This past April, my 96 year-old grandmother, Mayme, passed away. Instead of holding the funeral right away, the family decided to wait until June so everyone could travel to Chippewa Fall, Wisconsin for a family reunion. Two summers ago, we made a similar trip to Chippewa to bury my mom after she passed away. During that visit, we snuck in a Twins game to add some smiles to an otherwise sad weekend. So, this time, I decided we should fly into Milwaukee and drive the four hours to Chippewa Falls before eventually moving on to St. Paul for the flight home. Two reasons. One, we didn’t want to replicate our previous (very sad) trip. Two, The Brew Crew!
Our trip ended up featuring a ball game, 8 foot tall sausages, Secret Sauce, a surprise serenade, some serious knitting, sweet gear and lots of Cheese Curds.
A short history lesson before delving into our game . . .
In case you weren’t aware, the Green Bay Packers are a bit popular in the region. It took us approximately 8 seconds to find our first cheese head.
We decided to check out Downtown Milwaukee prior to the game. Those things we are wearing are called jackets. At the moment this picture was taken, there was a temperature difference between this spot and Tucson of approximately 60 degrees. Not a typo. You’re not reading it wrong. A 60 degree difference. Crazy.
Although I was born outside of Chicago, I spent my childhood growing up in West Germany. Without any ties to the United States, I began following Chicago sports teams. My connection to “home” came from reading box scores in the Stars and Stripes and collecting baseball cards hoping to get any Cub. For the record – my first Cubs card.
Why this trip mattered
Growing up, it was always me and my mom. My parents split up when I was 9. Because of his work, my dad always lived a long ways away. After the divorce, my mom worked full-time, went to college full-time, learned to drive and was the parent full-time. She did a lot. I was always loved and taken care of by her. When she finally began to realize some of her career goals, she wanted to treat us to a trip that we weren’t able to take previously. It meant the world for her that she could put together a trip like this one. Sure, it was a blast. But, I was more proud that she had accomplished what she had set out to do. Her road wasn’t always easy, but she sure made it happen. Simply amazing.
Road trip from Eau Claire, WI to San Antonio, TX. School had just ended for me, so my dad drove up from his home in San Antonio to pick me up so we could go back to Texas together. My dad and I used to take little trips together. Just a guys weekend or overnighter. However, once my parents divorced those trips weren’t really possible any more. So this opportunity to spend time with my dad was a really big deal for me. Our drive was to include a game in Chicago while also stopping in Memphis to see the home of Elvis Presley, Graceland.
Why this game?
Tom Poquette, of course! TP was the only big league player ever to come out of Eau Claire, WI. This season we saw him play, TP was at the peak of his career. Coming off an All-Rookie campaign with the Kansas City Royals, he had been traded to the Red Sox at the beginning of the 1979 season. So naturally my dad and I scheduled our trip with two goals: see Tom Poquette play and to try to meet him afterward. Oh yeah, we would also see Hall of Famer’s such as Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice.
At that time, the neighborhood surrounding Comiskey Park was not exactly known for its warm and inviting citizenry. I remember pulling into a “parking area” where the first price was $10. Then there was an “optional” upgrade cost of another $10 for which the individual in the parking lot promised he wouldn’t throw a concrete block through the car window. Obviously, we chose the upgraded parking fee.
Who: Amanda, Mac, Amanda’s Sister Anna, Her Husband Kevin, Their Kids Jolene and Cecilia, Amanda’s Parents Ross and Patty, and Me!
Why This Game Mattered: We had all traveled to Seattle for the wedding of Amanda’s cousin. Since we it was Opening Week for the season, we were able to add to our ballpark list. The special bonus was that our family was able to join us for a great night at the ballpark. We really enjoyed sharing this night with our family. It made it even more fun and special.
Originally, writing this blog was to reflect on not just the games but the people we shared the game with that day. This game truly matches that mission. Safeco was great, game was fun, but the most important thing was being there with our family.
At the end of the day, our memories consist of who we were with and how we felt surrounded by the people we love.
Mac was excited to take his cousins to their first Major League game. They enjoyed copious amounts of cotton candy, pizza, ice cream, new caps, a sweet M’s blanket and quality bonding time! Definitely a night to remember during a great trip to the Emerald City.
Also, Mandy and I lived in Seattle back in the early 2000’s before returning to Tucson to start a family. This trip was enjoyable to share with Mac a place we had lived before him. Seattle was where we lived when we got engaged and married.
