Game 4: Turner Field, Atlanta

Welcome to Braves Country.

The first stop on The Smorgasbord Tour: Atlanta. I’ve been to ATL twice in the past for youth ministry conferences, but I had never been to a Braves game before. I went to a Hawks game once – I was one of about 57 people there – but Turner Field was going to be a new experience for me.

I flew in on Saturday night, hopped on the MARTA and met up with my new friend, Wally, on the north side of the city. Wally is the father of one of my seminary friends, and as I was raising support for this project, she sent him the information and he quickly contacted me asking if I had a place to stay while I was in Atlanta. I’m thankful to have gotten to spend the weekend with him.

Spending time in Wally’s condo was like walking through a museum. He is extremely interested in his family heritage and owns countless antique items that each have a special story and memory behind them.

He showed me his Cardinals scorecard from a game he went to at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis when he was a kid. It is framed next to a photo of he and his siblings at the game. When his grandmother died, he asked if he could have her old antique bed. He has a framed receipt listing all the things his grandparents bought at the store on their wedding day. Wally restores old photographs and has an image of his grandfather’s one-room schoolhouse class from the early 1900s. Everywhere I looked I found another antique, and every antique had a family story.

This past December, Wally’s wife, Lynda, passed away due to non-smokers lung cancer. Understandably, it’s been a difficult few months for him. He has spent some time away from work traveling to visit his daughter in Kansas City, his brother in St. Louis and some friends in Tennessee. He’s been back home for about a week now, and everywhere he looks he’s reminded of the past 40 years of life with his wife.

Wally is exploring who he is and what he is going to be about now that Lynda is gone. “My life is like a whiteboard now,” he said this weekend, “and the great thing about whiteboards is that you can erase them and start over whenever you want to.”

He’s exploring his identity, asking questions about himself and his life he hasn’t asked for years. He’s trying new things and new experiences, which is the reason he was so excited to put me up for the past two nights and join me for the Braves game yesterday afternoon.

But before the game, we were headed to All Saints Episcopal Church for worship.

Palm Sunday in an Episcopal Church was a very unique worship experience. Lots of Scripture readings. Lots of call and response. A beautiful choir with a processional and recessional that bookended the service. Everything was ordered and deliberate. They even incorporated intentional segments of silence into the liturgy, which is an option I think lots of churches might benefit from exploring.

I think this is a major part of why baseball can seems so spiritual. There is an order of events in place: batting practice, announcing the starting lineups, the ceremonial “first pitch”, the National Anthem, yelling, “Play Ball!”, the 7th inning stretch, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and sometimes the singing of God Bless America. Baseball is liturgical.

And unlike other sports, there are 17 different breaks in the action for us to process what’s been happening in what we’ve witnessed so far. Time to process the game so far. Time to swap stories and take in the setting. It’s a form of silence that is embedded into the game.

Silence and liturgy are both deeply incorporated into the game of baseball.

Okay moving on to the game.

The Braves are the oldest MLB franchise. They were first the Boston Braves in 1871, then they were the Milwaukee Braves, then in 1966 they became the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves played in old Fulton Country Stadium until the 1996 when the olympics came to Atlanta. They built Turner Field to house the summer events, then converted it to the “Home of the Braves”.

It was a beautiful afternoon for a ballgame – 81 degrees and sunny. My arms managed to get sunburned. I have a calculator watch tan line.

Every Braves employee I met, whether an usher, vendor, or parking lot attendant, had the same thing to say: “Welcome to Braves Country!”

One of my favorite things about ballparks is seeing all the creative ways the club has memorialized it’s past. Since I’d just left Wally’s house a few hours earlier, I was even more attuned to noticing the subtle ways the Braves honored their past.

The parking lot, for example, is where Fulton County Stadium used to sit. They outside wall of the parking lot is the old outfield wall! Such a brilliant move. High five to whoever had that idea.

There are retired numbers and statues of former players all around outside the park. Murphy. Jones. Neikro. Spahn. Aaron.

All around the outfield concourse, they have little signs posted that say “723 feet from home plate” and “581 feet from home plate”. Which is a brilliantly subtle thing that only baseball fans would probably appreciate. The 581 sign was especially cool considering Josh Gibson once hit a ball that far at Yankee Stadium.

But there are two numbers that Braves fans celebrate more than any other: 715 and 14.

This past Tuesday marked the 40th anniversary of “715” – the day Hank Aaron passed Babe Ruth and officially became the home run king. Hank hit 733 homers as a Brave, and 755 in his career. Hank had finished the 1973 season with 713 HRs.

The 14 is more recent: they were division champs 14 consecutive years between 1991 and 2005. Somehow they only managed to win 1 World Series in that span – 1995. Also surprising: somehow the Marlins won it all twice in that span.

Before the game, we hit the Braves HOF and Museum. It was actually a mejor letdown. You’d think the oldest franchise would have the best museum experience, but it was very lackluster. a fake dugout. An old Milwaukee Braves train car. A leaderboard of all the current Braves leaders in every major statistical category. Fake lockers from each of their most successful years.

The franchise records leaderboard, however, was impressive. Some team records are kinda goofy to read. Like that Ricky Nolasco holds half the pitching records for the Marlins. Or Jim Thome holding the Indians home run record. Or that Michael Young leads the Rangers in hits, runs, singles, doubles, triples…and strikeouts. Usually team records are more of a list of players that just wore the uniform the longest. And for younger franchises, that can make the list a bit embarrassing.

But not for the Braves.

Sure, it’s still a list of the longest tenured players. But those players were awesome, and most of the resulting records aren’t going to change…probably ever. A sampling…

  • Innings: Warren Spahn, 5046
  • Wins: Warren Spahn, 356
  • Strikeouts: John Smoltz, 3011
  • Hits: Hank Aaron, 3600
  • Games: Phil Niekro, 740

But one stat that isn’t going to last much longer: most saves. It’s currently held by John Smoltz with 154, but Craig Kimbrel is going to shatter that mark. My prediction: he breaks Smoltz’s record on May 29.

Kimbrel has been amazing in his first 4 years in the league. In 231 appearances he has 139 saves. Some perspective: Mariano Rivera only had 84 saves in 200 appearances in his first 4 years. He’s averaged 46 saves per season, and he strikes out FORTY-THREE PERCENT of the batters he faces. Outrageous.

