I love my son and I love my baseball team.
Four years ago, we were expecting Jalen to be born in early April 2004. Turns out the only one "early" was Jalen, who showed up nine weeks ahead of schedule. So, instead of a potential son's birthday/baseball's Opening Day conflict, I'm able to celebrate the boy in February and in any of the other three or four months that don't involve baseball season.
And, Sunday, I got to bring my two kids together.
Truth be told, I forced Mrs. Bootleg to delay planning this spring break getaway until the Oakland A's 2008 schedule had been released. I was hoping for one of their sparsely attended weeknight games, so that we could all unwind at the end of a long day while taking in nine
What we got was the final game of their opening homestand this past Sunday.
11:00 AM - The single greatest thing about Mrs. Bootleg is that she's a micromanaging hyperactive planner who was put on this earth to organize everything that God can't be bothered with. But, I wasn't letting her within 10 feet of this day. This wasn't just a ballgame…it was a game, mixed with navigating public transportation, keeping the boy entertained and, yes, a giveaway day – a DVD! My months-in-the-making plan of action demanded we leave the hotel now.
11:03 AM - We're three minutes late on our departure.
11:15 AM - While I hadn't anticipated Jalen's zigzag walking pattern to the BART station, fortunately it was almost entirely downhill with a stiff wind at our backs. Unfortunately, whatever we made up for in good time was immediately negated as the wife s-l-o-w-l-y mouthed out the instructions at the automated ticket kiosk looking for all the world like a tourist tramp-stamped with "mug me".
11:23 AM - Train's here! And, we're off! I suppose there are several benefits to public transportation as it relates to the environment, easing traffic congestion and these uncertain economic times we live in. But, f*ck, it's dirty. I mean, not "public bathroom at the beach" dirty, but… And, I didn't dare ask the maestro where the seat warmers were or mention that the window by my "bench" wouldn't roll down.
11:45 AM - We reach Corporate Sponsor Coliseum and begin the long walk to the ballpark under a Prozac-gray sky. Mrs. Bootleg fancies herself an amateur photographer and wanted to take pictures of father and son on this most glorious day. I wanted my free DVD. My stride picks up speed.
11:50 AM - Ever wonder who buys those horribly-written team programs and dictionary-thick media guides? Me, too, and I still do it every year.
11:55 AM - We're about an hour shy of game time. Today's giveaway item is only for the first 10,000 fans, yet there appear to be plenty to spare. The attendants insist that all three of us get our own copy. Gonna be a lean year for scalpers, me thinks.
12:00 PM - Our first "gift shop" stop and Jalen is…uh, a little agitated. Not even first pitch, yet. He keeps asking, "Where's Stomper? Where's Stomper?" A store clerk overhears and tries to appease him with a $20 Stomper puppet. I'm not sure what was more insulting: some stranger trying to patronize my kid or this same stranger thinking I couldn't shut my son up. On an unrelated note, Mrs. Bootleg takes him for a walk around the concourse with a promise of ice cream.
12:05 PM - Probably not a good sign when I don't buy anything, using the excuse that I've already got most of the stuff in the store.
12:15 PM - We get to our seats even though I know there's no way Jalen is going to sit still for 45 minutes of slow-moving pre-game activity before the slow-moving game activity starts. I didn't want to go to the well so soon, but our friends at Disney's book publishing arm just released "Minnie's Rainbow", which I stashed in Mrs. Bootleg's travel bag. But, will it hold him for ¾ of an hour?
12:30 PM - Nope. We're now into the newly-purchased "Curious George at the Dog Show". And, I'm f*ck-all out of books.
12:45 PM - The A's have a kids area affectionately called "Stomper's Fun Zone". It couldn't be worse than the last 30 minutes, so Jalen and I head on up. It's way back on the second deck and up an insane amount of stairs.
12:50 PM - Ah, Moneyball. The "Fun Zone" appears to be a donation center for broken toys from broken Oakland homes. Nevertheless, Jalen was ecstatic to find a release for his pent-up energy even if it involved a surplus of kid-friendly police auction purchases.
12:55 PM - We're still a mile above our seats on the field level when the PA announcer directs our attention to the home plate area…where the real Stomper is dancing quite the urban jig to the strains of E-40's incomprehensible gibberish. (White people: "He admits it! See?! Even HE can't understand rap!") Jalen sees all the kids rushing to the railing for a closer look, then realizes that 10 minutes ago we could've been the ones close enough to touch him. "I wanna see Stomper!" I direct him to a 19" picture tube TV that hangs perilously from a 45-year-old wall, since there's no way we can get back to our seats in time.
The boy is…not pleased.
Next: Jalen meets Stomper! But, do we stay for the whole game?