This is an ongoing post which will chronicle the Major League Baseball games and events that we have attended during the 2016 season.
Diamondbacks v Padres (Just glad to be there)
It had been a long month for us to wait and see another game. Mac and I were also very grateful just to be there since Mac had spent the beginning of the week in the ICU for a form of pneumonia. This was our second baseball game of the week as we had celebrated getting out of the PICU by attending the last home game of the NCAA-bound UA Wildcats. Tonight’s game was a success in that the Diamondbacks actually won with us in attendance and Paul Goldschmidt broke out of a slump with multiple hits and runs. Plus, we saw Greinke pitch (again). Final score was 8-7 but the Dbacks were originally up 8-1 prior to some 9th Inning rallying from the Padres.
Once the Dbacks jumped out to an early advantage, the evening segued into some other areas of interest for us.
Now this first topic is of utmost importance for any baseball game . . .
In our prior post, Mac and I were very disappointed in not being able to have a Churro Dog. Now, why would be disappointed? This dessert, in its second year, is amazing. To avoid any possible disappointment, we headed to the Churro Stand early on in the game.
Yes! We were in luck. As seen in the picture above, this is a chocolate glazed donut hugging a churro that is topped with frozen yogurt, whipped cream, caramel and chocolate sauce. And, yes, it is even better than it sounds. We don’t get one every game, but we sure love it when we do.
When choosing our dessert at the game there are pretty much three choices, but we now rotate only between two items. Originally, our rotation consisted of the Churro Dog, Cold Stone Creamery and TCBY Yogurt. The yogurt comes in the plastic batting helmet. Last season, we would go through this order for the season. However, Chase Field has switched frozen yogurt vendors replacing TCBY with something called ZoYo. Not a good change as far as we are concerned. So now we alternate between Cold Stone and the Dog.
A Young Speilberg
Since the game was uneventful, Mac decided to start videoing some of the action. For that game action, check out Jake Lamb’s run scoring single.
One of the cool aspects of a retractable dome is the actual retracting part. We were fortunate to watch it open at the beginning of the game since the night was so nice.
More importantly, Mac discovered the Slow Motion feature. I present to you the Swayze . . .
Giveaway of the Night
It was the very popular Arizona Diamondback Pool Bag. Very nice gift for the beginning of summer and the swim season.
One of our family’s running jokes is that Amanda has to point out to us that Wil Myers is playing in a game. This goes back to our visit to Camden Yards where both me and Mac had no idea Wil was playing until the 7th inning. So, we were very excited to missing player batting Second in this game.
Who’s that in the on-deck circle? Who? I don’t know.
Selfie of the Game
One last picture from our UA game earlier in the week . . .
We were so happy to be out of the hospital. I think it shows!
Alan has been a close friend of my wife’s parents for 30 years. A native resident of New Jersey, Alan grew up just outside New York City. Born in 1930, Alan was introduced to baseball at an early age by his father. It is a passion he has carried ever since. Recently over lunch, Alan spoke about some of his memories. I have summarized some of what we talked about. Without a doubt, his baseball experience dwarfs anything I will ever know.
During his childhood, New York had three teams: Yankees, Giants and Dodgers. Alan also followed the local Newark Bears, the AAA club for the Yankees. Even though they followed all the teams, Alan and his family were primarily Giants fans.
Favorite Players: Mel Ott, Joe DiMaggio, Red Ruffing
Alan named three players as his favorites. First, Red Ruffing of the Yankees. Why Red? The answer is simple: Alan and Red shared the same birthday! Plus, as Alan said, it didn’t hurt the guy was a future Hall of Famer either.
The player Alan really loved to watch was Mel Ott, the great Giant. What originally drew him to Ott? It was the very unique way the Giant would hold his bat while hitting. As demonstrated below, Ott was fun to watch bat.
First Game: Babe Ruth Braves
Yeah, this is pretty cool. After the 1934 season, Babe Ruth left New York for Boston with the hope of becoming their manager. He had wanted to manage the Yankees, but he did not get along with the owner who refused to give Ruth this opportunity. Unfortunately, Ruth was misled in his move to Boston. Again, he did not get the chance to skipper a big league club.
The Braves played a three game set in New York against the Giants. Ruth only played in the first game. Alan’s dad took him to the game because he wanted his son to see the greatest player ever play in a game. Seriously, how cool is this? Babe Ruth (as a National Leaguer, too)! Alan doesn’t remember very much about the actual game, but he did recall that the Polo Grounds were packed full of people like them anxious to see the Babe.
