Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23- Florida Marlins

Today has been one of those days that I never wish to have occur again. If you didn’t read my post from last night: 1. Shame on you. 2. I’ll quickly brief you…

My girlfriend Angie Kinderman and I were driving to Portland after the University of Oregon baseball home opener in Eugene. Angie had a flight to catch back to Miami this morning so we decided to head up later last night to crash at my parents’ house. The drive is roughly 110 miles, but we only made it just a little past Salem before more car decided to seize up. We got the car towed to my parents’ house and we fell asleep.

This morning we woke up a little later than we planned, mostly because neither of us wanted to get out of bed knowing that it would be the last time we share that space for a while. Since my car was out of the question I had to come up with an alternate mode of transportation to get here there on time. I called up a cab and we got a ride to the MAX light rail. Not only did it take us there for cheap, it also gave us an extra hour to hold each other and sob (I held it in for as along as I could). We arrived with about an hour and 15 minutes to spare, but the line for security was rather ridiculous so Angie had to get on her way. We kissed and said our “I love yous” and then she disappeared. My heart sank as I trekked back to the MAX. The woes of my day were just getting started however.

Somehow in a little less than two months I had completely pissed away all $3000 of the grant and financial aid I had gotten in early January. I didn’t quite realize it until I stopped at the bank to double check my account to see if I had enough to get my car fixed. Hell, I didn’t even have enough to catch a bus back to my parents’ house in the West Hills of Portland. After a 3 mile hike uphill in the rain I made it back and collapsed on my bed. The unanswered questions of the last year immediately raced through my head: Why didn’t I save any of my Fan Cave money? Why didn’t I fall in line to have stayed longer in New York? Why did I do this to myself? After talking to my parents about my options my mom chimed in, asking what I was going to write about for my blog post in an attempt to get my mind off of things for a bit. My eyes widened and I snapped at her, “What post!? I don’t even have a hat with me to write about!” That was the moment when I really hit bottom. I’m definitely the kind of guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, but I’m usually not that bad. Needing to get away from things for a bit I decided to retreat back into my room and scan through the photos from my post-Fan Cave MLB road trip to see if I could find something to cheer me up. I finally got to the middle of September when the light turned on.

Angie and I had been talking regularly on Twitter since I had first moved to New York for the Fan Cave. As a Twins fan she gave me a lot of smack talk, which I always enjoy, but never did I think we were going to meet. For starters, I never thought that I would have been one of the first two eliminated from the Fan Cave, so the thought of meeting her during the 2012 season seemed out of the question. That plan kind of blew up in my face. So, we continued to chat as I traveled around. Based on the way the schedules were set up this last season I always did my best to visit a state when every team had a home stand ending around the time the other team(s) was/were just starting one. In the case of Florida those opportunities were few and far between. I had spotted a brief time frame in which the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins were both going to be around, but I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to pull it off. Back in early August I had kind of blown it off because I didn’t think I was going to have the time to go to Florida and then make it back west to catch games in Houston and Arlington. It wasn’t until I was leaving Pittsburgh, headed for Detroit, that I got convinced to come out, but it wasn’t by Angie (sorry sweetie).  

Collin Balester had been playing in Toledo for the Mud Hens since June after he got designated for assignment by the Detroit Tigers. Collin and I had met in the Fan Cave during the filming of the Miguel Cabrera “Miggy Poco” sketch, but during the time I wasn’t filming Collin, Gar Ryness (Batting Stance Guy) and I got real chatty (mostly about beards).

After the three of them left Collin and I began chatting back and forth regularly on Twitter and developed a bit of a friendship. After he got sent down I was absolutely crushed. It’s one thing when you see a player have that happen to them; it’s a whole other reality when you know the guy. I never knew what to say other than, “I’m sorry,” but I never knew the right way to say it; something I felt really bad about after he had hit me up after my elimination for the Fan Cave to say that he was sorry. When my train left from Pittsburgh we had a brief stop in Toledo to switch over to a bus for the rest of the journey to Detroit. Some time after 1 AM is about the time I had realized where I was going and decided to send him a DM to let him know I’d be nearby. What I wasn’t counting on was that the AAA season had ended the previous day and he had gone home for the year. Collin grew up in Hunting Beach, CA, so I had assumed he went back there. As it turned out he and his family had actually moved to the Tampa area. Some time over the next few days we continued our conversation, which eventually led to him asking if I was going out to Tampa on my trip. Without hesitation I responded back with, “I’m still thinking about it.” His response was something on the lines of, “You should.” Needless to say, when an MLB player asks if you’re going to come out to his home turf, you get your ass there. Around the time all of this was going down I had told Angie that I would be rolling out to Miami and asked if she would want to go to a Marlins game with me. She responded… three days later… with a yes, and she also mentioned that I could crash on her couch.