But we didn’t get to see Kimbrel. Which is about the only disappointment (besides the HOF) from our trip to Turner Field.

photo-16A couple points about food: Atalanta is the home of Waffle House, so naturally there’s one in the left field concourse. But I wasn’t in the mood for a waffle. I opted for the Georgia Dog instead: a foot long hot dog with crunchy cole slaw and sweet sautéed vidalia onions. Holy smokes. absolutely delicious.

I’ve been to a lot of baseball games, and I’ve never seen in-between-inning production brilliance as I did at The Ted. First, in the minutes leading up to the first pitch, they ran the “Oblivious Cam” where they just found people in the ballpark who had no clue they were on the screen and set a timer counting up the amount of time until they noticed. :30…:45…1:00…1:15…and every second the rest of the ballpark laughed louder and louder.

Two other genius moves: The Grounds Crew Inning and the Hug Cam.

Apparently, first baseman Freddie Freeman has a history of hugging everyone. In the dugout, on the field, in the clubhouse – Freeman is a hugger. The Braves marketing department latched onto this and turned it into a brilliant crowd segment. Unlike the Kiss Cam, complete strangers can hug, kids can hug, anyone can hug. No more awkward pairings on the screen. No more “let’s end with an old couple and celebrate their long marriage” sappiness. They ended with a shot of Freddie and one of the Upton brothers (I think) sitting in the dugout. Freeman saw himself on screen, shrugged, and hugged it out with his teammate.

But the best segment: The Grounds Crew Inning.

Set to the tune of the William Tell Overture, when it came time for the grounds crew to run out and smooth over the infield, they sprinted out of the right field tunnel, ran their lap around the infield, set in three new bases, and sprinted back to the tunnel. The camera crew kept cutting from angle to angle in dramatic fashion managing to turn the Crew into the heroes of the moment.

Final piece on Turner before I move on to the game notes: I think it’s super sad that they’re leaving for Cobb County after 2016. The Braves started at The Ted in 1997, which means they’ll have been there less than 20 years.

I just don’t support the idea of baseball being moved to the suburbs. The Braves ran studies on where their primary customers were coming from, and they know they’ll be a success outside the downtown loop. But there’s something beautiful about a crisp clean ballpark among the busy highways and buildings of an urban center. Instead of a beautiful green paradise in the dirty city, it’s reduced to another clean building among the taupe facade of suburbia.

Overall, I loved Turner Field. And I’m glad I got to visit before it isn’t there anymore.

Game Notes:

The Braves destroyed the Nationals, 10-2.

They hit three homers: Justin Upton to CF, Freddie Freeman to RF, and Andrelton Simmons to CF. All three were absolute bombs. Simmons’ was most impressive – it bounced high off batter’s eye above the CF wall. Probably around 430′.

As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday: I’m a huge Andrelton Simmons fan. I’m a sucker for amazing defense, and that’s his primary game. I’m tempted to make an Ozzie Smith comparison, but he has too much power to compare the two on both sides of the ball. I think Simmons is a future Hall of Famer – bold statement in only is second season, but I think he’s only going to get better.

Simmons went 2-5 with a 3B and a HR yesterday.

Aaron Harang started for Atlanta and he continued the dominance he’s displayed so far this season. In 18+ innings, he’s only given up 9 hits. He went 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K yesterday…his worst showing of the year somehow.

Gio Gonzalez, on the other hand gave up 6 runs in the first 2 innings – 3 in each – but stayed in the game through 6 innings. Ross Detwiler came in and gave up 4 runs in the 7th – all unearned due to an Ian Desmond error at SS.

I picked the Nationals to win this division after Medlen went down. It’s early, and the Nationals are now 7-5…but all 5 losses are to the Braves. The Braves bats are hot right now, and if Harang and Santana can continue to give them quality starts, this Braves team might win their second straight NL East pennant.

Four down. Twenty-Six to go.

Up Next: Texas Rangers

The Smörgåsbord Tour

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So far, this ballpark tour has been relatively easy. I spent three days in Cincinnati for Opening Day, made a day trip to St. Louis for the Cardinals home opener, and live in Kansas City. Three games down. Twenty-seven to go. And the next twenty-seven will be way more difficult than the first three have been.

I leave Saturday for what I’ve been calling “The Smörgåsbord Tour.”

As I put together my itinerary for this summer, I started to realize that there were about 10 ballparks that were going to be way harder to get to than the rest. The reason: geography. A lot of ballparks simply aren’t close to any others. I decided early on that I needed to get these out of the way while the season was young and my morale was high. It’s a hodgepodge of five ballparks – ATL, TEX, HOU, ARI, SD – connected by a string of one way Southwest flights. I leave Saturday night and get home Friday morning.

I hopped online this morning and checked the pitching match-ups for the next week. Here’s where I’ll be and who’s on the mound over the next week:

  • 4/13: Washington @ Atlanta (Gonzalez vs Harang)
  • 4/14: Seattle @ Texas (Elias vs Perez)
  • 4/15: Kansas City @ Houston (Ventura!!! vs Harrell)
  • 4/16: NY Mets @ Arizona (Gee vs McCarthy)
  • 4/17: Colorado @ San Diego (Anderson vs Kennedy)

There are a lot of things that excite me about this stretch of games.

First, I like the Gonzalez/Harang match up. Neither are true aces, but both have looked the part thus far this season. Should be low scoring. Obviously, I’d love to see Strasburg go for the Nats, but this should be an awesome matchup. I’m also pumped to be in Atlanta a week after the anniversary of Hank Aaron’s record breaking home run. I’m also curious about the Braves decision to leave Turner Field for the suburbs after the 2016 season.

I’m excited to see Robinson Cano and Prince Fielder in their new uniforms, and I’m hoping for a slugfest in Texas. Young pitchers going for each team could make this very very possible. Last time I went to the Ballpark at Arlington (now, Globe Life Park) I saw Mike MacDougal close for the Royals. I’m going with my cousin and my high school small group leader, both of whom live in the DFW area.

Well, I can’t be angry about the Royals skipping Ace Ventura’s first start anymore now that it means I’ll see him pitch in Houston. So far Lucas Harrell is 0-2 with an 11.05 ERA and more walks than strikeouts (6 to 5). If Ventura looks anything like he did on Tuesday night, this one should be a slaughter. Also, does anyone know if the public can check out the Astrodome at all? Even just walking around outside? I was born in Houston and went to my first game on a Sunday afternoon at the Astrodome in April 1986. I have no memory of it – i was only 3 weeks old – but I’d love to check it out if possible.

