Discover more from Summer Lightning
Dog Days at the Ballpark
My first job in the United States was for a payments start-up run by a Nigerian. He had moved from London to Houston after school because he wanted to make it big in internet start-ups. If moving to Houston was not a bad enough sign, he told me his third kid was a mistake the first time he interviewed me. That one was a surprise, he said. Several months later, my paychecks stopped without any notice. He kept telling the three of us who worked in an office without any windows that capital will hit the bank anytime now. It never did. This time I was the one who was surprised. Nigerian, payments start-up, unreliable narration. I put together that I had fallen for a Nigerian prince scam. But, he was a benevolent monarch. During my short employment, he introduced me to the finer things in southern American life such as Top Golf, crawfish, and most importantly, baseball. He took all four of us to the 2017 MLB playoffs, where the Houston Astros beat the Boston Red Sox on their way to a now tainted World Series win. It's on the company, he said. I later realized anything could be on the company if the money did not actually exist.
I knew two things about baseball in 2017. First, It looked like cricket. Second, I remembered reading somewhere that Stephen King loved writing while watching his local team Boston Red Sox. So much so that the Red Sox gave him assigned box seats at Fenway Park. I imagined myself perched somewhere above home base, just like Mr. King, reading a book and looking up occasionally to take in the vast green space in front of me. I would probably write later in my memoir that ballparks are to the United States what high-ceiling cathedrals are to Europe. More recently, I read that King was unhappy that Fenway Park had put up protective netting in front of his seats. That, for him, probably felt like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel being covered in plastic.
American corporations love using sports metaphors to inspire workers. Every corporation, even ones run by Nigerian princes, are always looking for A players who perform at the highest level day in and day out. The CFO of a public corporation I worked for loved using football metaphors in all-hands calls. We are like a quarterback driving to the 10-yard line in the fourth quarter, and there are two mins left on the clock, he'd say. He stopped using these after several female employees complained that they did not understand what he meant. Baseball, I realized, is the worst sport to find metaphors on being competitive because every single player fails most of the time. If you manage to hit 3 out of every 10 balls you face in your career, you will become the best modern-day hitter in baseball. That's 70% failure. If you're a true American, you'd see baseball for what it really is - a socialist weapon to encourage failure in the West. Why do you think some of the best baseball players are from Cuba and the Dominican Republic? Fidel Castro is laughing from his grave at baseball being called America's favorite pass time. It dawned on me why the Nigerian prince took us losers to watch the playoffs - baseball is for losers.
The loser ethos of baseball is driven home by the unpredictability of who eventually does something special. A couple of weeks ago, a pitcher of the New York Yankees threw the 24th perfect game in Major League Baseball history. A perfect game is when a pitcher does not allow a single hit for the entire 9 innings. The man who threw it was Domingo German, a journeyman pitcher who, up until that fateful game against the Oakland As, was known for being banned for 81 games for physically abusing his girlfriend at a charity event. A real loser.
Dig a bit more, and you find that Domingo German comes from San Pedro in the Dominican Republic. The tiny country of 11 million produces the most major league players after the United States, and a significant number of them come from San Pedro. In the 1930s to late 1950s, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo encouraged workers of the sugar mills in San Pedro and surrounding areas to play baseball. Trujillo saw baseball as a sport to appease the need for leisure among the working class. And so the game came to be played during the dead of the summer when sugar mills went into a lull before harvest.
The working-class history of baseball in the Dominican Republic is illuminating. Nothing else could be more synonymous with being a loser in world history than being working class. So it makes sense why a Nigerian prince would take his workers to a baseball game before scamming them.
Summer Lightning is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.