Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It's All Star Day

I might check in on tonite's game, I might not. I used to really enjoy the All Star Game but that was some time ago. I've been to two of the three games staged in Houston.

The 1986 game is the one that Fernando Valenzuela pitched in and struck out five straight American Leaguers. I had entered the lottery the Astros coordinated to obtain tickets. I had my postcard drawn and I went with a friend who was also an Orioles fan. The best part of the whole deal was somehow talking our way into the dinner that was held the Sunday night before the game at the Hyatt downtown. Lots of players and celebrities all over the place. We talked to Orioles' reliever Don Aase and were disappointed that Eddie Murray wasn't around. The starting pitcher for the AL was Roger Clemens. We sat and watched Larry King do his radio show from a room off the ballroom.

The 2004 game was much more memorable. My sons were much bigger baseball fans than I was in those days and were interested in the game. I took them downtown that evening to hang out around Minute Maid Park and people watch, soak up some of the atmosphere and maybe catch a desperate scalper once the game started.  

I had no luck with finding remotely reasonable tickets even as game time approached. As they were doing the pre-game introductions the crowd outside the park had disappeared and we were about to head home to watch the rest on TV. But as we were about to cross Texas Avenue a young guy in a suit and wearing about five pounds of credentials around his neck stopped us and asked us if were wanted to see the game. He showed us his MLB badge and produced three tickets and had us follow him to the gate. I remember looking at the tickets and realizing how good they were.

Two of the seats were behind the first base dugout about 15 rows up, the other was in the first row of the stands above home plate. Total face value....$550 IIRC. Anyway my boys were about to hyperventilate as I parked them in the seats downstairs and headed for mine upstairs. Meanwhile the American League was knocking around NL starter Roger Clemens.  By the third inning I'd gone down to check on them and found that luckily there was an empty seat next to them. I stayed and watched the rest of the game from there.

Which brings me to the Ichiro card at the top. Sitting next to us in the box seats was an elderly Japanese gentleman with a Mizuno jacket. He was accompanied by a younger guy and both were very enthusiastic fans of Ichirio. My son happened to have his decades-old inherited Mizuno first baseman's glove and then they spotted it they immediately asked to look at it and spent the next two innings examining it. Finally they handed it back and passed us the older man's business card. Turns out he was president of their baseball equipment division. The younger guy was his aide/interpreter. I thought that was pretty neat.

Anyway the AL won the game, Alfonso Soriano was MVP, and my sons had a great experience and memories.