I am late with this week’s blog. It’s my first day back in the office following a five-day vacation. Actually, it was a three-day vacation and a two-day weekend. My wife, Michele, son, Sam, and I flew to Seattle for our annual summer trip. It was boiling hot when we arrived. I think the temperature was an unthinkable 84 degrees. However, it didn’t take long to get into the 70s for highs and the 50s for lows. There was even a day of rain. It was like a full time air conditioner anywhere we went. I hope everyone in Missouri didn’t suffer with the heat too much.
I have to admit, our vacation is determined on the whims of our 10-year-old son. Michele wonders why we have to travel where our son, who can’t see over the steering wheel, wants to spend his vacation. By now, it’s a family tradition and we can’t mess with tradition. I want to let you know how this whole thing started.
The baseball vacation idea all began in 2004. Sam was four-years-old and had been forced to like baseball. I needed someone to take to see the Royals and it wasn’t going to be Michele. When Sam was between two- and three-years-old, I took an afternoon off to see a “Businessmen Special” in Kansas City. The noon game featured Paul Bird, who was having a great season for a very bad baseball team. I had Sam on my shoulders, when someone approached me and gave me two tickets that were right behind home plate. Bringing Sam was already paying dividends.
That year, we decided to make a short trip to Chicago to see the Cubs. They were playing the Cardinals in a Sunday night game. Sam loved the Cardinals and their famous first baseman, Albert Pujols. He was such a fan of Pujols, Sam almost failed pre-kindergarten. Before our Chicago trip, Sam was tested for his readiness into kindergarten. The teacher, Deb Clark, was reviewing it with Michele and me. Miss Clark had only one concern – Sam didn’t know his last name. I couldn’t believe that was true, so I asked what he had said. Deb said, “Sam said his name was Sammy Steinmeyer Pujols.” I later found out our babysitter, Dawson Vordebrugge, had told him to use Pujols for his last name instead of Steinmeyer.
We took Sam with his Pujols jersey, Michele, and a couple of friends to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. However, we wanted Sam to experience all the culture. We jumped on the “L” in downtown Chicago and headed to the ballpark. St. Louis won a close game and Sam learned a few words from Cubs fans that didn’t like his Pujols jersey. They aren’t words he would later use in kindergarten, but they did add to his culture.
In 2005, the baseball trip was for comfort reasons. Sam loved Camp Snoopy. You could find one at World’s of Fun in Kansas City and one at Mall of America in Minneapolis. Why would we travel eight hours to a Camp Snoopy when one was 90 minutes from our backdoor? The answer was air conditioning. After we arrived, I found out the Twins were in town playing the Oakland A’s. I also found out there was a train station nearby and it ran right by the Metrodome. It was a great reason to leave Camp Snoopy a little early. We jumped on the train at 5 p.m., got off near the Metrodome at 5:30 p.m., and explored the dome until the 7 p.m. game time. Then we watched the Twins squeak by the A’s.
As it turned out, Sam doesn’t like amusement parks all that much. However, my son really likes baseball. At six-years-old, I decided to make our vacation a baseball trip. I picked St. Louis since it was close and they were opening a brand new ball park. I also found out that I had a source for good tickets that were free. I found a downtown hotel that had a swimming pool and I didn’t have to mortgage the house to afford. Despite three straight losses to the Phillies and Brewers, we had a great time. I took Sam on a tour of the new Busch Stadium and he loved it. Then something unexpected happened – St. Louis won the World Series.
At seven-years-old, I wasn’t ready to turn the vacation decision over to Sam, but I did decide to consult him. Without Michele’s input, Sam and I decided to visit Coors Field and watch the Rockies play. The plan was to stay in downtown Denver, watch the Rockies and Cubs play their series opener and then jump on a train and travel through the Rocky Mountains to Glenwood Springs. Did you know Glenwood Springs has a small amusement park that you ride a chair lift to enter? You didn’t need air conditioning for this amusement park since we were on top of the Rocky Mountains. Two days in Glenwood Springs, then back to see the Rockies finish their games with the Cubs. The Rockies lost all three games we attended, but it wasn’t the Cubs who made the World Series. The Rockies won their last 20 games and made it all the way to the World Series. That’s 2-for-2 with Sam picking World Series teams.
