Remember Clark Griswald and National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation? Well, this is about the Steinmeyer’s and their version of a vacation. If you remember the movie, an aunt dies in the backseat and the family dog is drug to death on the bumper of the car, but they made it to Wally World.
Here’s how my family plans a vacation. My nine-year old son, Sam, picks a major league baseball city, any baseball city. I then check into possible vacation packages from the airlines. I ask a friend with connections to help me find good baseball game tickets and it’s off we go.
Sam has a remarkable ability to pick winners. He always makes his decision during the winter months, so he doesn’t wait to see how the teams do in the spring. In 2006, we went to St. Louis. Then in 2007, we visited Denver to watch the Colorado Rockies. Last winter, he insisted on going to see the Tampa Bay Rays, the worst franchise in baseball over the past 20 years. Guess what those three major league teams have in common? They all have made the World Series the year we visited.
Friday, we left for our trip this summer, back to Tampa, Florida. However, I don’t want to talk about baseball. I want to talk about the remarkable people we have met in Tampa, which is really in St. Petersburg.
The very first game last year, I went for concessions and when I get back I found Sam in a conversation with a man in the row in front of us. His name is John and he’s amazed at Sam’s baseball knowledge. I am amazed by John. He would never talk about himself, but I learned from his friends that he is a graduate from West Point and has served his country ever since. His intelligence is unbelievable and his observations off the chart. He followed our basketball team last year and was the first to recognize my 500th career win despite the tough season we had. John may be the most intelligent and humble person I have ever met and he really likes my son.
The other two people we met are a husband and wife combo that run a physical therapy clinic. They are from Oklahoma. Dick graduated from Oklahoma State and I think Debbie did, too. We met them the same day we met John. The second day, they showed up with two big sacks of Ray’s “stuff.” There was everything from bobble heads to T-shirts to lunch boxes and much, much more.
Then, when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Debbie told the Ray’s owner about Sam and his remarkable run of successful visits. The owner sent Sam another box of “stuff” with a personal letter thanking Sam for traveling from Missouri to see the Rays.
All that happened last year. We stayed in touch all winter and here we are again. We have been to visit Dick and Debbie at their home. There has been much more Rays “stuff” for Sam, including a replica American League championship ring. In return, Sam has made all three honorary Bearcats by giving them Northwest “stuff.” I think the Rays may get back to the World Series again and I hope it rubs off on my Bearcat team.
The Tampa (St. Petersburg) vacation is winding down. It’ll be back to recruiting and getting ready for fall practices in a couple of days. Still, remarkable things continue to occur at the Trop, where the Rays play. Sam has made friends with a former Korean POW. He is sending Sam a book about his experiences.
Today, he teamed up with three other kids to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch. It just happened to be broadcast on the big screen in the same booth with the organist while 23,000 fans sang along. When they came back to their seats, the four young men were applauded like rock stars. Look out Bobby Bearcat, you have a lot to live up to this season.