I love baseball.
One of my (many) fond memories from my childhood is going to the ball game with my dad. Dad would make it a special day with each of us, and I still recall the excitement I felt as I sat next to him in the car driving down to Baltimore to watch my favorite Orioles play. There wasn’t much money for luxuries in our family, although my parents willingly went without in order to provide us with as much as they could. So we really needed those binoculars Dad would bring to see the field from our nosebleed seats, and the glove I clutched in both hands was more wishful thinking than potential. I didn’t care. I still got excited every time a ball came our way, and in the meantime Dad taught me to keep score in the program he always bought as we demolished a bag of salted in the shell peanuts.
The last Baltimore Orioles game I attended was in 1992, during my Plebe Summer at the U.S. Naval Academy. Thanks to the accumulated fatigue of that summer, I don’t remember much of the game…which is a little sad since that will be the last visit I make to beautiful Camden Yards. I love baseball, but I despise Major League Baseball. They lost me as a fan during the last strike while greedy owners argued with greedy players; ensured I’d never come back when the owners jacked up ticket prices so high the average dad can’t take his daughter (or son) to a game without taking out a second mortgage; and confirmed my decision when Barry’s head exploded, Sammy and Mark bulked up for a season-long homerun derby at just the right time for MLB’s ratings, and Rafael chastised Congress for even thinking he’d take steroids…right before his violation of MLB’s atrociously lax drug policy was announced.
Fortunately, there’s still a place where parents can take their kids for some quality family time, at reasonable prices, to enjoy America’s sport: minor league ballparks.
Whenever we went to a ballgame as a family, it almost always meant heading north to Harrisburg to cheer for the Senators. We loved cheering from the rickety wooden stands, but a minor league game is about so much more than baseball. There was something going on at almost every inning break, not to mention various other diversions for the kids. I am more grateful than I can express that I have the opportunity to share with my son the same experience Dad shared with his daughter, thanks to minor league baseball.
Our team is the Corpus Christi Hooks. We missed their inaugural season, since we arrived here just after it ended, but Jeffrey and I were frequent flyers at the field for the 2006 season. Steve was deployed that summer, so it was just my little guy and I for six months. We went to games with two other families from Steve’s ship; we had children of similar ages so they enjoyed the games and each other.
Steve’s ship returned from deployment just before the end of the season and was able to attend a few games as well–including the final games for the Texas League Championship, won by our Hooks in their sophomore season.
Jeffrey loved going to the games. He learned to walk at the games…and once he got steady enough on his feet, he learned to dance (much to the amusement of our fellow fans) and wave his rally towel.
So both Steve and I were quite excited to finally be taking Jeffrey to his first game this season, and Lexie to her very first game ever. We started with a quick dinner of sausage and soft pretzels (the soft pretzel was for me, but I shared with Jeffrey).
I bought the tickets just last week, and the Hooks are extremely popular down here. Don’t try to get a reserved seat on game night–the only thing that will be available is general admission, which is open seating on the grass berms beyond left and center field. But those tickets are a great thing for families, because they’re only $4 apiece. Still, reserved seats are only $10 apiece, and that what we got. We were all the way down the 3rd base line, but we still had a great view.
Jeffrey got right back into the swing of things, cheering for the Hooks as they were introduced before the game. We had to remind him a few times who he was cheering for (his initial answer to “Who are we cheering for?” was “Junior!”, a hold over from watching NASCAR; then he started confusing Hooks with ‘Hawks–his dad’s Seattle Seahawks), but no matter who he was cheering for, he was enthusiastic about it! He also enjoyed dancing to all of the music, much to the amusement of the young ladies sitting behind us.
The night was perfect. Our seats were out of the sun by game time, and there was a continuous breeze blowing from home plate. It felt so hot and heavy out when we left the house to drive over that we were stunned at how great we felt at the game. And the wind couldn’t have been better for our Hooks–they rewarded our cheering with a 5-0 thrashing of the Tulsa Drillers. All of the runs were scored via homeruns (a 3-run homer in the 3rd and a 2-run homer in the 7th), which made for the only two rough patches of an otherwise perfect night: the loud cheers frightened Lexie, and then the home run fog horn scared both kids, so we both ended up holding weeping children until we could calm them down. We’d forgotten the horn, but being prepared didn’t help us the second time around!
But other than that, the game couldn’t have been better. We did leave a little early–after the second homerun we decided to leave at the end of the 7th inning, especially since we wanted to stop by the Hooks store. Poor Lexie was the only one not decked out in Hooks gear, so we had to fix that. Both kids were clearly tired but not exhausted (we couldn’t believe they lasted so long), and we were in the car and heading home as the 9th inning started. We tuned to the local Hooks radio station and were able to hear the end of the game before we got home, so we did a little cheer for the Hooks just in the family (Jeffrey added a few for Lexie).
Someday, I hope Jeffrey and Lexie look back on these days the same way I look back on the games with Dad.