Monday, October 14, 2013

TBG Eats: Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches

Current Weight: 175.0 lbs.

Me?!  I think a BETTER question is where the hell have YOU been? 

It's only been two, three, four, five, six months since my last post.  OK, six-and-a-HALF months.  But, I have a good excuse!  It's a LONG story.  Longer than the time I almost died.  Longer than one of my travel diaries.  It would make for a GREAT multi-part blog post, which is to say...that's all I can say. 

BUT...!  The deleted scenes/lost chapters would've included: especially awful bout of food poisoning from a certain fast food restaurant's "two tacos for 99 cents".  Hard to believe my stomach -- forged from steel --  couldn't handled obscenely greasy gray mystery meat that's asphyxiated with processed American cheese and last week's wilted lettuce.  Consequently, for several months, I lost my one remaining mutant superpower: my affinity for ANY fast food.  Oh, maybe I'm being overly dramatic.  Here's some toned-down imagery of the feeling. 

...oral surgery!  Last December, I underwent a two-hour grafting procedure along my gum line.  The day before, I met with my dentist -- an Indian woman who I've been seeing for almost 15 years.  As she cautioned me about the short-term limitations I'd endure immediately after the surgery, she dropped this bit of inadvertent, heavily-accented awesome: 

"And, you won't be able to eat meat on the bone for a few months. You know, like...what it is you people eat?  Ribs? You won't be able to eat that." 

During the procedure, the local anesthetic wore off about halfway through.  As my dentist explained: 

"We will give you another dose, but we can't stop the procedure.  We've already exposed the cadaver tissue.  I'm sorry, but you're going to be very uncomfortable for a few minutes." 

HOW uncomfortable?  Take your gum line and physically tear it away from your teeth.  That's not a hypothetical, kids.  I couldn't eat solid food for almost six weeks and my weight dropped from 175 lbs. on December 5th (the day of the surgery) to 151 lbs. in mid-January.  On the plus side, only HALF of my face turned into a grotesque mess!  Look...I'm not saying I agree with the insane, homicidal tendencies of Two-Face. But, now I understand how super-villains get their start. 

...Little League baseball!  My last TBG post was a recap of the start of my 9(!)-year-old son's spring season.  Believe it or not, our team made it to the championship game, but fell two runs and one inning short from winning it all.  It was the most fun I've ever had coaching one of Jalen's teams. 
Ooh, before I forget, J would like you ALL to know that, as a hitter, he led our team in walks AND as a pitcher, he was tied for the team lead in wins.  Trust me...he kept track.  Meticulously.  He even made the postseason 10U All Stars.  However, J's stubborn refusal to bend the brim of his baseball caps legitimately undermines ALL of his accomplishments. 

Unfortunately, Jalen's all-star run coincided with my favorite TBG time of the year: the San Diego Fair.  For four straight weeks; J's team was either practicing, scrimmaging or playing a game.  And, for four straight weeks; I was missing out on deep-fried cookie dough, Krispy Kreme sloppy joes and waffle dogs.  (Welcome, new readers!  Yes, I used "and" instead of "or" two sentences ago.  Y'see...the food at the San Diego Fair is kind of a big deal around this lightly-read blog.  Get caught up!  We'll wait!) 

A-a-a-and, that about covers the past 200 days or so. 

Up until two weeks ago!  M'man Coach Andy called for one of our infrequent youth baseball gossip sessions. But, before we could begin sharing our scouting reports on up-and-coming eight-year-olds or commence with yet another mock draft of best-looking mothers in our Little League ("Why do you ALWAYS select your wife in the first round, Aaron?", Andy sometimes often ALWAYS taunts.) my mind was about to be blown: 

"Have you seen the new ice cream sandwiches at Baron's?  Chocolate chip cookies with candied bacon ice cream. They are..." 

I don't remember much of our conversation after Andy strung together "candied" and "bacon" and "ice cream", consecutively.  I do remember his comment left under a picture I posted to my Facebook page of the actual ice cream sandwich: 

"That didn't take long." 

