Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dude, This Is Awesome - One More Thing Off The Bucket List

Acts 2:17
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams."
The Bucket List. That pesky To Do list of things you want to do before God calls you home. On it there's usually a bunch of deep and very important things to do that usually involves family, self improvement and leaving the world a better place. Those items have a sense of duty, calling and sacrifice. God desires for us to live those things out for we are called to be servants. The funny thing is there are usually a few other items on the bucket list. They're outlandish, crazy and by many definitions, self serving. This part of the bucket list reflects a wonderful side of our Father: the Creator, the Artist, and the Comedian. I think both of these are important aspects of the Extraordinary. Without one side, we are entirely self absorbed and spoiled, without the other, we're duty bound soulless slaves. I hate the idea of living exclusively in either realm.
So with that in mind, I present my experience in checking something off the latter part of the list. It's one of those things you do that only makes sense if you really love baseball. Add to that my love of the San Francisco Giants and maybe you'll get the picture.
It started with my dear wife giving me a Father's Day card this year. In it was my gift: a road trip to attend a game at Wrigley Field. If you need context, it's the oldest park in the National League, home to the Chicago Cubs and situated in the colorful North Side of the Second City. It is a mecca for baseball and a touchstone to the past history of the game.
If you're a baseball fan, I'm sure can appreciate just how cool this is. It got even cooler when I found out the Giants were playing the Cubs on Labor Day weekend. Even more cooler: the Chicago White Sox had a home game after that meaning a trip to the new Commiskey Park on the South Side. This was hitting the "too cool for words" level of excitement.
I invited my good friend Phil Fishbach on the trip - he's a Reds fan but I'll forgive him for that. On the way we could have seen Purdue play EKU in football or stopped on the way home and saw Cincy play the Phillies, but that would be overkill. With the remants of Hurricane Isaac passing over the Midwest, a concern for rain outs crept in.
Even so, we risked it and took our Mistubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible. This trip is starting to sound like a midlife crisis...
We have a running joke about Phil in that wherever we go with him, he will meet someone he knows from somewhere. Surely enough, on I75 somewhere in south eastern Kentucky, he saw a friend driving by - kind of creepy/scary. We did hit some hard rain in Louisville (or Lou'vil if you're from the south) but besides that, the weather was mild. In Lafayette, IN we hit Triple XXX Burgers (not what you might think) which is a famous diner for Purdue football fans. They're famous for their cheeseburger with PEANUT BUTTER. I wasn't brave enough for that so I ended up with a nice steak and eggs plate called the Drew Brees Breakfast:
Grease was obviously the ingredient deJour on this trip. I happened to be wearing my University Of Tennessee Basketball Camp shirt with Cuonzo Martin's name on it. What I had forgotten was that Martin played at Purdue. I made some friends there without any effort.
We holed up in Merrillville, IN (just as I did with Amanda on our motorcycle trip). Phil's last words to me that night were: "Dude, tomorrow we'll be at Wrigley Field!" 
Taking the L train to the Addison exit on the Red line drops you at the corner of Sheffield and Addison (this was taken after the game):
Phil's reaction to this was "Dude, this is awesome!"
Walking out to this area was hard to describe. There's a vibe, and buzz in the air that I had only experienced at Fenway in Boston. This was the world of baseball. Everything around was about the game. Fans wearing all sorts of Cubs and Giants garb. Baseball themed building, restaurants, street vendors and bars.
Phil's reaction to this was "Dude, this is awesome!"
Circling the perimeter of the stadium and seeing all the things that you hear about on TV and radio was a bit mind blowing. The brick facade on the outside, the bleacher on the roof tops, the statues of Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Harry Carey and Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks:

Phil's reaction to this was "Dude, this is awesome!"
Entering the park and seeing the red bricks, the green bleachers, the Chicago skyline, the green ivy, the big hand operated scoreboard, the lush green grass and players warming up gave me a bit of a chill - I was inside Wrigley Field to see the Giants and the Cubs! When I was four years old, I went to see Mays, and McCovey at Candlestick Park. For a moment I was that excited kid again looking in awe of seeing the wonderful world of baseball. Just think that every great National League player (Aaron, Ott, Mathewson, Gibson, Musial, Koufax just to name a few) has played at Wrigley. Here's where Hack Wilson and Fergie Jenkins made their home. Babe Ruth called his famous shot here.
Phil's reaction to this was "Dude, this is awesome!"
We circled around the park enjoying the sight lines around the box seats. I even went to find the most notorious seat in the house: the Bartman seat. The gentleman who got it didn't even know that was the seats he purchased. He acknowledged that he was not going to ever be left alone during the game, but was fine with it. He got to sit in a place with some cool history:
Phil's reaction to this was "Dude, this is awesome!"
We made our way back to our seats. I noticed at this point that Phil had never stopped smiling since we got off the train. I think he was having a good time. Included in that was through text messaging he was guiding his son through mowing the lawn... Not a bad deal, watching a game in Chicago while the kids do the chores!
To continue the greasy food theme, I had a bratwurst foot long dog with grilled onions and drowning in nacho cheese. I think my arteries are hardening just thinking about it:
First pitch was to Angel Pagan. I was seeing my beloved Giants playing at Wrigley Field!
Phil's reaction to this was "Dude, this is awesome!"
Throughout the game, there's a rumble in the air. This is a place where the heartbeat of the crowd is all in the rhythm of a baseball game. Though they haven't won since 1908, they bleed Cubbie blue here. A few big hits, an unearned run matched by a Soriano home run and then a triple by Brandon Belt resulted in the Giants win. The seventh inning stretch tradition of singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" was performed along with some Chicago Blackhawk players (including Hall Of Famer Tony Esposito):
Phil's reaction to this was "Dude, this is awesome!"
With a Giant's 7-5 win, my day at the ballpark was indeed complete:

 Post game in Wrigleyville is just as important. The streets are filled with fans filling bars and restaurants around the ballpark. We had a by the slice pizza place that had something that resembled a slaughterhouse for toppings:
Ah, Chicago pizza! On the way out we had one last glimpse of Wrigley. There's a garage door in right field that is an access way for vehicles. It was left open and I got an unobstructed ground level view of the hallowed grounds:
Phil's reaction to this was "Dude, this is awesome!"
Not sure where this ranks, but this was near the top of the best days ever. I have a feeling Phil would agree.
Although not as cool, the next day at New Commiskey (aka US Cellular Field) was another fun day at the ballpark. The stadium is a typical nice modern ball park with a great sound system and an HD Jumbotron (which is lacking at Wrigley, but not missed).

The White Sox played the Twins  (Sox won 4-2) and we had fourth row boxes down the right field line:

I scored a foot long Commiskey dog that was unbelievable (and greasy):

Mustard, pickle spears, peppers, tomato slices, some green stuff and onions. Let's just say that one of those will cover you for dinner. As for experiences, this was a nice day at the ballpark which is great for me. It also checks another baseball stadium off the To Do list.
Although this experience was pretty much a weekend of fun, I sense that God smiled down and showed Phil and I that He is a God of delight. His desire for His children is to enjoy things, laugh and have a good time. In it we can say that in all things God gets the glory. I am deeply thankful that I got this time with a good friend and some good memories.
Dude, this is awesome!

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