My first trip to North Carolina was for Nationals in 2002. My second was for baseball—one of the best baseball experiences I’d ever had.
Asheville, NC is an incredibly gorgeous city—one I knew nothing about and was thrilled to discover. I had vegan nachos for dinner, served by a gorgeous tattooed granola girl named Jill. She invited me back to enjoy the fiddler they’d have playing that evening, but alas, I’m not into fiddling.
From my nachos, I went to McCormick Field, probably the most gorgeous ballpark I’ve ever been to. They’ve literally carved it out of the side of a mountain…there’s rock right alongside the left-field concourse. As I closed out my 2005 baseball trip (which began in Miami and ended here), I found myself enjoying a fantastic 1-0 pitchers duel (won by the Kannapolis Intimidators’ Ray Liotta over the Asheville Tourists’ Ching Lo).
But there was more than the game. I won two—TWO—contests that night. First, I won the trivia contest because I knew what former Asheville Tourist had homered in the opening game that season. And second, I threw a tennis ball into a hula hoop on the field after the game. For that, I also won.
After the game, I went to pick up my prizes. For the tennis ball, I won my choice of prizes from a box of cheap crap (I selected a computer mouse in the shape of Jeff Gordon’s NASCAR car). For the trivia, I won a 12-pack of Sierra Mist.
Problem: I was flying home the next morning. What the hell was I going to do with a 12-pack of Sierra Mist?
The answer was walking right by me. The victorious Kannapolis Intimidators were walking by on their way to boarding their bus. I stopped one of their stragglers (hitting coach Scott Long) and asked if the team would like some soda. He thanked me, shook my hand, and took the pop.
The way the stadium was set up, I was able to look into the bus from where I was in the stadium. So I watched as green soda cans popped up throughout the bus, gradually working from the front to the back. It was a cheap thrill. But what good is a gift if the receiver doesn’t know it’s a gift?
I tried to take a picture of a guy in the back holding his soda. It was a bad idea, of course, since it was night and the bus had tinted windows. But the guy saw me and started mugging. I mimed for him to hold up the soda. He did. Then I tried—by pointing at the pop and then pointing at myself—to indicate that the soda was a gift from me.
While there’s no way in hell he understood that, I sort of hope he did. And I hope someone makes it big and remembers my gesture (although, four years later, I still don’t recognize any major league names on the roster).