I was trolling MLB Auctions this morning, out of boredom while waiting to leave the house for work. I’m not much of a sports memorabilia collector – I’m not much of a collector of anything, really, I’ve never really seen the point of having piles of stuff just sitting around gathering dust – but I do like to look at what people are for some reason willing to pay good money to own.
In the “caps” section of MLB Auctions, I found this. Yes, fans, you too can own an official, game-worn Mike Hargrove Mariners cap. You too can be the proud possessor of a soon-to-be-forgotten piece of managerial mediocrity. Imagine the touching scene, years from now:
An old man, on his deathbed, calls his young grandson to his side and says “Son, there’s something that’s not mentioned in my will, that I want you to have. It’s my most treasured piece of baseball memorabilia.” “What is it, grandpa?” asks the young lad, anticipation growing as he mentally builds a shrine to his new framed Barry Bonds jersey, or his new Hank Aaron autographed baseball, or his David Wright autographed bat.
The kid recoils from his grandpa’s bedside, as if he’d been shocked by an electric fence. “But…but…I thought…treasured…Hargrove? What? I thought you loved me!”
Yes, fans, this and many other interesting/pointless/pleasegodgetalife things (get your game ticket framed with official Shea Stadium dirt! Own your own official pitching rubber, signed by Mariano Rivera! Be the person who can tell your friends “I own a locker room chair that Derek Jeter sat on!) can be yours by visiting MLB Auctions. I mean, really. Isn’t it enough that they charge $8 for a beer at the ballpark – do they really need to go all PT Barnum on us, as well?
I guess this is where I get to enter my Cranky Old Man rant phase. Back in my day (he said, as if his day has long since passed at the ripe old age of 37), going to a game with your friends was enough. You meet up beforehand, slant a few beers, talk about baseball, and head home, knowing that, in Roger Angell’s words, “for these three hours, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be”.
Nowadays, though, the powers that be have determined that that’s not enough. Now, you have to have the full going-to-the-game Experience. Not for you merely sitting in your bleacher seat with your $2 bag of peanuts, bemoaning the fact that your team actually fielded a belly itcher, rather than a pitcher; no, MLB has determined now that you need an all-enveloping Experience, that you should be bombarded with sensory inputs from the minute you walk into the ballpark until the minute you leave, at which time you should be able to buy a memory of that game – as if your own memory wouldn’t suffice, as if you haven’t had a valid experience until you have not just the souvenir cup, the hat, and the tshirt that you bought at the park, but also the replica lineup card and the framed piece of dirt from the ballpark taken on the day of the game, as well.
This is one of the main reasons I love minor league ball so much – they don’t try to package everything as an Event or an Experience. You go, you watch some ball, you watch a dizzy bat race or something, and it’s just much more simple. I’ll never give up on MLB, but the grumpy old man in me is finding more and more to dislike about the whole Baseball Stadium Experience every year.