Note: This is a guest post by one of our frequent followers and friends, Mr. Phil K. James, who lives in Iowa and as such gets to go to a lot of I-Cubs games. Before we delve into his post, check this out:
— Iowa Cubs (@IowaCubs) July 3, 2014
And now, Phil’s story…
Boys, Poe and the Iowa Cubs
By Phil K. James
The drive to Principal Park from my house is about 10 minutes. That’s the greatest part about Des Moines I think. Many people will tell you that it’s the low crime rate, the schools, the economy. Jack Kerouac wrote in On The Road that “the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.” Can’t argue with that, but that lack of heavy traffic sure is sexy.
My wife is very nice. You see, we have four boys. All four of them are future Chicago Cubs infielders. Well this isn’t entirely accurate, but you get the idea. (What they lack in superior athletic genetics, they make up in enthusiasm and acumen for sabermetrics). What this means is that whenever the Iowa Cubs are in town and I tell her I want to go to a game, she usually asks, “Which two boys are you taking with you?” In this mock draft, I usually pick 7 year old twins Eli and Truman in the first round.
“Finish your meatballs, boys. We’re going to the Cubs game.”
“Can we get a frozen lemonade there?”
“Please get in the car.”
On a normal evening, we get to the game and park next to Mullet’s, which is a fine fried food and drinking establishment (which serves 2014 vintage Schlitz and PBR) across the Raccoon River within Kris Bryant homerun hitting range from the ballpark. (Advanced pro tip: park across the street from here for free parking). The boys sprint across the bridge in their fine James family slow-twitch muscle sprinting gait that would make Ron Cey proud, weaving around bike riders and families spending their evenings fishing for carp off the bridge. Usually we walk around the park for a few minutes to see if someone in a church group is giving away free general-admission tickets. Cheap-ass daddy.
Gee thanks again, kind gentleman from Urbandale First Church of Our Lord Christ Almighty. I could kiss you. I might even convert if you keep giving away tickets!
Here’s what usually happens. We get inside, watch for an inning, get a hot dog or something else resembling food, then they start asking about frosty malts or soft serve in a novelty Cubs helmet. I comply with these demands to see if that buys me a few innings. It does; we watch 3 more at bats, take a selfie with lovable mascot Cubbie Bear then we go out to the fountain near the right field bleachers and try other distractions. This usually means running under the bleachers next to discarded chew spit, peanut shells and discarded beer cans, pretending that they’re in the belly of the Death Star.
By this point the game is in the 6th inning and they’re semi-bored. They think it’s fun and all, and they can follow along just fine, but it’s a lot to ask of a 7 year old. So we go home. Total at-bats witnessed at this point: 7. So dad gets what he wants, which is time with the boys enjoying something that he loves. The boys get to split a $6 ice cream from cheap-ass dad. What a deal!
So back to my wife and last night after I get home from work. She’s really nice. I ask her if I could go to the game by myself for the first time all season. She says yes. (Probably the second best “yes” she’s ever given me, but she might have second thoughts). Totally in love with this woman. We part ways, I give her a kiss and don’t exactly tell the boys the truth to the boys.
“Where are you going, Dad?”
“I’m just going out for a bit. I’ll be back soon.”
The guilt is straight out of an Edgar Allen Poe thriller. I just lied to my baseball buddies.
So I make this pretty commute to the ballpark – Pat and Ron booming from my speakers as an appetizer. The adrenaline rush of baseball alone time makes the ride from Beaverdale to Downtown 9 minutes this time. I feel it and take a chill walk across the Raccoon to quell the excitement.
I’m all by myself, Celine Dion.
There are no church groups passing out tickets (gee thanks a lot Jesus), so I head to the ticket window. I’m just gonna go for it like I have Soriano’s bank account.
“Give me the best seat you got.”
It’s a $14 beauty, just to the left of homeplate in Section L, Row 6, spitting distance from the on deck circle. I even buy a scorecard just because I can. I even buy myself a Coke.
First pitches. Anthem. And then the anxiety. It’s Poe’s A Tell Tale Heart without the dead body under the floorboards. Everywhere I look I feel heartbeats of a dad with his kids. Some tweener girls take a seat to my right. The Cubs’ catcher Eli Whiteside has the same first name as one of my twins. A bunch of 23 year old Brahs in the front row drinking 24oz Lime-A-Ritas with their Affliction shirts and hats on backward (reminding me that birth control is sometimes necessary). To my left, two dads with toddler kids eating Dipping Dots. A kid in a Minecraft sweatshirt walks down the aisle to my left holding his dad’s finger.
The guilt! I’m here without my boys!
“I’m just going out for a bit. I’ll be back soon.”
The game starts and I settle down again, reminding myself that this is really good and relaxing and fun. I try to keep score. That lasts about two innings before I give up. (I’m not sure how you people think keeping score is fun. It’s a pain in the ass.) So I decide to take in the experience and watch every pitch and focus on the intricacies of the game that I can’t experience whilst trying to protect my kids from foul balls.
Chris Rusin’s repertoire of 88-89mph corner nibbling fastballs is entertaining, picking away at the Storm Chasers batters. I try and get some video of Baez, Bryant and Manny hitting, but even that seems as depraved as keeping score after a while. So I just sit there, change channels from the Cubs/Red Sox broadcast in my headphones to the Marvin Gaye Pandora station.
“Let’s get it on” calms my head and I find a zone, finally comfortable in my own solitude.
So here I am, watching a game by myself. I’m okay with it by this point, but there’s something missing. I want to turn to the tweener girls to my right and teach them how to calculate OBP. I’m looking for the tug of a kid on my elbow begging me to catch him a shirt from the t-shirt gun. Bryant knocks in Baez with a wallshot double, but there’s nobody next to me to high five. Blake Parker closes it out and the Iowa crowd walks out happy, but I wish I could chase some kids down across the bridge toward Mullets.
And then I’m reminded of my first game with my Dad. I don’t remember anything about the game, but I remember holding dad’s finger walking past the turnstiles in to old Sec Taylor Stadium. I remember him teaching me how to properly open a peanut shell.
“You’ve got to squeeze it on the ends of the shell, then break it in half.”
“Almost. You’ll get it.”
And now I get it.