I’m sick of hearing professional athletes are overpaid from the same people who spend thousands of dollars per year on tickets and beers at the ballpark.
I’m sick of hearing how professional athletes don’t work hard from the people who inherited the family business and haven’t dealt with an ounce of adversity in their lives.
When I went to Wednesday’s doubleheader between the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, what I saw was the opposite of that. I felt as though I was spending another day at work covering high school sports.
Now, I must preface this by saying I didn’t have to pay for my ticket. A family friend connection netted my group 10 free seats behind home plate. Although our group was only four strong, the extra tickets were conveniently used either by giving them away or going to the car to get coats and coming back.
After Tuesday’s game between the two American League teams was postponed, as many of our local sporting events have been this week, the two teams decided to play a doubleheader. The first game started just after 3 p.m., with the nightcap slated to start 30 minutes after Game 1’s conclusion.
From what some of my elders have told me when lamenting the days when baseball still was America’s pastime, this was common practice decades ago. But the format reminded me of a Saturday high school doubleheader.
I felt even more like I was taking in a high school game when the concession stand revealed $1 hot dogs, rather than the Abraham Lincoln that a dog usually costs at a professional ballpark. (Shoutout to the young man who made it on the jumbotron with his hot dog tally sign sitting at a dozen dogs consumed.)
So, with a pair of free baseball games and a bellyful of dollar dogs — and a crowd so sparse each fan could have had their own row in the stadium — it already felt like another workday of sports coverage.
What flashed me back to a typical workday the most was the group of people sitting in front of me.
Stevie Wilkerson is a 27-year-old, second-year utility player for the Orioles. He will have to make a 2020 roster to eclipse $1 million in career earnings. As someone on the wrong side of 25 who has a .197 career batting average in just 76 at-bats, that looks to be far from a sure thing.
But don’t tell that to the score of Wilkerson’s family and friends who were sitting in front of me Wednesday. Mom, fiance, family and friends were on hand to support the Clemson University product on his road trip to the Windy City.
The cheers and enthusiasm, which were joined by even the most die-hard of South Side fans in our section, weren’t what you usually see at a major league game. These weren’t kids rooting for their heroes or intoxicated and insecure bros booing the other team — these were the most important people in a person’s life rooting for his success, just like I see each and every day I cover games.
When Wilkerson came to the plate with two men on in the fourth inning, I whispered to my friend, “Watch Stevie go yard in this at-bat.”
One pitch later, our boy Stevie sent the Ivan Nova offering over the right-center-field fence for a three-run dinger. I couldn’t help but join in on the “M-V-Steve” chants.
Wilkerson isn’t ever going to sign a contract for tens of millions of dollars. He might never play in the majors after this season. But what he always will have is the love and support of his family, just like many of the student-athletes I spend my days covering.