To be honest, I’m most excited about the last two games on this list because I get to see one of my closest friends who recently moved to Phoenix. We’ll be hitting Chase Field and Petco Park together on Wednesday and Thursday. As far as the game goes, I’m really excited to see these two parks. The rock pile in Arizona and the old Western Metal Supply Co. building in San Diego are both so cool. I’m excited to check them out.

Be sure to check back often next week for (probably) daily post game reflections!

-apc.

Games 2 & 3: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City & Busch Stadium, St. Louis

It’s the first week of the season and I’m already straying from my original itinerary. I ended my last post saying I’d be in Atlanta next, but I underestimated the allure of Opening Day at both of my home ballparks.

So, surprise! Games 2 & 3 ended up being in Kansas City and St. Louis!

Okay, so only one of those is truly “home”. Kauffman Stadium, home of the Royals, has been my hometown ballpark my entire life. I’ve grown up going to dozens of games every year. One year I even made it to 22 games. Unfortunately, the Royals lost 106 games that year, and they were something like 4-18 when I was present. Bad luck? Maybe in 2005. But so far in 2014, I’ve been pretty lucky.

But Busch Stadium feels like home too. St. Louis isn’t my hometown, and I’ve never spent time in STL with a purpose besides watching Cardinal baseball games. But Cardinal fandom is in my blood. I was wearing the Birds on the Bat when I was a newborn baby. I could pick out and tell you the names of all of my Cardinal baseball cards before I could read: Jack Clark, Ozzie Smith, Jose, Oquendo, Willie McGee. Those names are important to who I am as a baseball fan. Especially Ozzie.

My dad and I were tallying it up on the drive home from STL on Monday, and we’ve been to 7 games over the past 3 years there including the 2012 NLDS Game 2 and 2013 World Series Game 4.

St. Louis isn’t home, but Busch Stadium certainly feels like it.

Originally, I was supposed to have a seminary class meeting on the day of the Royals home opener. It got rescheduled two weeks ago, and I forgot to change it in my phone. I woke up Friday morning with no plans of going to The K, remembered I didn’t have class and figured there was no good reason why I shouldn’t be there for the home opener.

So I called my wife at work, hopped on StubHub, and made it just in time to see jazz saxophonist, Michael Phillips, drop the most impressive rendition of the Star Spangled Banner I’ve ever heard. Here’s the video…

…absolutely terrible footage of the flyover at the end there. The camera crew underestimated how long Phillips could hold that crazy long note. How insane was that?!

Since I’m a conflicted fan with loyalties on both sides of the great state of Missouri (I’m watching both games simultaneously right now), I decided it was only fitting that I make it out to the Cardinals home opener on Monday too. Thankfully, Monday is my day off, so I was free to make the drive to STL and back. My dad finagled his way out of work to join me.

Before this year, I had never been to a home opener in my life.

Now I’ve been to 3.

I was in Cincinnati for Game 1 of the season and watched them fall to the Cardinals 1-0. And while it certainly was the right place to begin this ballpark tour, I’m glad I chose to switch things up and hit these two parks earlier than originally planned. From a historical and traditional perspective, Cincinnati was the right choice. From a personal identity standpoint, it was important that I make it to the Royals and Cardinals next.

We’ve all constructed our own identities when it comes to being fans. Our family of origin and our surrounding environment have shaped which teams we cheer for and which teams we despise. We have our favorite players from the past – it’s no mystery why my two all-time favorites are Ozzie Smith and Bo Jackson.*

* – Also Nolan Ryan, but we’ll talk about him when I’m in Arlington/Houston next week.

We’ve been groomed into our current fandom, and I find myself trying to fit the awkward mold of both Kansas City and St. Louis fan.

Royals fans cannot stand the Cardinals or their fans. They’re annoyed of their history of success, but even more so by their arrogance. The Cardinals throw around phrases like “Cardinal Nation” and “The Best Fans in Baseball,” and I admit that even I am irked by those ideals.

I’ve heard Royals fans refer to the Cardinals as the “Yankees of the National League.” Sure, like the Yankees, they can boast the most success of any team in their League, and they both have the history of success throughout the decades, but I don’t fully support that parallel. The Cardinals farm system and scouting department is what has brought them their recent success. The Yankees hit big on drafting Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, but overall they’ve just been flexing their lucrative muscles and shelling out the millions.

But to Royals fans, it’s all the same. They’ve all got more money to throw around than KC does. It’s an unfair game and the power is always unbalanced in baseball, and the Royals are on the wrong side of the teeter-totter.

And the Cardinals are the primary target of their frustration.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, have decades of National League rivalries that take their primary focus. The Cubs and Cardinals have been going at it since the late 1800s, and is one of the perennial rivalries in the game. The Cardinals have also had frustration with teams like the Reds and Mets and others over the years depending on the success of each franchise. The Royals definitely aren’t at the top of their rivalry list.

But what the Cardinals fans do get ticked off about: the 1985 World Series against the Royals.

The Cardinals were up 3 games to 2 over KC with a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th inning. They were three outs away from a championship when Don Denkinger blew a call at first base. Jorge Orta hit a chopper to first, and pitcher Todd Worrell was covering and clearly beat Orta to the bag. But Denkinger called Orta safe, and the Royals went on to score 2 runs and win the game. Then they went on to crush St. Louis in Game 7 for their first and only World Series trophy.

Royals fans and Cardinals fans will both read that last paragraph and feel vastly different emotions.

Royals fans feel a rush of excitement and may even laugh at the misfortune of the Cardinals. But deep down, if they’re honest about it, their conflicted and a maybe even embarrassed that it took a bad call for them to win their only World Series.

Cardinals fans are immediately enraged and start reminding everyone that they should have 12 championships instead of just 11 – as if that’s a low number or something. But deep down, if they’re honest about it, they know two things about how that Series ended: the Royals still may have rallied in the 9th (they scored 2, after all), and that they still had a chance to win Game 7 and got shellacked. That series is the only real reason the Cardinals dislike the Royals at all. Over one botched call in 1985.

But it’s significant. And it only adds to why my position as a fan can get awkward.

Ninety percent of the time, it’s not an issue. But sometimes my Royals friends get on my case about being a traitor or an impostor or a typical arrogant Cardinals fan. And sometimes my Cardinals friends (especially my dad) will get to griping about 1985, and I don’t know which side to take.

