Kicked back a few rows behind home plate and struggling to finish a foot-long Super Dog with grilled onions and jalapenos, I was — in theory — working.
But Monday night’s tough questions rose from the next row, where Northwest-siders Don Jensen, 53, and Renee Merrill, 54 watched Tucson’s Triple-A baseball romance swoon into Reno’s ether.
“So what do you think?” Jensen asked. “Is Sandy a boy or a girl?”
I suggested he ask the Sidewinders’ mascot to lift its shirt, as the pair handed me a camera and readied to pose with the plush rattler.
Jensen balked, I snapped the image, and earned a fist bump from Sandy.
“He’s definitely a guy,” Jensen pronounced. “Did you see those hands?”
As the Sidewinders wrapped their season last place in the Pacific Coast League — two years removed from a Triple-A title — no hands on the field could rally the guys from dropping a 7-2 loss during their final game at Tucson Electric Park.
But the 6,033 fans that nearly doubled the team’s average attendance didn’t care to attend a wake.
Theirs was a night for the scrapbooks.
During the sixth inning, Sidewinders shortstop Donnie Kelly’s solo shot over the right-center fence agitated a swarm of kids who tracked the outbound leather arc.
Seconds later, a mohawked youth wearing a “Jesus Hates the Yankees” shirt threw his mitt to the lawn, as nine-year-old Ricky Jackson sped off with his first home run ball, gouged with woodgrain.
Jackson was happy enough with his “cool” souvenir. Atop the home dugout, a gaggle of fans touted an easier hustle, catching the baseballs Sidewinders pitchers tossed them just for asking.
Between photo ops, freebies and unofficial money-back guarantees on concessions, Sidewinder fans walked the red carpet.
But minor league baseball’s nothing if not corny.
From race-the mascot promotions, to unexplained blasting of The Outfield’s “Your Love” every other inning, to the rotund and drunken mu-mu wearing lady that kept rolling down the lawn, Triple-A ball homered one last time.
You’d think Tucson would fall over itself to crown such campy competition king.
As the ninth inning loomed, two teenagers deflated the kiddie jumping castle near left field, rolling up their saggy babysitter, one last time.
“It’s kinda sad, but we’re part of history, I guess,” said 18-year-old Karen Parisot.
Josie’s on a vacation far away…
Tucson’s Phil Avlas fouled out down the first base line, as a few spectators wiped tears from their cheeks, before the fireworks boomed the city’s misfielding of a fine way to spend Labor Day.
“Ladies and gentlemen, your Tucson Sidewinders!,” roared the announcer to standing ovations.
Except they weren’t. Not anymore.