Friday, August 19, 2005

Dogs, Frogs, and Baseball

The average age at the Oakland A's Booster luncheons is about 75. They seem to know each other, and they don't easily talk to interlopers. So I knew that, chances are if I went alone, I'd be sitting alone and talking to no one.

The 175 A's Boosters were lucky this time as Kirk Saarloos, a young pitcher and the Athletics' 5th in the rotation, screwed up with his alarm clock and was MIA when the session began. So they called Mark Kotsay, and the veteran outfielder showed up and answered questions for the group. But about an hour into the session, Kirk finally showed up, took a lot of razzing from his fellow ballplayer, and answered questions and even signed autographs for us.

During the dreaded chicken fried steak lunch, I ate in silence along with the rest of the fans at the table. One couple arrived late, however, and the gentleman seated next to me was fairly talkative. He told me I had something on the back of my A's shirt, and helped me brush it off. I mentioned something about "it's probably something from my dogs," and suddenly the 75-year-old ice queen sitting across from me started to melt...

"You have dogs?" she said, plaintively, looking up at me. "Yes," I said, and then I told her about Buddy and Chewy. "You have a chihuahua?" she said, not believing me. When I told her I had the most handsome chihuahua anyone had ever seen, her eyes teared up.

It seems that Cecilia had three chihuahuas, one at a time, over the years, but they have all passed on now. Her husband, Joe, then joined the conversation, and together, they told me stories of their dogs, how they looked, how they used to walk them on the street. They no longer have any dogs "'cause we travel too much," said Joe with a lilt in his voice. Joe then whipped out his wallet, and showed me two old and yellowing photos, one of a beautiful little, black, pudgy chihuahua and the other of their tan-colored one. Obviously devotion worked both ways in that family.

I told those at the table that I was going to undertake the Play Like a Pro clinic the next day. They all looked at me, staring a bit, until the woman off to the right -- she must've been at least 75 herself -- gave me some tips on how to throw to a catcher. I don't remember this tip, I must admit, but I thanked her for her assistance. She nodded approvingly. They all wished me luck.

Cecilia then told me that her 80-year-old sister, who recently moved in with them, just got an albino frog. "A what?" I said. "Yes, you heard right: a frog. My son gave her a frog. Hell, who do you think takes care of that thing? Me, not her. I will kill him the next time he tries to do something like that." This albino frog is a rare breed from Africa, and is a stunning gift, apparently, under most circumstances.

But a frog is not a dog. When Cecilia asked for my dog pictures, I reached for my wallet and discovered I had left the photos in my other wallet. She looked at me sternly. "You are coming to the next luncheon -- on September 28th -- and you are bringing photos." She was very serious.

As Robert Buan said goodbye to all of us at the Booster luncheon, Cecilia got in one more shot: "Remember to bring a photo of your chihuahua!" she said as I was slipping out the door of Francesco's. "Oh, and go A's!"

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