Lakewood Blueclaws and Unbearable Heat

HOT HOT HOT HOT HOT melting molten crotch-chafing HOT

That’s what the day was like. And we were off to Lakewood, NJ where the Phillies single-A team, the BlueClaws, play ball. We’d set up more interviews for Jack’s writing project.

We arrived at 4:30 and met with Greg Giombarese, the broadcaster and media guy for the team. He led us down to the hall outside the locker room, and then brought out 2 pitchers for Jack to interview.

Both the guys were terrific. They fist-bumped Alex and shook Jack’s hand. Maybe because it’s single-A ball that the players are young and enthusiastic – don’t know. But man, were these guys both nice to my boys. Kevin Walter and Geoff Broussard were their names and I wish both of them great success.

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We then interviewed Greg, our host. When we were done, he went up to the office and get us free tickets to the game. The boys both ducked into the stadium store because it was air-conditioned.

The stadium itself was really nice. Every seat is a good one and I let the boys wander around. Wherever they were I could always see them from my seat. The stadium is right near the Jersey Shore so there were seagulls in the air and dragonflies flitting around the seats. The outfield is ringed by a grassy hill where people can sit on blankets – there are even giant lifeguard chairs out there that you can sit in and watch the game from up high.

But dear Lord was it ever hot. Hot and humid beyond belief. We asked an usher about autographs:

“From about 6:00 to 6:45 is the best time. Lemme see your tickets…you’re in section 105 – sun should be off you by about the 6th inning.”

As he spoke it occurred to me that the game didn’t start for another hour and a half and then we had a 3-hour game to sit through. This was more than a baseball game; it was a battle for survival against the heat.

Jack took his bat and headed right into a crowd of kids trying to get autographs. He’s normally a somewhat timid kid, but he got right in there and wriggled himself a spot up front. He’s really gotten good at getting autographs. He’s not afraid to call out to players and ask them to sign. In the next half hour, Jack got himself a solid 20 signatures. It was actually funny. For the rest of the game every Blueclaw batter that came to the plate, Jack would say: “I got him.”

Jack got the bat in 2009 when a player gave it to him after a game (Carlo Testa of the Arkansas Naturals). It was amazing. Over time he’s collected at least 30 autographs on the thing. But what’s funny is that he hasn’t recorded any names of who signed. It could have been Alex’s 1st grade class signing the bat and no one would be the wiser, but Jack loves the thing.

It was “Kids Eat Free” day, so the boys each got their soda, hot dog, and chips. I got a titanic beer for $9 and a bag of peanuts. I chugged half the beer in one gulp to quench my thirst. As the game started, I opened the bag of peanuts and offered them to the people behind me. We settled into the game as best we could, all three of us squirming in the heat.

The game had a great vibe to it. The crowd was friendly and making fun comments to one another. The players were doing all the little things right. They ran like hell for first base even when it was a sure out, they warmed up in the batters box with intensity and focus, the infielders fired the ball around the infield between innings.

Jack didn’t sit with us at all. He was like a 10th fielder and he would position himself in the rows of the stadium wherever he thought a foul ball was most likely to go. The boy’s gotten damn good at knowing where to be too.

In the second inning a ball came into the stands just a few rows behind him and some old guy managed to grab it. But two minutes later Jack came rushing to me, holding up a ball.

“How’d you get that?”

“On TV if a grown-up gets a ball and doesn’t hand it to a kid people boo. If he hands it to a kid people clap.”

Brilliant. Jack had stared down the old guy until the man had no choice but to hand over the ball.

In the 3rd inning Alex announced: “I’m just going to go see how much lemonade is,” and rushed off. Minutes later he returned with ice cubes in each fist which he rubbed over his neck and inside his elbows.

After lemonade in the 4the, we got water ice in the 6th. They were $5.75 each and in cups as big as ice-tea glasses, but it kept the boys busy for 2 innings. Jack ate one-handed (his glove was on his other hand) in a seat right near the home dugout where he could beg the batboy to toss him foul balls.

Alex and I sat together and he chattered away. I love that kid. He’s so funny and thoughtful. He told me his theories about lemonade and ice cream in his stilted rhythm:

“I like lemonade [breath] because at first it tastes sweet [breath] and then at the end [breath] it tastes sour.”

“With ice cream, [breath] I like the strange flavors at first [breath], but by the end [breath] I don’t think they taste as good.”

The sun finally went down and the sky turned orange. Alex took the camera, leaned back, and took a good 25 shots straight up at the sky.

And I hate to admit it, but I started to find myself thinking: “I’m a little sick of baseball right now.” Hard to admit, but it’s true.

I’ve been to 8 games already this season and we’re only at the halfway point. I’ve sat through 25 little league games as well. That’s way more than I’ve ever done. Plus the scoreboard didn’t work so I couldn’t keep score. And above all, I was melting in the heat.

We’ve got the Wilmington Blue Rocks on the 26th – interviews are all set up and then we’re done with our tour. And I’m eager to be at that finish line. I’m also eager to dig in with Jack and help him write his article; I think it’s going to be terrific.

OK…two things before I finish up.

1)    Over the course of the game, here are all the words I wrote down to describe the heat:

  • Neck-rashing
  • Cotton-candy-crumbling
  • Ice-begging
  • Sink-shower-inducing
  • Collar-soaking
  • Water-ice-liquifying
  • Hat-darkening
  • Sock-cursing

2)    Here are a few selects out of the 330 photos Alex took.

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“His head is peeking over Jack’s head.”

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“He’s thinking about Jack’s question.”

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“Jack’s back.”

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“The mascot’s nose is like a baseball. Kind of.”

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“I like how he’s swinging the bat here.”

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“The sky.”

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“Sky.”

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“The sky.”

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“Sky. I took one every inning.”

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3 thoughts on “Lakewood Blueclaws and Unbearable Heat

  1. First: your headline is amazing. Second: I started to sweat just reading this post- loved your descriptions of the heat. Third: you continue to be the example of an awesome, all-in, loving dad creating life long memories for your sons. Keep going!

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