The morning worked like this:
- Wake up with a lot of snuggling.
- Head down to for breakfast where the boys go batty with the orange juice dispenser and the Fruit Loop dispenser.
- Back up and bounce on the beds while I yell at them to stay quiet.
It’s about 8:45 after all this; Jack wanted to play catch in a field we could see from our hotel window. We got the gloves from the car and Alex brought his book. But it turned out the field was full of rocks, so we ended up in the parking lot of a diner. Jack and I threw the ball while Alex sat and read. (I had a folding chair in the trunk – in fact, my trunk is a model of suburban dad readiness. I’ve got folding chairs, blankets, baseball stuff, a football, bug spray, sun tan lotion, you name it, I’m ready to party.)
Jack is a mystery as an athlete to me. He’s 9 and small for his age. And I’m an average athlete at best. But I watch Jack gobble up tough grounders and then fire the ball back to me where half the time I literally don’t have to even move the glove. Sports is status in the 4th grade, and in my town the parents throw gas on that fire, but Jack genuinely loves baseball.
The catch we had was really special. And unexpected. These boys always teach me that when I just go with it I’m rewarded with great things. A catch in a parking lot while Alex read Geronimo Stilton was nothing I planned for, but man oh man was it cool.
At 9:45 we headed for the game. I got lost (expected) and by 10:30 we found a parking lot that was right near the entrance to 376. (Escape is key for ball game parking.) We walked to the stadium and bought our tickets, then to kill time grabbed some food in a sports bar. There we ordered pot roast nachos, which were so good I was going to other tables and trying to talk people into ordering them. We gobbled these up and I washed them down with a local beer that was hoppy hoppy hoppy.
At noon they opened the gates to the empty park. The Reds were taking batting practice and pitchers were playing toss. We worked our way to the Pirates dugout where we started to grab the autographs of players going by. First was a guy no one knew, then Melancon, Wilson, and finally their closer Grilli, who was so damn nice. There was a crowd of over 100 at this point and the boys stayed put at the front rail. Jack had a McCutchen jersey on and wanted him to sign.
Then about 30 minutes before first pitch a lady brings a bunch of kids out on the field and sat them along the railing. An old black guy was the usher for this section and he started throwing people out who weren’t seated there. So I asked him if we should leave because my kids were hoping for a McCutchen signature. He says, “you just keep them right there. It’s kids take the field day. You stand back, but keep them right there.”
I’ve seen kids take the field. They come onto the field with the players. They stand with them during the anthem. And now I’m thinking…holy shit, this usher is getting my kids on the field.
I texted Shani: “Magic about to happen.”