MINOR LEAGUE MEMORIES
From the time the plans for Rosenblatt's demolition became official in mid-2008, I tried to get Michael to as many games as I could. Which wasn't many, so I could only hope for quality over quantity, in terms of memorable experiences. At the largest stadium in Minor League Baseball, he got to run around the bases a few times...
...got into the Stadium View Club a few times, met the mascots repeatedly, and generally grew familiar with Omaha's "Diamond on the Hill."
But 2010 came quickly, marking the Final Season of Rosenblatt Stadium. I felt an air of pending doom. With a growing sense of urgency, I bought Michael some appropriate apparel in time for our first afternoon game in May.
We went to another game in June. By that time, the weather had become oppressively hot and humid. Michael saw the famous Budweiser Clydesdales out front...
...and after a couple of innings, we cooled off over lunch in the Club. Michael's spaghetti Kid's Plate was enough to fill us both up...
...but after the game, he was the only one allowed to run it off.
Endless cycles of heat and rain caused us to miss a few chances to go throughout July, but we certainly couldn't miss Star Wars Night on August 5th! Besides, it was my Credit Union's Fan Appreciation Night, so we got reserved seats for five bucks. Five bucks gets you really bad reserved seats. But who cares — it was Star Wars Night!
At the time, my little Michael Skystalker actually watched Star Wars: The Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network, so he was able to inform me that these guys he met in the concourse were Clone Captain Rex and Clone Commander Cody. I'll just go with that— I haven't been able to keep characters straight since Wilford Brimley's Ewok Christmas.
There was a Stormtrooper what wandered past our crummy Reserved seats way out in right field.
After the game started, Michael made me take him to the Fun Zone, so I missed the third inning, where the Royals gave up ten runs to the Portland Beavers. That was Omaha's worst inning in over a decade. Setting records, and I missed it 'cuzza my kid. Meanwhile, near the Fun Zone, Michael found another Stormtrooper standing around with an R2 unit. And on our way back in to check on the game an hour later, Michael was reunited with Obi-Kurt Kenobi.
Obi-Kurt is what we call Kurt Goetzinger. We chatted briefly, since we've met Kurt a couple of times before and got his card. These Star Wars guys are the Central Garrison of the 501st Legion, and they do appearances at various things around the area. All in all, it was a good time, even though we missed Darth Vader, and never found the Yoda puppet that was allegedly hidden somewhere in the stadium.
It took a while, but the O-Royals finished losing 13 to 6, after which Michael saw his second Rosenblatt fireworks show.
Before we knew it, the last week of the season was upon us. We made it to three games out of the last five, including the final "day" game. By this time, Michael had bonded with Casey.
The Royals won, and in the late afternoon Sunday sun, Michael was allowed on the field to run around the bases one last time.
We didn't go the following night, so we missed Mike Moustakas' big game. It was August 30th, and although he'd been promoted from double-A a month and a half earlier, Moustakas was named the 2010 Texas League Player of the Year. To celebrate, during the Omaha game that night, he hit three home runs and scored 11 RBI. This helped him win the Joe Bauman Home Run Award for most home runs in minor league baseball.
Three nights later, I took my son to the Next-to-Last Game Ever. The next night's big Final Game had really been hyped, and I knew such a Big Event was going to be a circus. So I was kind of sad, because I felt that this was the last real game.
Michael said he liked the girls. Grinning, I said I did, too. (After all, they taught him how to make Y-M-C-A with his arms.)
In the late innings, a light, misty rain began to fall, which worried some people enough for them to seek shelter. But it was just a mist with a few spatters, and the warm summer breeze was enough to keep us dry. Meanwhile, Mike Moustakas hit his seventh home run in seven games, backed up by another homer from Scott Thorman.
And the Royals won again. It was late, and it was a school night, and Michael was kind of zoning out, so it was obviously time to leave.
Therefore, we instead stayed and watched the ground crew tarp the field. For me, it was an indescribable feeling. Thinking of all the good times I've had at Rosenblatt over the past thirty years, feeling like I owned the place and was only sharing it, the sense of having a stadium all to myself, getting my son to feel at home there...
I tried to figure out why I was so melancholy. Shea Stadium, home of the "Miracle Mets" and the Beatles' Invasion, was only as old as I am. Although it packed a lot of history into that short span, it was recently torn down. Within a year, venerable Yankee Stadium, "The House that Ruth Built" in 1923, was demolished. All across the land, from the Seattle Kingdome to the L. A. Coliseum to the Miami Orange Bowl, every couple of years a stadium gets replaced.
Fans decry the loss of history and tradition. Lovers of Rosenblatt list all the baseball greats that have played on its field. I think of something that strikes me as more poignant: over sixty years, hundreds of excited college Seniors made it to the College World Series. In striving for that National Championship, Rosenblatt was the penultimate achievement— playing at Rosenblatt was the goal. Cool enough...
But, whether they won or lost... for most of them, Rosenblatt Stadium was the last place they would ever play.
There are various types of personal loss. And after one, you can get another pet. Or you can make a new friend. You can even remarry. Any of those relationships may become great, but they are additions to— not replacements for— what you once had. Things can be replaced. It's the intangible that can't.
So it wasn't so much the steel and concrete of the aging structure being torn down that saddened me. It was a fear of losing the way I felt there. My personal affection for the place was different from that of the CWS baseball fans. I didn't take my son as many times as I could in order for him to watch baseball games, to root for the team, to teach him the Infield Fly rule and stuff— rather, I wanted him to share the feeling I got from relaxing in that park. To me, there was a peace. Unlike the College World Series games, at an O-Royals game, there was no being crammed in elbow-to-elbow, no pressure. No tension. Nothing bad could get me. It was contentment.
I just liked being there. Seemed to me that if you had angry customers, a demanding boss, a pending divorce... you could turn your cell phone off and go there. Time and space were separate from the outside world.
It was a place where I felt safe, and comfortable. I was happy.
That's what I was going to miss.