Tonight, in honor of my 40th birthday earlier in the week, my wife and I loaded up our three young amigos and headed to a minor league baseball game. Are we insane? Possibly. Did we have fun? Certainly. Did we lose a child? I don’t think so. Did we all root loudly for the away team? Definitely.
What you have to understand is that a big reason that my lovely wife suggested this wonderful idea is that the Springfield Cardinals, the Double-A affiliate of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals, was playing our local minor league team. As luck would have it, Sandy Alcantara, one of the Cardinals’ top prospects was also pitching. Here is my diary of the night with my four favorite people, three of which are under the age of six.
4:58 The game has a 7:05 start time. As we are getting ready the three-year-old Ballerina has a minor meltdown because she can’t take her soccer ball to the game (We may be experiencing some sports confusion). I handle the meltdown by telling the ballerina, “There is no crying in baseball!” It just needed to be said.
5:14 The kids are used to me watching the St. Louis Cardinals on TV. In an effort to explain that tonight we are watching the AA Cardinals I tried to explain the minor leagues so the kids would know this isn’t the team we watch on TV. By the time I am through not only do the kids not understand how the minor leagues work, I may now be confused as well.
6:15 We arrive at the park and immediately head to the playground. As long as there is a playground and food my kids will love baseball games.
6:45 Playground time is over, now we head to the food line.
6:48 The Ballerina and the five-year-old Zoologist are on a chicken strip bender that almost defies logic. For the second time this week they start talking about eating chicken strips before we even get to our destination. We get the kids food and head to our seats. Once everyone is settled I’ll head back to the concession stand to get our food and drinks.
7:15 Alcantara makes quick work of the RoughRiders in the first inning. I see most of the inning from the line of the concession stand. Cargo shorts are a dad’s best friend. This is how you carry three corn dogs, two large sodas, and three chocolate milks without a small disaster.
7:18 I hand the ballerina her chocolate milk and pray I don't wear it later.
7:23 The one-year-old demolitions expert is destroying the chicken strips. Also, she is a mommy’s girl tonight.
7:28 The Springfield Cardinals have a guy on their team named Blake Drake.
7:32 The Zoologist is now dancing with every song. I don't really have words to describe this dance, but I do have a video to show future girlfriends.
7:37 The Springfield team seems to be copying the big league team’s defense. This isn’t a good thing right now.
7:38 The zoologist informs me, “I'm cold, on account of it's almost dark.” I gotta kid that kid to stop watching so much Sheriff Callie.
7:43 Between innings they dress three little kids as caterpillars and set up a race of crawlers. One kid, however, is a walker not a crawler and the race isn’t too competitive. One caterpillar just lays down. We’ve all been there buddy.
7:44 For the first time of the night, between innings two and three, the ballerina asks me, “Is it over yet."
7:49 Cardinal player Nick Martini a got a hit. The pitcher was shaken, but not stirred. Don’t forget to tip your waiter.
7:50 Apparently April 21st is Grease night at the ballpark. Thank God the Cardinals weren’t in town for that.
7:51 For no particular reason the Ballerina tells me I have a big tongue. This isn’t as awkward as the time in high school when my grandmother told me, in front of a bunch of my friends, “I think guys with big noses like you are sexy.”
7:53 I'm sitting by two other Cardinals fans. There is a Cubs fan two rows back full of liquid courage and high on their first championship who starts talking trash to us about the Cardinals. I respond to the surrounding people that Cubs’ fans will be insufferable until they win again in 2125. He makes a crack about how the next 10 years are going to be awful for the Cardinals. I respond that I don’t know what is going to happen over the next 10 years, but to keep in mind the Cardinals and Cubs have different definitions of awful. I fell that I have defended my team’s honor well.
8:01 For the first of probably 3,000 times the Ballerina asks me, “Is the race over?” I can’t tell if she thinks the baseball game is a race, or if she is confused about the between innings goings on.
8:03 Blake Drake hits a home run. The zoologist and ballerina yell, “Go Cardinals!” The Ballerina tells me that the ball almost hit the moon.
8:17 The Zoologist informs the Ballerina “The Cardinals are winning, I think."
8:19 The Ballerina again asks me, “Is it over?”
8:28 We manage to talk the kids out of ice cream and snow cones. It’s already a little cool out and the last thing I need is a kid freezing their rear end off.
8:40 The zoologist and ballerina accompany me to get some popcorn and cotton candy. While we are waiting in line a woman with blue hair gets in line behind us. This fashion decision blows the ballerina’s mind. I begin to worry that we aren’t going to be able to get the cotton candy without her causing an incident.
8:47 The Sharp kids like cotton candy. Not as much as they like chicken strips, but they really like it.
8:55 The Ballerina again informs me that a fly ball almost hit the moon.
8:56 We are in inning six and the Ballerina asks, “Did the Cardinals win?”
8:58 We made it through six innings. I was hoping for five. Bearing in mind the law of diminishing returns, and the fact that my arm is covered in the demolition’s expert’s cotton candy slobber I decide that we should get out while the getting is good and head for the parking lot with the Cardinals leading 7-0.
9:23 At home while she is going potty the Ballerina declares that she is not tired, and we are once again on the verge of a meltdown.
9:34 While putting on her pajamas the Ballerina now tells me, “I’m ready for bed.”
9:40 The kids are in bed. I change their alarm from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.
10:13 The Ballerina appears in our bedroom because she has lost her lovie in her bed. I am tempted to ask if the love is finishing the race, but I just find the lovie and tuck her in again.