The ice cream sandwiches are from Coolhaus -- an outfit that began as a gourmet food truck nearly five years ago in Los Angeles.  Today, they have nearly a dozen trucks dotting LA, New York City, Austin and Miami, along with storefronts in Pasadena and Culver City.  They've recently introduced a pre-packaged line of their signature high-end ice cream sandwiches nationwide. 

Let's see if I still remember how to write these.

Chocolate Chip Cookie with Brown Butter Candied Bacon Ice Cream -- The candied bacon component ensured that this would be my first Coolhaus choice.  As obnoxiously ubiquitous as bacon has become, it doesn't get nearly enough love for its versatility in desserts.  Surprisingly, though, it's the cookie that's the best thing here.  Brown sugar is one of my favorite flavors -- whether we're talking gastronomic or marital(!) -- and the cookie carries a sweet, but tempered richness.  The soft and chewy texture is markedly better than your typical convenience store cookie sandwich, as well.  The ice cream is solid and it's a damn fine accompaniment with the cookies, but the "perfect bite" of sweet and savory, brown sugar and bacon only occurred in every third our fourth chomp.  The candied bacon was good enough to stand on its own and I found myself wishing there was more of it here.  Grade: 4 (out of 5)

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie with Baked Apple Pie Ice Cream -- In the interest of full disclosure, I should come clean and admit that oatmeal cookies are my favorite cookies in the whole wide world.  Similarly, whenever I'm out to eat, my go-to dessert is pretty much anything with warm apples.  (Longtime readers know Mrs. Bootleg prefers crème brûlée or tiramisu.  No, I don't know why she hates America.)  Anywho...this was pretty much magnificent in every way.  The mouthfeel of the chewy, brown sugar/buttery oats belied its previous residency in a commercial freezer.  Paired with the not-too-tart, not-too-sweet apples from the cinnamon-dusted ice cream, this one hit all of Aaron's taste targets.  500 out of 5? Oh, I'mma 'bout to go there...   Grade: 500

Vegan Ginger Molasses Cookie with Mango Saffron Sorbet -- Prepare your "shocked n' amazed" faces, people.  This one's an acquired taste.  My wife would have NONE of this tomfoolery with her taste buds.  Here's a 10-second reenactment of her 10-minute reaction after taking one -- and only one -- bite.  Separately, these aren't my favorite flavors, but together...they kinda-sorta work.  The spiciness of the cookie is cut way back by the sorbet.  The taste of mango is strong, but the ginger and molasses linger at the back end of each bite.  The end result is akin to a palate cleanser with a bit of a kick.   Grade: 2.5

Snickerdoodle Cookie with Salted Caramel Ice Cream -- For the entirety of his young life, my son would only eat chocolate chip cookies.  WITHOUT walnuts.  Weirdo.  If we're including store-bought, he'd ignore Oreos, Newtons and Nutter Butters in favor of Chips Ahoy, Chips Deluxe and Famous Amos.  Recently, however, he's been seen dating cookies outside his taste.  Snickerdoodles are his current infatuation and the Coolhaus version is soo-POIB.  The cinnamon/sugar balance is perfect and the granules are a subtly outstanding textural contrast with the ice cream.  However, I wish the ice cream's saltier notes carried over.  The deep caramel flavor and sweetness from the cookies could've used a few salty swipes, but I suppose I'm picking nits.  My son obliterated the half I gave him.  I think Coolhaus has comfortably captured the pre-adolescent African-American market.  Grade: 4.5 

My friend Smitty -- who lives near Pasadena -- has told me wonderful tales of Coolhaus' Maker's Mark-flavored "Manhattan" ice cream.  The Coolhaus website hints at a "fried chicken and waffle" ice cream (brown butter‍ maple ice cream w/ maple candied chicken skins & caramelized waffles) coming soon. 

Road trip?
Road trip.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Guess Which of My Little Leaguers...

...swatted a surefire single to centerfield, only to be thrown out at first base. to throw FIVE different pitches.

...has run more disciplinary laps than everyone else on the team combined.

...has overrun second and third base more than everyone else in organized baseball combined., inexplicably, the only player on the team who knows how to slide.

