Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This one is for the books--

To start off, this is Andrew blogging the text for the first time since my poor performance when Beckett was born. Crazy to think that next week that will be 2 years ago. Anyway back to the story.

So as many of you know, since I don't really keep it a secret, I played college baseball, and was roommates, with Jason Bay. Jason Bay, is an All Star outfielder who recently signed a mega deal with the New York Mets in the off season. I have brain washed Cooper into thinking that he is the greatest player of all time.

A little background. In 2003, when Cassie and I moved to Cleveland for dental school, Jason Bay was involved in a BLOCKBUSTER trade (okay, maybe not blockbuster) to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pittsburgh is only about 2 hours from Cleveland, so we went to go watch him play. He had about 3 games under his belt when we showed up and got his attention at batting practice. He was so surprised to hear his name from the crowd that he looked up. It is funny, as we talked, a bunch of kids came up to get his autograph and said, "What is your name". Oh what little did they know. Anyway we got his phone number and he said any time that we wanted tickets to a game to call and he would hook us up. The 2003 season came and went, and the 2004 season came. Bay was always more than willing to supply us with tickets throughout the season, and they were good ones. I felt bad, we went to Pittsburgh a lot. Bay busted onto the MLB scene with a wonderful Rookie season where he won the Rookie of the Year award. During that season, there was a picture with the players day where Cooper, about 8 months old at the time got his picture with Bay.

2004 season ended, and in came the 2005 season. After a couple of attempts to contact Bay I was unsuccessful. I did not want to continue to bother him anymore. We were able to get him to sign the picture that he got with Cooper that season, but that was the last contact that we had with him for awhile.

We made several attempts since that day to track Bay down at batting practice at various games since, but never really been able to do it. Of course playing for the Red Sox - didn't make it easier - as his name got even bigger. Cooper has the picture with Bay above his bed and he always said that "I know that I met him, BUT I JUST DON'T REMEMBER THAT. I want to meet him again." What kid doesn't want to meet their favorite baseball player? Little did he know how nearly impossible that is. We went to several games that Bay played in. A few more in Pittsburgh, then when they played Cleveland. When we moved to St Louis, we went when he came to play there, and now that we are near Kansas City, we went when he was in town here. Never any success.

Well, we are getting short on time with MLB being so readily accessible to us as we prepare to move back up to Coeur d'Alene, ID. And in all actuality had only one more chance to meet him. As soon as the 2010 season schedule was released we looked to see when the Mets were going to be in St. Louis. Not only was it while we still lived in Missouri, but it was a weekend. St Louis is still our Temple district so we made a plan. April 16-17: We would leave early Friday and try to get his autograph before the game, if not go to the game and then try and get it after the game. Stay downtown St Louis. Go to the Temple early Saturday, then do some fun things in St Louis and go home that evening (It is only 3 hours from where we live). Just by dumb luck, our friend from church who has access to a certain number of Cardinal game tickets had tickets for that game, AND COULD NOT GO. So, free tickets, and they were AWESOME SEATS. Right behind the Cardinal dugout. It promised to be a good weekend.

April 16th-
We depart Whiteman AFB, MO at about 9:30. Just as we planned. We arrived in St Louis at about 12:30. We needed to outfit Cooper for the weekend with Mets gear since we are only new Met fans and we don't have any gear. We found him a hat and a shirt -- 1st success. From going to enough games we learned where most of the opposing teams stay when they come to St Louis. There is literally a nice hotel right across the street. The players are taken over to the stadium by golf cart. The plan was to wait outside the hotel and try to get his attention. We got there at about 3:00 -- 4 hours before game time. We waited, got kicked off the hotel grounds for loitering, snuck back on to the grounds, watched plenty of players go to the stadium, but no Bay. BP (batting practice) started at 5:00, and that was the second place that we would attempt to get his autograph. Well, it was raining, and when it is raining teams do not normally do BP outside. But Cooper was determined and he said he wanted to stand by the dugout to try and get his autograph. Stood by the dugout for 2 hours, no Bay. We did get other autographs, most notably Jose Reyes (Mets SS), but no Bay. When we finally saw Bay it was time for the national anthem, and they escorted us to our seats.

4 hours of trying for poor Coop, and no luck. We did get a helpful hint on where players go out of to go back to the hotel, so we would stick that in our back pocket for after the game. It was a good game. Cardinals won, which made Gunner happy (that is his favorite team, and Albert Pujols is his favorite player). Well, it was fireworks night, which Cooper loves, and get this, he choose to wait for Bay outside the door instead of fireworks. So Cassie and Cooper went to wait for Bay, while Gunner, Beckett and I watched fireworks. Fireworks ended, we went to find Mom and Coop, they were patiently waiting, but no Bay. There were many autograph hounds out, and as Cassie does, she learned that most of the big names take the golf cart back, but some of the not as well known leave through that door. After about 1hr and 15 min of waiting, and watching many players leave, but no Bay, I decided to start watching the golf cart. Finally I see Bay coming on the golf cart. The cart stops at the light, and the conversation is as follows:


"Lars? What are you doing here"

"Were here to watch you"

"That's right, you live out this way"

"Yeah" -- about then the light changes

"Are you coming tomorrow?"