As soon as we got home, Sam starting bugging me about the 2008 vacation. He had his mind made up. The family would go to Tampa to see the Devil Rays. Later that winter, Tampa shortened their nickname to the Rays. I didn’t think it was an affordable trip. Besides, the streak would be in danger. Tampa Rays (Devil Rays) had never made the post season. The new-look Rays had never even had a winning season. Much to my surprise, Tera at Maryville Travel found a great vacation package that put us in a hotel right on the beach. That sold Michele. Getting the free tickets was easy, since no one thought the Rays could win. We saw Cliff Lee, a Cleveland pitcher who would go on to win the Cy Young award (given annually to the league’s best pitcher), stifle the Ray’s bats. However, the home team, who played in a dome called Tropicana Field, swept a Detroit team the next three nights. As a bonus, we sat by some great, generous people. Dick, Debbie and John brought Sam more presents than Santa Claus. We had to buy an extra piece of luggage to get it all home. By the way, the Rays not only had a winning season, they made it all the way to the World Series. Sam was now 3-for-3.
In 2009, greed slanted Sam’s judgment. It was a foregone conclusion that Sam would pick the vacation spot. During the winter, his Tampa friends continue to send presents. Sam received a replica of the Ray’s American League Championship ring. The ring dominated not only his finger, but his whole arm. There was no question after the ring arrived, we were headed back to the gulf coast.
The Rays played the lowly Royals during our four-game stay. Again the Rays faced a future Cy Young winner in Zach Grienke. This time they beat him. It looked for a while like the Rays might keep Sam’s World Series streak alive. However, the Yankees and Red Sox overtook them. It was still a great trip and even Michele had a great time in her hammock on the beach.
Michele was not as pleased when she heard Sam’s choice for this summer. We stayed just blocks from the water, but it was hard to find a place for a hammock considering it was all shipping piers. Sam’s mother was not real pleased with the weather we were likely to encounter. Cool rainy days sound great if we had them in Maryville tomorrow, but not on a vacation. However, my wife was outnumbered two to one. I tried to convince her to go back to Florida while Sam and I watched baseball in Seattle. I really think she liked the idea, but motherly guilt got the best of her. Also, it could be she just wanted to keep an eye on the boys in the family.
Besides baseball, we saw the Space Needle, the Seattle Aquarium, the Pacific Science Museum, and took an hour cruise of the waterfront. Sam and I toured both Quest Field, home of the football Seahawks and Safeco Field, where the Mariners called home. The most disappointing thing was I only had two bowls of chowder and barely any seafood. Who had time to eat? We stayed in a hotel that was right across the street from both stadiums. If you ever go to a Mariners game, I recommend Joe’s Polish Dog with onions and cream cheese over Al’s Polish Dog with onions. Both are found just outside the stadium.
The Mariners played the red-hot Texas Rangers in game one and got beat badly. Then the Royals came to town and Seattle won two of three games, including a beat-down of Grienke. It was the first three-game series they had won in more than a month. The day we left town, the Mariners fired their manager. It didn’t do him much good to beat the Royals. There will be no World Series in Seattle this year. Could Sam’s good luck charms be dimming?
Early word on Sam’s choice for 2011 is the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas. There’s a Six Flags Amusement Park nearby. Sam is really anxious to see the new Cowboy Stadium and all that $1 billion dollars can buy. Sam’s mother is already not happy. She just got used to the 70 degree weather of Seattle, now it’s on to the 110 degree weather of Texas. Maybe we can talk her into Florida next year.