So…another two months constitutes a little while, right? I know it’s been a long time again, but this time I’ve got better excuses. I had a migraine issue flare up at the beginning of November. I took a bunch of meds which make me feel weird and being in front of a computer didn’t help. It also pushed back my work on my collection of short stories. I’ve been working to get back on track, but with work, it’s an uphill battle. Still, resolved to work through it!
Day the third. We revised the plan since we wanted to get into Oklahoma Joe’s without having to forfeit too much of our lives. We got up earlier than the day before and drove to the restaurant thinking we’d get there shortly after it opened at eleven and maybe be at least in the building when we got in line. On the way, I called home. The All-Star game, played on July 10th, also happened to be the same day as my father’s birthday. Unfortunately, when I called the first time, he was out of the house. That was fine though because we arrived at Oklahoma Joe’s shortly after I called. It was 11:15 when we showed up and our goal was just a little off base. While the line wasn’t wrapping around the corner of the building, it was already out the door. Still, it didn’t seem as daunting, so we stayed. Forty-five minutes later, we made it to the counter. I’d called home again while in line. Dad was still outside. Mom was pretty sure he’d be in in a few minutes, so I said I’d call back in a few minutes. However, I was quickly distracted by lunch. Jordan got the standard pulled-pork sandwich while I got a smoked beef and pork sandwich. We both got fries and a drink then sat down at a table. Despite the small structure, it was easy to find a seat. It was a good thing because you need to be sitting when you first bite into an Oklahoma Joe’s sandwich. Bar none, it is/was/possibly forever shall be the best barbeque I’ve ever eaten. To make it even better, the fries were top notch as well, and they gave you so much food we couldn’t finish everything off. And while wasted food is always a shame, this food being wasted seemed a Greek tragedy. We contemplated forcing everything down and then not moving the rest of the day, but we had plans that we needed to hold to. Mainly, we were going to visit the Negro League Baseball Museum. It was kinda weird leaving the restaurant. For the game, I was wearing my Yadier Molina jersey (even though he didn’t end up playing in the actual All-Star game). As we were going by the line, another man wearing a Cardinals jersey stopped me and asked, “Is it worth it?” I don’t know how long that guy had been in line, but what did he expect me to say? Based on his spot in line, he’d probably been there thirty minutes. But aside from our mutual affinity for the St. Louis Cardinals, what else did we have in common? With a nod, I replied, “Definitely” and continued on my way. Now, I was being honest, but it’s all from my perspective. Maybe he’s the one in a million that won’t like Oklahoma Joe’s.
Anyway, after eating lunch, we headed for the museum. I called home along the way; dad was not there. The museum shares a building with the American Jazz Museum. If we had time, we might have visited it as well, but we wanted to make sure we got to the game early enough. There is a lot of interesting stuff in the museum including: old uniforms, equipment, contracts, and other memorabilia from players of that era. Again, we stopped and watched a couple videos about the era and the conditions players dealt with. Perhaps the most interesting elements of the museum were a collection of baseballs honoring each person honored in the museum and a baseball field holding statues of some of the most famous players from the league including: Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston, and Satchel Paige. On my way out, I purchased a book in the gift shop. We still had a little time to kill, and there was an interesting exhibit outside the museum we decided to check out. I don’t remember exactly where it all came from, but they had a lot of jerseys, displays cases, and golden gloves given to Negro League players. We got caught up, however, in a rebroadcasting of a home run series from the 60s. We got to see Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, and Ken Boyer.
Then, the time came to head for the ballpark. After our fiasco parking at the park, we decided to forgo the cheap alternative and park at the stadium. We arrived about an hour early, so we walked around, visited the gift ship again, and watched the arrival of the mascots. It wasn’t overly exciting, but sitting outside a ballpark for an hour makes a lot of things more interesting. I tried calling home, but it was impossible to get a signal outside the stadium. One way or another, dad was going to get a happy birthday from me! Eventually, the time came, we entered the gates and took a couple photos by a sculpture of a blue baseball covered in all the MLB logos adorning a crown like in the Royal’s logo. We also stayed in the lower level seating for a while watching batting practice. Jordan called a friend who had much better seats than us, and we all talked for a while. As we did, we saw MLB network analyst Harold Reynolds take infield with the All-Stars. We also noticed that in every seat was a T-shirt in a plastic bag. There were instructions that the shirt was to be worn during the national anthem. When the time came, we realized the lower level was blue and the top level was striped in red and white. We received white T-shirts. On the way up, we stopped by a gift shop and bought stuff for our family and friends. We also went ahead and got dinner. Then, we went to our seats. As we sat in our seats inspecting our shirts and instructions, I called home and finally got ahold of dad! I wished him a happy birthday and chatted for a while. Apparently, he and mom would be watching the game looking for us. Given our seats, I didn’t have high hopes for them.
