MINOR LEAGUE MEMORIES
Michael and I began experiencing coolnesses for 2012 (literally) on a chilly spring morning when we met some new players. For 2012, Michael had a brand new Ball of Scrawls for them to sign.
Bookending Michael are Jamie Romak (on the left) and Anthony Seratelli (in the middle), both freshly promoted from the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
Jamie Romak would eventually throw a bunch of baseballs to Michael and get put on the 7-day Disabled List. Unrelated events... I think. But just after that, he got traded to the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He would soon come back to Omaha— as a member of our arch-rival Memphis Redbirds.
Anthony Seratelli is originally from Joisey. He lost his father in a freak traffic accident in early 2011, and now he and his mom live in California. It turns out he makes amusing video productions in his off time. He's a journeyman; over the course of the season he'd play five different positions, and be the team batting average and home run leader for a while.
On the right, leaning in, is Fan Favorite Irving Falu. Again.
Michael, Jennifer, and I observed the Storm Chasers' Opening Day on Saturday, April 7. The Chasers' first game of the year was actually on Thursday. But even though Omaha's Opening Days are traditionally cold and rainy, the weather forecast for Thursday was exceptionally bad. Besides, Michael had a martial arts class and a piano lesson that night along with school the next day. More importantly, Saturday was Replica Championship Ring Paperweight giveaway day. So we decided to observe Opening Day on Saturday. Luckily, it was still frightfully cold— wouldn't want to defy tradition.
The first thing Michael wanted to do (of course) was go to the Free Because We're Awesome Fun Zone. After a while, I got slightly bummed 'cause Jennifer began messin' with my Plan. Before the game started, she and I ended up lugging around three of those giveaway paperweights, so we decided to take our stuff back to the car and get a blanket. Getting our hands stamped on our way out, I heard announcer Brett Pollock begin to interview catcher Cody Clark on the pre-game scoreboard show, but I was completely out of position and headed the wrong direction to stalk him for his autograph. And there was no way to know I'd get it a few weeks later...
When we came back, I was ready to get Michael and sit down to watch for any possible player toss-up balls, autograph signings, or photo opportunities along the rail. I need Michael for his adorable-ness factor. But he was enjoying the Fun Zone, and Jennifer was adamant that we should let him play since that's what he wanted to do. So the whole thing was a bust as far as my usual autograph hounding or ballhawking went.
We survived until— or Jennifer would say, I forced them to suffer— until the eighth inning. Omaha had been leading 5 to nothing since the third, and seemed to have things well in hand. The night had dropped to ninety below zero, and the blanket we had brought in from the car smelled of gasoline. So we headed out to where I'd parked, in the exclusive special secret street parking on the opposite side of the stadium from all the parking lots.
Outside the stadium, I was laden with a tote bag in one hand and a blanket under my other arm. Our little family walked along the sidewalk all quiet and innocent-like, listening to the sounds of the game inside. Suddenly a baseball-shaped UFO arced silently through the night in front of us. Instantly, before it even hit the ground, like a dog sighting a squirrel I announced "Ball!" Startling Jennifer, I dropped our stuff at her feet and Michael & I ran across the street to hunt it down.
We listened to the ninth inning in the car on the way home, as the Storm Chasers held on to that 5 to nothing score and shut out the Albuquerque Isotopes. Starting pitcher Nathan Adcock was credited with the win...
And, just like the 9/11 Barbecue Weekend last fall, about twelve hours later Michael and I were back at the ballpark, getting Adcock's autograph. Here, Nate's signing Michael's 2012 Ball of Scrawls:
And looking on is Fan Favorite Irving Falu. Again.
This is the third consecutive page in which I've mentioned Irving Falu. See, when I took my little Michael to his first ball game in 2008, one of the first things he learned about baseball was that when Irving Falu is announced coming up to bat, we get to yell Fa-LLOOOOOOOO. It's traditional. And Irving's always been there. We've gotten his autograph four times, and decided not to twice more, and I have about a half-dozen photos of Michael with him. And he once threw Michael a baseball. Well, after nine years in the Minors - 949 games - Fan Favorite Irving Falu finally got called up to Kansas City. Just as a bench-warming back-up second baseman... but when he was called on, in his first time at bat in the Major Leagues, he hit a triple against the New York Yankees. Untouchable 33-million-a-year Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez gave Irving the ball as a memento.
