Out to the ball park

So we went to our first baseball game of the year today.

Royals. Cubs.

The plans unfolded a couple weeks ago when I was browsing the Royals schedule, looking for a game opportunity in the next several weeks. Our days of going to four, five or six games a summer are done for awhile. Now, with a young one in tow and a home base that's further from the nearest major league ballpark (let alone one ballpark, compared to three within a two-hour drive in K-Town), getting to at least one game per summer is the goal.

When I saw the Cubs were in town this weekend for an interleague series -- and we had no other plans for the weekend -- it was an easy call. The toughest decision was choosing the Saturday night game or the Sunday afternoon game. The Saturday night game featured Kevin Appier's induction into the Royals Hall of Fame, but it would be a late night for Phoebe. The Sunday game was a Family Fun Day and included an opportunity to run the bases afterward, but I knew the afternoon heat could pose problems.

We opted for the Sunday afternoon game. Happy birthday to me.

So this morning we got ourselves out of bed and hit our goal to be on the road by 10 a.m. We filled up the gas tank on the way out of town, and I had "Go Cubs Go" cued up on the iPod as we hit the highway. ... Save for a couple potty breaks for Phoebe, we made decent time and arrived at the stadium around 12:30 p.m. Game time was at 1:10. I was a happy camper.

After all, I had given in to the idea when we bought the tickets that this was not going to be my typical game day experience. This one was dedicated to Phoebe. With all the kids activities around the stadium, I knew I was not going to be planted in my seat, with a scorecard, in time for the first pitch. Instead, we headed first to the kids area behind left field so Phoebe could romp on the playground, take a ride on the carousel and try whatever other activities drew her interest. She loved it.

As the game got underway, we bought Phoebe a kids meal, complete with her very own Slugger lunch box. We took the long way to our seats, traveling along the outfield fountain deck and taking in the stadium scenery.

There were Cubs fans everywhere, and I was hardly complaining. In fact, when we passed through the gates of the stadium, we ran into a tidal wave of fans wearing cubs shirts, jerseys and hats. The sight caused me to burst into gleeful laughter, while Kates just looked at me and rolled her eyes. We always saw it during our years of watching Cubs games on TV -- the gobs of Cubs fans who filled the stands at road games -- but today we got to see it and experience it in person ... For the record, Phoebe was in her new Slugger shirt, Kates donned a white top and I was in my Cubbie blue.

I saw Starlin Castro single in the top of the first as we were shuffling along the outfield deck, but by the time we got to our seats during the bottom half of the inning, things were going bad -- very bad -- for the Cubs. The Royals went up 4-0, before the Cubs could notch an out.

The crowd went wild -- enough to make you think the Cubs were the home team -- when Geovany Soto hit a home run in the third to put Chicago on the board. The Cubs closed the gap to 4-3 in the fourth, but the Royals crossed two more in the bottom of the fourth. And it stayed 6-3 in the Royals favor until the end.

In truth, it's not going to be a game I'll remember for what happened on the field, aside from that awful first  inning for the Cubs. As I said, I didn't bother keeping score, which I always do as a way to help me stay focused on the game ... Instead my focus for the day was totally on relishing the game day experience with Phoebe and Kates. I missed two innings midway through the game as Phoebe and I fetched a snow cone for her.

And for the most part, it was a glorious day. Until the seventh inning. Up until then, our first base-side seats were fully in the shade. But in the seventh, the hot sun started creeping on us, and Kates and Phoebe retreated to the concourse to keep cool.

Then the fun run around the base paths. For the father in me, there was no part of the day I had looked forward to more -- the chance to run around the bases at Kauffman Stadium with Phoebe. It was the reason we bought the tickets! ... But when the game ended and we found the line for the run, it stretched all the way to the top of the ramp -- on the upper deck level, with no cover from the beating sun. As we waited, Phoebe quickly grew hot and wanted to stay with Kates, who was waiting in the shade.

... So we got out of the long line to wait in the shade.

... As the line started moving, we waited. And waited. And waited until the end appeared and we could rejoin the line, which was now fully in the protection of shade.

... We got all the way to the bottom of the ramp. We just needed to cross the concourse, and then we'd be on the field level.

... Then the inevitable. "I need t'go potty!" Phoebe shouted. Kates walked off with her in search of the nearest restroom, while I held our place in line.

... The line crossed the concourse and my turn came to pass through the doors into the area beneath the stadium that leads to the field. But still no Kates and Phoebe.

... I let others pass through in front of me as I kept watch for my girls. If we made it, we would be the very last ones to run.

... After a couple minutes they showed. Both were clearly done and ready to go home. Our run was not meant to be. To say I was heartbroken is an understatement. The nice attendant who picked us up in a golf cart and drove us to our car on the opposite end of the parking lot was hardly enough to cheer me up.

Phoebe, of course, fell asleep on the way home. ... But the family fun continued when we arrived home. The 'Ville got hit with a heck of a storm. Somewhat of a repeat of last weekend, but with more of a direct hit. Unlike last weekend, we heeded the tornado sirens blaring throughout the city and huddled in the basement. Our house was pelted with marble-sized hail and the rain poured, but thankfully a tornado never materialized.

Tomorrow's a new day.

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