...sobbed softly in the dugout during a recent 10-0 win because he didn't get to pitch.

...hasn't had a hit all season.

...has thrown more than 25% of the team's total innings pitched and just returned from a strained bicep.

...calls me "sir", instead of "coach".

...gave up five runs in 1/3 of an inning after demanding to know if he'll EVER pitch again.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The LL Chronicles #26: Six Games Into the Season...

I've often said that it's the adults who make Little League baseball infinitely more difficult than the kids. So, you'd better believe I'm proud to announce MY contribution to the usual chaos and confusion.  As the 2013 Little League season approached, I had to determine where my nine-year-old son Jalen would play. 

J could stay in the 8-10-year-old division called "Farm".  This is where he played last year, holding his own with the stick and as a regular pitcher.  Or, he could move up to the 9-11-year-old level called "Minors" -- ostensibly a more competitive division that sits one spot below Little League's apex echelon, "Majors".  I hemmed and hawed in the weeks leading up to spring sign-ups and beyond, listing both divisions on J's paperwork and wrecking havoc on the league's aging, TRS-80-supported player database. 

After receiving unsolicited counsel from several other managers -- who crafted their one-size-fits-all advice around the same weather-worn opening line, "If he was MY son..." followed by two seconds of silence to presumably build dramatic effect before dispensing their predictable advice after the ellipse -- I opted to bring Jalen up to Minors.
Tryouts were held in mid-January and the player draft was two weeks later.  My Athletics team (yes, AGAIN) looked especially young on paper -- with four 9-year-olds and just one 11-year-old. But, we appeared to offer some decent depth in both the lineup and pitching staff; albeit without any of the "man-amongst-boys" behemoths whose talent belies their birth certificates. 

We practiced throughout the month of February and after an unusually-scheduled bye on Little League Opening Day, we played our first game: 

"12-4 loss in Little League opener, highlighted by my son seeing a curveball for 1st time. Ended as hilariously & tearfully as you'd expect." -- from my Twitter feed, March 9 

I handed the opening starting pitching assignment to our oldest, most experienced player -- a tall, lanky 11-year-old named Jordan. He initially struggled with his control, but settled down to strike out five in a row at one point.  He left with a 3-1 lead.  After telling him that he wouldn't be pitching earlier in the evening, I changed my mind and brought Jalen into the game.  When the inning ended, we were suddenly down 6-3. 

J only gave up one hard hit ball in the inning.  Everything else could be laid at the feet (...and through the legs...and under the gloves) of our Vaudevillian defense.  And, it wasn't entirely errors.  Here's a quick in-game conversation between me and my third baseman: 

Me: "Seth! The bases are loaded. If it comes to you, just step on third!" 

Seth: "OK!" 

[The is a groundball to third base.] 

Seth: [Picks up ball, makes lollipop toss towards first base, ball lands softly on pitcher's mound just inches from an incredulous Jalen...] 

Rest of Team: [Audible, but indecipherable cacophony of criticism directed at Seth. Constructive, I presume.] 

Later in the game, we would run ourselves out of not one, but TWO separate innings when my baserunners lost track of the number of outs.  Even the umpires got in on the act when one of my players avoided a tag at home plate only to be called out. 

Me: "Where did the catcher tag him?" 

12-year-old umpire: "Ummm...he stepped on home plate?" 

Me: "But, it wasn't a force play." 

Umpire: "Uh..." 

Obnoxious parent of player on the other team: [From behind the backstop] "THE RUNNER WAS OUT OF THE BASELINE!" 

Umpire: "Uh...the runner was out of the baseline." 

Me: "..." 


"Heart-stopping 10-9 walk-off win for my son's Little League team tonite. Our 1st win! My son's reaction: 'Aww, I went 0 for 2.' Team player!" -- from Twitter, March 13 

Trailing by one run as we entered the bottom of the sixth and final inning, we were fortunate to have the top of our batting order coming up.  My leadoff hitter is a thickly-built 10-year-old catcher straight out of the Moneyball methodology.  He started us off by tomahawking an opposite-field single to right.  Up next was Bennett -- a talented 9-year-old who skipped the Farm level altogether.  He's a terrific little hitter whose concentration needs an occasional nudge. 