I don’t remember it. I wasn’t rooting for either team. When Denkinger missed the call, I was a fetus. I wasn’t born until March 1986. If I remembered it, I’d probably know how to pick a side and wouldn’t be so split. Those who follow me on Twitter know I spend equal time supporting both teams.

But here’s usually how that goes during the season:

  • March/April/May – Heavy on the Royals talk.
  • June/July/August – Pretty evenly split.
  • September/October – Heavy on the Cardinals talk.

Why? Because every year I hope that this is the year the Royals make the playoffs for the first time since Denkinger’s call. I want it for my hometown team because I’ve never experienced it myself. Plus, rooting for the underdog rubs off on you over the years. It starves you into wanting it more and more.

Maybe this is the year.

I’ve experienced two Cardinals World Series championships in my lifetime*, and the Cardinals make regular trips to the playoffs. As a Cards fan, I never begin the season saying, “maybe this is the year,” because nearly every year is the year for them. Cardinals fans have grown accustomed to success, so Opening Day is a celebration of the previous season – not necessarily the hope for a new season.

* – For the record, if the Cardinals and Royals met in the World Series today, I would root for the Royals because I’ve never seen them win one, but more importantly: the fans deserve it more.

So the cycle begins with lots of Royals talk. High hopes for the season. But by July or August, it starts to look like the Royals might be out of the playoffs again, and the Cardinals are gearing up for another postseason run. Thus, my Twitter activity slowly shifts, and by October, it’s all Cardinals all the time.

I experienced this difference in the home openers this week too.

The Royals home opener was high on energy and hope. The fans want to get over the hump and make it into October. The team is better than its been in 20 years, and they actually have a shot at making the postseason. These are our hometown boys and maybe – just maybe – this is our year. Will Moose show up this year? Will we have a single player hit 20 home runs this year? How will Yordano Ventura be as good as we all hope he is? Was Vargas worth picking up? Can our bullpen match their success last year?* Maybe if we come out on the right side of all these questions, we can make it to October.

* – So far, the answer are: No. No. Yes. Yes. No. But it’s early…

The Cardinals home opener was high on tradition and celebration. The pre-game fanfare includes a procession of all the living Hall of Famers into the stadium along with the World Series and NL Championship trophies down on the field. The players come in on F-150s and are announced individually over the PA like they’re celebrities. Because they are – they’ve proven their worth and the fans celebrate their successes as a team. It’s a presentation of Cardinal baseball over the years. It’s a celebration of what they’ve accomplished in the past with a nod toward more success in the coming year.

In retrospect, the home openers couldn’t have been more different. Other than the fact that the “good guys” won in both cities.

I’m really looking forward to experiencing the perspective other fans across the nation over the course of this season. Next week is the start of The Smorgasbord section of my ballpark tour: ATL, TEX, HOU, ARI and SD starting this Sunday. I’m really excited to experience life in each of these stadiums.

Game Notes:

CWS @ KC

The home opener in Kansas City was cold. In the 40s and completely overcast and windy the whole game. The Royals bats, however, were hot, and they put up 7 runs on 13 hits – 8 of the by the first 3 batters, Aoki/Infante/Hosmer – en route to a 7-5 victory over the White Sox. It was Gordon who did the most damage though, doubling with the bases loaded for 3 RBI.

Since the third game of the Detroit series got rained out, I was hoping the starters would just get pushed back a day and we’d get to see Ace Ventura start for the opener. Instead, they skipped his start and stayed with Guthrie, who pitched alright considering the conditions. He walked 4 batters, which is kinda awful, but Ned Yost left him in too long and he got into some trouble in the 6th causing Kelvin Herrera to inherit some runners who eventually scored. 4 R on 7 H for Guthrie.

The bullpen has not been sharp to start the season. They were incredible last year. I’m missing Hochevar, and I hope Holland, Crow and Collins (although he didn’t pitch in this game) return to form soon. Wade Davis, on the other hand, has been our best bullpen guy so far.

The K was packed – over 40,000 fans – despite the cold weather.

Quick soap box: I wish Kauffman Stadium was downtown instead of being out near nothing, practically in Independence, MO. The Royals don’t draw 40,000 fans nearly ever during the season because it’s such a chore to get out to the game. It’s way easier to just watch the game on TV. So Opening Day is packed, and the rest of our games hover around 14,000.

If the ballpark was downtown, the team would draw so many more fans every game. Every single guy working downtown would get off work and walk over to the game. I work a couple miles south of downtown, and I would love to get off work, drive north, find a side street to park on and walk to the game. It’s so much more work to drive out to I-70/I-435, pay $11 to park, and drive all the way home.

I love the new performing arts center downtown, but I’d much rather it be a ballpark.

Final note: I love beating the White Sox.

CIN @ STL

I wonder how many fans at the home opener had already seen these two teams play each other this year?

Interesting that after today, the Cardinals will have played 9 games, 6 of them against the Reds. The pitching match ups are the same too. The rotations lined up for a rematch between the NLCS MVP Michael Wacha for STL against Tony Cingrani for CIN.

Neither Wacha or Cingrani were extremely sharp, and both teams had a lot of opportunities, but the Cardinals seemed to be the only ones who could cash in. Yadier Molina hit a bases clearing double in the bottom of the 1st to take a 3-0 lead which seemed to set the tone throughout.

Players for both teams finally got their first hit of the season. Reds leadoff speedster, Billy Hamilton, who has been royally disappointing thus far, got his first hit of the season, and so did Peter Bourjos, who the Cardinals acquired from the Angels in the David Freese trade. Nobody likes to have a .000 batting average (see Mike Moustakas’s single in last night’s Rays/Royals game), and it was good to see them both get their first knock.

Brayan Pena went 3-4 with two doubles. Unfortunately for the Reds, all three hits came with the bases empty.

It wasn’t close until late. Cards closer, Trevor Rosenthal, pitched the 9th in a non-save situation and promptly walked the first two batters who came around to score. He eventually settled down and the Cards won 5-3.

Attendence: 47,492. Busch Stadium was packed despite the drizzly weather. It rained hard all morning but turned into a beautiful day by the late innings. Thankfully, I’d picked up tickets on the second level underneath the upper deck. The only thing the rain messed up: the Budweiser Clydesdales didn’t march around the warning track like they’d planned.

The Cardinals also opened up “Ballpark Village” on Monday along with the new Cardinals Hall of Fame. In a style similar to Wrigley Field in Chicago, the new structure across the street from the left field stands had rooftop seats that look into Busch.

