Books evoke a time and place, although sometimes this can be misleading. For example, when I traveled to Seattle in June for the Vedder Cup, I bought a copy of Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon. It’s a fascinating read that reminds me not of France or Earth’s satellite (neither of which I’ve visited), but of Bainbridge Island, where I bought the book.
Eagle Harbor Book Co. is a good old-fashioned bookstore, the likes of which once adorned San Diego–Burgett, Safari, Wahrenbrock’s, etc.–before yielding to an immense Seattle-based international online warehouse. On this day, a dog guarded the store (or at least the “used” section, which is accessed separately from the street-level “new” section) by sleeping in the hallway that leads downstairs.
Around the corner is a place to read rich words over rich clam chowder and local beer (3-T Rye Tripel, Troll Porter), with a serene view of the coast should you need a break from words, food, or drink. Harbour Public House even has a men’s restroom with signs on the wall like “We don’t serve women here, you have to bring your own.”
It’s charming, as is the fact that “Harbor” and “Harbour” can peacefully coexist within the span of a few blocks. We must be near Canada.
Bainbridge itself is 35 minutes and $8 from Seattle by ferry. The ride offers a panoramic view of the jagged city skyline, which doesn’t turn to silhouette until after midsummer night ballgames at this northern latitude.
Books, chowder, and beer are necessities. So is baseball, the reason we’re here.
On Saturday night we have a Baseball Prospectus event at Safeco Field. My contributions are to introduce myself and to assure folks that although the Mariners’ offense is bad, the Padres’ is much worse. Also to talk food with locals during the Rangers/Mariners game (time prohibits me from visiting any of the recommended restaurants, although like any good advance scout, I take detailed enough notes to help in the future) and drink beer (Superfuzz, Men’s Room) with Jason Parks, Matthew Kory, and others at Elysian Fields afterward.
I walk back to the hotel and go to bed at 1 a.m., after having gotten up at 4 a.m. to leave San Diego. This has a disorienting effect, but I don’t mind. Hanging with friends at the ballpark is one of the most agreeable ways to kill a day I know.
Sunday, after dim sum at Jade Garden (get there early, unless you prefer standing in line to eating delicious food), is the Hillsboro Hops at Everett AquaSox. While waiting at 4th and Washington for the 512 bus, we witness a fellow passenger-to-be–woman in her twenties–picking trash and recyclables off the sidewalk and disposing of them properly to pass the time. It’s an impressive display of civic pride and a defiant act against those that would deface her town.
A two- or three-year-old sits in front of us. With her mother, of course. That would be weird. She talks to us the entire hour to Everett. Her vocabulary consists of “hi,” “bye,” and “night night.” The girl’s, not the mother’s. That would be weird.
The girl is so damn cute it’s not even annoying. Which is annoying.
It drizzles before the game, but we have a cheap $5 umbrella that we bought in Chicago a few years ago after arriving unprepared. Rain? In the summer? How barbaric.
The home team loses, 4-0. After a late rally, a kid from Poway strikes out with the bases loaded to end the contest and we run to catch the bus back to Seattle, where we sup at Ivar’s Acres of Clams. It’s touristy, but we love it.
Monday’s plans take a backseat to news of Tony Gwynn’s untimely death, which still shocks and probably always will (the moving public memorial at Petco Park a week and a half later will provide comfort, if not closure). After the Bainbridge excursion, we catch the Padres/Mariners game, which I’ve written about elsewhere.
Tuesday is a blur. Salmon Benedict at Bacco Cafe. Fifteen minutes to the top of the Central Library and back down again so we can check out of our hotel and walk to the ballpark by way of Elysian Fields (Swashbuckler Vanilla Porter, Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout).
We meet my good friend and former Hardball Times colleague Brandon Isleib. Our seats are beyond the right-field fence, directly behind a cranky old man whom I aspire never to become like.
Brandon marvels, as do we all, at the Padres’ inability to score runs. (We don’t yet know that midway through the season, Jedd Gyorko and Seth Smith will be tied for the team lead with 24 RBI, but we do know that Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton had 26 RBI by April 18.)
We spend the afternoon trying to recount bad offensive teams of the past while Eric Stults throws way too many pitches and OldBob CrankyPants mumbles disapproval at the world around him.
The Padres lost both games, but you already knew that. The best way to describe their play would be “catatonic” or maybe even “corpselike.”
I’ve since seen two games, both on Friday nights, at opposite ends of the competence spectrum.
I was at the improbable walkoff win against Kenley Jansen and the Dodgers, where Will Venable had a very un-Venable at-bat, laying off a high fastball he usually swings through and fouling off a slider down and in he usually swings over before lining a double that helped lead to three runs in the ninth from a team that often fails to score that many in a game.
The comeback culminated with Everth Cabrera hitting a sacrifice fly and me receiving a too-vigorous high five from a testosterone-and-adrenaline-fueled young guy who looked as angry after a win as anyone not named Kevin Brown or Milton Bradley. My hand still stung the next day, a welcome reminder that the previous night had really happened.
Exactly a week later I watched Chase Headley and Venable both get caught in rundowns on the same play with one out and Headley on third representing a tying run that would never score. You couldn’t put a scene like that in a baseball movie because nobody would believe it. The only thing missing was Benny Hill’s theme song.
Meanwhile, back in the Pacific Northwest, we take the light rail to the airport after the final out and bid farewell to Brandon. I fall asleep in the terminal, wake up to board the plane and say a quick hello to Corey Brock (security is a little lax up there), and slip back into a deep slumber before takeoff.
Me and the Padres, worn out by Seattle in June. It’ll be good to be in San Diego soon.
Not Paris. Not the moon.