Me: "OK, Bennett. We've got one on and nobody out.  If you get your pitch, put a good swing on it." 

Bennett: "If I get my pitch, I'm gonna kill it, coach." 

Jesus!  True to his word, last rites rang off the left field wall as Bennett tripled home his excruciatingly s-l-o-w footed teammate to tie the game.  Bennett scored on a check-swing infield dribbler to win it.  To his credit, Jalen led the spontaneous walk-off celebration and waited until we'd ALMOST gotten back to the car before expressing his selfish lament.  So...progress.


"16-11 loss in Little League. Didn't let fact we were missing 2 of our best players stop me from yelling at kids over teams' lack of effort!" -- from Twitter, March 16 

My 10-year-old catcher who runs with a pair of pianos strapped to his back?  Out with shin splints, natch.  My stone-faced clean-up hitter?  In-season(!) family vacation.  Despite the losses on offense, we were matching run-for-run with one of the better teams in our division -- which made our half-assed effort in the field and on the basepaths even more inexcusable. 

I've been managing in Little League long enough to expect these games once per season.  They're immediately followed by a postgame meeting in which I unleash a little kid-friendly Jim Leyland (NSFW!)  Up until now, my teams had been blown out in these effort-free affairs.  On this day, a win was within our reach, so I made my speech in the middle of the game, between innings.  It included ALL the classic lyrics, like... 

"All I ask [pause] is that you guys TRY!" 

"If you guys don't wanna play hard, then why am I here?  WHY AM I HERE?" 

[Chorus] "Hustling is the EASY part!" x4 

And, we still lost the game.  Next time, I'll auto-tune the chorus. 


"Son's Little League team blew 8-0 lead & lost 12-11. If you need me, I'll be ensuring all my players WALK home & go to bed without dinner." -- from Twitter, March 19

This one STUNG.  And, the pain was exacerbated two days later by the father of one of my players.  In a long, rambling e-mail, he asked if I could make the game "more fun" for his son.  Somewhere in chapter 16 of his missive, he not-so-subtly mentioned that he previously played minor league baseball and helpfully offered up the same basic pointers ("...have the hitters rotate their hips..." and "...get the head of the bat in front of the plate...") that EVERY youth coach knows and parrots.  The publicity blurb on the back of this e-mail's imaginary book jacket would be "THE MOST CONDESCENDING READ OF THE YEAR!" 

Fortunately, I trashed my original reply ("Don't worry. Your son's got the same chance of making the Major Leagues as you.") and respectfully invited Crash Davis to come out to a practice and dispense his "fun" blend of pedantic wisdom and "Baseball Annie" anecdotes to ALL of the kids.  It's been 10 days. I'm still waiting for his response. 


"Little League team wins 14-4, bouncing back from worst loss ever. Per agreement, I'm returning players' Friday lunch money to each of them." -- from Twitter, March 21 

Earlier this month, Jalen and I were having breakfast before I took him to school.  The conversation centered on catching and my son's newfound affinity for the position. 

Jalen: "Do you think I'll get most of the starts at catcher when the season starts?" 

Me: "Nah, probably not."

Jalen: "Why not?"

Me: "Because you're not a good catcher, J."

In the past, I've been able to honestly assess my son's baseball shortcomings and he'd respond with mock indignation or a playful "Hey!" before trying -- almost always successfully -- to tackle my frail, emaciated frame to the ground.  This time, however, his response wasn't what I'd call "playful". 

"I'm not a good catcher?" 

It's been nearly a month and I still feel awful about it.  The worst part is that I think he was less hurt by the criticism than by the fact it came from his greatest baseball advocate.  I immediately backpedalled by belatedly -- and clumsily -- adding context to my comment: 

"Well, J...y''ve gotta work on blocking balls in the dirt and...y'know, you gotta have a quick release back there...I mean, it's a tough position.  And, I like you more at shortstop.  I thought you LIKED playing shortstop?  DON'T YOU LIKE SHORTSTOP?!" 

