Pedroia at bat

Several weekends ago, J and I went to a steamy Sunday afternoon Red Sox game against the Kansas City Royals. The forecast said the day was supposed to be partly cloudy with temperatures in the 70s, but it felt much hotter in the shade-free centerfield bleacher seats.

Too sunny

Whenever J and I go to sunny summer ballgames at Fenway, I remember the Red Sox games we’ve attended in Atlanta, which were far hotter than anything we’ve experienced here in Boston. Watching the crowd at an Atlanta ballgame, you see fans who are acclimated to heat: they know how to deal with it, just as Boston residents know how to deal with snowy winters. Watching the crowd at an Atlanta game, you see spectators who focus all their energy on merely spectating, conserving as much energy as possible while sheltering under any source of shade they can muster: game program, fielder’s mitt, or any kind of hat.

Almost-empties

In Atlanta, we saw seasoned baseball fans–obviously veterans of many hot games–who arrived with frozen bottles of water, soda, or Gatorade that they’d slowly sip as as they melted: a long-lasting ice-cold beverage. We saw fans who, oblivious to fashion, draped their heads and necks with towels soaked in cold water–or, lacking a towel, water-soaked T-shirts. Atlanta fans, I learned, don’t fight the heat: they lean into it. You don’t worry about looking sweaty at an Atlanta game, because everyone is sweaty. You ease into the heat the way you’d settle into a sauna, letting the warmth loosen your muscles and unlock any residual tension in your body. Instead of recoiling against the heat, trying to resist it, you consciously relax, allowing the sun to bake the sweat from your skin, leaving a rime of salt: a gritty residue that makes you feel like you spent the day at the beach, not at a ballgame.

Luigi's Italian ice

The other secret I learned from Atlanta ballgames? Eat frozen lemonade, Italian ice, or whatever similar refreshment you can find. In Atlanta, they sold yogurt-sized cups of frozen Minute Maid lemonade, and at Fenway, they sell cups of lemonade-flavored Luigi’s Italian ice. Thoreau once said that if you chop your own firewood, it warms you twice: once while you chop it, and again when you burn it. Taking a phrase from Thoreau, I’d argue that eating frozen lemonade cools you thrice: once when you hold it, again when you eat it one melting spoonful at a time, and once more when you drink the melted liquid that’s left when you’ve finished: ice-cold citrusy, syrupy goodness.

Frozen lemonade

Going to a ballgame on a hot day is a return to life at its most elemental. It’s just you, the sun, and your own sweaty skin: the beer, hotdogs, and ballgame itself are almost incidental. You could be sitting in the bleachers, or you could be sitting on the beach. Either way, you come home sun-baked and sweaty, as ready to head to the showers as any of the players you watched competing on the field.

Click here for more photos from last month’s game between the Boston Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals.