A few nights ago, my wife had something to do for church, and I had relegated myself to hanging around the house, not doing much, taking care of the kids (a four year old, a two and a half year old, and the six month old). However, my wife threw me a curveball and said that she'd take the six month old, so if I wanted to, I could do something fun with the kids for the evening.
Hmmm… I quickly checked the Round Rock Express schedule (about a 45-55 minute drive from my house), and after seeing that they had a game that night, I quickly made a quick dinner for Harper and Foster to eat on the way, grabbed a blanket, and took off for Round Rock.
My wife had made super hero capes for the kids earlier in the day, and they really wanted to wear them to the game. I was just glad to be going to a game, so I couldn't have cared less what they wore, as long as they were covered up. Here's Foster with his cape blowing in the wind.
A buddy and I went to Opening Day at Dell Diamond for the second year in a row this year, but it was rained out after the first or second inning. I was able to use my ticket stub from that game, Foster got in for free because he's under three, and while we were waiting in line to buy Harper's ticket, a guy gave us his extra one. Score! We opted for the cheapest tickets - the outfield berm. I prefer the view from right field, but as the sun was setting, the shade was the best in left field. It was really a beautiful day.
We were a little bit late coming in, but we were able to catch the first out of the top of the first. That sounds pretty good, right? Well, it wasn't great for the Express, as they had already given up five runs at that point to the visiting New Orleans Zephyrs. We got to see Joey Gallo bat a few times (as shown in the first picture of the post), and that was the main draw. Unfortunately, he went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts.
On our way to get some food in the third inning, we walked past one of the cows they have around the diamond (I'm actually not sure how many of these there are), and a kind Samaritan was able to take our picture for us. Harper was a little shy, but Foster had a rare smile for the camera. Usually it is the opposite, we have very few pictures of a looking-at-the-camera-and-smiling Foster.
Since the kids had already eaten and had a few snacks from home, I let them choose what they wanted for a treat, and they both chose ice cream. I went with my new-all-time-ballpark-favorite, the Grilled Cheese Hot Dog. Yes, as you can see, it's a hot dog that is using a grilled cheese sandwich for a bun. It cam with fries, and it was incredible.
Here's a less-shy Harper, posing with a cardboard cutout of Spike, the Express' mascot. At this point, she had taken off her super hero cape (didn't want to get any ice cream on it the first day), but had decided to stick with her super hero goggles from the dollar store.
The main draw for the kids was the playground area. We've taken the kids to a few games before, but had somehow been able to avoid the playground area. It was unavoidable this evening, and the kids had a blast. I talked to another dad, who said that he had to stand in line with his daughter for six innings to get a few minutes in the bouncy house, but that must've been a weekend game or something, because the kid crowd on a Wednesday night wasn't bad at all. Oh, Foster, in addition to wearing his super hero cape, is also wearing a Ninja Turtles tank top, which was originally worn by me, sometime in the late 80s/early 90s. It's one of his favorite shirts, which is pretty awesome.
I was eventually able to get them away from the playground area, enough to watch the eighth inning and the top of the ninth. But the night at the game ended in a crying fit from both of them when we tried to go back to the playground in the bottom of the ninth, only to find that it had been shut down.
I had to carry them both out of the stadium. I consider myself a pretty "tough-but-fair" type of parent, but I knew that it had been a pretty long day for them at this point. They're usually in pajamas by game time, and definitely in bed by 8:30, so staying almost the full nine innings of a baseball game that ended after 10:00 on a day that neither had taken a nap was pushing my luck.
We stopped at H-E-B (the best grocery store chain I've ever been a patron of, which I'm almost positive is just a Texas chain) and got some bottled water and let the kids calm down a bit, and then drove home. Both were asleep within minutes.
I'll go on a quick father-related tangent before getting to baseball cards (yes, they're at the end of the post, just skip to the end if you want).
Being a dad is the best. I know that not everybody can be one, and not everybody wants to be one, but it's seriously awesome. I'm the oldest of seven kids in my family, so I kind of always knew I'd have kids, but it wasn't something that I really looked forward to. Even when my wife my wife first was pregnant with Harper, I had a mentality of "yeah, once the kid's like, five, then I'll be okay with being a dad, but not when they're really little." I thought I would be an alright dad, but I didn't think I'd like it. I didn't think that I'd like my wife and I having less time (and as it has turned out, almost no time) with each other.
But it's been great. Easily one of the hardest things I've done (and I'm not finished by a long shot, Harper not even five yet and Maxwell has only been here since January), but without question the most rewarding.
My Padres have been horrible this year, so a lot of my social media interaction (via Twitter) has been lamenting the curse of being a fan of a horrible team. But in reality, I've been so blessed by being a father that no amount of bad sports luck can diminish the joy my kids bring me. Seeing them learn how to walk, draw, throw a ball, ride a bike, it's all awesome. Even better when I see them treat each other kindly and appreciate how awesome their mom is. At the end of the day, getting to hug them and comfort them and be their super hero. It's something that I would never trade.
I had a friend ask me who I would want to be for a day if I could switch, and really, nothing sounds appealing to me. Obviously, I'd love to have more than a small rental house in a smallish town in Texas to live in, and more than a teacher's salary to survive on. But spending a day away from my family isn't really that appealing. Even when I dropped them off in San Diego before going to Spring Training in Arizona this spring, it wasn't as much fun as I thought it was going to be.
Anyways, these were some of the things that I was thinking of on the drive back home after the game, and I thought I'd share them here.
One of the things I like about going to the minor league stadiums is picking up the team-issued set of baseball cards. For whatever reason, they sell for borderline ridiculous prices on eBay, and they're way better than the prospect related stuff that Bowman and Topps puts out. I checked the team store on Opening Day, but they didn't have it yet. Luckily, they had 'em this time.
My favorite cards of the set are the Kyle Blanks above, who was one of my favorite Padres during his time in San Diego. I also love the Hanser Alberto card, because that's the one player that Harper remembered the next day. During the game, she'd look up at the scoreboard (we were pretty close to it in the outfield), and she'd ask me to read the names of the players. Hanser was the one that she mentioned to my wife the next day when she asked how the game was. Oh, and Tommy Field hit a home run, just as we were reaching the playground area. The we were right next to where the fireworks shot off to celebrate it, which was pretty startling to us, since we weren't really watching the game.
Luke Jackson and Roughned Odor are the only names on here that I recognized. Jackson was a first round pick in 2010, but seems to have transitioned from being a starter to a bullpen guy. He's still young, but that rarely seems to be a good sign. The design of these cards looks exactly like the 1962 Topps design, only using blue and silver instead of wood grain coloring. I think it looks pretty sharp. The card stock is on the thin side, but still had a regular gloss that looks good.
I didn't know that Geno Petralli was the coach of the team. He's a guy that I remember seeing on cards when I was a kid. Always good to see the pitching and strength coaches get some cardboard recognition.
Same goes for the hitting coach and the athletic trainer. While a lot of these guys have come and gone, Jason Roberts has been the trainer for quite some time, at least as long as I've been here in Texas. Spike gets his card as well, which is always a good touch.
Heres the backs of my two favorite cards. Nothing too spectacular on here, but still pretty good in my opinion.
Anybody else a fan of these minor league team sets? I feel like I don't see many around the blogosphere. I'm mostly partial to the ones that are of teams that I see in person. I know probably as many people here as on the Fort Wayne TinCaps (the Padres low single-A affiliate), and even though there is a stronger possibility of some of them becoming Padres, I'd still rather have the no-name guys that I got to watch play. Maybe it's just me.
Hope y'all have a great Saturday. So glad the All-Star break is over and that baseball is back in full swing.