Fortunately, I had enough flop sweat left over to marinate the crow my son would serve me once the season began.  In our second game, Jalen -- who'd stayed home from school with a cold the day before -- ended up catching four of the six innings and tagged a runner out at home.  In our third game, he threw out a runner at third base and in this 14-4 win, he threw out a runner trying to steal second. 

After six games, J's played more innings at the position than anyone on the team. 

He's a good catcher.


"Little League team scored 21 runs today, but the big story was son's reaction to getting stung by bee for 1st time." -- from Twitter, March 23 

He's not good at getting stung by bees.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

2013 NFL Pickery -- Super Bowl XLVII

With this year's six-win margin, m'man Joe Reid won our seventh annual NFL Pickery.  After I picked up wins in the first three seasons, Joe has run the goddam board for four straight years.  We're back for the Super Bowl, but if you can't get enough of Joe, you can find him hanging out on more important websites than mine. 

That's right.  I know people.

San Francisco (-3) vs. Baltimore 

Joe: Okay, first of all, none of you have any reason to believe me, but I had the Ravens picked as the AFC representative in the Super Bowl from the beginning of the playoffs and would have picked them happily with those crazy point spreads against the Broncos and Patriots. But, again, you have no cause to believe me there, so let's move on to rooting interest:

I have no good reason for why I don't hate Ray Lewis more than I do. I probably should. He maybe killed a guy? He certainly obstructed justice by covering up the truth, but seeing as I finished a hundred or so credits shy of my degree in criminal justice, I don't tend to get hung up on it. It's not like I like the guy, but I've become way too desensitized to athletes dancing around to be bothered by something like that. Also, the Jesus stuff is SO over-the-top that I actually find it hilarious. He ends up looking so crazy that the sportscasters (almost always the biggest cause for annoyance in sports) can't even rhapsodize his faith, like they do with Tebow. It's just Ray acting like a lunatic, and then it's back to the studio hosts who are all, "Certainly an ... emotional day for Ray Lewis." They actually don't know how to talk about it.

Meanwhile, there's just so much to hate about the 49ers. Starting with the fact that their fans spontaneously regained the ability to be smug monsters in the last six weeks. Dormant 18 years, they're back! And they're awful! And then there's Jim Harbaugh, who ... I get it, if you like the Niners, Harbaugh's a savior, and all his obnoxious behavior becomes endearing. But what's everybody else's excuse for tolerating this jackass's bullshit for one second? This crap is as funny as the Ray Lewis God stuff, I guess, but it bugs me way more. Maybe that's just my problem. What's not just my problem? 49ers homophobia! Congratulations, Chris Culliver, you win the Media Week Soundbite Trophy! Look, I understand that the reality of pro football (and most of pro sports) is that 85% of the athletes on all teams probably hate my ass just for being me, but when this is the public face of the Niners and this is the public face of the Ravens, my already-Ravens-leaning loyalties get set in stone.

As for who's GOING to win? ...Yeah, probably the Niners. They've been the best team all season, probably, albeit one with a weird vulnerability to the St. Louis Rams. Pick: San Francisco 31, Baltimore 23

Aaron: It's hard for me to remember a Super Bowl in which my the potential for glorious schadenfreude outweighed any rooting interest.  Oh, I suppose it would be nice to see the 49ers players hoist the Lombardi Trophy under a maelstrom of confetti and the sanctimonious specter of James Brown's swollen bee-stung mug.  Similarly, I'd have no problem with the much-maligned Joe Flacco -- "He once called himself 'the best' quarterback in the league without waiting for OUR endorsement?! GET HIM!", Sportswriters Everywhere  -- begrudgingly feted by his disproportionately large number of detractors. 

It's just that...yeah, everything else. 

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the most compelling player on the field, but instead of appreciating him for his cannon arm and Randall Cunningham legs, we have to turn his story into a national debate on adoption?  This is why I don't watch any Super Bowl coverage between the conference championship games and 3:18 PM on the first Sunday in February.  And, I still can't escape it. 