Anyway, here we were at a Sunday Fun Day ballgame just after a Saturday night one. That's because it was Jennifer's birthday, so as a nice gift, we left her alone. Besides, it was also Easter, and Werner Park needed as many kids as possible to help clean up the place, since somebody had left plastic eggs filled with candy all over the outfield berm. (My son is the number 12.)
We ran into franchise President Martie Cordaro behind the batter's eye, and he introduced his wife Sara and 8-year-old son Collin. I thought they were here for Easter, but they were actually here for Martie's birthday. Michael stated that he was allowed fifteen candies, but only got eight. Martie commiserated, and said well, his son only got one. So Michael gave Collin one of his. Never hurts to be nice to the boss's kid.
Michael didn't want to stay for the game, and Jennifer was cooking Easter Dinner, so after the Easter Egg Grab, we went home. Throughout the afternoon, I checked in to the Internet radio from time to time as the game turned into a slugfest and the Storm Chasers beat the Isotopes without us, 17 to 11.
I'm just gonna gloss over the game we attended two weeks later, where the Chasers beat the Nashville Sounds two to one. The winning pitcher was once again Nate Adcock, and after winning the game, he got called to join the Kansas City Royals pitching staff. But instead of talking about that, I have to get to the big four-game Home Stand.
We were only a month into the Triple-A season, and Michael already had thirteen signatures on his Ball of Scrawls. The Omaha Storm Chasers had a huge lead in their division, and were back in town for a 4-day home stand against the Oklahoma City RedHawks (the farm team for the Houston Astros).
And for the past two years, the Big Star Wars night had been held in August, in conjunction with my Credit Union's Fan Appreciation Night. Due to some national "May the Fourth be with you" effort, for 2012 it was moved up three months. Obviously my Credit Union was unprepared for this change, 'cause this year there were no cool giveaway things. But Michael and I had to go, because I had e-mailed our friend Obi-Kurt Kenobi to tell him we'd be there, and besides, kids have to go to Star Wars Night.
To keep with Star Wars Night tradition, the weather was unseasonably hot and sweltery. But since it was so hot, and Michael has become somewhat disinterested in Star Wars, and his Darth Vader costume was already getting a little tight last year, we just went dressed as regular ballpark people.
There were going to be special shirts available, though. I like to get Special Event shirts for Michael, like his Final Rosenblatt Game shirt, his Inaugural Werner Game shirt, his 2011 Playoffs shirt... but check out this graphic! I like it. I was excited to get one. Striding right up to the table where they were being sold, I proclaimed, "One youth medium please." They tried to foist a shirt with a caricature of Stormy the Green Thing on me, but I said no. That's when they explained that the cool graphic was only on adult shirts, and all the kids' shirts had the stupid Stormy head.
I was so disappointed... Sadly (and quite obviously) I put my money back in my wallet and moped away.
I distracted myself by taking photos of my son with Star Wars guys, 'cause that's what I do:
And we talked with Obi-Kurt briefly. I mentioned that we'd been thinking we might see him again tomorrow at the big Free Comic Book Day at Krypton Comics. Not a place we frequent, but if we ever did go there, we'd end up buying stuff. But Kurt said he had a community garden that he was obligated to work at, so I mentally scratched that off my list of happenings. Which ended up being a good thing, because we had things to do as well.
However! The coolest thing about Star Wars Night had nothing to do with Star Wars. It was before the baseball game. Michael had spent some time in the Fun Zone, and we were just waiting around while the players warmed up and stuff. I saw Storm Girls wandering about nearby, and ran Michael over to get a picture with them, because there were three of them, and I usually only see them in pairs.
Michael enchanted them, and they propositioned him— made him an offer I told him he couldn't refuse. The Girl with the clipboard had me sign a waiver, and then they took my son away! I kept my eye on him, though, as everybody prepared to start the game.
They'd axed him to be the Play Ball Kid. He hesitated, so I quickly leaned down and whispered meaningless excited babblings in his ear before announcing to them, "He'd love to!" He did start to get into it when he realized people would be looking at him. Here's a 25-second video, if your browser/reader does iframes:
I tried to avoid beaming with pride. The Storm Chasers went on to win 4 to 2, and the winning pitcher was Ryan Verdugo, another signer of Michael's newest Ball of Scrawls.
But our weekend was just beginning...