Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack

Ahhhh. The snowpiles have been reduced to the ones we see, filthy and gray, pushed aside in parking lots. The birds are making enough noise in the morning to make it thoroughly hard to fall back asleep if one awakens at 5:30 a.m. to use the commode (and also if one has ADHD and notices every. little. sound). The dogs are darkening the kitchen floor with layers of mud, brought in from each trip out back because where we once had “grass” we now have “dirt.” The kids are beginning to wear shorts to school (despite the temperatures not making it out of the lower 40s). There are no buds on the trees yet, but I did glimpse three crocuses poking defiantly out of the ground at one of my piano student’s houses.

It would appear that spring is – finally – officially springing, which can mean one thing: it’s baseball season.

For… oh… as long as I can remember, I guess, I’ve enjoyed baseball. Or, should I clarify, I enjoy watching and cheering on baseball. (I am terrible at the actual mechanics of baseball, myself, although I did play softball when I was in fifth grade and my dad proudly said I had “the nicest practice swing of anybody on the team.” I couldn’t hit the ball to save my soul, mind you, but my swing was beautiful.)

I grew up in a staunchly Yankees-rooting house, and they became “my” team sometime in high school. Right around the time I graduated from college, the Bronx Bombers acquired some incredible players – Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte – and went on a hot streak, scooping up several World Series titles in quick succession, and it became even more fun to be a fan of the team. (That’s one of the benefits of rooting for the winningest team in all of professional sports; I recommend it. Although this year hasn’t started off quite so grandly. Hm.)

opening day7
Playoffs, 2004, with Ella on board. I’m normally an avoid-messing-with-the-pregnant-belly-at-all-costs-because-ew-gross kind of person, but how often do you get to get to dress up like a baseball when your team is in the playoffs??
Okay, it’s still pretty
ew-gross. Fair enough.

Nick had the misfortune, sports-wise, of growing up in St. Paul, which made it natural for the Twins to become his team. I married him anyway, and have grown to root for the Twins myself (so long as they’re not playing the Yanks). In fact, the only MLB game that either of our girls has attended was a Twins game, back in ’05 when Ella was new.
opening day8
It may have been a Twinkies game, but she’s still in proper Yankees gear. Duh.

My mom and stepdad have had season tickets to the Yankees for quite some time, but making it down at exactly the right time for Ella or Annie to see a game just hasn’t happened. Plus also, there are only two tickets, meaning only one of our girls could attend… and, given that the seats cost about as much as rescuing an endangered dolphin pod, it seems a bit of a waste, considering that our offspring become bored with baseball almost immediately after the first pitch has been thrown.

Enter our minor league team, the Rochester Red Wings (who are, funnily enough, the Twins’ farm team). What it lacks in terms of major league grandiosity it makes up for in just about every other way. The stadium is less than twenty minutes from our house and parking is a breeze. Every seat is a good one and there’s room for the kids (and antsy adults) to run around on the grassy areas beside the field. The food is dandy (for a ballpark) and no one minds if you switch seats mid-game, so long as the seats you move to weren’t already occupied. (Given the lackluster attendance rates, it’s a good bet that they weren’t.)

And, at $8 a seat (when purchased at the box office; they’re cheaper online), Nick and I don’t care if the girls last half an inning or all nine; either way, we’ve gotten our money’s worth.

That the baseball itself is pretty damn good is a lovely bonus.

The Red Wings’ home opener was supposed to be on Saturday but, due to poor weather, was postponed till Sunday. Nick and I asked the girls if they’d rather attend a local children’s theater production of Pinocchio or the ballgame and they voted enthusiastically for the latter. At first, I chided myself for not doing a better job of properly raising little supporters of the arts, but then learned that the reason they’d chosen sports over theater was because Dippin’ Dots were available at the stadium.

And that, my friends, is something I can get behind, because I will do almost anything to get myself some good grub. Look at my little foodies in the making! Amen.

