens of a game, with crowds assembled around it, regularly played in the same fashion that it’s been played since the beginning of time; well, at least the beginning of my time.
I like repetition. The only damn way to tell if anything is right in this world is to measure whether or not it happens over and over again, and in the same way it did before, but during the winter months, something in the comfort of same felt a little off. Here in Hollywood, the weather is reliably predictable and unwavering. This is a good thing. My days by the pool here at the Highland Gardens hotel — where I’ve been residing since I was run out of New York some years ago for my slovenly behavior in the press box, on the busses, and beside the field — was something to behold because I felt like nobody else had the guts to live a life dedicated to something that left them behind, that didn’t want them anymore.
My days start early. I wake up, assess the sky, look at the box scores if a season is in play, watch a little I Love Lucy if there isn’t, then get out for a swim, some sun, and a six pack with the radio transmitting anything I needed to know about from Dodger Stadium. As evening approached, I would put a shirt over my still wet shorts, walk down the Boulevard to Musso’s for dinner (usually only on Thursday’s, I’m not made of dough you know) and try to get a few rounds of cards in if I could rouse up some of the regular fellas that are known to skulk about. Finally, and only after the sun set behind the hills, I’d file a story. Year upon year, season after season, this was how I lived my life, and I wouldn’t change it for a bit. Published or not, I was goddamned sportswriter! And there wasn’t a thing anybody could say about it.
Then something strange happened. Just last week, I was sitting by the pool when I got up without a thought of warning, and dropped myself into the deep end where I let myself float to the bottom of the pool, just to sit there. Jesus, I think I might have been trying to drown myself! Yes, friends, fans and followers, I was clearly trying to drown myself, but don’t worry, I finally surfaced, gasping for air and wanting a change. I realized that another season covering the Dodgers down here in Los Angeles wasn’t going to provide me with the usual feeling of purpose that it had in the past. How long would it be before I wound up blowing bubbles to the bottom of the pool again? I was drowning in the repetition of the game, and would soon be drowning where the game of life is concerned, fans.
We get all types here at the Gardens, making the pool scene quite a thing, which is why I usually do all my work there. The place is a bit of a dump, but it’s cheap and it’s just behind Hollywood Boulevard. It’s a less of a hotel and more of a flop house where actors who come here from all over in the spring take up residence to see if they can get picked up for a show in the hopes of extending their dream a little longer. Come to think of it, it’s not unlike spring training. A lot of them are from Canada, and I got to talking to one kid, Romey, a young Venezuelan fella from Vancouver, British Columbia that would usually take the lounger beside me with the shortest goddamn shorts on with an unbuttoned blue denim shirt. Christ, this kid was a real playboy, what I wouldn’t give to swap his body with my wrinkled ball bag for an afternoon. Anyway, he didn’t have much to say. He’d just sit there in his Ray Bans on the lounger beside mine, smoking Marlboros, waiting for his phone to ring in an audition. Finally, out of nowhere, we got to talking one day about baseball of all things, and he told me about a new league up in Vancouver that was formed from a bunch of kids who played music at night, and baseball during the day. Other fellas, and girls too for chrissakes, caught the bug and started playing, forming their own teams, designing uniforms, the whole shebang. Now there’s something like 4 teams. Romey says that not a dollar changes hands, and that playing in an East Van park is like that scene in Rocky when he punches the meat for practice — ok, those are my words, not his — but Romey said there’s no place to sit, nevermind concessions or a press box. Just the field. Just the game.
I told Romey that was just about the most delightful thing I ever heard, and when I went to bed later that night, it was just about all I could think about. By morning, I had an idea! Roy Madison: on assignment! It was all set. I was going to go up to Canada to report on the early days of the East Van Baseball League. Now don’t think for one second, when this whole plan together, that I didn’t think of this as being a way to relive my time travelling with the Mets. Those days were plum! The hotels, the girls, the late night steak dinners, it wouldn’t be a different city every day, but it would still be different every day. This was a fresh league, with no other crumbs holding pencils in hand, hanging around, shooting bull, trying to scoop a story before the other guy got it. Just me. In a new city! A new start! A new everything! A new me.
So, friends, and followers, it begins. A new season is upon us. I’m now reporting to you from beautiful British Columbia, Canada. As always, I’m living in a hotel. It’s called Sylvia, and what a dame she is, fans! There isn’t a pool, but there’s a bar in the bottom, a beach out front, and it’s covered in vines. It’s bloody freezing up here, but the mountains and waters, with their tides rolling in and out, just outside the window of my room on the 7th floor, has given me a new perspective on the game through the idea of writing about this league. And these kids should be so happy, that a seasoned professional is going to devote his beat to their bats, because a baseball league isn’t worth a lick of spit if it doesn’t a have writer in the stands. Or in this case the, rocky, mud covered, wet ground. Things have turned out to be a in a little rougher shape than what i anticipated, but no worry, we’re in the early stages here.
Shortly after my arrival I took a rental car out to the park where the teams were gathering for an open practice. I didn’t want to freak these guys out by falling out of a dark cadillac in my grey window pane slacks and club blazer. So instead i just sat there and watched from inside the car, getting acquainted with the team, the players, the park. It was a Saturday afternoon and I really had to admire these guys for getting out there just after a rain dumped wash all over the field. There was about 50 guys and 5 girls, in all types of interpretations of uniform, all types of talent. I could spot the stars, the characters, the picker uppers, the feel goods. I’m a sportswriter, it’s my job. Hell, there was one fella wearing an oxford shirt! I loved it. They were out there a good two hours with a coach emceeing the affair by running them through standard warm up and throwing drills, followed by a little batting. I saw the true essence of the game come to life right there in that damn rented Cadillac. And just as I was about to pull away, one player laid straight out for a diving catch, only to come up covered in the filth of a wet park, a smile on his face, and the ball in hand. I sped off, back to the hotel to file this report which you now have in your hands. Expect more friends, fans, and followers. East Van Baseball has just begun, and so have I.