"We weren't planning on it" -- I am trying to talk to Bay, while the cart is moving and also get Cooper's attention. Bay sort of waves me over to the hotel, so I (carrying sleeping Gunner) run over to the hotel. By the time I get there he is nowhere to be seen, but I did see Jeff Francour, who he was riding with and asked him where Bay went. He pointed to the door he went into. I ran over that way, but Bay was long gone. Cassie, Cooper and Beckett show up, I tell them the situation. Cassie sees Jose Reyes and runs him down and asks if he will give Bay a message. With his Spanglish he says he will, and acts like he is putting my number into his phone.

We walked to our hotel, feeling defeated, tired, licking our wounds and thinking that we will probably never get a chance to get Bay's autograph really ever again. We were hoping for a phone call, but didn't put much stock in to that happening, and it didn't.

April 17th --

The plan for today was simple. We were going to the Temple, then to eat, then to the zoo or Grant's farm (or another of St Louis' many options), then heading home. I had to speak in church the next morning, and it is not that I didn't have the talk already prepared, it was just that I needed to finalize it. Okay, I really hadn't started formally writing the talk.

So after a late night, we were up early getting ready to go to the temple. We have some friends that are doing their dental residency at Scott AFB, and we were going to trade kids and sessions with them. So the boys began playing at the park at 8:00 am. By the time we both did our sessions, which it was great to get to the Temple, they had played at the park for 4.5 hours. It was a beautiful day, to say the least. After saying our goodbye's to our friends, we headed to one of our favorite sandwich shops in the Lou, and after talking to the boys we decided that we would go to the zoo. We tossed around the idea of the game because it was an afternoon game and the kids received ticket vouchers the night before to be redeemed at another Cardinals game after April 16th, but we were thinking that after the long day at the ball park the night before we should go somewhere where we know that we would have fun.

As we prepare to get out of our car at the sandwich shop Cassie notices that she is missing her phone and wallet. When we took our friends kids we went to a new park and Cassie drove their car. Well, she had left her phone and wallet in their car after we got back to meet them at the Temple, and after saying our goodbyes, just forgot that she left it in there. As we tossed around the best way to go about getting these items back, long story short we decide that Cassie would take Cooper, Gunner and me to the ball park where we would redeem our free ticket vouchers, and Beckett and Cassie would drive out to Scott AFB to get her phone and wallet.

We arrived at Busch Stadium at the peak of stadium traffic. It was a mad house. The plan for the day was to get free tickets, let the boys play around at the kid friendly areas of the ball park. The game would get over about 6:30pm, we would then station Cassie at the perfect spot to spot Bay on the golf cart, she would then call me and let me know that he was no his way, then Cooper and Gunner and I, who were strategically placed near the door Bay went into the night earlier, would rush Bay when he got to the hotel, we would get the autograph, and we would have succeded at our goal, and by the 8:00 pm, at the latest, we would be headed back home. Cassie would drive, I would prepare my talk, and in bed by midnight -- MISSION COMPLETE!

Actually day 2 at the ball park started out a little bit more like day 1. Coop, Gunn and I pick a ticket line to get in. There are about 20 lines all of them about 20 people deep at least. From the air the place must have looked like an ant hill. Luckily for us we got in the line with the idiot that was buying tickets to multiple games, and not the game that we were all waiting to get in to. As the minutes past, so did the likelihood that we were going to get into that stadium for any reasonable amount of money, and if I wasn't going to get to sit and watch the game I really didn't want to buy scalper tickets. After a 45 minute wait, we get to the front of the line where we learn that they are not redeeming the free vouchers to that game. I showed the lady my military ID and asked if there were any complimentary military standing room only (SRO) tickets still available. They usually give one free per ID, and I thought I would buy the cheapest other tickets if they had any. She told me to hold on a second, comes back about 3 minutes later with a stack of tickets and says, "How many do you need?" -- Music to my ears.

So 5 free tickets later we were in to sold out Busch Stadium. We immediately went to the kid play area. It was a MAD HOUSE. There were so many people there, but the boys were having fun, and about the 3rd inning Cassie and Beckett showed up and we messed around a little more, until it got to be about the 8th inning, and people started to leave, and then our SRO quickly turned into outfield box seats.

It was a good game if you are a baseball fan. 0 - 0, plenty of scoring opportunities that clutch pitching came through. Before we know it, it was the 12th inning 0 - 0, the time was now about 7:00pm, but our plan could still work, it would be just a LITTLE bit later. In about the 14th inning Beckett found a nearly finished cup of beer a couple rows behind us. Unfortunately, it was NEARLY finished, and Beck did his best to polish it off. He looks at Cassie after the crowd yells at him to stop and says, "YUCKY MOMMA" followed by a second attempt to down the beer. Beckett has officially tasted more alcohol than I have. He is such a mucker.

