My neighbors must think I have split personalities. One day they see me wearing a Red Sox shirt, the next day it’s a Giants shirt. And on Sept. 7, they surely saw me wearing an A’s hat.
Such is the life of a baseball fan who chooses an east coast team as his favorite, yet grew up watching — and supporting — local baseball teams, specifically the A’s.
One of my favorite memories s a kid was going to my first baseball game. I was 8. My father took me to an Orioles-Athletics game in 1988. I have two distinct memories from that game — Cal Ripken hit a screaming homer run to left field, and my father bought me an A’s hat, which I wore to sleep.
Being a father of two now, I’d been contemplating taking my own kids to their first baseball game. But I didn’t want to take them when they were too young to remember. Lots of kids go to their first games when they still have pacifiers in their mouths. Being a baseball fan, I know how special that first game is. And I want/wanted each of my kids to remember their first experience.
Well, Sept. 7, 2011, was the day … for my daughter, anyway.
My daughter is almost three. She’s still young and impressionable. She still tells me that she loves me, and she’s not just saying it to get into my wallet. Does she love baseball? No … well not yet, anyway.
But that Wednesday seemed like the perfect opportunity. The Oakland Athletics run a ticket special for many of their day games where they sell tickets near Mt. Davis for $2 each.
Are they “good” tickets? No. Are they tickets to a Major League Baseball game for the same price as a pack of 2011 Topps Baseball? Yep.
So the decision was made. We would ride BART to the game and soak it all in. The goal was to expose my daughter to baseball and show her that it was a fun time — the outcome of the game really wasn’t all that important. Plus, I bought her a puppet of the A’s team mascot Stomper about a year earlier and we played with it just the night before the game. I sold her on the idea that we might see Stomper.
Just before leaving the house, I posted on my Twitter account that I was headed to the game with my daughter. I mentioned that it was her first. Within minutes, I got a message from the Oakland A’s twitter account asking where I was sitting. I sent a message back, not really sure why they were asking.
So we ventured out … we caught a train in Fremont, Calif. and started the journey to the old, dilapidated facility that is the “O.Co Coliseum.” My daughter was excited not only for the game, but her first train ride.
When we arrived at our destination, my daughter was excited to be there. We quickly found our seats to catch a few moments of the A’s and Royals players stretching. And then we ventured to the concession stands to grab some treats — popcorn and a hotdog.
When we returned to our seats, my daughter dove into her helmet full of popcorn. Seconds later I was greeted by a representative of the A’s. They said they heard it was my daughter’s first game and presented her with a certificate commemorating the occasion. And then they upgraded our seats from the foot of Mt. Davis to field level seats near the A’s dug out.
With the game underway, we made the trek to our field level seats. And let me tell you, it’s not easy totting around food and a 2-year-old at a baseball game. By the time we got to our seats we missed an inning of baseball and my arms were dead, but I knew it would all be worth it as we surely would get to see Stomper from our new location.
And just minutes later we did …
“Look, honey, it’s Stomper,” I told my daughter.
She grabbed her puppet — which we brought to the game — and stood up. I offered to take her to see him up close, but she froze. She didn’t want to go.
For several minutes she watched him from a distance … and then he was gone, moved to the other side of the Coliseum to meet other children.
About 5 minutes later I received a direct message on Twitter from someone who knew I was at the game. That person showed me a Tweet contest from Stomper.
When I received the message, I could see Stomper clear on the other side of the stadium. I thought about grabbing my daughter and racing to him to say the phrase. But my daughter was reluctant to see him when he was nearby, so I didn’t want to scare her off. I figured if he came back to our area, I’d hit him up then.
We watched a few more innings of baseball and then I heard a magic phrase …
“Daddy, I need to go to the bathroom.”
My blood pressure went through the roof because I knew we had to gather everything up and find a somewhat sanitary place for my daughter to do her deed.
Needless to say we made it to the restroom in time and she was relieved. But as we exited the bathroom, who do you think we saw?
This was our chance.
I raced over to the mascot, who was posing for a picture with some fans. When he was done, I said the phrase …
He pointed to me and his handler handed us our prize. We’d won the signed hat … and my daughter got to meet Stomper, all at the same time.
With the loot in hand, we returned to our seats for another inning or so, until my daughter seemed to be running out of steam. It was the sixth inning and Guillermo Moscoso had a no-hitter going, but none of that mattered. We’d had a good day and I was not going to have it ruined with a public toddler meltdown in a baseball stadium.
So we packed up our stuff, got back on the train and headed home.
It’s been a month since that day. The season has ended, the League Championship Series are about to begin and Fall has arrived. But even to this day, my daughter still says a magic phrase to me:
“Daddy, remember when we went to the baseball game? I got to meet Stomper!”
Of course I remember, honey. Of course I do.