Game 114: Toledo

There was a Toledo Mudhens t-shirt in heavy rotation of my middle school wardrobe. Paul, a family friend and baseball aficionado, gifted it to me after traveling to the city and seeing a game. When I wore it, adults kept asking me if I’d watched M.A.S.H.

Yeah, I’ve seen it.

That Klinger. What a cutup, am I right?

I never made it through the credits. 

[OK, I realize now that I might have been missing the series’ finer points. Is it on Netflix?]

I didn’t like M.A.S.H. I didn’t think it was funny. But I thought the shirt was cool. I still think minor league baseball is cool (despite some reservations).

I finally made the pilgrimage to Toledo a few weeks ago. It’s a convenient pit stop between points northwest of Chicago and Washington, D.C., and I just happened to have helped move my sister to the capital city a few weeks ago.

On the way out I saw an Extended Stay America and an Applebee’s in the suburbs. On the way back I tried an AirBnB in the city and caught a Sunday-night ‘Hens game.

It was a 6:05 first pitch on a Sunday, and when I pulled up to Fifth Third Field in my parents’ minivan around 4:30, the lines at the entry gates were long. I parked on the street (meters off on Sundays), walked up to the box office and asked what was going on.

It was a youth jersey giveaway. Were there tickets available? Yes. The cheapest ticket available? $15. The best available seat for that price? Three rows behind home plate.

I took it.

Ticket secured, I grabbed a beer at Black Cloister Brewery‘s taproom, then drove back to my AirBnb. The host was a nice guy; no shirt, but he offered lots of good advice (where to eat and drink after the game, where to park, etc.). I took a quick shower and zipped back downtown to grab another beer before the game began.

It was happy hour at the frat bar across the street from the box office, Ye Olde Something Innuendo-ish. I asked for a Coors, got a Coors Lite and began drinking fast.

I’d decided at the outset of the trip to begin breaking in a new ball cap for regular use. The Mudhens t-shirt may have dissolved into my mom’s washing machine, but I’ve been leaning hard on the following headgear:

  1. a Dale Murphy-era Atlanta Braves hat,
  2. a Rock Raines-era Montreal Expos hat,
  3. an Ottis Anderson-era New York Giants hat, and
  4. a Clyde Drexler-era Trailblazers had

The new hat was a beautiful, wool cap commemorating the Green Bay Packers’ divisional championship in 1995. I grew up a Vikings fan in the gut of Wisconsin, and the hat was given to me as a gag gift. I’m no longer a Vikings fan, so I figured I might as well utilize the cap.

I wasn’t halfway through the Coors Light before a drunken ‘Sconnie got in my grill to offer his opinion that the Pack would be GOING ALL THE WAY this year … RIGHT? Stunned, I realized pretty quickly that I was wearing a green and gold hat and offered the requisite enthusiasm.

Yeah, bro. They might drop that road game in Dallas, but I can’t find a second loss on the schedule …

Meanwhile, inside the ballpark, the Twins’ triple-A affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings, dismissed the ‘Hens 2-0, courtesy solo home runs from a rehabbing Byron Buxton and an exiled Byung Ho Park.

The game took roughly two hours and 10 minutes, which meant fans interested in enjoying the fireworks display had to wait nearly an hour for sundown – with beer sales closed. Awk-ward ….

The game moved so fast, I didn’t have time to sample the ballpark cuisine. So I hoofed it another adjacent saloon, this one advertising half-priced appetizers on a sandwich board outside. And wouldn’t you know it, the bartender flipped out when she saw my hat. When I told her I wasn’t a Packers fan, she took it off my head out of disgust. I didn’t put up a fight.

Keep it, I told her. And she did.

Lesson learned: Packers fans are more work than I’m looking to attract.

