Posted by: Ryan | March 21, 2010

The Things I Won’t Carry

I suppose it’s a sure sign I’m an American that, shortly after coming up with this idea for visiting minor league stadiums, I immediately started thinking about what gear I would need for my project.

When Steve Jobs demo’d the iPad, I immediately thought, I could use that. I’d sit in the stands, tweeting my impressions of the action on the field. If I bought a new digital SLR – one with Bluetooth capability – I might be able to upload photos to this blog via the iPad minutes after I took them. Or maybe it would make more sense to go the iPhone route: I could tweet and update the blog and take photos and video, all from one magical device. I would get you access, make you, the reader, feel like you were crunching discarded peanut shells under your feet right there with me. And I wouldn’t miss a thing. I could check email, the weather, visit BaseballReference.com as needed, see how the Sox were doing between innings, call my daughter and wish her goodnight, scout for restaurants to hit before tomorrow’s game.

Let me explain a little bit about my job. I’m the Web Content Manager for a health care system in rural New Hampshire. I supervise a half-dozen people. We’re in the middle of redesigning and rearchitecting our websites, and I spend little of my time at work actually producing content for those websites. My day is divided between attending meetings and answering emails. I often feel like the apex my creativity and professional experience, the true flowering of my career, is found in crafting subtle, prodding emails to convince people to do what we need them to do.

And here’s the thing about receiving up to 75 emails a day: answering them starts to become a compulsion. It’s difficult to relax until you’ve cleaned out the In Box, and have crafted all of those subtle rejoinders, parried all of those passive-aggressive thrusts. It’s tempting to put enjoyment on hold until you have tamped down all of the fires that have flared up over the course of the day.

Except there always are going to be loose ends. Some clients aren’t going to be assuaged, and certain emails can’t be dealt with until you come in the next day. Which is why it’s so easy to carry this busy, Type A mind into your home life, easy to feel the need to always be connected, always on top of things, always aware of what’s going on. Easy to give in to the nagging sense that somehow you haven’t taken care of business, that there is something else you should be paying attention to, just one more thing, before you can let yourself exhale.

Enter Facebook. Enter Twitter. Enter the personal email In Box.

This project, to see as many minor league games as I can this summer, and write about them, stemmed from the recognition that I wasn’t ever turning myself off. It’s a problem that’s worse in the winter time, when we’re largely stuck inside up on this hillside, with the woodstove to feed but little else to do aside from renting the Wire via Netflix, checking status updates online, or carefully crafting personal email responses.

This winter, I finally recognized that I need to disengage, get away from the screens, if only for a weekend at a time.

Which is why I won’t be taking an iPad on my trips this summer. I’ll be sitting in the stands with a pen and a moleskine notebook, kicking it old school. I’ll relax into the knowledge that it’s my job (if I have to be so Type A about it) to absorb, to notice, to feel. And then someday, to write about what I felt.

That’s reassuring. That’s relaxing. That’s what going to a ballgame on a summer night should be about.

Not that the games themselves are monastic retreats. Minor league stadiums might not have Jumbotrons with instant replay, but they do have theme songs for every batter striding to the plate (one recent Fisher Cats alumnus selected a song by the Outfield, because, well, he was an outfielder), and they do have John Fogerty’s Centerfield blasting at least once a game, and they do have teenagers with pneumatic guns firing free T-shirts up into the crowd.

I’m going to try to enjoy it, even though the ascetic side of me – the Mennonite antidote to my Americanness – still asks if would kill us not to be entertained, for once. I’ll take notes with my fountain pen on my leather-bound notebook, and, yes, I’ll take photos, probably with a new digital SLR. And I might call my daughter and wish her goodnight, using my non-web-enabled cellphone. You might even catch me tweeting between innings.

But I’ll do my best to be still, to try to find that core of the summer, of the game, of myself, if only for a moment. And then, to the hotel, to the rental car, to the next ballgame the next night. Where I’ll search for that center once again.

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Responses

  1. Truly great stuff here, Ryan. An inspiration to those of us who were raised in the belief that a ‘good’ father sacrifices his passions for his family, only to find out that in the end, there is no sacrifice, someone pays a price.
    Our children can’t really love us unless they know who we are. Not in the ridiculous, and short-lived, Dad-As-Hero sense but in a real, textural way; as some real guy who loves baseball, or gardening, or whatever.
    I’m a fan of BloopsAndBleeders. Very sure, lucid, flowing prose.


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