Take me out to… the Opera?!

The baseball season may be over, but I’ve been neglecting something I’ve been meaning to write about since September. I’ve mentioned that I have family in the Bay Area. One thing I picked up on a recent visit out there was a new favorite radio station which—thanks to the wonders of the internet—I am able to listen to from anywhere. Why it’s my favorite station is a story for another blog, but one consequence of constantly listening to a San Francisco area station was that I got to hear quite a bit about a big musical event of the season: Opera at the Ballpark.

The idea is that once a year, San Francisco Opera picks a performance on a date the Giants are out of town and sends a live feed to be simulcast on the giant screen at the ballpark. It’s typically a well known and fairly “accessible” opera, and it is always free. This year’s event was Verdi’s Rigoletto on what I was told was a beautiful though slightly chilly evening in September.

That particular corporate-named stadium has always been one of my favorites, and San Francisco is one of the world’s most vibrant and colorful cities, so I could imagine that people could have a lot of fun with it, and was actually quite sorry I wouldn’t have a chance to attend. (And I don’t even like opera!) However, I recently had a chance to sit down and have a chat with my aunt Nan, who was able to attend.

We did speak briefly about the opera itself, which Nan felt was an impressive performance, but because I was far more interested in the overall experience, that was what I focused on. Here is a little of what she reported. She enjoyed the juxtaposition of opera with the regular ballpark fare. She went with a friend and sat right behind home plate, fairly close to the main concessions area, “and wafting out was the overwhelming smell of pickle relish.” There were nearly as many people there as a typical Giants game, and the crowd was all of “life’s rich pageant,” from the very elderly to “babes in arms.” Many who came staked out a seat somewhere in the outfield, and kids were running the bases all night long.

The evening started with a screening of the classic animation “What’s Opera, Doc?” featuring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Before the simulcast started, a gay men’s barbershop quartet—winners of an online poll—performed the Star Spangled Banner from the pitcher’s mound. But my favorite little detail, and something that is just so San Francisco, between the second and third acts, a performer from Beach Blanket Babylon, renowned for their magnificently over-the-top hats, lead the crowd in singing a ballpark staple, with some slight adjustments to the lyrics, “Take me out to the opera…”



The legacy tablet

I am posting this from my hotel room in downtown Atlanta, but I first entered a good deal of it into my legacy tablet 30,000 feet over the Colorado Rockies and the Mississippi basin. I am excited to be here, and excited for tomorrow’s game, and yet at the same time, I do go into this leg of my ballpark tour with a fair amount of trepidation. I’ve alluded to this in the past, but for a long time I took a very dim view of any team that chose a stereotypical team name, logo, or cheer. In Major League Baseball, the two biggest offenders are the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves.

So great was my indignant outrage in ’95, I didn’t even watch the World Series when those two franchises faced off. Since then, Atlanta has enjoyed much more success on the diamond, and have therefore recieved the brunt of my enmity. Even as recently as 2009, I distinctly remember declaring my “grand” tour to be halfway complete during those three days between the game in Miami and the one in Tampa Bay—in other words, after ballpark number 14, implying that I would consider the tour “finished” after #28. Obviously, my feelings have softened considerably since then. After all, I have been to Cleveland and am in Atlanta.

Still… I’m not completely comfortable about these two. As I’ve said before, I wanted to get to the Civil Rights Game, and it was convenient that it is being held in a city I need to cross off my list anyways, but also figuring in that decision was the thought that just maybe—in an event designed to celebrate victories (on the field and off) over bigotry, intolerance and other similar forms of ignorance—the Braves might just see fit to go light on their tomahawk chops.

Changes, Updates and Announcements

(I’ve got one of each)

The change was not initiated by me, but rather by MLB Advanced Media, which decided—unilaterally and without any advance notice—that the entire “MLB universe,” including all MLBlogs, shall be subjected to advertisements. Aside from the natural complaint this generates, namely that pharmaceutical companies and makers of ice cream sandwiches arent giving me any money to advertize on my blog, I also have a philosophical objection to advertizing in general. Therefore, I have shifted to a new blogging platform, which has in turn necessitated slight adjustments to the look and feel of the blog’s new home.

Since I was forced to work on the blog anyways, I decided to stop putting off posting the pictures I took in St. Louis, so I have updated that post as well.

Finally, an announcement. It is now official, I will be going to the Civil Rights Game in Atlanta next month. It will be a short trip, and will not involve much travel outside the city (I have to fly both ways—my legs are already complaining about that), but I will keep a daily travelogue all the same, so be on the lookout for that starting just a little more than a month from now.

Bobby needs a new pair of shoes…

Those who know me well will tell you I’m a procrastinator. Those who know me even better will tell you that I do not like shopping for shoes. Put the two together, and you get something like this:

Yes, those are what I put on my feet to go out into the world, and I’d rather wear them than shop for replacements. But I’ve known for quite some time that these had to go. I also knew that I couldn’t come to Minnesota and not visit the Mall of America. Putting those two together gave me my plan for the day.

