…Wait a minute…I haven’t said a whole lot here in the past couple of months, have I?
And no, contrary to what one might assume, I was not permanently traumatized from being shown up by a bunch of kids at a ballpark in front of three thousand people. Actually, I have been quite busy on a couple of other projects – one at work and one personal – that have joined together to take up a good piece of my time. And, between dedicating my energy to helping to move our shop operations from Brokaw to Stevens Point, my creativity to the genealogy project, and my time to both in a measure far above and beyond the norm, things conspired to work against any contributions to this little corner of cyberspace.
But, believe it or not, I was able to finally use a vacation day to cobble a three-day weekend together…so. Actually, the plans for the extended weekend had been in place for some time, revolving around our annual Brewer trip this past Friday evening. The selected date for the game was not random whatsoever; we had to choose from a limited number of games available through a ticket discount promotion offered by a gas station chain, and then winnow it further based on the schedules of family members. And the only date that looked to be workable was September 18.
So Donna and I threw a couple things into a suitcase, grabbed the accumulated ticket vouchers, and headed to Milwaukee, where we would meet Tim for the game. Please note that we merely had vouchers at this point, and not the actual tickets. The way this works is that every time you fill up at a BP station, you get a stamp on a card. Seven stamps entitles you to one ticket in an oxygen-deprived section of what is still technically Miller Park, based on the movement of the somewhat-human-shaped dots on the field. Or, alternately, you can upgrade to better seats, applying the vouchers to the more expensive tickets and paying the difference. Anyhow…Our usual MO is to mail the vouchers well ahead of time, specifying our seating preferences. This time, though, I never got the order out. Truth be told, I was not worried as 1) the Brewers kinda suck this year, and 2) the Reds suck even worse. So I figured that we could bring the vouchers to the ticket window, plop them down along with a hundred bucks and change, and still get some pretty darn good seats. What I had not counted on was getting a call from Tim shortly after we had checked into our hotel room, asking if we were interested in some reeeally good seats (and the price, incidentally, was considerably better than what we were prepared to pay using the vouchers).
Sometimes procrastination has its benefits. We wound up with seats ten rows off the field, looking straight down the left field foul line. With the roof closed to protect against an imminent rainstorm, it was warmer than we had expected inside…so Donna decided to remove her fleece pullover. Unfortunately, she did not plan on the pullover taking the shirt with it…which led to a brief intermediate-level Wardrobe Malfunction (somewhere between DEFCON 4 and 3).
Great. Forty-five minutes before the first pitch, and we are already at risk of getting thrown out of the game. I mean, Reds manager Bryan Price was thrown out before a game this year during the pre-game exchange of lineup cards…but that takes place twenty minutes before the game starts. And here was Donna, about to double down on that particular record. Fortunately, after a few seconds of mad scrambling, the situation was under control…and the security people were none the wiser. (And no…there are not any pictures of that particular incident. My general tendency toward good taste is eclipsed only by my instinct for survival.)
And so, armed with money we had not planned on having – along with a $10 concession coupon for each of us – Tim and I headed off to check out the various food and drink options at the concession stands (Donna decided that she would wait for a bit). Wandering along the concourse, Tim and I found a stand that offered “Bratchos” – potato chips, nacho cheese, and ground chorizo (along with other optional toppings) served in a paper bucket the approximate size of Barry Bonds’ head. Against my better judgment, I decided to order a batch. On our way back to our seats, we got in line for a beer to wash this toxic concoction down. As we waited, we were asked the same question by several different people: “What is that, anyhow?” The third time we are asked, I did a double-take. This time, the faces were familiar, and it occurred to me that these were Donna’s cousins at the same time that they realized the identity of the fools holding the hazmat buckets. And so we called Donna – who by then had regained her pride, composure and dignity – up for a surprise meet-and-greet (the ushers were quite adamant about not allowing the cousins to come down to our seats for so much as a couple of minutes). The singing of the national anthem was our cue, and we all returned to our seats for the game.
Somewhere over the course of the game, as the vendors made their rounds, the guy seated to our right ordered a Miller Lite from the beer man. A couple innings later I do the same, opting for a Miller High Life instead – a matter of choosing the less mediocre of the two brands the vendor had for the sake of convenience. (Or, perhaps, the more mediocre, given that both brands show up somewhat south of that designation on any true beer lover’s chart. But I digress.) Anyhow, the guy next to me asked what I was drinking; when I told him, he ordered one as well, pronouncing it as an improvement over what he had been drinking. It immediately became clear, based on his accent, that the guy was not from around here – and he quickly offered that he was an Australian native, who was now living in Puerto Rico and had come to Milwaukee on business. Moreover, he had adopted the Brewers as his favorite team, because “everybody in Puerto Rico pulls for either the Yankees or the Mets. I wanted a different team. I’m from Australia, and we all like beer…so it was a perfect match.” In fact, when he found out he would be spending the week in Milwaukee, he was pretty much ecstatic; he noted that “when you ask somebody from another country what city in the States they would want to visit, their first choice might be Orlando or New York. Mine was Milwaukee”. And so we spent the rest of the game chatting with our new-found friend. During the seventh-inning stretch, after the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, I slyly asked (knowing just a bit of Australian slang) if he had caught the line about “root, root, root for the home team”. He immediately broke into a huge grin and, quite boisterously, replied “yeah…it means “f***ing!” And then, when I let him know that beer sales were cut off at the end of the seventh, he quickly headed for the beer stand. I rightly figured that he would want to make last call. What I had not planned on was him returning with a round for the four of us.
Last year, when Toronto came to Miller Park, we sat next to a couple from Winnipeg who had road-tripped down to take in a game, among other activities. And now this time, we got to meet Leigh. Very different personalities, but all with a love of the game. And it is that camaraderie that develops out of nowhere that is one of the things I love most about baseball. Not only do you never know what is going to happen on the field; the same is true about the experience off the field as well.
Oh, yeah – what happened on the field: 5-3, Reds. Not a particularly memorable contest; there were some sloppy plays, due in part no doubt to the number of younger players up for a look-over by both clubs’ management. At the same time, I did get to see Aroldis Chapman – aka “The Cuban Missile Crisis” – close out the game for the Reds with 101-mile-an-hour heaters thrown high and tight. Far better to see something like that from where we were sitting than from the batter’s perspective, I dare say.
And, by the way, we also won six free tickets for selected games next year. Can’t wait to see what happens then…