Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hey, it's good to be back home again...

I know it's not popular to like John Denver, but I grew up in Colorado, and it's sort of required that there be a soft spot in the heart for him. Except for the serial drunk driving part, I liked him.

Swankette and I did the Fourth Annual Fourth Of July Minor League Baseball Road Trip. Man, do I ever like doing this. We travel somewhere (not just by plane--it has to involve a road trip) and do multiple minor league games over the fourth of July. Minor league teams/games are usually in smaller cities, so we often wind up somewhere rural-ish, hanging out waiting for a big fireworks show. And the way minor league schedules go, we usually wind up seeing multiple fireworks shows: this year, we had four shows in four ballparks in four nights!

Quick summation: Saw a GREAT game in Oakland. Miguel Batista took a perfect game into the seventh inning, which was tres dramatic. About half of the hard-core A's fans started turning to root for the perfect game in the seventh, and when second baseman Orlando Hudson made a magnificent diving stop to preserve the perfect game in the seventh, I was hooting and hollering and got a few glares. Whatever, troglodytes. But then Batista walked the next guy on four pitches and gave up a home run to Frank Thomas and it was over. Still, incredibly dramatic stuff, and I'm glad I was there for it.

San Jose has a gorgeous ballpark and a staff that has no idea how to put on a baseball game. Shame on them. Even the fireworks were lame.

Modesto is very, very hot, and not a very nice town. But they had a nice ballpark and the quiet was nice after the overblown promotions of San Jose.

Sacramento was a pleasant surprise. It was a lovely city with a fantastic ballpark. Swankette and I walked across the river to get there. After the game and the fireworks, as we walked back across the river, there was a parade of boats that were lit up in patriotic ways. Gorgeous. And there seemed to be a lot of activity along the riverwalk. I've never heard Sacramento complimented (or, for that matter, even talked about) as a city, but I enjoyed it.

This has me thinking about family vacation traditions. Swankette and I love this tradition. This is the first year we've flown anywhere for the trip (we got ourselves bumped from a flight on the way to RealSuperGirl and Kaphine's wedding last year, so we chose very, very cheap tickets to the Bay Area for this year's trip). Three years ago, when we were dating, I sat on the riverwalk in Spokane and listened to my now-wife, then-girlfriend talk...calmly, and for a long time (which, given how quiet Swankette can be, was a rare treat), just about growing up and stuff, and really considered what a permanent life with her would be like. Two years ago, we zipped down the Oregon Coast together as she showed me her college haunts. Last year, we were saving money for the wedding, so we just drove to Yakima and the Tri-Cities, playing catch in parks along the way as Swankette warmed up her arm for throwing out the first pitch at our rehearsal dinner. And we had just as much fun this year.

We want to keep doing this when there are kids. In some ways, we think the kids are gonna bitch and moan about it. "How come we don't get to stay home and watch fireworks with our friends like normal people? Why is it always baseball, and always some stupid team I've never heard of?" The answer: Because it's a family tradition, and traditions are important, especially in families. Because we get to spend time together. And because we get to see different Americans every year partying. I always feel a little like de Tocqueville on these trips...driving somewhere new to get to know the US a little. In fact, for some reason, I was picturing explaining baseball to an English friend during the game the other night. I just love doing this. So the kids are going to do it too.

What the hell...the worst case scenario is that the kiddoes have something to bitch about when they get older...which is quite valuable.

UPDATE: Some tips from experienced father John.


John B. said...


You might be able to swing that type of vacation once every few years with the kids, but soon they will btch and moan as you predict.

Kids at the ballpark, let me give you some pointers for the future:

Young kids (toddlers-age 10): Fill them full of food and candy, go on dollar nights at the minor league parks to save money, you are home free. Just don't fill them too full of junk, or you will clean up vomit from the back seat. Giveaway nights of bats or balls are a bonus, so that they can beat up on their siblings with the promotional materials.

Teach your kids to keep score, so that you can spend one inning explaining what a SAC fly is and why the batter gets an RBI for an out. You will impress your kids as they will think that you are a baseball god. Then watch their eyes glaze over when you explain the infield fly rule.

Older kids (teens):
As long as there are members of the opposite sex at the park, you are home free. Kids this age bitch and moan all of the time anyhow, so minor league baseball vacations give them something to whine about.

MCMC said...

I just have an addendum to father John's advice, focusing on the birth to toddler years (the only years I've experienced as a parent thus far):

Birth-18 months: Our daughter could go anywhere in a car seat and sleep, which was a great gift, though perhaps a bit outside the norm? We went out to eat, to the movies, etc. Anna took the biggest risks here, catching glares when she breat fed Sarah at the state fair and other locales, but it was totally worth it.

Then, at 18 months, Sarah gained more control over her own mobility, and staying still in a car seat for long periods of time just didn't cut it...

With 2-3 year old, expect to leave the game or miss significant parts of it wandering about the ballpark.

That's true of almost any activity that requires sitting for more than about 20 minutes, at least for Sarah (I'm really trying not to give general "advice", as I don't feel qualified to do that, and it reminds me of those cursed books we gave up reading about four months into Anna's pregnancy)

So there's free advice for you. You're free to take it, or free not to! Enjoy more summer nights at the ballpark.