Folks who know me will probably tell you I’m a bit of a packrat. I collect things and don’t really let them go easily. Little things, things of no particular value, anything that might have a story associated with it. As I got to thinking about writing about my ballpark tour, I started digging up some of those things that I collected along the way. Then, I pulled out the camera.

I begin with an emblem of packrat-ness. I do not like plastic water bottles, do not use them, have no reason to save them and no place to keep them. However, simply by association with the fantastic game and even greater story associated with the trip to Denver, I held on to this for over five years before sending it off looking for people who might have some use for it. Seeing the text reminds me that there was a short presentation before the game on the health hazards of shaking a baby—a detail that might have escaped me otherwise.

Next comes something I caught in Cleveland. Not the cat, but the oversized softie baseball. Between innings of the game, folks roaming the stands throw Indians merchandise into the seats for people to make grabs at. I was totalling up my scorecard, saw something in my peripheral vision and stuck out my hand in self-defence—and came away with a softie ball. But I’m really looking for an excuse to write about my cat. She died of kidney failure at 21, but lives on in our hearts… and in photographs. Her name is Jesse and she was the cat-sonifcation of feline dignity. She would never deign to be seen playing with anything, and the only way I was able to get this picture at all was to place the ball as she was sleeping (you may notice that she is still ¾ asleep) and snap the picture when she woke up.

I mentioned that at one point I would buy a hat at every ballpark. Aside from the fact that not everybody even carries a size 8 and that the style of hats I prefer (It’s the same brand the players wear on the field) runs between $25-$30, this seems an impractical hobby, especially since I’m not even really that much of a fan of any of the teams I watch. That’s a lot to be plunking down for a hat I’m only going to be wearing once. These too have gone to Goodwill, but not before I could collect them together for a group photo. In case you’re wondering, that’s Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, two from Chicago, Oakland, Florida and Boston (the last two were gifts, given to me the years those teams won a world championship).

I’ve been surprisingly unlucky about recieving any promotional giveaway items, despite my habit of getting to the yard early. But I did get a copy of this poster the D’backs were giving away for a “bicycle helmet awareness day” promotion. Of note is that it is a two-sided poster en dos idomas. In fact, considering how noxious the rhetoric coming out of our neighbors to the west was about making English the “National Language” even as far back as 2006, I was surprised to find quite a number of business interests within the ballpark itself had reason to believe that being bilingual was good for the bottom line.

Another item I picked up in Cleveland was this sign used to welcome Jim Thome back to the Tribe after many years as a Phillie, White Sox and Twin. I don’t know that I really captured the essence of what kind of buzz there was about the news in my travelogue (which was written while I was in Cleveland). As an outsider, I was welcomed by the hostess at a diner. Regulars were greeted with a joyous “Thome’s back!” by the same hostess. I overheard this little exchange at the ballpark: “What do you think?” “Oh, he’s gotta hit a walk-off.” “I hope not. I hope it’s not that close.” “But if he hits a walk-off, that’s such a great story.” Yeah, it would have been a great story, but it didn’t happen.

It’s thirsty work being a fan, especially since I try—whenever the schedule permits—to go to day games. Most teams have a “souvenir” size soft drink cup, which happens to be the largest size, and because I’m a thirsty guy, it’s the cup I usually get. Then, because (as I mentioned before) I am a packrat, those cups usually find their way back to my hotel and, well—of course—they are so useful for keeping other things from getting strewn all around inside the suitcase, and so, sure enough, many of them do end up coming home. Click the picture to see just how many cups there are…

Ok, the less said about my habits around collecting ticket stubs, the better. At one point, I was going to write a haiku on each one. It would be a very slight exaggeration to say that there is a room in the house which you need to be careful about opening the door—lest you get buried by an avalanche of ticket stubs flowing out into the hall. Like I say, a slight exaggeration: I was able to dig all of these out of the pile without too much difficulty.

Many times, the game I picked didn’t have a giveaway, or else they were only giving the items to kids. One giveaway that I didn’t miss out on (because the Astros wouldn’t let anybody get away without one) was this Craig Biggio commemorative pin—in this case still in plastic because I’ve never found myself really wanting to wear it.

Finally, there are the postcards. I sent one home from every city I went to on my most recent trip. Then, because the only postcard I bought on the trip to Texas was from a museum featuring geometric art, I decided to send that one to my folks as well—from the supermarket five blocks from their house. The one in the middle, featuring a horse and buggy, is meant to “represent” Cleveland, because I learned that Ohio is the state with the biggest Amish population. Why do I need a card to “represent” Cleveland? I could never find a place that had any cards with generic, cityscape pictures.


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