I fell in love with Cal Baseball last weekend.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to Evans Diamond and enjoyed the experience, however quaint. And, I’ve always appreciated Cal Baseball’s existence and its history. But, I didn’t tailgate before Cal Baseball games. I didn’t order a special television package to watch the team while living 2,000 miles away. I’ve never stormed the field like I have at a football game or a court like a basketball game.
That all changed with Cal’s dramatic ninth inning comeback in the Houston Regional of the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament.
And, I don’t really care if anyone calls me a bandwagon fan or if they tell me I never paid serious attention until the program was on life support. Both statements are true, so what?
Monday night, my wife and I were on our feet for the entire ninth inning with two or three-dozen other Cal fans, mostly family and friends of the players. We yelled and clapped and paced like it was Big Game. Our hearts were palpitating with every pitch.
The best part of it all was that it was so unexpected.
I couldn’t make the game on Friday due to work, but my wife and I decided to walk over and catch the second game, against Alcorn State.
Walking into Reckling Park is a completely different experience from Evans Diamond. The seating capacity is a little over two-times Evans, but it feels like more. They even have a beer tent.
Before the game we picked up a burger and walked to our seats that shaded us from the 100-degree and muggy Houston weather.
The stadium is on campus and directly behind Houston’s Medical Center, which looks like a mini downtown. It was all so very Texas. They play country music between innings and I swore I saw a cowboy hat. A real, live, cowboy hat.
Anyway, the game got off to an inauspicious start with Alcorn State scoring four runs in the bottom of the second inning. Cal returned the favor with six to start the third and never looked back. I cheered on our Bears quietly while the rest of the stadium rooted against Cal, including all the fans from Rice, Baylor, and Alcorn State.
Although there was a brief scare in the top of the ninth, Cal held on to win 10-6 to keep their season alive, ending Alcorn State’s in the process. We packed up our things and walked home. It was a nice, pleasant afternoon watching baseball. It wasn’t enough to make you fall in love though. A decent date with some hope, but only decent.
Single session tickets were available for Sunday’s game against Rice and we had tickets for the evening game if Cal won. To have a chance to win the region, and not get eliminated, Cal had to win both games.
Of course, we didn’t go. Chores. Studying. Whatever. Mostly, lame excuses. After Cal finished off Rice, we contemplated going to the evening game against Baylor, but the lightning delay convinced us otherwise. Can’t go to a ball game and get home past midnight. To be truthful, in the back of my mind at least, I didn’t want to see them lose. I didn’t want to become too attached just to have my weak Cal heart broken. Incredibly, Cal endured the nearly three hour delay to beat Baylor and force another game Monday. And Part II, coming soon, recounts that tale from Monday's epic game.