To alleviate the stress, spendin' time with you, I feel blessed
When you gone, feel this pain so strong, deep in my chest...
- - Makaveli, "Just Like Daddy"
Part I -- Part II -- Part III -- Part IV
Saturday, March 20
3:00 AM - It would appear that three hours in the swimming pool wasn't the best thing for our son's ear. After shrieking us awake an hour earlier, Jalen's finally fallen back asleep with the help of two teaspoons of children's Tylenol, lots of motherly love and my, umm...prescient decision to come back to the room at a decent hour from a night of drinking. I've been raising the bar for black fathers since 2004, yo.
5:30 AM - I've never been an especially heavy sleeper and when I wake up, I'm generally up for good. I spend a few hours tossing and turning while looking at the clock every few minutes silently reassuring myself with absurdities like, "OK, Aaron. If you fall asleep in the next 20 minutes, you can get three hours of sleep before the sun comes up. You can do this. Just clear your mind." The last time I looked at the clock, it was 5:15 AM. Not long after this, I fall asleep. My "just enough to function" sleep threshold is about four hours. At this point of the
6:15 AM - "Daddy! Today we're going to the Indians' spring training stadium!" Well, look who's up...and with no lasting effects of his middle-of-the-night inner ear fright. If it's possible to be awake, alert and clinically deceased; then I've achieved the trifecta. As much as I want and need sleep, my body's simply not going to give it to me. I throw in the towel at 90 cumulative minutes of slumber, hoping that a scalding hot shower and a caffeine IV is enough to get me through the day.
10:30 AM - Only hibernating bears and corpses reach a deeper level of sleep than Jalen. He insists his ear is fine and has NO recollection of anything that happened eight hours earlier. We head out for the city of Goodyear -- spring training home to the Cleveland Indians (and Cincinnati Reds) -- to see the A's play the Tribe.
11:00 AM - You've heard about Arizona's controversial, recently-passed anti-illegal immigration laws, right? What you might not know is that the laws are intentionally inflammatory and designed to take attention away from the state's most heinous criminal activity. Believe it or not, on long stretches of the I-10 freeway, the speed limit is 55 mph. And, there are intermittent radar cameras set up along the shoulder to catch anyone who dares accelerate to 60.
11:30 AM - This is our second straight spring training trip to Goodyear. The ballpark is beyond awesome with smiling employees, a bunch of kid-friendly activities and a level of cleanliness only rivaled by Disneyland and heaven (if the cream cheese commercials are to be believed). We arrive just as the gates open and Jalen leads us to the children's baseball diamond -- a miniature replica of a real ballfield with authentic bases and red clay on the infield. The adult equivalent for Jalen's current level of excitement is "lotto winner". He'd roll around in the red clay right now, if...
"Dammit, Jalen, quit rolling around in the red clay!"
12:15 PM - This long, blogging, lanky right-hander threw batting practice to more than a dozen kids for almost 45 minutes. Most of the ones who weren't hitting were in the field and despite their indifferent, often inning-extending defense; I was having a great time. Unfortunately, it was time to end my Satchel Paige impression. I had nothing left in my underdeveloped limb. Besides, Jalen was showing a genuine interest in autographs, so we walked towards our seats to see if anyone was signing.
12:25 PM - We reached the A's dugout just as an especially surly player (didn't recognize him and his uniform number didn't jibe with anyone in the A's media guide) was ignoring the balls, cards and pens extending out from the stands to less than 12 inches from him. Fortunately, things picked up.
Eric Chavez: [to Jalen] "Hey, buddy! Where are you from?"
Jalen: "San Diego!"
Chavez: "Really? I'm from San Diego, too!"
Chavez: "Yeah! May I sign your ball?"
Michael Taylor: [to Jalen] "Hi, my name's Michael, what's yours?"
Taylor: [signing J's ball] "Nice to meet you, Jalen. I like your wristbands."
Taylor: Here you go. Enjoy the game.
A's utility infielder Adam Rosales (above) came by next. Mrs. Bootleg had been taking pictures of the players signing Jalen's ball (and simultaneously swooning over Eric Chavez's unshaven sexiness) when Rosales just shoved his mug next to J's and posed for a picture. This was the second attempt at a picture, as the first one features Rosales looking into the camera while Jalen's focused on Rosales with a "sign my damn ball" look on his face.
And, this is A's RF Ryan Sweeney. After he signed, Jalen had his fill of autographs for the day, but not before asking if he could sign the ball, too. Mrs. Bootleg's "well, it is HIS ball" shrug-in-response is actually grounds for divorce in most states.
1:30 PM - A's starter Jason Jennings is getting creamed by the Cleveland offense. He gives up eight runs in 1.2 innings before he's mercifully euthanized. I'm off to find food and stumble right into a "TBG Eats" feature:
These are from Goodyear Ballpark's "Hot Dog Nation" concession stand. It serves six different locally-famous hot dog styles from across the country. On the left is the "Cleveland Dog" (chipotle BBQ sauce, bacon, shredded cheese and onions). On the right is the "Cincinnati Dog" (chili, shredded cheese and onions).
I had the Cleveland Dog last year and it was as amazing as I remembered. The sweet smoky sauce couples well with the salty awesomeness of bacon and both sit atop the most flavorful all-beef ballpark hot dog I've ever had. The Cincinnati Dog can't keep up with its bland canned chili. I mean, it's hard to believe a city that puts chili on spaghetti can't figure out a simple chili dog.
Grades: Cleveland Dog--5, Cincinnati Dog--1.5
3:30 PM - We leave with the A's trailing 12-2. And, after another 30 minutes over on the kids' diamond, we're back on the road. I've never had more fun with Jalen at a game. Despite the debacle, he was way into it. We talked strategy and predicted outcomes. I tried to explain the "infield fly rule" and Jalen viciously booed Jennings off the mound ("Go back to (Triple-A) Sacramento!"). Even Mrs. Bootleg was only mildly mortified. My favorite father/son experience ever? Oh, yeah...I'm going there.
3:45 PM - "My ear is hurting."
Well, I got to bask in the afterglow of the afternoon for 15 minutes. Jalen's cupping his ear in the back seat, nearly asleep and, in the blink of an eye, Mrs. Bootleg's on her Blackberry researching the nearest Urgent Care. We join our conversation, already in progress.
And, this is the honest-to-goodness way it played out:
Mrs. Bootleg: "What do you think we should do?"
Me: "Whatever you want."
Mrs. Bootleg: "Can you at least TRY to offer a suggestion? I want you to be part of this decision."
Me: "You NEVER take my advice when it comes to Jalen's medical issues."
Mrs. Bootleg: "I wouldn't be asking if I didn't want your input. I don't know what to do."
Me: "Well, let's get him back to the room and see how he's doing. We can go from there."
Mrs. Bootleg: "He's asleep! Why would we want to take him all the way up to our room if we just have to carry him back down to the car to go to Urgent Care?!"
Me: [Head explodes].
Next: Urgent Care! (And, did I ever get my Dunkin' Donuts Waffle Breakfast Sandwich?)