After that incident, and as the 15th inning came to a close we asked if Cooper wanted to leave. As he clenched his little fist next to his chin, and started shaking that same fist he said, "I am getting Jason Bay's autograph." So we go back to the kids play area, we wanted to get something to drink but by this time, but no luck, the concession stands were closed.

About the middle of the 16th inning I text Cassie that I need to get going so that I could get that talk written and get home. She text back that Cooper said that we could go, but we would be leaving without him. A little frustrated I continued to watch a great game. Cooper got a ball thrown to him from an outfielder, bonus. Still 0 - 0, the Cardinals had all kinds of scoring opportunities, that were be squandered. Pujols would get intentionally walked to load the bases, only to bring up the Cardinals pitchers that due to the double switch, and lack of players on the bench, were now batting 4th in the line up, eventually striking out to retire the side. As well as field-players putting their toe on the rubber for the first time since age 14.

At in the 17th, 0 - 0, I decided to officially attempt to weasel my way out of my talk the next day. I texted the Bishop and one of his counselors the following text "So I am literally sitting in St Louis at the Cardinal game in the 17th inning -- you want to cover for me tomorrow? BTW I am not kidding" All I can say is that we have a GREAT BISHOP. Without question he texts back "I got you covered, but you owe me".

At this point we are committed till the game is over. Top 19 the Mets manufacture a run, only to be matched in the bottom of the 19th as Pujols and Lopez nut up against K-Rod. Top 20 Mets manufacture another run, and the Cardinals fail to score in the bot 20, and the Mets win 2 - 1.

Here is my thinking: 7 hours of baseball. Our kids, although did amazing considering, all had their moments, and Beckett was DONE! Bay went 0 - 7 with a HBP. I was thinking -- let's just go home. That is not what Cooper was thinking, and his SELFLESS mother was not thinking that either. I told Cassie that I would take the other boys to the car, and she could try and get Bay's autograph by herself. Using her persuasion, she helped me see the light and we put THE PLAN into action.

Gunner, Cooper and I got to our "tree stand" and Cassie and Beckett got to their "tree stand" and Jason Bay season was open. About 30 minutes after the game the first players started returning. It was mainly the pitchers, and other not so known names. Cassie would get autographs of those that passed her, and text me when players would drive by in the golf cart. Cooper and Gunner, bless their hearts, fell asleep on my lap. Players like Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo passed right by us. At about 1hr and 15 minutes or 11:45 pm Cooper and Gunner woke up. Freezing and tired both finally broke into tears. The golf cart returned with David Wright, and Jeff Francour, and then the golf cart shut down for the night. I called Cassie and she said that she thought another cart was still at the stadium, so we decided to wait a few more minutes. Cooper was bawling saying his head hurt, and he was cold. Gunner said his legs were sore and he wanted to go home. I asked Cooper, "Bud, are you done? Do you want to go?" He cried out "YES :(". I called Cassie. She said that a few of the managers for the Mets just came out and said that there was no one left in the club house. I told her that our boys had it, and I could hear Beckett crying in the background. We were dumbfounded. We knew there was no way that Bay made it passed us, but where did he go?

As I started to head back to meet up with Cassie I turned the corner, and guess who I saw walking the opposite direction? JASON BAY!!! Cooper, still crying, immediately stopped as I said, "Coop, there he is. Here is the ball and the pen. Go get it!" At this point Bay recognized me, and said, "Were you guys waiting for me? I feel so bad I took so long!"

What an experience! We did not have to deal with any other people because it was midnight. Jason Bay was so nice to pose for pictures with Cooper, and sign a ball and hat. He was so nice to talk to, and apologetic. He said the night before he wanted to yell out his number, but thought twice about that as he didn't want just anybody to overhear and get his number. And that he wanted to wait for us to get to the hotel, but that he had to get inside because people just mob them. The whole time I am thinking that we are imposing, and we were, but he didn't make us feel like that. He gave me his cell number, and programmed mine in his cell, so we wouldn't have to "go through this again" if we were ever at another game. (btw - I'm sure we'll find a way to be at another game someday - seems how Cooper's already been to about 80 MLB games, and our quest to visit all the parks continues). Cassie told Bay how sorry we were for bugging him, that we didn't want to seem like wierdo stalkers from his past, but that we were there for Cooper. He assured us he was "so glad we did", that it was "good to see us", that "I remember Coop". We talked about our families, and where life is taking us. Introduced him to our other kids (who weren't very social). And then, we thanked him and said good bye. As we took a few steps down the road Bay yells out, "See you Coop." Cooper turned and waved. Just imagine that if you were a 6 year old. What a neat experience.

Needless to say it was a successful weekend, and Bay is still Cooper's and My favorite player without question. I am sure Gunner, as he doesn't miss a thing, observed what lengths we went through for Cooper to get his favorite players autograph, and can not wait until it is his turn to get his favorite players autograph. It is Albert Pujols by the way. Sorry Gunner, we may not get that chance. As Cassie's Dad texted us during that game, "Making history". That about sums up what we did that weekend. It is definitely one for the books.