Tuesday, May 4, 2010

2nd Annual Birthday Baseball Bash

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again. - Terrence Mann

Last year, on the eve of my 26th birthday, my buddies at Camp discovered quite the providential situation: my life-long (er, month-long) favorite baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, would be in the state the next day for a battle with their division rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers. Of course, there was no way we couldn't hit up that adventure, so off we went the next day for the Inaugural April 28th showdown between the pride of Wisconsin and the pride of nearly nobody.

This year, those responsible for setting the MLB schedule obliged in scheduling the Pirates vs. the Brewers on April 28th once again, which meant that once again there was no way we were going to miss this classic rivalry. Plus, once something happens once, it becomes tradition, and there is simply nothing worse than breaking tradition (just ask my folks about not coming home for Thanksgiving the last couple years...).

Because word spread near and far regarding the amazingness of the Inaugural adventure, friends from all over the state rolled out to Milwaukee so they too could take in the excitement. This year's edition of the game had a 12:10 start time, making it my first MLB day game! Also, it meant that if we wanted to take in the world famous Miller Park tailgating, we'd have to depart from the ole 53959 fairly early.

So depart early we did, as two vehicles packed full of rowdy baseball fans rolled out of camp at 7:00am sharp. A third vehicle left camp a little later due to a slight delay from a young fan that was extra excited for his very first Major League Baseball game!

Friends Mo-T, Cari, and Pat rolled east with me in my fearless chariot, while pals Sean, Renata, Jenna, and Lindsay headed to the game in Lindsay's American-Made Dodge. The highlight of the journey in our vehicle was when Pat acted like he had fallen asleep against the passenger side window as we drove by a school bus full of kids. Needless to say, the pandaemonium on the bus that resulted from this comical scene put smiles on all of our faces. However, the other vehicle made a pit stop at Panera Bread, so it sounded like it was a successful journey for both parties.

The parking lot at Miller Park opens 3 hours before day games for tailgating, which was perfect, because we pulled in at 9:20. It wasn't long before we were tossing around the pigskin, playing catch with a baseball, and challenging each other to games of Baggo. Grilling began shortly thereafter with a new delicacy: Brats filled with both cheese and raspberries. Mmmm, does life get any better?

A car load of friends (Joseph, Kateri - who put a huge smile on my face by wearing a Pirates hat! - and Rachel) from the Milwaukee area finally made it around 11:00, just as Pat finished grilling the last batch of brats.

Though I've been to a handful of MLB games at a few different ballparks in the past several years, the roots of my baseball fandom comes from going to OKC 89er games as a kid. The OKC 89ers are the minor league affiliate of the Texas Rangers, named after the year of Oklahoma's epic land run. Going to 89er games as a youngster was my introduction to "professional baseball."

One of my fondest memories from an 89er game is when I went to a game with my dad - I was maybe 8 or 9 - and we saw one of his old college buddies at the game, Pat Peters. Pat was armed and ready for a day of fun, as he brought along a fishing net in the hopes of catching a fly ball. This memory has stuck with me ever since, so as I was packing up for the journey to Milwaukee, I made sure to swing by the fishing shed down at the Lake to borrow Camp's rarely-used fishing net (In all my years at camp, I've only seen the net used once). All I know is that when you sit in the outfield of a baseball park, adding a fishing net with a 6 foot pole to a 6'7'' wingspan does nothing but dramatically increase ones odds of catching a home run.

Turns out, what I didn't know, is that security at MLB games is a bit more strict than shoddy minor league baseball operations, especially when it comes to smuggling in 6 foot fishing nets (Plus we were sitting way, WAY up in left field - Even a fishing pole with a 60 foot pole wouldn't have been enough). So after carrying the net all the way from the car to the stadium, a friendly elderly gentleman working the ticket booth kindly told me that I wasn't allowed to bring fishing nets into the stadium.

Back to my car Mo-T and I journeyed to return the net, but it ended up working out perfectly because by the time we got back to the entrance to the stadium, Jeff, Rebecca, and Andrew (the overly excited first time baseball game goer), had finally arrived! We handed off their tickets, entered the stadium (this time sans fishing net), found our friends, and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon of baseball.

Sure, a showdown between the Brewers and Pirates - two-sub .500 teams - may not seem like the most attractive matchup, but with the weather near-divine, hot dogs and small sods selling for only $1, and being surrounded by a gaggle of amazing people, it simply could not have been a better day.

Plus, the Pirates won in the 14th inning (and they won the next day as well, stealing the series from the favored Brewers).

Thanks for an absolutely wonderful day, gang! I'm already looking forward to the third annual! I'll leave you with some fun photos from the day (thanks to Lindsay and Jeff/Rebecca for their top-notch photography skills - I know that if I was in need of a photographer for a wedding/corporate gathering/bar mitzvah/AC competition, I'd seek out y'alls services first.). Let me know if you're interested in taking in the 3rd annual (You don't want to miss out on this tradition...).

It's not a baseball game without some Big League Chew

L to R: Pat, Joseph, & Topher

L to R: Rachel, Kateri, Mo-T, Cari, and Renata

A friendly Baggo game to settle old scores: I think we proved who(m) carried who(m)...

Aaah, look at the sun on those faces... yup, it was a perfect afternoon for baseball!

The world famous Klements Giant Sausage Race. Due to an unfortunate incident 4 years ago, I always root against the chorizo. Always.

Andrew's first big league baseball game!
It won't be long until this little guy says,
"Hey... Dad? Wanna have a catch?"

- Peace be da journey


Jeff and Rebecca said...

I can't wait for those days! Great write-up! This probably won't surprise you but that line brings a tear to this guy's eye...

Chadwick said...

Two things: A. I believe the proper grammar is, "who carried whom" (just for future reference). And 2. I like that you suggested the possibility of you needing a photographer for a bat mitzvah, that is funny because you are 1. catholic and 2. a little outside of the age range; although I know lately you are all too aware of your increasing age, so i am sure i don't have to point that out to you. ;)