The HOF was good, but it was packed like sardines on a rainy home opener. One funny note: it was hilarious to see the sections devoted to the 1950s and 1970s – both very bleak eras of Cardinal history – that only had one little corner dedicated to those years, while years like 1946 or 1964 had entire rooms with memorabilia.

The 40s, 60s, 80s and 00s have been huge decades for the Cardinals. 50s and 70s and 90s…not so much.

Interesting personal note: every time my dad and I go to STL, we always go to Hardees for some reason. This trip was less than 24 hours, and we managed to go twice: for breakfast on the way out, and for dinner on the way home.

Three games down. Twenty-seven to go.

Up next: Atlanta. (For real this time.)

-apc.

Game 1: Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati

Cincinnati was the perfect place to kick off Opening Day. They do it right here in the Queen City, and they’ve been doing it right for a long long time.

I wanted to begin my ballpark tour in Cincinnati because historically it is where the baseball season has always started. In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first all-professional baseball team. Ten salaried players managed to go 57-0 against its competition that season.*

* – Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been surrounded by Cincy natives who hate Kentucky basketball, but it’s hard to shake the obvious comparison of college athletes getting handouts under the table causing a similar imbalance in the NCAA. 

Being first in professional baseball may not have been the sole reason the Reds managed to host the season opener every year, but it definitely aided Cincinnati’s case. Until recently, it was the place to be for Opening Day. The president would even be regularly called upon to throw out the first pitch. But in an era of TV ratings, coastal elitism and dreams of international fan bases (Australia?! Seriously?), it doesn’t get the national audience has in the past.

But that doesn’t mean it lacks the enthusiasm on a local level. Cincinnatians still have Opening Day fever. The city buzzes with life the whole weekend leading up. People skip out on work, businesses take the day off, and Skyline Chili offers free cheese coneys. The 95th annual Findlay’s Market Opening Day Parade travels the streets of downtown, and fans line the streets for miles to wave back at the nearly two hour fanfare.

I even saw one woman who dyed her poodle completely red to celebrate the day. Opening Day is that big of a deal in Cincinnati.

We hit the Hall of Fame first – the Reds’ is one of the best HOF experiences in the MLB – and then walked the parade route for a bit. Hall of Famer Dave Concepcion, Reds shortstop during the 1970s “The Big Red Machine” era, was grand marshall this year, and joined by George Foster and injured Reds pitchers Mat Latos and Aroldis Chapman. Poor Chapman. Really rooting for a quick recovery for him after getting hit in the head with a Salvy Perez line drive a couple weeks ago.

Concepcion also threw out the first pitch alongside another HOF Reds Ss: Barry Larkin. Straight off the ESPN set, he donned a Reds uniform over his blue collared shirt, and the two threw out simultaneous first pitches (although Concepcion jumped the gun a bit and definitely threw first).

Something I learned about Reds baseball: it has a long history of local talent. In fact, in the Hall, there is a whole section dedicated to all the Reds players out of Cincinnati and nearby Indiana and Kentucky. The list is astonishing, really. Here’s a quick sampling…

  • Barry Larkin
  • Pete Rose
  • Ken Griffey, Jr.
  • Joe Nuxhall
  • Dave Parker

…that’s just off the top of my head. The plaque has over 100 names on it.

This connection with the players – the local boys – creates a bond between the fans and the players. They call them by their first names (or at least the friendly lady I was sitting next to did), and they feel a connection with the team in a way high profile, big city teams don’t.

The Reds are their boys, and they represent their city.

This hometown bond makes Reds fans extremely loyal, and their players – especially the local boys – embrace and return this loyalty – Pete Rose flew in from Las Vegas to support his hometown and former team even! There’s a great tradition of guys like Rose who play hard for their home city and it’s fans.

Speaking of Rose, it was awesome to see him on hand at Opening Day. But it had to kill him to watch his former teammates Concepcion, Foster, and Joe Morgan (who was a part of the pre-game fanfare too) be honored for their time in a Reds uniform on field while Rose watched as a paying customer. The Reds and their fans certainly want to honor Pete the same way they honored Dave, George and Joe. And as a Cincy native, he deserves accolades more than any other.

If you don’t know by now, I’ve positioned myself fully in the “Let Pete into the HOF” club. He never bet on his own team (that would be completely against his competitive nature), and if Barry Bonds can be honored on field in Pittsburgh yesterday, then Pete Rose should in Cincinnati.

If all baseball sins are equal, then there should be no difference between the treatment. If all baseball sins aren’t equal, it baffles me that gambling would be less egregious than steroid use.

Pete has been demonized by Major League Baseball and turned into a poster boy for what happens when you bet on baseball. That may have been a necessary message in the 80’s, but now the message has run it’s course.

It’s time to let Pete in. Maybe a new commissioner will make it happen. I sure hope so.

All that to say, Cincinnati loves the Reds. Especially on Opening Day. And not just the organization, but the individual ballplayers themselves. It’s a truly hometown team.

Game Notes:

The game itself was a pitchers duel. Adam Wainwright pitching for the Cardinals and Johnny Cueto for the Reds. Cueto was terrific, but Wainwright was even better:

Cueto: 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 8 K
Waino: 7 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 4 BB, 9 K

Cueto was one mistake away from being the better pitcher actually. He served up a solo HR to Yadier Molina. His other two hits were to Matt Adams who beat the insane shift to the right side with opposite field hits to left. No shift, and Cueto may have tossed a 1 hitter and still taken the loss.

I wonder how much teams will continue to use the dramatic shift on Adams throughout the season. It worked twice, but it burned the Reds twice too. He got a double on a little dribbler just inside the bag. Would’ve been an east play for Todd Frazier at third with Adams running. Instead it was a double. Maybe John Mabry, Cardinals hitting coach, taught Adams to take it to opposite field during the off season.

Waino had the Reds off balance all night. First pitch curves. Freezing batters with 2-strike fastballs. The Reds never knew what was coming next. They looked lost most of to night.

The most lost: Billy Hamilton.

I was really excited to see Hamilton play. I wanted a lead off bunt, two stolen bases and a run on a Brandon Phillips groundout. Never even got close to happening. Wainwright is terrible matchup for Hamilton – tons of off-speed stuff with lots of twelve-six movement making it really tough to bunt on.

