“Thank you, little lady,” Bill bowed exaggeratedly.
The girl grinned; her gap-toothed smile framed by blue lips stained from the snow cone she was intently devouring. She wore an orange shirt, her small face hidden under the brim of her ballcap, which looked to be about three sizes too large.
“I’m Brooks, and it’s my birthday. This was what I wanted more than anything!” she exclaimed.
“Well, then, happy birthday, Brooks!” Bill replied.
To Bill, it seemed that most fans were only there to drink and eat, seldom looking up from their phones. Bill retrieved baseballs and tossed them to the young kids, who waited with outstretched gloves, hoping to snag one. Recently, the ballpark had made news with reports of people fighting over fly balls and violent attacks by drunks in the stands. Baseball was hurting, and so was Bill’s heart.
“Please remove your hats and stand for the national anthem,” the announcement blared over the park’s intercom. Bill waited for the inevitable tap on the shoulder by a fan coming in late trying to find their seat. He glanced at Brooks and her dad, rising out of their seats. Brooks looked at Bill sternly and gestured wildly at his hat, still perched on his head. Bill couldn’t believe he had gotten lost in his negative ruminations. Again. Brooks gave Bill the thumbs up, and he swore he heard her the loudest during, “Ohhhhh!! say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave…”
Finally, it was time for the 7th inning stretch. Bill’s back was aching. He was mad at himself for his lousy attitude and needed some aspirin.
“George,” Bill called, “can you watch my section while I take a leak?”
“Sure, Bill. Take your time,” George replied, but Bill was already gone. George shrugged.
Bill was sure George, Tom, and the other guys could tell he hadn’t been himself lately, but this funk had been building. If the fans didn’t care about the game, why should he? He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small bottle of aspirin. Folded up in his khakis was his resignation letter.
The O’s beat the Yankees, 9-8. Then Bill saw Brooks’ father approach him, carrying Brooks who appeared to be sleeping. The man stuck out his hand to shake Bill’s hand.
“I wanted to personally thank you for everything you do here, bud. We’re huge fans and I just couldn’t wait to take Brooks here like my dad took me. I’m Dale, by the way. We’re gonna be back for the Sox game next month and I hope to see you again,” Dale said, releasing his firm handshake.
“I think that can be arranged,” Bill replied. “Drive safe, now.”