(AP photos from ESPN.com)
"Neilochka, would you come over tonight?" Sophia asked.
"Sure. What for?" I thought. "Hmm… maybe she’s missing the ol’ Neilochka. I put on some Brut and headed off to Redondo Beach."
I arrived with thoughts of scoring with Sophia. But no. Well, to be honest, there was some scoring. In fact, there was a whole lot of talk about getting to second and third base.
"I want to watch the baseball game tonight with you. Everyone at work was talking about the Angels, and I still don’t understand how this stupid game works."
"You’ve lived in this country for so long. Why don’t you know baseball?"
"It’s soooo boring. But today I want to finally learn."
Tonight I would teach the Russian/Israeli Sophia all about baseball.
Now I’m not a big baseball fan, but I played and still follow the Mets… sometimes. I played in Little League… poorly. And I certainly know the rules of baseball, from the ball to the balk, from the RBI to the ERA.
How hard could this be to teach Sophia all about baseball?
GAME 5 — ANGELS VS. WHITE SOX — TOP OF THE FIRST
"That’s a ball."
"Why not a strike?"
"Because it didn’t hit the right zone. You see that area around the catcher’s glove?"
"The catcher? What team is he on?"
"I thought the thrower was on the Angels?"
"The pitcher. Yes, he is."
"So, why is the catcher trying to take away his own team’s ball?"
BOTTOM OF THE THIRD
"Sophia, now there is one out."
"I thought there were two outs."
"No. There are two balls and two strikes. But there is only one out."
"OK, he just missed the zone. So that was a ball. So, it’s now three balls and two strikes."
"Great, you’re getting it. It’s a full count."
"A full account of what?"
TOP OF THE FIFTH
"Why did the pitcher throw it to the guy at first base rather than to the hitter?"
"Oy, this is a little complicated. You remember the White Sox guy… the good-looking guy who got the hit before."
"Right. Good-looking Japanese White Sox Guy."
"OK, Good-looking Japanese White Sox Guy is now on first, and he’s taking a lead because, uh, because, uh, I don’t know how else to say this… he’s thinking of stealing."
"This is a little advanced, but sometimes when a runner is on the base, such as Good-looking Japanese White Sox Guy, he can start to run when the pitcher throws the ball — and he can steal the base."
"And what does he do when he steals it? Does he run off the field with it?"
TOP OF THE NINTH
"He caught it! Yay! He’s out! That’s good for us, right?"
"Sort of. But because he hit is so far, the guy on third is tagging up. He’s running home to score."
"I thought you can’t run when there is an out."
"Usually, you can’t. Unless you hit it really far away, then the runner can… he just can tag up. Forget it about it. It doesn’t happen that much."
"It just happened now."
That’s because he hit it into the outfield."
"The outfield is out there! The infield is in here!"
"You don’t have to yell. I hear you."
"It’s just some weird rule."
"Weird rule? This whole game is nothing but weird rules. In soccer, they kick the ball, everyone knows what’s going on. Here, I’m thinking they just made up the rules as they went along."
"Forget it. It’s not that important. But you understand the difference between the outfield and infield?"
"Yes. If you hit it to the outfield, you’re out. If you hit it in the infield, you’re in."
STILL THE TOP OF THE NINTH
"Strike three! He’s out."
"Not really. Remember what I told you. As long as he makes contact on that last strike, he still gets another chance."
"For how long?"
"As long as he makes contact."
"What if he keeps on making contact for three more hours?"
"Then he’s up for three more hours."
"I see. And what happens if in the bottom of the ninth, the Angels catch up?"
"Then they keep on playing into extra innings."
"Let me guess. Even if it’s for three more hours… This thing is never over."
"Baseball is like chess. It is a very intellectual game."
"Oh, yeah. That Angel spitting some brown stuff onto the grass looks like a real Einstein."
"Once you get into it… there’s nothing like a good baseball game."
"Booooring! I’m beginning to think they made up the game just to sell hot dogs and beer to the people in the stands."
"Finally! You understand the real meaning of baseball!"