Joe and I didn't pick any of the playoff games this season, but if we had, I might not have won a game.  Trust me...I was wrong on EVERYTHING.  I had Peyton Manning and the Broncos playing today.  I was sure the Green Bay Packers were getting healthy at juuuuust the right time.  Two weeks ago, I joined the chorus of voices that called for a San Francisco win.  The dynamic offense!  The underrated defense!   The genius/jerkface Jim Harbaugh! 

But, isn't it possible that -- at SOME point -- the experience wins out?  Flacco has spent his career going 15 12 10? it 10 rounds now in boxing?...10 rounds with very good-to-great Pittsburgh teams during the regular season and traded season-ending blows with the Patriots in the playoffs.  The Ravens' defense isn't what its decade-old reputation would have you believe, but it doesn't have to be to defeat a 49ers team that's ran the gamut from "Super Bowl team" to "0-1-1 against the St. Louis Rams".  Pick: Baltimore 28, San Francisco 27 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Walk-Off and the Save

My eight-year-old son Jalen turns nine in less than a week. 

Earlier this week, while driving J to school, he BEGGED me to stop singing along with Michael Jackson's Billie Jean when it came on Sirius XM's '80s station.* "You're embarrassing me!", he shouted from the confines of the back seat. Jalen's "no singing" edict followed his unilateral implementation of a temporary restraining order against me – an unwritten, unspoken agreement that requires ten paces of separation between my son and I when I'm walking him to his classroom in the morning. 

* -- Recently, while we watched "Ghostbusters II", Jalen was similarly (and inexplicably!) unimpressed as I sang along with Bobby Brown's "On Our Own" anthem. I couldn't believe it. Nearly 25 years after its release, I was still able to nail EVERY lyric. That's better than Bobby Brown could claim roughly one year later at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards. 

I first remember feeling a bit of figurative separation with Jalen late last spring. I'd meticulously planned a father-son weekend in San Francisco with two tickets to a ballgame in Oakland as the admittedly predictable main event. Seats directly behind the Athletics' dugout! When I excitedly broke the news to Jalen, he responded with the equivalent of a verbal shrug ("OK") and quickly returned his attention to our living room television. 

Leading up to our flight on the first Saturday in July, Jalen seemed unaffected by all of the things that usually elicit inquisitive 6:00 AM wake-up calls from him, like "Who do you think the A's starting pitcher will be?" or "When we get on the BART train, can we ask the driver to go 100 miles per hour?" or "Do kids still get to run the bases after the game?"
And, Jalen has flown so many times that he's no longer even awed by airplanes. Instead, like the cynical beaten-down business traveler, he reserves what little emotion he can muster for expressing contempt towards his perpetual placement in the middle seat. 

We arrived in the city on one of San Francisco's typically frigid summer afternoons. And, like clockwork, I managed to lose my bearings on the two-block walk from the BART station to our hotel. At 4'4", Jalen is a full four inches shorter than my wife, but he inherited every ounce of her "know-it-all-ism". 

"Can't you use your phone to find the hotel?" 

"Mom's phone has GPS to find places. Do you want me to see if your phone has GPS, Dad?" 

"[Exasperated sigh] What's the NAME of the hotel, Dad? I'll just look up at all the buildings until we find it."
After a few minutes of relentlessly walking in circles, we found our hotel. That evening, we met one of my oldest friends and his family for dinner at Farmer Brown – a nouveau soul food spot in Union Square. I'm pleased to report that I didn't regret one drop of the four Mason Street Manhattan cocktails I sucked down. Not until 12 hours later, at least. 

Jalen: "Dad? Are you throwing up because you had too much to drink last night?" 

Me: "Probably." 

Jalen: "Should we call mom?" 


I had hoped to sober up with the terrific breakfast served at the Taylor Street Coffee Shop, but by 8:00 AM, there was a line out the door. Thankfully, two bacon, egg and cheese biscuits from Burger King cured what ailed me. Our only full father/son day in the Bay Area was off to a rocky start – which is to be expected when you promise your son the platter-sized pancakes that only a greasy spoon can produce and deliver a convenience store chocolate donut, instead. 

