When I was a kid growing up on the north side of Chicago, I was a huge Cubs fan. My kid brother and I loved watching our beloved Cubbies play on WGN-TV and, occasionally, in person (my mom actually would take the four of us kids on the train to Wrigley Field on Ladies’ Days).
Back then one of my fondest dreams was to see a Cubs spring training game. I could just imagine traveling to Mesa, Arizona, to watch Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, and the rest of my blue-clad heroes. Maybe I’d even be able to work up the courage to score an autograph or two!
Fast forward to a week ago Sunday. My spring training game dream finally came true! However, this time it was in the Grapefruit League instead of its Cactus counterpart, as our family watched our Houston Astros play the Toronto Blue Jays at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, which is near Orlando.
When we were making plans for Jake’s last spring break, I pitched the idea of going to Universal Studios Orlando for a couple days. Then I threw in what I knew would be a home run: Watching our first spring training game. All four of us love baseball, so all of us were excited.
At the Mister’s suggestion, I bought a fresh baseball in case the guys wanted to get autographs. What a great idea! Our seats were one row from the field next to the Astros’ dugout, which gave us a great, albeit potentially scary view.
All of the players walked past us, with some of them stopping to sign. At first, C.J., who had the ball and the pen, seemed a little shy. But with prodding from his mom who didn’t want him to have any regrets, he stood up and handed the tricky SHSU pen and ball to Jon Singleton, our hopefully great first base prospect.
After that, it was easier for him to ask. Plus our hometown heroes seemed glad that we cared.
Up until that point, C.J. had told me he was sick of me snapping photos of him. But, suddenly, having his own personal photographer (I was wielding my small but mighty Nikon V1) was advantageous.
What a great memory for my boys! I must admit I felt a pang of jealousy wishing that had been me back in the 1960s.
When the game finally started, we couldn’t help but notice that even though this was the Astros’ home park, we were surrounded by Blue Jays fans. We had seen cars in the parking lot with Ontario license plates, so it looks like Canadians also like to travel to Florida to watch baseball. They cheered loud and long for their favorite team.
Some aspects of the game reminded us of the Sugar Land Skeeters, our town’s Atlantic League team. There were condiment and tricycle races, as well as Orbit the mascot mixing things up with the fans. You can’t beat fun at the ballpark, spring or summer!
One thing that was odd, though, was what happened during the game. After watching the Blue Jays plate two runs, the four of us visited the team shop. When we got back to our seats, we were surprised to see the score was 2-2. At no time did we hear the crowd yelling about a two-run Astros’ homer. Weird.
After the Jays went up 3-2, we made our usual early exit in the bottom of the eighth to beat the traffic and head to Orlando and the Hard Rock Hotel. So imagine how shocked we were when we found out that the good guys actually won 4-3! We spent all that time at the game without seeing the Astros score a run. Talk about your reverse good luck charms!
Don’t be surprised if the Astros pay us to stay away from the games this season!
As I perused a Universal Studios Orlando guidebook in advance of our recent spring break vacation, my stomach started feeling queasy. Just the descriptions of the rides, which I figured my sons would love, made me stop and ponder the wisdom of trying to enjoy myself in a theme park.
It made me think back to when I was eight or nine years old, riding the venerable Tilt-A-Whirl for the first . . . and last . . . time. I screamed so loudly at those first couple whirls that the operator stopped the ride and escorted me off. It was extremely clear to all—especially everyone else I traumatized—that going around in circles was not my cup of tea (as well as heights and sudden accelerations).
Since then I’ve been understandably wary of amusement parks. But when you have two boys who got their father’s love-those-thrills gene instead of my totally-chicken one, it’s important to take one for the team every now and then.
I present for your humble consideration Exhibit A above. This was the Test Track ride at Disney World, our 2003 spring break vacation. I wanted to put my (obviously bogus) bravery literally to the test (track), agreeing to go on the ride one time. As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed it (ha ha!) and never rode it again (but the boys did, going on it six more times).
So why in the world did I think I could actually go on a ride at Universal? Because I foolishly figured that the one I chose, Men In Black: Alien Attack, was like the innocuous Buzz Lightyear arcade ride at Disney World. I loved that one! I went on it multiple times with nary a whimper.
Know what? It wasn’t the same at all.
The guidebook said that there were several spins during the ride. However, it did not describe them in their more accurate term: Death whirls! Oh, my goodness! The devil must have designed this torture trap.
As my head went one way and my stomach the other, I remembered something that C.J. had told me. He said that when he started screaming during the ups and downs, roller coasters weren’t as scary. So guess what I did. Yep, I screamed through every revolting revolution.
I definitely felt better. However, certain other occupants of the car were mortified! But just for awhile. Since then they’ve teased me about my bellowing bout many, many times.
At least it made for a great story for them to tell . . . probably forever!