Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Great Day

How do you define a great day? I had one this weekend, and it was one of the greatest days I’ve ever had. What made it great? A little background first:

Every year my teacher friends and I plan a trip to Comerica Park to see the Tigers play. This began in 2000 when my good friend Dana suggested that we go visit the Tigers’ new park. I had lost most of my interest in baseball following the 1994 strike and hadn’t been to a game since the 1993 ALCS. We saw the Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 10-1 on June 10, 2000, and saw a very rare feat: Mark McGwire stole second base! I loved Comerica Park. Compared to the new Comiskey Park (now U.S. Cellular Field), which was a bland, grey bandbox of a stadium, Comerica was an amusement park for baseball fans. We returned in 2001 to see the Tigers and Cubs (Cubs won 10-6), in 2002, 2003 (Bonderman’s second career victory during the worst season in Tigers history), 2004 against the Yankees (Tigers lost 5-3, but Pudge Rodriguez went 3-for-4 at the plate), and then in 2005 we started expanding our operation.

Magi and I had taken our friends’ kids to a game on Father’s Day 2005 to see newly-acquired Placido Polanco hit a walkoff home run against the San Francisco Giants, and while I was at the stadium I asked about group ticket sales. I was able to get 15 tickets to a Yankees game on July 2, and we made a weekend of it. I saw Bonderman beat Randy Johnson on Friday night, backed by home runs by Chris Shelton, Polanco, and Magglio Ordonez (in his first game back after hernia surgery). Bonderman went the distance, scattering eight hits and two runs over nine innings. The Tigers lost the next two games, but we all had fun sitting down by the Tigers’ dugout. I went back for Sunday’s game, too, seeing the whole series against the Yankees that season. The best game, though, was on September 11, when my teacher friends and I went by ourselves and sat right behind the first base dugout against the Royals. I was able to get this picture of John McDonald from on top of the first base dugout:
There were only 20,559 fans in the stands if you believe the official attendance. I think there were really only about 10,000 to be honest. The Tigers won 14-4 and made me very happy.

In 2006, it was literally a whole new ballgame. I went to nine regular-season games that year, seeing the Tigers play the Yankees (another group outing), Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Orioles, and the Royals, including the last game of the season, when the Tigers lost the division title. But when I did get to see all four home games in the ALDS and ALCS AND the first game of the World Series because of the schedule change brought about because of that last regular-season loss, all was forgiven.

Once Sera came into our lives, our excursions to baseball games dwindled somewhat, but now we still make it to at least one game every year. I went to a Tigers-White Sox makeup game with my friend Doug on April 25, 2007, and Sera’s first Tigers game was in August, just four short months after we brought her home. I honestly remember nothing about the game except that the Tigers lost, but I do remember taking her to the gift shop because she was restless and I remember not caring as much about the game as I did her enjoyment of the experience…as it should be.

We took Sera to another game the following year, on June 28, and that was my only Tigers game for the year. It was memorable because of Miguel Cabrera’s theatrical walkoff double in the bottom of the ninth, but what really sticks in my mind is Sera’s enjoyment of the postgame fireworks.

So what made Saturday such a great day?

First, we had our annual teacher outing to Detroit planned and two people backed out. That freed up two tickets, so Magi and Sera could go. After I got the first night of at least eight hours of sleep since my dad got really sick, I was rested and ready to go. We loaded up the car and headed to my friend Dana’s house. First, though, we stopped at Charlie’s Butcher Block in Elkhart for some food, since we hadn’t yet eaten breakfast. Their full sandwich menu was available, so I got us a couple of their subs, as well as some lobster bisque pasta for Magi and fruit salad for Sera. The lobster bisque pasta may have been an unusual choice at 9:00 AM, but it was delicious, as were the subs.

Dave was already there when we got to Dana’s house and I gave them a walkie-talkie so we could chat on the road if we wanted to. We got on the toll road and took off. About two hours later, we stopped at a rest area, used the rest room, got cinnamon rolls, and got back on the road. About a half hour later, we arrived at the Dundee, Michigan Cabela’s. This was my fifth Cabela’s store visit in ten days, and the Dundee store is tops. First, it’s huge, and the selection is far better than the other ones, especially for the clothes I need. I’ll remember that next time. Since all of my clothes shopping is done for the year, I pretty much just looked around happily, planning for next year when I’ve (hopefully) gone down another size.

Then we arrived at Dana’s friend Steve’s house in Ann Arbor. Steve is a great guy and always goes on our outings with us. Sera had, of course, fallen asleep in the car about two miles before we got to his house, so we planned a late lunch in Ann Arbor before we planned to make the last leg of our trip to Detroit. Ann Arbor has lots of great restaurants, but it really has a wonderful attraction in Zingerman’s. Zingerman’s is a world-famous deli with high-quality meats, cheeses, and breads. Magi knew about the place even when she lived in New Orleans. Well, Zingerman’s also has a restaurant along the highway called Zingerman’s Roadhouse and we’ve talked about going there for some time. We were not sorry we did. We were seated outdoors in their covered section, within sight of their HUGE barbeque grill and smoker. We could see that they were taking slabs of meat off the grill that were at least two feet long. Our mouths collectively started watering. Our waitress carefully described the menu and the chef in great detail, and even brought us some pulled pork to sample with each of the three sauces they use. We had a sumptuous, fantastic meal. I had the pulled pork sandwich with their zesty tomato BBQ sauce, with fried sweet potatoes. Wow! Steve surprised us by very generously picking up the check. Dana surprised us even more by paying for the baseball tickets. It’s nice to have good friends like this!

We arrived in Detroit right on time, finding our usual parking lot and making our way to the mosaic tile Tigers logo on the third base side of the stadium. We had our annual picture taken, and went right inside, hardly even waiting in line. We received complimentary Detroit Stars Negro League caps, as the Negro Leagues were being honored that night. We quickly found our seats in section 122, and settled in.

I got to the gift shop just before the game started, picking up a new Tigers T-shirt for Sera and a new insulated lunch bag for myself. My old one literally fell apart this summer. I really wanted to pick up a Brandon Inge All-Star jersey and some other shirts, but the largest size they had available was XXL. It just gave me more motivation to keep losing weight. I got out of the gift shop for less than $40 (a record) and got back to my seat before the National Anthem was even played.

It was a good game. Brandon Inge came up with a clutch RBI single and made a spectacular diving play at third base, and Miguel Cabrera hit a majestic opposite field home run in the 9th to pull the Tigers to within a run, but they ended up losing 5-4.
During the game Sera had seen a vendor with cotton candy and had asked for some, and we promised to get her some the next time he came around, but he never did. We even asked the other vendors to send him our way for a guaranteed sale, but after four innings of waiting she began to get impatient. I finally got up and found a kiosk that was selling it, and wouldn’t you know it, just as I arrived back at our seats before the top of the fifth inning, the vendor was just getting to our section! The fireworks show was not quite as impressive as last year’s, but Sera enjoyed it nonetheless.

After we dropped Dana and Dave back at Steve’s place in Ann Arbor, where they spent the night, Sera dropped off to sleep. Magi and I got to spend a very quiet three hours together, chatting the night away in the car, which is an amount of time we never get to spend together (awake) without Sera being the focus of our attention. I think this was my favorite part of the night. We had time to relax, listen to music on our iPod, and to reflect on our lives together and our wonderful, wonderful daughter. We got home at around 2:30 in the morning, exhausted, but very happy for having each other, our generous friends, and a great, great day.


Magi said...

It was a wonderful day.

KC Ryan said...

Sounds like a ton of fun. Good to have those days under your belt!