So, it was up to the A's game. An entire weekend built around enjoying each other's company hinged on the occasionally tedious style that's occasionally associated with the American League. A's versus Mariners! Two teams that finished a combined 42 games under .500 the previous season! 

Out of the corner of my eye, I sized Jalen up for any sign that indicated he was having a good time. As we traversed the overpass towards the ballpark, J exuded the indifferent aura of "high school cool". In years past, I watched him nearly knock people over as he speed-walked his way into a Spring Training game. Now, with the A's showing signs of life in the mid-season standings AND a throwback Oakland Oaks cap giveaway, J's gait reminded me of mine on a Monday morning after a three-day weekend. 

Our oddly detached day even extended into the grotesquely overpriced team store. After one lap around the suffocating, shoebox-sized shop, Jalen has usually asked for $500 worth of merchandise – that's up to THREE things! – but, nothing caught my kid's eye. What I would've given to have my old, excitable eight-year-old back. If he and I could no longer irrationally bond over baseball, I don't know what I'd do. Yes, it's melodramatic. But, it's also my favorite thing in the world to share with my son. 

As we trudged off towards our seats, I silently hoped for at least an entertaining game. Maybe that would reanimate the pocket-sized chocolate-brown corpse beside me. 

"Dad! I think Ryan Cook is signing autographs!" 

For those of you who don't know, Ryan Cook was the A's lone All-Star representative last season and, briefly, the team's closer. He was stationed at the end of the A's dugout and dutifully signing for anyone in the vicinity. Personally, I was just glad to see Jalen finally…

"Dad! Did you bring a baseball that I can get signed?!"

In the blink of an eye, J had worked his way towards the front of the small mob that had formed in front of Cook. And, from a distance not much farther than your computer screen is from your face, J politely asked the All-Star, "Ryan Cook, could you please sign my ball? I'm a pitcher, too!" 

Whew. Now, I could exhale. 

But, wait! The Mariners were starting Felix Hernandez on the mound – one of the best pitchers in the game and a notorious Athletics killer. The Cook autograph would keep J happy for a few innings, but a reappearance of Oakland's somnambulant offense could quickly ruin the mood. 

With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Oakland's Chris Carter tapped a foul ball down the third base line that was scooped up by third base coach – and my 37th favorite Athletics player of all time – Mike Gallego. Jalen stood up and leaned out over the dugout roof in Gallego's direction, but Gallego's underhand toss towards J's outstretched glove was short by about three feet. The ball ricocheted away and rolled into the section of seats on our left. 

I was more bummed than my son, but there was no time to feel sorry for him. I'm not being callous. It's just that I really had to use the bathroom. There was a young woman and her father sitting next to us who I'd been chatting up throughout the game. They offered to keep an eye on Jalen while I was gone. Hey, if you can't trust two strangers in the fourth most dangerous city in America…

When I returned, Jalen was holding what I thought was the baseball that he'd gotten autographed earlier in the afternoon. 

Me: "Be careful with that ball, J. You don't want to smudge the autograph." 

Jalen: "This is a new ball. Mike Gallego gave it to me." 

Me: "Mike Gallego gave it to you? When? Just now?!"

Young Woman Next to Us: "Yep! He came out of the dugout and tossed him a ball! I had to get your son's attention, but the coach tossed it and your son caught it!"

Well, then. Don't YOU feel bad for harboring those "stranger danger" thoughts a few sentences ago? Also…if you're going to tell my wife about this post, could you not START with the whole "…left my son with strangers…" thing? Thanks! 

The A's and Mariners remained tied until the bottom of the 13th inning when Josh Reddick drove home Jemile Weeks after four hours of great baseball. It had been a l-o-n-g afternoon, but any time with my son is a good time – even if he IS getting older and won't be a child forever. 

Jalen: "Do kids still get to run the bases after the game?" 

Me: "You wanna run the bases? 

Jalen: "Yeah!" 

Me: "Let's go."