It was very cool watching the crowd come in and the colors begin to take form. Eventually, we were a giant red, white, and blue mass of fans. It made for a nice picture. More interesting, however, was the national anthem itself. The man singing it took too long. A stealth flyover was planned for directly after the anthem, but as most of the noticed, the singer was taking too long. Perhaps as a direct result, the plane didn’t fly directly over the stadium but took a slightly deviated course. The singer was just beginning the last line of the anthem when the roar of the plane started.
After that, the game got going. Something about the All-Star Game setup seems to dictate little offensive production. When Justin Verlander is the starting pitcher, that theory seems to be confirmed. Theories aren’t always true. Three batters into the game, the National League scored. By the end of the first inning, they put on five runs. Without a doubt, the most interesting part was Pablo Sandoval hitting a bases loaded triple. Just watching him chug around the bases was entertaining enough.
After a while, the game did slow down and pitching returned to dominance. I was curious to see what would happen when Robinson Cano came to bat in the bottom of the first. I hoped the scolding would end and Royals’ fans would let it go. No such luck. The booing was not as thunderous as the day before, but it was there. It was also annoying. I didn’t mind the first day, but seriously, enough was enough.
I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought though. I was enjoying the moment too much – watching all the players I saw on TV. Seeing players from my favorite team. It worked out well that the man in front of me wore a Cardinals jersey as well. We shared a couple high fives when our players did well. One in particular, Carlos Beltran, used to play for Kansas City, so I was very happy to hear him get an ovation from the fans. It somewhat made up for the treatment of Cano.
There were also a lot of memorable matchups in the game: Stephen Strasburg vs. Josh Hamilton, Bryce Harper vs. Jered Weaver, Mike Trout vs. R. A. Dickey, and Mike Trout vs. Aroldis Chapman. Really watching anyone hit against Chapman is fascinating.
Two moments however stand out among the rest, although Bryce Harper losing a fly ball in the lights almost cracked the list. The first happened in the top of the sixth inning when Chipper Jones came to bat. Jones, retiring at the end of the year, stands as one of the greatest third basemen of all-time. When he first came into the league, I wasn’t much of a fan, but Jones did one thing that rarely happens in baseball anymore – he stayed with one team. Drafted by the Atlanta Braves, Jones played his entire career with the Braves which is something that demands respect. A fact which was clear to everyone in attendance. When he came to bat, much like when he was announced at the beginning of the game, Jones received a standing ovation. The moment was so much that Jones had to step out of the batter’s box to acknowledge the crowd. He went on to get a single before coming out of the game at the end of the inning.
The other was the at-bats of Billy Butler. He didn’t come in until the seventh inning though the crowd had been cheering for him since the game began. He grounded out, but you’d never heard such cheering for a groundout. He also came up in the ninth with a chance to get the American league on the board. Unfortunately, he struck out, but he still received a thunderous ovation.
The game ended 8-0, and Melky Cabrera won the MVP. Months later he’d be suspended for PEDs. In the present, the moment was nice though.
Jordan and I would leave Kansas City the next day. We left with a plethora of memories that not everyone gets to have. Indeed, it was an experience that will never be duplicated. I’ll go to other ballgames in the future, see other parks and players, but nothing will be like the All-Star game experience. Partly because of the events I witnessed. Partly because Kansas City showed it can put on a great weekend despite the poor play of the team. Finally, partly because of the company. Often in life, it’s not the event that is so great; it’s the people along for the ride. Experiencing greatness is special; getting to share greatness with another is even better.
Hope All is Well,