An all day transit pass costs $6 here, and I got full value out of mine today. First a bus which took me through several very pleasant neighborhoods in east St. Paul to a light rail station where I caught the train to the mall. But not before I encountered a very amusing work of public art.

Along the platform were several emergency telephones as well as a feature I’d be very glad to know about if I’m ever here in the winter, a small space heater with a button that says “push for heat.” Then, I saw a nondescript looking metal box with a counter, a speaker, and a button. Closer examination revealed it was a work of art entitled Small Kindness, Weather Permitting. Pushing the button advanced the counter by one and treated me to a very silly audio sketch about just how cold it is here.

I got to the mall and was able to find a pair of shoes. As for what I have to say about the place itself… Well, it’s a giant mall—with shops wrapped around an amusement park comparable in size to the largest such park in the state of New Mexico—but it’s still a mall. Many of you already know how I feel about malls, but if you don’t, all I’ll say is that 2 hours was plenty of time to see everything I needed to see.

I spent the rest of the day putting my new purchases through their paces. Since I’m going to be in Minneapolis tomorrow, I decided to check out St. Paul today. I began by getting off the bus at the state capitol and walking around there a bit. The big story there involves the area’s football team, the Vikings, and how much the state is going to pony up for a new stadium. There was a purple bus with 10-foot long painted horns on its side parked outside with several Vikings fans holding a banner saying “Don’t let us become the third Dakota.”

From there, I walked downtown. Here’s what kind of day it was:

While it’s a very pleasant city, there wasn’t really anything that grabbed me, so before too long I found myself at the bank of the Mississippi. I walked along it under two bridges before heading back to the hotel. It was only then I traced my path on Google Maps and discovered I’d walked nearly eight miles in total. Looks like I’m gonna have to go shoe shopping again before too long…

An open letter to the Cardinals’ web guru

(But other teams take note as well…)

Dear Sir or Madam;

This is in response to your recent e-mail “Buy Parking for the Game BEFORE the Game!” I don’t object to the blanket assumption that begins this communique, that anybody who buys tickets to a Cardinals game must be a Cardinals fan. I know millions of tickets are sold over the course of a season and I do not expect anyone to be aware of everybody’s story, and their reason for going to a game. I don’t expect anybody to guess that I am out to see all thirty Major League cities, and have no particular rooting interests in any of them. 

Nor do I object (at least in principle) to the content of this e-mail, suggesting that I pay for parking beforehand. Again, I don’t expect you to know that I am not planning on bringing a car, and if I were, I might very well do exactly what you suggest in the e-mail.

What I object to is that I received this e-mail at all. Or the e-mail offering all the Cardinal’s merchandise I could ever want, or the one trying to get me to sign my (non-existent) kid up for a “kids clinic.” The moment I bought my ticket, I triple-checked to make sure that I opted out of any mailing list right from the start. I also object to the fact that I got this e-mail after twice hitting the “unsubscribe” button—after the first two unsolicited e-mails.

I am going to a Cardinals game. I will be coming by train, so I’ll let Amtrak worry about where they park it. I will buy a game program and whatever Cardinals merchandise strikes my fancy while I’m at the stadium. I am not a Cardinals fan per se, so I will not be needing anything to proclaim my undying fandom. However, in accordance with tradition, I do intend to wear red. Unless I get any more unauthorized solicitations, in which case I might just show up in Cubby blue.

Yours Truly,
The ballpark tourist

The all-important pre-game ritual

Soon—in fact, just as soon as I’m done writing this post—I’ll be on my way to Nationals Park. I’d like to take you through just a little bit of what is involved in going to a game.

First of all, the essential equipment, pictured to the right. I detest the squeaky squawk of pencils on paper, so I work on my scorecards in pen. What do I do if I make a mistake? I pay close attention and try not to make mistakes. I can live with a few things crossed out, but not with the squawking. Actually, today is a particularly exciting day, I get to open that new set of pens that I bought specifically for this trip. I don’t like to give people advertizing, so I won’t type the brand name, but you can see it perfectly well. Given a choice, that’s the only kind of pen I’d use—the ink flows so nicely and the lines are so crisp. It might seem like a minor detail, but it contributes significantly to my own enjoyment of the game, I can assure you. When I’ve left my pens behind, I was definitely not on my game plan.

Next comes my apparel. I do not own any faux jerseys or other clothing with any team’s logos (I used to buy a hat at every game, but at $32 a pop, that got to be a bit much). Instead, I pick an appropriately colored collared polo and the intentionally tacky New Mexico Department of Tourism bolo tie, also pictured (50¢ at a garage sale… I wouldn’t have gotten it any other way). I top it off with my Dodger Blue Isotopes cap.

My final consideration—the ballpark dinner. Most teams don’t make salad a high priority. Fortunately, Major League parks allow spectators to bring food in. I noticed with great joy that the Giant right next to my local Metro station has a… well… giant salad bar. But I gotta get my fountain drink at the game. There’s just something about sodas, they just taste better from a soda fountain. Well, look at the time. I’d better be off. Game summary coming tomorrow.