Sunday, June 24, 2007

Baseball (part 3)

We woke up a week ago at the campgrounds, showered, dressed and headed back to the Cracker Barrel for breakfast. Aaron bought breakfast as a Father's Day present and then we drove to Cincinnati. We were hoping to see Sammy hit number 600. Unfortunately, he didn't play except to pinch hit late in the game and hit into an inning ending force out. It was the middle game of the trip and honestly it was my least favorite experience.

I'm not sure what it was--it didn't smell like a ballpark. The fans that sat around us were the most rude and obnoxious of the week. It was an okay ballpark. It seemed odd that the outfield bleachers were in the upper deck. We sat in the left field bleachers once again and watched the Reds play like a last place team. They had several errors, the first we'd seen on our trip. The Texas Rangers won giving the American League a 2-1 advantage in the interleague games on our trip.

We spent the night at my sister's home in Indianapolis. It was great to visit with her family and beat spending another night in the van! Aaron and I both enjoyed playing with the kids and we look forward to seeing them again in a couple of weeks when we all head home to wish Mom and Dad a Happy 50th Anniversary. Once again, we started our Monday with a stop at Starbucks and headed back to the Windy City to watch the Southsiders take on the Florida Marlins.

We arrived in Chicago in time to take in lunch. When we couldn't find Vito's, a recommended pizzeria, we headed up to Greek Town for some great gyros and baklava. We were still early to the "Cell" and one of the first cars in the parking lot. We ran into a couple of guys with a great summer job. They travel from sporting event to event tailgating and handing out free stuff for their sponsors. Their current sponsor was Eckrich smoked sausage. They had a van equipped with a grill for cooking and T-shirts, seat cushions and other handouts. Apparently not all the arrangements had been made for them to cook at this event, so they were just handing out their free stuff.

We were a bit concerned about a possible rain out as there were some pretty heavy showers from time to time. The rain let up about the same time as they opened the gates and held off until just before gametime. Play started after a 20 minute delay and then the rain started again and continued for about two innings. The fans sitting next to us in the leftfield bleachers were real Sox fans with a full 81 game season ticket package. They had their scorebook pads and kept score at each game they attended. They enjoyed hearing about our trip but weren't impressed at all that we went to Wrigley! US Cellular Field had the best video board of all the parks we visited. They also had a great music/video history of the Sox and their baseball greats that led up to the player introductions. It was by far the best production and team presentation that we saw. The Cardinals should put together that kind of intro. It really builds the fan excitement and participation. The Sox beat the Marlins and we headed north to Milwaulkee.

Our plan was to find a hotel on the south part of the city and check in for two nights. We could sleep-in in the morning and then spend the night after the Brewers/Giants game before driving all day to St. Louis for the final game of the week. In the morning, we found a coffee house downtown and spent several hours at the Milwaulkee Public Museum. The city was very neat and pleasant and seemed to offer quite a bit of things to do.

We headed to Miller Park early, having been warned by our Sox friends that the parking was some distance from the field. Actually, it wasn't too bad. Of course we were at the front of the lot. It would've been a very long walk from the back of the lot. It was also the cheapest parking of trip at just $8. We had plenty of time to walk around the park while waiting for the gates to open. St. Louis must be one of only a few parks that opens two hours before game time. One and a half hours prior to the game seems to be more popular. While we were looking forward to seeing Barry Bonds, it was quite obvious that the city where Hank Aaron spent much of his career wasn't going to welcome the guy that was about to break the record. Even though Bonds was 0 for the game, batting practice was impressive. He hit a screaming line drive that hit a bleacher back just 10' to my left. It was in the seats in no time at all and I could hear it whizzing through the air. He later hit one out of the stadium. It went over the rightfield wall at the 374 mark, over the second level and out of the stadium. During the game, he was booed loudly at each plate appearance.

As much as I wanted the Giants to win (the Brewers lead the NL Central) it was Milwaulkee that won making it 3-3 for the home team. We headed back to the hotel for a good night's rest before making the long drive to St. Louis for the final game of the journey.

Leaving Milwaulkee, we took the first exit with a Starbucks and were on our way. The drive around Chicago was uneventful other than the construction congestion at the I55 exchange. We passed through Pontiac which brought back memories of track meets and buzzing Quik's in the school bus. Somewhere we stopped for lunch at a Steak'n'Shake and were downtown St. Louis with an hour to spare. We decided to park in the Stadium garage, but they weren't taking money for the game yet. We took our parking ticket from the machine and got a good spot not far from the exit ramp.

Aaron has found his spot for bp down the right field line. He has gotten a total of five bp balls in three games, two of them on this day. One was sent his way by Molina who later autographed it for him. Our seats were given to us by my controller friend Chad Wilson. They were awesome seats--outfield boxes, five rows from the wall in leftfield! The game was the game to end our week. Albert tied the game in the bottom of the ninth to send it into extra innings. Ryan Ludwig hit a 14th inning walk-off HR to win the game a mere 5 hours and 20 minutes after the opening pitch and Kip Wells (the same guy that did so badly in KC) pitched very well in relief and got the W.

Although we had invitations to spend the night in St. Louis, we were anxious to be home and had already decided to make the drive. Since the hour was late, there wasn't anyone manning the parking lot booth and so parking was free for the night! We made a stop at Jack in the Box and at White Castle (Ted Drewe's was closed) before getting on the road. I stopped part way for a short nap and pulled into the driveway in Ozark before 6 am.

It had been a very good week and we had been blessed with good weather, safe travels and great baseball! I'll write again to report on the stadiums, the dogs and other fun moments of our trip. Somebody asked me if I was tired of going to games yet. I think that I could do it every day of the summer! Too bad that life calls on us and demands our attention as well.


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