Cox Cable is overpriced, and had been getting on my nerves just generally. That obnoxious little promotional cartoon cable guy was just in my face way too much. And with Major League Baseball handing the Extra Innings package to DirecTV on a silver platter, I wasn’t going to sit around and wait for a bunch of lawyers to attend to something as important as televised baseball. I saw the opening and made the switch.

The satellite guy showed up on time, patted the dog hello, and set up the household. No charge for installation and zero fees for additional rooms. If there’s a piece of plastic Cox doesn’t charge for, I’m not aware of it. Monday’s Opening Day was remote control heaven. I had what seemed like hundreds of games on the dish, with basic channel choices for ESPN2 and SportsCenter a flick of the thumb away.

Tuesday’s opener, on the other hand, was quite the adventure. Like any responsible San Diego fan, I planned my day around the game. A solid day’s work out of the way in the a.m., takeout food on the table, and I’m raring to go at exactly 1:35. But DirecTV, in its infinite wisdom — Fox, if you’re keeping score — blacks out the game “in your area.” Uh, hello? Now you tell me. And in my area? The game is 500 miles away.

So I’m on the phone, thinking I’m screwed for the season, and talking to operators in three states. They’re giving me all kinds of lines, including the obligatory “if the game isn’t sold out within 72 hours” thing, which really only has to do with football. Clueless.

Bloody but unbowed, I keep clicking, and finally stumble onto a channel called “MLB Mix,” which not a one of the operators I spoke to knew a thing about. Displayed are eight mini-rectangles, each showing tiny little baseball games. And there it is – Padres vs. Giants – I get there just in time to see Bonds tagged out at the plate, standing up. What a jackass.

I’ve got a 19 inch Hitachi, so each of those little rectangles provides precisely 3 1/4 by 3 3/4 inches of baseball action (yes, I measured). If only I had high-def. I’m nothing if not resourceful, so I pull the TV trolley to within 36 inches of my face (remember, I had the tape measure handy) and sit back to watch seven innings of ball.

And fine ball it is. Jake Peavy is masterful, Barry Zito isn’t, and I get to see Barry Bonds embarrassed for the first time in 2007. Now all I have to do is wait for the suits to figure out something that provides both Cable Channel 4 and Extra Innings. Or, I gotta get me a big screen TV. A really big screen TV.

Editor’s Note: An editing error put the wrong dimensions of Howard’s condensed portal to the Padres game. To be clear, DirecTV’s MLB Mix channel gave Howard eight rectangles — eight windows on the screen at the same time. The padres game was the only one live at the time, so the other rectangles had future listings on them. He could read the team logos but not the game times.

— HOWARD COLE

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