MINOR LEAGUE MEMORIES
The Omaha Storm Chasers held their 3rd Annual family Fun Fest at Werner Park one April Wednesday, from 10:30 'til 2. I'm not sure how they could claim it's the third annual one when neither the Storm Chasers nor Werner Park was even a year old... but whatever. They were having an Event. Right smack in the middle of a school day.
I usually got Michael's clothes out for him in the morning, so for no apparent reason, today I selected his Final Game at Rosenblatt shirt. He didn't seem to notice, even when I hinted to him that today would be special somehow. He asked if I was going to come to school and have lunch with him. I said, "Something like that." He warned me that the school lunch for today was something "icky", so I should probably bring my own.
A little after 11, I showed up at his school and had him pulled out of class. It was the first sunny springlike day we'd had in a while, so he was kind of surprised when, without putting on coats or anything, I led him out to the car. He was confused; he said I was almost an hour early for lunch. And he'd told me to bring a lunch, not take him out to lunch... "but that's okay," he hurriedly added. He mused that other kids sometimes got to leave school in the middle of the day, but he didn't think he ever did.
I had his autograph baseball in the cupholder of the car, which surprised him, and he started playing with it as we pulled out onto the highway for the 2-mile drive to the ballpark. He looked around, reading signs, trying to guess where we were going for lunch. "Are we going to McDonald's?" he asked. His mother and I have only allowed him to try McDonald's laboratory-created ingestible product about 4 or 5 times in his entire life. "Nope," I said, "We're not eating there."
"Pizza Hut?" he asked, reading more signs.
"No-o-o, we're on the wrong side of the road to get over there."
He paused, looking for another sign. "Jensen Tire and Auto?"
"No..." I tried to give him a clue. "There are plenty of clues to answer this mystery, all around you—" I looked at his shirt. "—on you..." He didn't get it, but presently we were nearing the entrance to this ballpark I've talked about occasionally. "Hey, Werner Park," he mentioned. "Where?" I said. "Right there," he said, pointing. I took the deceleration lane, "Right here?" I asked. "Dad, what are you doing?" he said.
"Going to Werner Park like you said," I answered, then mused to myself, "I just hope there are people there..." There was no traffic on the access road leading to the stadium, and just a few construction vehicles working on the intersection.
"There's nobody here except worker people," he said worriedly. "Nobody's allowed here unless you're worker people."
But as we approached, he saw the parking lots were somewhat full of cars, and a number of regular folks (and kids) were heading toward the main gate. Finally, he ventured, "Is there a game today?"
"No," I answered, as if he were daft. "I'm taking you to lunch."
Walking through the turnstiles, we each got a little ticket for a free Pepsico drink and bag of popcorn. But I knew that there were also 2-dollar ballpark foodstuffs to be had...
Inside the gate, Stormy the mascot was silently greeting people. I'm sure Stormy is a sweet mascot... but I have never grown fond of it, either in principle or general appearance. I don't know what IT is, except weird and morbidly obese. Maybe it's green from eating too much McDonald's. It reminds me of Walmart.
We got a free Sierra Mist / popcorn combo, and I led Michael to stand in a small queue, as I had determined that we had business to conduct. It was a business lunch.
The Royals Storm Chasers were offering Player Autographs. So I had Michael take his autograph ball and souvenir Rosenblatt pen to get some.
Michael now had twelve illegible scribbles on what I dubbed his Ball of Scrawls. Which made it look really important! I didn't know at the time that I was feeding what would eventually become an addiction to Autographs and Photographs. I also didn't know that you should never write on baseballs with a ballpoint pen. I soon learned. (Luckily, Hosmer and Moustakas used their own Sharpies.)
Then Michael was happy to see his furry friend Casey, even though our favorite blue lion was dressed— wrong. He was wearing a new alternative black-and-gold color scheme, which I found kind of weird, and the "O-bolt" seemed to have been lifted from the Flash Gordon movie.
We found the Centris Family Fun Zone... since Michael and I are each Centris Credit Union members, during the season we got free access to:
- Six different inflatable bounce houses, obstacle courses, speed pitches and competition strike out games.
- A Rainbow Play systems jungle gym
- A 24-foot carousel from Universal Studios in Orlando, FL
After Michael ran around the Fun Zone for a while, exploring all the Things, we got two Dogs and another Sierra Mist. Werner Park wouldn't have Quarter Pound All Beef Royal Dogs. They had regular weenie dogs, and between us we'd had four of them so far, and each one was cold. During the Open House on January 22, when there was snow on the field and it was a hundred below, that might be understandable. But today, there was no excuse for getting cold dogs on cold buns.
Anyway, we ate our uncooked Trichinosis Dogs in the seats we had reserved for the First Game Ever, in order to check out the view. I should have shot a panorama, but I forgot. At least I'd bought seats behind the third-base dugout, so I wouldn't feel quite so alienated.
I thought the lack of a dome across the way would make me weep bitter tears of angry melancholy. Michael didn't care. My snarkiness at the soulless money-grubbing marketing ploy that is the Storm Chasers seemed to not affect him. He was all "excited" and stuff. I grudgingly let him be.
We finished our lunch and took a walk around the perimeter...
...And finished up in the Fun Zone again. Michael liked the Universal Studios carousel, even though its rotation seemed pretty slow. He was networking on this business lunch.
Finally, we took off and headed back to school. But we had taken so long that there was only an hour of school left, so as I pulled into the parking lot, I said, "Do you want to just go home instead?" He said yeah, so we did. He thought he should call the school, though, and let them know. After being home a few minutes, I heard him on the phone: "Hi... this is Michael Berry... Um, I'm not coming back. Yeah. We just left Werner Park and came home—"
I cried, "Michael! You don't have to tell them EVERYthing!" Now they'd think I don't take his edduca edukay schooling seriously. (But I do. I think it can be very harmful.)
Anyway... he decided to call that day the Best School Lunch Ever.