If Hamilton is going to be the success the Reds hope he is, he’s going to have to learn to make contact with breaking balls. He needs to work the count. His balance at the plate needs to improve. You absolutely cannot go 0-4 with 4 Ks as lead off hitter. Unacceptable.

The Reds still had plenty of opportunities. Three errors and five walks ought to bite you back at some point, but somehow the Cardinals continued to weasel their way out of jams.

It was a great first game of the season, and I can’t say that I was entirely disappointed with the outcome. It would’ve been fun to celebrate with the home team fans, but the Cardinals fan in me has to smile.

One game down. Twenty-nine to go.

Up next: Atlanta.

-apc.

Cincinnati: Opening Day is in 2 days

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I woke up this morning and flew to Dayton. Rented a “Kia Rio or similar” – which turned out to be a Toyota Yaris – and drove the hour south to Cincinnati this afternoon. My friend Chris and I are here for the weekend getting amped for Opening Day on Monday night. I Thought I’d take a moment to fill you all in on what’s happening in the Queen City…

1. I am the proud owner of the ball cap above.

It took me a long time to find a Reds cap that I liked. I’m not a huge fan of the simple “C” logo (I prefer Mr. Red), but he was a little too obnoxious to have on a hat. If I’m going to root for the home team everywhere I go, I mean, we gotta look legit man.

2. Dayton just lost to Florida.

We ate lunch at the Buffalo Wild Wings just off the Dayton campus this afternoon. The place was bumpin’ with Flyers fans. Mostly college students. There were giant banners hanging from all the fraternities and student houses. Super bummed they couldn’t finish off the Final Four run.

3. It’s cold and sloppy and snowing today.

It’s way too cold for Opening Day today, and I’m really thankful it’s not today.  The moment we landed it was sleeting and gross. It’s currently 33 degrees. It’s miserable. But apparently Cincinnati weather is just like Kansas City because…

4. It’s supposed to be 70 degrees and mostly sunny at game time.

But Opening Day is going to be perfect. Which is a relief. Baseball in March is always a risk*, and I’m so thankful it’s going to be beautiful out for the launch of this Tour.

* – Unless the March games are exhibition games in Montreal, in which case it will be nothing but a smashing success and draw nearly 100,00o fans to Olympic stadium over two days. Brilliant move to bring baseball back to French Canada…even if it’s not in the form of the Expos.

5. Gotta get some Skyline Chili.

If you’re not familiar with Skyline Chili, it is a combination of 5 different ingredients: beef, beans, onions, cheese…and spaghetti noodles. It’s unique to Cincinnati, and it’s pretty dang delicious. It’s not easy to shelve my preconceived understanding of what chili should  be like, and allow it to be something entirely different.

Also, the cheese coney dog was delicious too.

6. Opening Day Itinerary

Monday is going to be an incredible day, and the entire thing will be spent right around Great American Ballpark. Here’s what’s on the schedule for Opening Day (all times Eastern)…

  • 10 AM – Reds Hall of Fame
  • 11 AM – Opening Day Block Party
  • 12 PM – 95th Opening Day Parade
  • 2 PM – Gates Open
  • 4 PM – Dave Concepcion & Barry Larkin Throw First Pitches
  • 4:07 PM – STL (Wainwright) @ CIN (Cueto)

7. Hope.

I don’t want to pick a theme for every game on my itinerary, But this one seems too obvious to overlook. Opening Day is all about hope, and I fully expect this portion of my book to be focused on that theme.

I’ve written about the hope of Opening Day before. In that post, I touched on Pete Rose somewhat, and I think the stars are beginning to align for him to be reinstated. Between Bug Selig’s retirement, the Steroid Era players lining up for the HOF, and Barry Bonds’s gig as a hitting instructor at the Giants’ Spring Training, it sure seems like Rose’s reasons to hope are increasing.

That’s just one way I see the theme playing out. Obviously Opening Day is all about hope in general – new beginnings, level playing field, springtime, etc. – but I’ll be searching for more connections this weekend. Feel free to let me know where you see this theme playing out too.

That’s the landscape here in Cincinnati. So amped for this season to begin, and I can’t wait to begin sharing this experience with all of you. Thanks to all who helped me get here. It’s going to be a crazy summer!

-apc.

Fenway, Wrigley…then where?

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If you could travel to three MLB ballparks that you’ve never been to before, which would you go to and why? 

Make a mental note of your top three. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Okay now I’m going to see if I can predict your answers.

This is the question I’ve been asking my friends a lot lately, and I’ve noticed a theme as the question continues to get asked. They don’t always say the same three stadiums, but the consistent theme goes something like this:

  1. Either Fenway Park or Wrigley Field.
  2. Usually the other one: Fenway or Wrigley. But potentially Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Dodger Stadium or AT&T Park.
  3. Always a mysterious wild card.

It’s almost comical how consistent the answers have been. Obviously, everyone wants to hit the historic venues, but they also consistently include a curveball based on mostly curiosity and very little knowledge of the stadium. There’s no real reason for the interest, they’re just intrigued. It’s mysterious to them, but they feel pulled for some reason.

So how am I doing so far?

Were two of your three choices in the first two points?

The most common response I get for the third one: Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners.

There’s something intriguing about the Mariners for a lot of fans. Seattle isn’t anywhere close to any other MLB team – the nearest are Oakland and San Francisco, 800 miles away – and I think people just mostly forget about it. TV networks are way more likely to show a Dodgers or Giants or Angels game than a Mariners game, and even if they’re on late, nobody on the east coast is going to stay up until 1 or 2AM to watch.

I wonder if Felix Hernandez gets less coverage than he deserves because he’s on the Mariners. I wonder what will happen now that Robinson Cano is there.

Seattle is actually closer to Tokyo than it is to Miami.

Okay. No it’s not. But raise your hand if you kinda believed it at first. I actually had to go look it up myself – Tokyo is 4800 miles away and Miami is only 3300 miles – but the point is that I wasn’t even sure. It feels like a different country to some of us.

Who picked Seattle? Anybody?

Let’s keep going.

Another one I get a lot: PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Now this one has an obvious explanation: the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

Every time there’s a Game Break on whatever Fox Sports affiliate you watch, there are only a few stadiums that truly stand out immediately. PNC Park is one of them. Every highlight has that giant yellow bridge in the background, and it sets it apart from the rest of them.

Besides, deep down, I think we all like the Pirates because we all sorta feel sorry for them. Until last year, they’ve been so bad for so long that it’s difficult to have any negative feelings about them anymore.