We arrived only minutes before the game’s slated 2:05 start, just in time to catch the Boy Scout color guard and the fireworks that were set off just outside of the stadium. I’ll admit, it was the first time I’d caught fireworks in the middle of the day, and it was kinda neat; good on ya, Red Wings. We were easily able to get ourselves four tickets to the game – third base line so we’d be in the sun (because even though it was nice out, a sharp chill still hung in the air) – and watched the first pitch under 55-degree, cloudless skies.

It’s not the majors, but it was fantastic.
opening day6
See: Really lovely.

Within minutes, ironically, we discovered that our “sunny” upper-deck seats placed us squarely in the area that was overtaken by shadows as the sun moved across the afternoon sky, and suddenly 55 degrees felt quite nippy. Rather than shiver it out in our original seats, we simply moved forward one row… and then another… and another… always inching ourselves into the sun-warmed bleachers.

We were hardly the only ones doing so, either. Rather, it seemed that the entire stadium’s worth of fans was ebbing and flowing, amoeba-like, seeking out the sunny spots like a dog looking for the warmest place to lie down for a nap. Around the fourth inning, I noticed that the fans on first base side had not only moved downward, but inward, in their search of the sun, crammed into one thin sliver of un-shaded glory.

To wit:
opening day2a
If we just move a bit to the left – yep, just one more, keep scootching down – we’ll all fit in here…

Can’t see what I mean? How ’bout if I move in closer?
opening day2bSqueeeeezed in. Such is the benefit of a minor league ballpark: empty seats are free game, baby.

As predicted, the girls lost interest in the actual game as soon as it began, despite my whispered explanations (“See how that guy’s not touching the base? That’s called leading off…”), so we entertained them in the best way we knew how: by getting food. Yes, of course there were Dippin’ Dots — and also hot dogs, sausages, and some really nifty fresh-cut potato chips with dipping sauces.

opening day5
Some families like to take selfies of their faces while at the ball game. I prefer to catch us doing what we do best: eating.

It got exciting for a while – the Red Wings scored in the first inning and then had a three-run homer in the second (the girls’ first home run sighting) – but once the food had been gone through and my explanations began to fall flat, Nick did what fathers have been doing since the dawn of time to entertain their children at sporting events: he bought them silly trinkets and attempted to bribe them.

opening day4
Their first foam fingers! They were quite psyched.
I can’t even see the words “foam fingers” anymore without thinking disturbing thoughts (not like I was really seeing the words “foam fingers” a lot before). Thanks, Miley.

When Annie began poking us in the head with her finger (and, subsequently, Nick threatened to take it away for good) and Ella began muttering about how cold she had become (we finally reached a point where we could no longer move forward, and were swallowed in shadow shortly thereafter), we agreed that it was time to call it a day. Hey, they lasted five entire innings; that’s pretty much a double-header in our house.

Is our minor league park like attending a MLB game? Nope. Not at all. Everything’s pared down, the atmosphere isn’t quite as intense, and the fans are more subdued.

opening day3
Case in point: the crowd cheered the loudest when this sign came up on the field. 
This makes sense to me, though, because tacos are definitely something I support. WOLF WHISTLE, baby!

But that’s okay with me because, after all these years, it turns out that I just love baseball, any baseball. Some day, Ella and Annie will make it to Yankee Stadium (even if it’s not really Yankee Stadium anymore), and they’ll be able to sit through the entire game. With luck, they’ll even enjoy it. For the time being, though, being able to share baseball with my girls in a way that works for all of us is a pretty cool thing. Especially when the water is running and we don’t have to unzip our snowsuits to use the port-a-potties.

And it is the umpteenth reason why moving to Rochester was such a stellar decision those seven years ago.

opening day1
Yet another minor league ballpark perk… Bored? Looking for more sun? Just want to stretch your legs? Then get out of your damn seats and have a sit on the lawn, why don’t you!

If we can just make it through mud season and settle into spring that actually feels like spring, then I’ll really feel like giving Rochester a high five.

 

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