On September 18 I landed in Tampa and rented a car with about an hour and a half to spare before the Rays played the Boston Red Sox. Collin went out of his way to be a really awesome guy and was able to snag tickets for him, his father-in-law and me. But this story will have to wait for another post.

On September 19 I drove to Fort Lauderdale to meet Angie. I was a bit nervous, as I always am when I met new ladies. We met at her apartment and exchanged hugs and “glad to finally meet yous” and I then boldly asked if I could use her shower. No, this wasn’t a pickup line. If you’ve never been to Florida, you should be aware that it is a very humid state, especially in September. After driving for four hours I was extremely sweaty and feeling like a bucket of yuck. Her being a cool Midwesterner, responded with, “Sure! No problem.” After the shower we both got ready for the game. She got all decked out in some Miami Marlins gear, while I opted for the classic Florida Marlins look. We spent the whole time talking about our lives, getting to know one another better on the way to the ballpark. She was even kind enough to point out the bridge where the dude on bath salts ate the other dude’s face.

We arrived at the stadium about 45 minutes before the gates opened so we grabbed a few beers and walked around, continuing to be a bunch of chatty Kathys. When we got inside the only time we were apart was when one of us went on a beer run. We walked over and checked out the Bobblehead Museum…

The “2001: A Space Odyssey”-looking monolith out in center field (shark sighting!)…

And we even got a batting practice home run ball from an usher hit by Chipper Jones.

The Marlins were playing the Atlanta Braves, which also happened to be the last night Chipper was playing his last game in Miami. About three innings into the game I remembered that I hadn’t marked up my hat, so I pulled out my phone and looked up a few numbers to scribble on. The hat was only used for two years (1993-94), something that I always felt was a bit premature since it's a pretty sweet cap. At the time I wasn't thinking about that, I was merely trying to be clever, and ended up marking it up more personally, rather than historically. Angie then took over my camera to get a shot of me at work.

#25- I had the chance to meet and chat with Al Leiter within the first weeks I was in New York for the Fan Cave. To kick off the 2012 MLB season Leiter, Sean Casey and Kevin Millar did the ceremonial lighting of the Empire State Building because of their work on MLB Network. We got to hang back, watch and take a few photos before we headed up to the top of the floor. It was pretty wild. We got a special tour of the celebrity wing and even bypassed all of the lines because we were special or something. Now, I really hate heights, so I wasn’t exactly having the greatest of times, but I held tough and got through it. When we were headed back down Leiter and his family met up with us in the celebrity wing, where he could tell I was physically uncomfortable. He asked what was wrong and I explained that I was afraid of heights. He then asked if it was all tall buildings or just this one. I then went on to explain that it has mostly to do with being at the tallest point of anything, as in I get uncomfortable when there isn’t another building near me that’s taller than the point I’m at. The two of went on about this and broke down every angle for a solid five minutes, completely forgetting about everyone else in the room. Sweet dude. Anyway, I added him on this hat for that reason, but more importantly for his years with the Marlins from 1996-1997 where he won his third World Series ring (the first two were with the Toronto Blue Jays).

#30- I really should have added #15, but decided to go my own route on this one because of the fact that Cliff Floyd did in fact change his number despite winning a World Series ring with the Marlins in 1997. I mean, it’s not a common thing for a guy to change his number after winning a championship unless they’re traded to another team or something. From ’97-’99 Floyd rocked #15, but from 2000-2002 he donned the #30. It kind of paid off too as he went .317/18/103 in 2001 and made his one and only All-Star team on top of finishing 22nd in the National League MVP voting.

In retrospect I probably should had added #34, Bryan Harvey, as well. Harvey saved 45 games for the Marlins in their inaugural season and was pretty much the only redeeming quality of that season.

After I marked up my cap Angie asked me why I do that, so I gave her the full elaborate story. She listened intently, something I found totally irresistible about her because I don’t know of any other girl who would. We drank more beers and the Braves dominated the Marlins, but that was the least of our worries. Our conversations went on and on, and we finally made our way to The Clevelander, the bar behind the left field wall, for more boozery.

One of the gems about this place is that they have nude women in body paint dancing on a stage next to a pool. We of course commented on this heavily in between sips of our $11 Bud Lights and our long gazes into each other’s eyes. I’m still not sure why it took so long; perhaps it was the dancers on stage, but I finally leaned in and gave her a smooch. Our chattiness soon died on account of our lips being connected for what seemed like an eternity in drunk time, but what was probably only like 36 seconds in sober time.

I’ll spare you all the rest of the details of the night, but if there’s one guy I have to tip my cap to for inadvertently making it happen, it’s Collin “raddest dude on the planet” Balester. Thank you!

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