For the past four years, Eloise Card and her daughter Donna Glendenning have watched every Miami Marlins game together, from first pitch to last out — more than 600 and counting. From 34 miles apart.
Card, 91, isn’t as mobile as she used to be, and Glendenning, 66, is tethered to an oxygen tank by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. So they tune into the television broadcasts from the comfort of their own homes and connect by telephone in a ritual they say has brought them closer together.
“If I don’t call her by the first pitch, she’s calling me,” Glendenning says. “She’ll start out the conversation always with, ‘Well, what do you think we’re going to do tonight?’ ”
Card lives in the Westwood Lakes neighborhood of Southwest Miami-Dade, and her daughter is in Fort Lauderdale. They says the routine began organically in 2009.
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“We would just call each other back and forth about the game, and then all of a sudden we started just talking to each other through the whole game,” Card says.
Even when Card travels to her second home in the Florida Keys, they connect at game time.
They are fiercely loyal to the Marlins, win or lose, and have been since the team’s founding 20 years ago. Miami’s fickle fans should be patient with the team’s current roster, Glendenning says.
“Miami’s always had fair-weather fans. Miami’s loving the Heat because they’re kings. But they never seem to cheer on the underdog,” she says. “[The Marlins are] a young team that has a lot of raw talent that needs to be cultivated. And when they’re more mature, they will be an awesome team.”
Their favorite players include 21-year-old Jose Fernandez, 23-year-old Giancarlo Stanton and 24-year-old Adeiny Hechavarria.
Glendenning got into baseball when her son started playing as a 6-year-old. She served as the scorekeeper during his four years on his high school’s varsity team, and knows the ins and outs of the game.
Card, a football lover all her life, got into baseball more recently, and quickly became a nut for the game’s arcane statistics, her daughter says. Card keeps her computer next to her television, and looks up stats during the games.
When a game gets tense, they yell and scream as if they’re at the ballpark. Card, in particular, can get rowdy, occasionally swearing at players.
“She’s a pistol,” Glendenning says. “Before the pitch happens, she’ll say, ‘Come on now, you gotta strike him out, strike him out!’ And he’ll strike him out. She’ll say, ‘See, he heard me!’ ”
Card had plenty to say when the Marlins took on the Kansas City Royals on a recent road trip, with star rookie pitcher Fernandez facing the Royals’ Bruce Chen. As much as she loves her team, she evaluates the competition fairly.
“Well, I understand this pitcher’s pretty damn good,” Card says, to which her daughter interjects that Fernandez is, too. “Well, unfortunately, their hitters are better than ours,” her mom replies.
Neither team scores a run through the first few innings, frustrating the two fans, but also allowing them to discuss other things. They talk about Card’s neighbors and her Shetland sheepdogs, King and Princess the Third.
Without much offense from either team, Card focuses on the pitchers as she looks up statistics after every pitch and reports them to her daughter.
“My mother has always been just obsessed with numbers. And I often joke with her and tell her, you would have been a great scorekeeper,” Glendenning says. “She stays up on it all. She knows it better than I do.”
After nine innings, neither the Royals nor the Marlins has scored. As it approaches 11 p.m. (an hour past Card’s usual bedtime), Card recalls how they stayed up through their team’s 20-inning victory over the Mets in June.
Much to their delight, the Royals game ends with a hit from Christian Yelich and a 1-0 victory for the Marlins.
“Oh, got it, woo hoo! Oh, how ’bout that, whoa!” Card exclaims. “That is fantastic. Way to go, Yelich!”
“All right! That’s the way to do it!” Glendenning chimes in.
They have never watched a game together at Marlins Park, and Glendenning, who can get around with a portable oxygen tank, says she would like to change that.
“I ask my mom, do you want to go to a game? ‘Oh no, I don’t want to go down there.’ I want to take her. But I’ve got to convince her.”
Card says she would like to go if it weren’t for the hassle of driving in crowded streets at night. “I’m old, and it’s easier to sit here.”
Card has outlived her husband, Jack, and two other children, Carolyn and Ace. Glendenning’s son, Cameron, lives in Los Angeles, and her daughter, Lauren, is in Colorado. Each of them lives alone, but their baseball connection keeps them from feeling lonely, they say.
“It’s strange, spending it together on the phone, but it’s still spending it together,’’ Glendenning says. “We’ll talk about the game, or sometimes we’ll just be sitting there not even saying anything.”
Watching the games together has made it easier for them to talk about things other than baseball, she says.
“My mother was never a big person on saying ‘I love you.’ It’s not like I didn’t think she loved me. I knew she loved me. It just wasn’t something that she says. And every time we talk, always when we say goodnight, ‘I love you, Mom.’ Now we always say it.”