Ok, be honest, how am I doing? Was that it? PNC?

Imma regular David Copperfield, amiright?

The third answer I get a lot: Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.

The reasoning behind this one is similar to PNC Park, I think: it’s immediately recognizable on TV because of the train track that runs across the left field exterior wall and that goofy little hill in center field.

It’s intriguing. Not that anyone wants to see the Astros play anymore – the team lost 111 games last year – but there’s something about it that speaks to us.

Welp. How’d I do? Did I get all three?

Okay, I’m sure there are tons of you who picked Citizens Bank Park in Philly or Busch Stadium in St. Louis or Kauffman Stadium in KC or the freshly named Globe Life Park in Arlington. There’s no wrong answer here.*

* – Except Oakland or Miami. Those could be considered wrong answers, actually.

What I’m getting at is this: the primary destinations of interest are compelling for cognitive reasons. By that I mean, we know we want to go there because we have knowledge of the histories involved. We know that Fenway and Wrigley are the oldest, so we know they need to be at the top of our list. We know that the Yankees, Dodgers, Orioles and Giants have history and traditions that we ought to experience.

But then something in us wants to solve a mystery or quench our curiosity. Our imagination somehow kicks in by the third answer and completes the list with a quirky third option. It leaves open the possibility for adventure or a solved riddle. We’ve seen something that caught our interest on TV and we want to investigate.

So maybe the question to ask is not whether I was able to correctly guess your top three ballparks you want to visit. Maybe what I’m attempting to solve is how you constructed your top three. I’m guessing I at least got that part right.

All that to say, what three would you pick? Which three ballparks are you most interested in visiting?

-apc.

Ballpark Tour 2014: Personal Hermeneutics

busch wrigley kThis is the third post related to my new project: visiting all 30 MLB ballparks this season and writing a book about the experience in the context of spirituality. Click these links to read the first two posts: announcing the project and how i created my itinerary. If you haven’t already, go pre-pre-order my book and help fund this project. Thanks errrbody!

I was sitting with a few of my friends in the cheapest seats available at Kauffman Stadium. Way up in the 400 sections. It was a gorgeous Thursday afternoon game. It was one of those games where you step outside in the morning and immediately start calling the people you have afternoon meetings with asking to reschedule because “something came up.”

The Twins were in town, and the fan split was pretty much even. Half KC. Half Minn. It’s crazy: Twins fans always seemed to have a strong contingency at Royals games before they moved to Target Field in 2010. They must’ve been itching for some fresh air outside the Metrodome. I don’t know if their traveling has dropped off since they made the switch, but I’m pretty sure this game was 2008 or 2009.

Despite the near-50/50 split, we were in a crowd of mostly Royals fans with the exception of a dad and his son a few rows down from us. The kid was probably 8 years old. He was eating Cracker Jack* and wearing a Joe Mauer #7 jersey. The dad was wearing Kirby Puckett’s #34.

* – “Cracker Jack” is plural, by the way. File that under “Things I Learned from Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

A Twins player was batting with two outs – I honestly don’t remember who it was, but lets say it was Delmon Young – and he struck out looking on a knee-buckling curve. Half of the crowd erupted in cheers. I was right with them and shouted out, “Sit down Delmon! Try taking the bat off your shoulder next time!”

The kid down in front of me – the Twins fan – turns around, and squints up in my direction looking simultaneously perplexed and furious.

The Royals come to bat. The first hitter up, Joey Gathright, singles and the Royals chatter raises up a notch. I clap my hands a few times and holler something down to the runner on first base. The whole section is into it. The next batter doubles, and Gathright – who is insanely fast – scores easily from first base. We go bananas.

I pause from my cheering when I notice the kid in the Mauer jersey turned around again. This time he’s giving me a serious death stare. I make eye contact with him and he gasps, panics and abruptly turns back around as if I was the South Bend Shovel Slayer. Then he taps his dad on the shoulder and gestures back toward our group. His dad laughs, shakes his head a bit and pats him on the shoulder.

The kid takes another quick glance back at me then turns his attention back to the game.

I nudge my buddies and clue them in to the kid’s antics. We start experimenting with our shouts starting with the general, “Here we go, Royals!” to more specific comments directed at the Twins players with funny names like “Nick Punto” and “Boof Bonser”. We space the comments out every few minutes so that the Puckett/Mauer Family doesn’t get wise and figure out what we’re doing.

And the kid turns around every single time.

And every time he wields the same puzzled stare.

And then it hits me: he doesn’t understand why I’m not rooting for the Twins too.

I imagine this kid’s whole life has been Twins baseball, and I wonder if he’s ever encountered fans of another team. He’s probably angry that we are cheering against his team, and it probably doesn’t really make sense why anyone would do something so ridiculous. He’s probably wondering why would anyone do something silly like that? The Twins are the best, after all. He’s been raised a Twins fan, and that’s all he knows. I wonder if he’s discovering for the first time that there are other ways of cheering besides his own.

And you know what, we’re all like Kid Mauer.

It might not be the Twins, and we’ve probably (hopefully) encountered alternative perspectives by now, but depending on our family of origin and where we grew up, we have learned certain ways of thinking, certain values and beliefs. From the moment we enter the world we begin a sequence of sampling, testing and drawing conclusions on the world around us. The team we root for is rarely a conscious decision on our own part. Most of us have been groomed in our ways by our family history and our geographical location.

For example, I was raised a Cardinals fan in Kansas City.

My great-grandfather was a Cardinals fan living in the bootheel of Missouri. He raise my grandpa to cheer for Stan Musial, Red Schoendiest and Dizzy Dean. Then Grandpa raised my dad in the years of Lou Brock and Bob Gibson. And sure enough, I was raised in the days of Willie McGee, Jack Clark and, one of my top two all-time favorites, Ozzie Smith*.

* – Alongside Bo Jackson, if you MUST know…more on that very soon.

Cardinals baseball was life for me in the 80s and 90s. It was all I knew. And as such, there is a list of qualities I bring to the game of baseball when I’m rooting for the Cardinals. For example, Cardinals fans are expected to…

  • hate/make fun of the Cubs
  • label myself as one of the “Best Fans in Baseball”
  • hate the Reds too
  • whine about Dan Denkinger the 1985 World Series
  • brag about the 11 World Series championships
  • root for and defend their allegiance no matter what

I have adopted all of these during my life at some point. These don’t make me a better person or a worse person, they’re simply undercurrents of being a Cardinals fan. Probably overgeneralized, sure. And I’m sure you have more scathing things to add to this list of you’re a STL hater, and I’m sure you’re offended by it if you’re an STL lover.

