For This Baseball Team, It's Time To Talk About Next Year
A raft of great new memories.
Another Mueller baseball trip is in the books, returning after last year's hiatus (the son needed a job) with plans already in the works for 2015.
The tradition began when my boy was turning 13. My wife and daughter already had their thing--synchronized team figure skating--which gave them years of bonding amid practices, competitions and road trips. What could the guys do that would be our own, we wondered, and figured we should play to our strengths: sitting on our butts and watching sports.
Baseball road trip.
The first happened in 2003, taking us to Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Nine more followed (the only other year we missed was when Matt did a summer high school trip to Europe). We've been as far west as LA and San Diego, with upstate New York being our furthest reach east. We've had close to 50 destinations, both major and minor league. We've only had two rain outs, an amazingly small number.
The Texas trip covered just two cities--Dallas and San Antonio. In Big D we did five Rangers games (and only one home team win) while coming to realize that playing first base for Texas is the most dangerous job in America--they've gone through several of them already including Prince Fielder who's done for the season with a neck injury. Three more games would follow with the Double A Missions of the Texas League in the home of The Alamo (remove your hat before entering and talk in quiet tones because the relic is considered a shrine).
Globe Life Field (formerly The Ballpark in Arlington) sits within a five-iron of AT&T Stadium, home of the Cowboys and fondly remembered as the place where the Packers won their most recent Super Bowl. We did the tour ($27 please) and were duly impressed.
My daughter, her husband Brian and my wife joined us for the Dallas leg of the journey as all wanted to see Dealey Plaza. They'd shared my JFK assassination fascination and came along to see me geek-out near the "X" where the President died, at the Sixth Floor Museum where the shots came from, and on the bus tour of JFK related sites. It was more than a little chilling to see my son standing on the pedestal where Abraham Zapruder shot what would become history's most-viewed home movie ever.
Others may have taken their families to Six Flags Over Texas, but that's how the Muellers roll.
It was just the boys after that in San Antonio where they've been playing minor league ball since the 1880's. We drank Lone Star beer, had front row seats for a fantastic manager/umpire rhubarb, and got to witness the antics of Ballapeno, a faux dancing pepper who I'm still having nightmares about.
Father and son watched World Cup soccer games at Riverwalk bars and came dangerously close to closing Wolski's one night--the joint really wasn't Wolski's but you get the idea.
What's changed over the years? We're digital now, using cellphones as navigators instead of folding maps and Trip Tix Triple A print-outs. iPads and laptops are almost always out, at least at the hotel. Tickets and gas haven't gotten any cheaper. And that tween that once road shotgun with me is gone, replaced by a fully grown college grad with a degree, a job, a student loan, a healthy crop of stubble and a razor-sharp wit that generated more gut-laughs than I can remember.
What stayed the same? The bond between a father and son, a love of baseball, an appreciation that we've been blessed with good health and enough wealth to make such trips happen. What also remains constant is the fact that all kids ever seem to want from their parents (besides occasional cash) is mom and dad's time, be they four or 24. Taking a week to hear your child's take on life, the world, their issues, their problems and your shared experiences is a gift we don't dismiss for a second. That's why there's already talk about next year.
The destination won't matter, nor the outcomes of the games (unless the Brewers are involved). The late night chats won't be forgotten although parts of some will never be shared with others--guys gotta stick together, y'know? A scrapbook fills and a dad's cluttered mind makes room for fresh remembrances of warm Texas nights, 90+ fastballs, too much brisket and too little time. It seemed like our departure date would never arrive as the Wisconsin winter refused to leave, and when the eight days on the road were done, they felt like eight hours. Eight wonderful, jam-packed, fun, life-renewing, relationship-cementing hours.
A baseball season goes on and clubs are still tweaking their rosters in hopes of playing meaningful autumn games. For one team, though, it's already next year: the Mueller men will be back in '15, God willing and if the creeks don't rise.
I can't wait.