Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Molasses With A Side Of Sludge

When I lived in Buttfuck Tucson, Arizona, one of the few quality entertainment options for those of us who didn’t get our kicks blowing our meager pay at one of the local Indian casinos or up our noses on cartel cocaine was spring training baseball.

When I arrived there for my self-imposed desert imprisonment, the Cleveland Indians – no relation to the Tohono O’Odham -- were the only team to call The Baked Apple home. They were fun. I saw Jim Thome play third base in his prime, Omar Vizquel boot grounders and Albert Belle beat autograph seekers in the parking lot.

But my most enduring memory was sweltering in the mid-March heat (Summer begins on St. Patty’s day in southern Arizona) as I watched Steve Trachsel, the slowest worker in major league history, pitch against the Rockies, the team that the city took on after the Indians wised up and moved their training camp to Florida.

The memory came rushing back as I contemplated tonight’s game between the Phils and the Mets. Trachsel is back again like a bad dream, and I am resigned to accept tonight’s post will come after a marathon contest; Trachsel hasn’t changed one bit from that day a decade ago.

Trachsel fidgeted, fucking around with his hat, his crotch, his resin bag, his shoes and all the fans who paid to watch the torment of his dementia on the mound. Two hours easily elapsed before the fifth inning, and the heavy-drinking Tucson crowd (the population is 85 percent alcoholic) were six beers deep by the time his relief came in to their joy.

But the damage was done. The stands emptied out after watching Sammy Sosa’s opposite-field homer to right field (this was the year after he started dosing on the steroids), and, since the games don’t really count, all they missed was the debut of Todd Helton at first base, already anointed Andres Gallaraga’s eventual successor.

I stayed for the whole ordeal – I never leave before the game is over – slid myself into some shady seats behind the plate, and promised myself never, ever, ever again attend a game that motherfucker pitched.

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