As I indicated above, Alan was a Giants fan. However, his favorite team was the 1937 Yankees. At lunch, Alan recited the starting line-up of this squad – FROM 80 YEARS AGO! Just amazing. The only hesitancy came with naming the Second Baseman, but his initial recall of Tony Lazzeri was correct. Someday, that is going to be me naming off the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers lineup from the World Series.
First Game Remembered: Joe DiMaggio Rookie
While his memory of the Ruth game is somewhat fuzzy, Alan is very specific about the first time he saw Joe DiMaggio play as a rookie. He says that Joltin Joe is easily the best player he has ever seen.
Why: A trip to Washington, D.C. was planned as a surprise for Mac during his Spring Break. His love for history, presidents and baseball made this city perfect for him. In addition to all sites of the city, we wanted to see one of his favorite baseball teams in action. Mac has always been a Nationals fan but now they also had his second favorite player – Bryce Harper. This was going to be a big deal. In addition to Bryce, there was one other HUGE reason to see the Nationals play at home. Racing Presidents.
The game itself was pretty non-descript. Adam Wainwright threw a complete game shut-out for the Cardinals (who won 8-0). Actually, it was a fairly boring game. Again, it was a very cold night. Having learned our lesson at the Orioles game the previous day, we brought blankets and warmer clothes. this went much better!
Even bundled up, cold got to us by the end of the game!
The stadium was also really nice. Not quite like Target Field, but very similar.
What: A quick trip to Baltimore for a matinee game during our visit to Washington, D.C.
Who: Amanda, Mac and me.
Why: This game was a bit different from our usual ballpark visits. We decided just to jump over to Baltimore for a game without any advance planning. Our plan was to get there near game time and find tickets from a seller around the stadium. Note: this day was not warm! The anticipated high was 35 degrees. Good thing this would be a day game.
Since the April 15 game was rained out, this game was to be Jackie Robinson Day. Being uniform geeks, we were excited to see our first game where everyone wore the Number 42. Exciting!
To get to the ball game from DC, we decided to take the train. Not only was this mode of transportation different than our usual method of travel, but we had the pleasure of using two of the nicest train stations in the country.
From DC we caught the train at the legendary Union Station.
Our Trip: We were traveling out to San Antonio to pick up my dad’s car. So we decided to fly into Dallas for two important reasons. First, a Rangers game. Second, a visit to the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Mac is not only a baseball fan, but also has a significant interest in US Presidents.
Near the top of his “favorites” list – W. Why? Because he used to own the Texas Rangers and threw out a pitch during the World Series won by the Diamondbacks (See video below).
George W. Bush Presidential Museum, Southern Methodist University
Located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, the museum is really cool. Regardless of your political persuasion or opinion of W, the museum is an amazing experience. You don’t have to be a supporter of W to enjoy the historical elements of the museum. Whatever your opinion, touring the museum will not change your viewpoint of his presidency. However, you will see and experience key moments in history.
Sure, attending the HR Derby and the ASG were the primary focus of the trip. However, we were also eagerly anticipating the MLB Fan Fest being held at the Duke Energy Convention Center. It is the greatest collection of memorabilia, souvenirs, cards and baseball activities located anywhere. Let’s just say that Mac was ready for this part of the trip. Our plan was to get up early on Sunday and spend the entire day there. However, Saturday morning, Mac asked if we could go on Saturday as well.
Absolutely. What is better than a day at Fan Fest? Two days!
After running a 5K and walking two additional miles, we were ready to head over to Fan Fest. The event was held at the Duke Energy Convention Center which was about a 15 minute walk from the house. We ended up spending the entire Saturday afternoon there, then we got up the next morning and went back for a few more hours. The following summary combines both days so these are not necessarily in chronological order.
Here we are at the main entrance which featured a large image of Paul Goldschmidt above the door.
Priority Number 1
Ever since Mac learned about this trip to Cincinnati, he has been focused on one specific souvenir. An authentic Paul Goldschmidt National League jersey. This is serious business. Mac counts down the days every year until ASG uniforms and hats are unveiled. This is a big deal in our household. Upon entering the building, we went straight to the Majestic Jersey store. It is a great set-up. The jerseys are embroidered to-order on the spot. On a slower day like this, Mac had his jersey in about 30 minutes.