But then I grew up in Kansas City. And with every passing day, I become a bigger KC Royals fan. I don’t know the history of the Royals like I do the Cardinals, but over time I’ve grown to love this team. Through all it’s futility over the last 20 years, I have come out rooting harder than ever. In fact, I’m often asked, “If there’s a 1985 rematch – STL vs. KC – who would you root for?” And today, my answer is easy: I’d be for my hometown team. Mostly because I’ve seen the Cardinals play in the World Series a few times now and win a couple. But also because the Royals fan in me wants it more.

But my Royals fandom has established a totally different outlook on the game and how I approach it. Pretty much all Royals fans…

  • complain about teams with larger payrolls
  • loathe the Yankees and everything they stand for
  • begin every new season with unfounded hope
  • brace for imminent disappointment
  • expect a different manager every few seasons
  • hate the St. Louis Cardinals
  • root for and defend their allegiance no matter what

Obviously, I have never hated the Cardinals because of how I was raised, but the rest of these are accurate. I gripe all the time about the unfairness of our small market in Kansas City. What if the Royals could sign elite players to $100M contracts over 6 years? The Yankees do it with little hesitation. It drives us all nuts. It’s an unfair game! Unlike the Cards, there aren’t many “Royals haters” out there, so it should be easy to look at this list, shrug and agree these all make some sense.

All of that is to say – I have a certain set of values, memories, allegiances and enemies based on where I was raised and by whom. And now, when I walk into a stadium, I bring my own personal hermeneutic with me.

Personal Herme-whaaaaaaat?

When we read any text – billboards, headlines, Scripture, novels – we bring with us our own memories, emotions, histories and traditions. We each have our own point of view. When Yankees, Royals, Orioles and Cubs fans read the headline, “Masahiro Tanaka to Yanks for $155M,” they each have a different reaction. Something like…

  • Yankees: “Aw yeah! We got him! Welcome to the Bronx, Tanaka! Let’s bring home championship #28!”
  • Royals: “Zero surprise. Typical Yankee payroll nonsense. Grrrr.”
  • Orioles: “Oh great. Now we have to face that guy 5 times this year. So long AL East division race.”
  • Cubs: “Dang. I really thought we were going to bid enough to sign that guy. Not that it would matter.”

Picture it like a pair of sunglasses. I see the world a certain way because I’m Caucasian, in my 20s, American, Christian, married, from the Midwest, attended the public school system in an upper-middle class setting – you get it. I also bring psychosocial dynamics from my family of origin, both positive and negative. I bring years of relationships, conversations, histories and memories. Joy and sorrow. Celebrations and tragedies. It’s not necessarily good, bad, ugly or beautiful. It just is.

Our personal hermeneutic informs how we naturally interpret everything based on life’s experiences.

If we each have our own personal hermeneutic, when we have a shared experience, our reaction to that experience is naturally going to differ from person to person.

Hence, why I got fired up when Gathright scored, and why Kid Mauer wanted to throw his Jack in my face. Only I was self-aware enough to realize the dynamics happening between us as rival fans. The kid was not. He was experiencing a clash of personal hermeneutics, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it.

I think self-awareness is so underrated in today’s world. Amid the informational noise of social media, technology, television and entertainment, I think we’ve become distracted from actually discovering who we are and what has impacted our identity, and our personal hermeneutic. We also forget to consider how our perspective and our reactions, rub up against the perspectives of those around us.

Throughout this project, I want my experiences in each ballpark to be as authentic as possible. I want to understand and experience these games based on the personal hermeneutic of those around me.

Buck O’Neil, the former Negro Leagues star and later scout and coach for the Cubs and Royals, used to always root for the home team. No matter the team, he was there to support the fans that came out to cheer for their team that day.  Nobody likes to celebrate while everyone else is glum. You go to cheer for the home team; at least, that was his motto.

In his book, The Soul of Baseball, Joe Posnanski tells a story of Buck leaving a game in Houston disappointed because the Cubs had beat them. “Buck should have been happy with the result, since he had worked with the Cubs organization for more than thirty years. But we were in Houston, and Buck always wanted the home team to win. He never did like seeing the home fans sad.”

One of my disciplines as I enter into this crazy ballpark tour, is to adopt Buck’s mindset. I will try my best to remove my personal hermeneutic and approach the game from the perspective of the individuals I’m sitting among at each venue. In other words, I’m rooting for the home team.

I want to be self-aware enough to understand what it is that I am bringing into each of these games and leave it at the door. I want to enter the gates expecting to experience community and friendship and camaraderie in new environments and without the baggage I bring along. I want to ditch my Kansas City/Cardinals sunglasses and put on a different pair at every game.

It will also give me a better gauge of what it is truly like to be a fan of these teams. Will I step into Fenway Park and allow the history and legend to permeate my soul? Can I enter Yankee Stadium without wrecking the experience with my pre-conceived judgements of Royals fandom?

But…will I root against my own teams?

If you saw my itinerary in my last post, you’ll notice two major emotional conflicts for me in the first and last games on the list. March 31: STL @ CIN and September 24: KC @ CLE. Somehow, someway, I’m going to have to ignore the tension I already feel, and enter Opening Day as a Reds fan. I can do that for one game, right? There are 162, and one game isn’t going to make a difference, right?! It’s a tall order, but I’m going to try my best. By far the more difficult task will be the Cleveland game. I just hope* the Royals have locked up a playoff spot by late September. Otherwise this may be a struggle.

* – there I go with my excessive Royals hopes again.

So as you follow me along the journey, and you see an Instagram update from U.S. Cellular Field, and it says “Go Sox!*,” please, refrain from blasting me with hateful texts and murderous tweets. Don’t look at me like Kid Mauer did on that beautiful Thursday at The K. Try to understand there’s a larger purpose behind it all. And if I have to shelf my fandom for a day to more securely put myself in another’s shoes, so be it.

* – Even as I typed this, I struggled to write the entire name of my least favorite team in the entire MLB. I panicked and just said “Sox”. Help me, Lord, to overcome.

I hope you understand. And I hope I can be remotely successful.

-apc.

Past posts on my project…
APC is Writing a Book
The Itinerary
Kickstarter Campaign