After Bob Barker retired from The Price is Right, some of the comments he made in the interviews that followed really stuck with me:
“The second to last show was harder than the last one. Of course there would be lots of fanfare and celebration for the final show, but the one before that was the last time everything would be normal. It was harder to let that normalcy go than it was to actually walk away after the final show.” (Paraphrasing, of course).
I thought of that quote constantly between when I got back from my trip and today. This was not the final game before my internship; I had one more set up later in the week. Knowing everything that comes with a last game, a cheering section (since one of my friends would be joining me), and the fact of catching my 100th ball (which I was positive would happen that day), it was almost harder to acknowledge that this was the last time for a while that everything would feel the same and go according to plan.
After all the rushing to get from Canada to Cleveland, Dad and I finally arrived at the old Jake with just moments to spare before the gates opened.
I was bummed to leave the park and acknowledge that the best parts of this trip were behind me. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t still plenty to look forward to, though!
Once we got out, we headed right over to the Steam Whistle Brewery with lots of other fans.
The name of the beverage comes from the brewery, obviously. The name of the brewery comes from the location. Everything is made inside an old train depot where locomotives were repaired a long, long time ago.
We enjoyed our beverages, the view, and people watching as we continued to talk about our plans for later that night.
This morning carried a lot of meaning. Most importantly, I got to visit a completely new park for the very first time. It’s not a common occurrence these days, so I was going to appreciate every part of the experience. I was also going to be an international Ballhawk for the very first time. It’s a cheesy thing to say, but it’s still the truth. For the most part though, it was all bittersweet. June 1st marked the beginning of the end for me and my marathon month of baseball. One week from right now, I was going to be packing my bags for internship training. Just one week, and baseball would essentially be non-existent in my life.
I woke up in a panic thanks to a terrible nightmare. I dreamed that both Dad and I slept past our alarms and didn’t wake up until 11 AM. The gates to the park would open at 11:07, so batting practice was a total loss. To me, that’s almost worse than the game being cancelled altogether. When I knew I was awake for real, I scrambled for my phone and was relieved to see it was still only 7:30.
We hopped in the car and found even cheaper parking downtown since it was Sunday. We roamed the now familiar streets of Toronto and set our sights on the needle, which is formally named the CN Tower.
After making our way around those buildings, I got my first full view of the day’s protagonist.
After months of planning and counting down the days, it was finally time to set off on my annual trip to visit a new park! Don’t get me wrong, I love each of my three main stadiums in their own special way. But with how many times I’ve visited them them lately, it truly was a very welcomed change and a treat to see something new.
I have been wanting to see the Rogers Centre for almost three years. In 2010, my family vacationed to Niagara Falls and took a day trip to Toronto. We did all the touristy stuff they had to offer, with the exception of seeing the Blue Jays. They were right in the middle of a homestand the day we were there, but it was no use trying to convince my mom and sister to to make the day even longer by watching a game they had no interest in whatsoever.
Now, if you’re one of my local readers, you know what the years 2010 and 2013 have in common.
In fact, it was the 2010 Stanley Cup victory that brought us to Toronto in the first place. Dad and I knew we would regret it if we didn’t take the short drive from Niagara and visit the Hockey Hall of Fame. This year, the same thing brought us back. Dad loves baseball and enjoys going to a few games with me each season, but he was much more interested in the Hall. Every year, they make a tribute video to show in the little theater they have. In 2010, the end of June was too early, and we watched the Penguins video from 2009. The end of May, as it turns out, was too late to see the Hawks. It stopped running just a week before we got there. Yes, it’s sucky, but we’ll see it someday. Dad wants to make it a tradition to come up here every time they win.
Now that I’ve covered WHY I’m traveling such a long distance, let’s get into the actual adventure!
Before the game, it felt like the day would never end. Minutes felt like hours as I wandered around the city of Milwaukee while Shawn was working. We were up past 2 AM the night before thanks to the long game, but mostly because of my gawking at his massive collection that consisted of everything you could think of that had to do with baseball. I won’t get into specifics, but I was expecting to be completely blown away. Even with that mindset, I was still in disbelief.
I awoke at 6:00 AM in Shawn’s living room. He starts work downtown at 8:00, which meant that we needed to leave his house at 7:15. If you want to know how to seamlessly integrate Ballhawking into your life, call this guy. On days he works, he goes 8:00 to 2:00, which leaves him just enough time to get lunch and park on the street near Miller Park at 3:15. He’s really got it down.
I’ve already written about Miller Park plenty of times this season. Because of that, I’m going to make this entry as short and sweet as I can and give you as little fluff as possible. The people who actually care about the details were right next to me in the stands, anyway.
When I arrived in Milwaukee, I passed right by Miller Park and went to Shawn’s house. He was ever so graciously letting me crash on his couch so I could make the most of my time here and attend the game the following day as well. We had talked about this double header for quite a while, but never set anything in stone. I finally picked this series because I was told the Orioles have one of the best BPs in all of baseball.
We met up with Kenny, another regular here and an awesome guy who I’ve mentioned before, and got to Miller Park at 3:30.
There are very few games that get extra special attention from me. Most of the time, there’s not really a reason to circle a specific day on the calendar. For the most part, I go catch some balls, blog about it, and look forward to the next one. But every so often, a seemingly normal game becomes one of the most special I could possibly go to. This was one of those days (and also one hell of a day for me in terms of balls).
It’s become a ‘trend’, if you will, for players to take victory laps and announce their retirement before the season starts. I’m not particularly a fan of this practice, because all it does for a player is draw every ounce of attention to themselves. I can’t imagine many teammates would be happy about that. Today, I saw first hand the things that the teammates have to put up with from the fans who came to the park just to get close and say they saw Derek Jeter.
From the second I woke up and looked outside, I knew this was looking to be a much, much better day than it was for my previous game. Who knows what pissed Mother Nature off, but we were back to sunny skies, which meant two very full sessions of BP.
I got to the VIP line about half an hour before it opened, and was fairly pleased with my spot in line. For some weird reason, the lines are always shortest on Sundays.
It was perfect as could be on the inside:
Nothing makes me feel better than knowing I have a full hour and a half out here. There’s almost limitless possibilities. I had some energy saved up from last game’s BP rain out, and the additional lessons Shawn taught me in Milwaukee earlier in the week were still fresh in my mind. I was ready to hit the ground running, and never stop.
This weekend was the one I was most looking forward to in the month of May. I had games at Wrigley on Friday and Sunday, and would have all of Saturday to hang out with Kyra at her apartment. (To new readers, this is my girlfriend. She’s great, and goes to Loyola University Chicago; about 20 minutes north of Wrigley). The Brewers were in town, which was both good and bad. The bad part is that I’m getting sick of seeing that stupid little ‘M’ and the people of Wisconsin. The good part is that I had a little edge because of my matching jersey and hat. That would turn out to be a huge asset today. Look what Kyra and I had to drive through when we left Schaumburg in the morning:You can see the rain, but what you can’t see is the giant snowflakes and 41 degree temperature. Did we time travel back to April or something? This was unfair and total nonsense! There was no way in hell I’d see any BP, due to both the rain and the cold. The entire game was in jeopardy, too. In these conditions, the last thing I wanted was the day to last longer than it had to. If it got any worse, I’d have to deal with a make-up game sometime during the summer when I wouldn’t be able to go. And today, of all days, is when I had TWO tickets for the Bleachers. What a great way to spend $60 to make myself feel miserable. (more…)