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When being a zero was a good thing Richard Pena | Sat, Apr 02 2011 12:00 PM

If I wrote and told all that I am heralding good news regarding sports, you would probably look at the calendar and say that this is going to be an April Fool's joke. Something like the Padres are going to win the pennant. Wrong. We are merely rejoicing the beginning of a new baseball season.

I read an article in last Sunday's Parade written by Roger Rosenblatt that featured the sub-headline, "Spring is here and American's thoughts turn - once again - to baseball."

I have been thinking about baseball for some days. I, however, must admit that I had been following the Aztec basketball accomplishments and meant them well even though we don't particularly care for the sport.

Those guys from Connecticut took care of the SDSU team in short order so our attention is turned elsewhere. (By the way, I think Connecticut will go all the way. Remember you read it here first.)

But back to baseball. Rosenblatt writes about when he was 10 years old and he had just seen a baseball game. This was a major league game in New York. When I was 10 years old, I, too, watched baseball but I did not have the luxury of a major league team in town. I was raised in San Antonio and the nearest thing we had to something like that was the San Antonio Missions, who were in the Class AA Texas League. This is a far cry from the Yankees and the Cardinals and those guys but to us, viewing even a Texas League game was manna from heaven. We knew the statistics of each and every player, we knew if they were on their way up or on the way down but we revered them just the same because they were our team.

The Missions used to play at League Park, the baseball emporium near Brackenridge Park. A group of us in the neighborhood belonged to the Knot-hole Gang, something that was part of the local "Y."

We each had a card that would gain us entrance to the ball park. It was true that they would sit us in the boonies, long before boonies were in vogue, but we cared little about that. Just get us in.

A group of us in the neighborhood would gather at one of the local bus stops and for a dime we would travel cross town. We had to transfer buses somewhere along the way. We sometimes debated saving the dime and walking. Since the distance was rather far the debate never lasted too long. Legs, even when they are only 10 years old get tired. Near the ball park there was a small Pop and Mom store that sold some of those morsels that might be good while watching the game. One could get two frozen Milky Way candy bars for a nickel, morsels that could go a long way. The only problem was whose nickel were we going to use.

Rosenblatt, in his article, was rather upset because one of the players turned down his request for an autograph. I don't recall any of us boys asking for autographs. I think that if we did we could have had them. The young players, who were vying for a spot in the big leagues, were more than willing to get in the public's eye. The old guys, on their way down, were equally willing, holding on to a respected spot in the profession that was fast escaping them.

One of the members of our group was a boy whose dad was an official for the Missions. He had some front office job. As a result he could, on occasion, get one or more of us on the field as bat or ball boys. The visiting team was not going to carry their own, hence it was up to the home team to aid them. I occasionally had this task. We, or course, envied the regular ball and bat boys who had uniforms and everything. They generally had the number 0 or 00 on their back; something that I thought was a badge of distinction.

When I first came to San Diego, and first went to Lane Field, it was almost more of the same as the Missions. The only difference was here we had the Padres and they played in a class AAA league. The downtown was similar, the ball park was similar and we had players on their way up or on the downward spiral. I think if I had looked hard enough I would have found some place that sold frozen Milky Ways. Maybe even two for a nickel.

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