  • Ballpark: Fifth Third Field, Toledo. The game moved fast, so I walked around less than I usually would. Toward the end I sneaked into the party/suite area that subtly extends out of a warehouse above right field – the most interesting thing about the ballpark from an architectural standpoint.
  • Date: July 31, 2017
  • Outcome: Rochester Red Wings 2, Toledo Mudhens 0
  • Highlight: I told Byron Buxton, on a rehab assignment, the Twins needed his services after losing four of their last five and falling out of the division chase. Buxton turned and told me he’d be flying to San Diego to join the big-league club after the game. I would’ve scooped Lavelle E. Neal III on Twitter, but my phone was dead.
  • Cuisine: They served Yuengling in the kind of stadium cups the Metrodome used to pour Summit into. Not cups, but tubs, really. I brought one home, but haven’t had the courage yet to pour all the beer I intend to drink in one night into it … even on a weekend. The beer was $9 – it struck me as fair given the amount of suds in the cup – but someone told me there was a bar in right field pouring $3 beers into much, much smaller cups.
  • Observation of the Moment: Triple-A pitchers lack velocity. Triple-A hitters lack the ability to work a count.
  • Scene: I was in Toledo for about 16 hours, so my experiences are entirely of a distinct moment in time. The downtown seemed like it would be quiet on a Sunday if it weren’t for the game, but plenty of places around the ballpark were hopping. The aforementioned Black Cloister Brewery had decent beer, and the prices at all the bars around the ballpark were fair. Just look out for overeager Packers fans.
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Game 55: Rice!

I asked Siri where to get a free Minnesota highway map. She kindly directed me to the nearest MnDOT office (Roseville), where the woman staffing the reception desk appeared at once surprised and tickled pink at my request.

She looked in her drawer and pulled out two maps, one printed in 2008 and another from 2015. I walked out with both.

The maps now hang in my basement, and I’ve been busy pricking pins into the municipalities where I’ve golfed (white pin) and sunk beers at a bar (black pin).

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. My dad made himself at home in one of its disproportionate number of taverns. A regular at the bar – nice guy, lifer at the factory in town, long since maxed out his vacation accrual – was using his five weeks per year to pursue a goal that struck inspiration in both of our hearts: golfing every one of the state’s municipal courses.

So I got myself a map …

The first 75-degree day we had in Minnesota this year (5/13), I spent nearly two hours in the car to meet my golf partner in Rice, Minn.

No pin there.

We played Oak Hill Golf Club. It’s not a municipal course, but it is under new management. Full bar, kitchen and $24 for 18 holes on foot. $35 with a cart.

The price was right. The course was challenging but fair, and interesting enough given the price. Any further north, in my experience, and hitting one into the “woods” would mean disaster. Here, you could punch out – maybe even conceive an angle to the green. But accuracy certainly had its reward.

Rice, meanwhile, has more going for it off the highway (U.S. 10) than on it. We walked out of Rumors – which I must have driven past 100 times on my way to the family cabin, glancing with an envious eye at all the cars driven by people already enjoying happy hour – without ordering a drink.

We ate wings at the muni bar with cheap Miller Lites on the main drag, then chased a meat raffle at the Irish bar with a giant patio area down the street, only to find out it’d been canceled. We hung out for a pizza (OK) and a game of horseshoes. (How do old people play this game? I’m 37 years old, and I have to take a running start to sling that hunk of metal all the way to the sand pit.)

It was slow, but the bachelorette party arrived just as we were leaving. One can only imagine how the town might hop in the heat of summer …

It’s a different world

screen-shot-2015-02-11-at-7-48-34-amI like music. I like camping. But there’s no way in hell I’m camping at the Eaux Claires Music Festival next month. (And not just because the festival campgrounds are sold out.)

It’s an imperfect comparison, for sure, but I came within earshot of WE Fest one time (Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney!), and it pretty much turned me off to the festival-camping scene. I’m picturing cramped conditions, biffy lines, vomit everywhere, overly friendly Indie-Bro types and rain. Could it get any worse?

I was born too old for that shit. That’s why I’m staying in the dorms.

I booked my room in Governors Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus tonight. My fingers are crossed that I won’t have to share it with someone who clips his toenails in bed or sleeps upside down like a bat (the fine print didn’t seem to suggest I wouldn’t).

But the bathrooms, no doubt, will be shared. But for $70 per night with parking and a free shuttle to the festival grounds? I’ll dig my shower caddie and flip flops out of storage.

Hope I get a co-ed floor …