Out to the Ballgame — The Final Chapter

Five cities, six ballparks, seven games...and countless memories

Friday, August 27, 2010, Midnight

We’re two hours out of Cincinnati on our way back, ending what was a sensational and memorable journey.

But, Houston, we have a problem, and no, it’s not the problem of the Astros sweepin’ the Fightin’s.

The problem is my waistline and the five weeks until Lauren and Prentiss’ wedding. I was doing so well, having lost about 25 pounds since New Year’s. But this trip and the several daily meals, ballpark snacks, peanuts and suds—oh the suds—have made for a challenge that will confront every minute of the next month. I am determined to walk my daughter down the aisle looking reasonably svelte. The pressure is now seriously on. Cramming for finals!

Cincinnati has a nice ball park with some interesting design features, but they missed all of the charming elements that make the buildings in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia special. Perched above the banks of the Ohio River, the city’s planners have created a modern concrete jungle on their downtown waterfront with the Arena, Great American Ball Park, Freedom Museum and Paul Brown Stadium. It all seemed haphazard to me and really uninspiring.

On the other hand, the hitting of the Reds last night was more than inspiring. The Red’s right fielder, Jay Bruce, smashed three home runs deep into the right field bleachers. Each was a monster and electrified the crowd. The pitching was superb and capped a great baseball experience for all of us. The stadium was nearly at capacity and like the nice people mid-Westerners are, they seem to be thrilled with how their young baseball team has become a serious contender. I’m not sure they have all of the pieces to challenge for the NL pennant but they’ll be good for long time.

In Cincy we were at the farthest point from home and at the end. So we hauled 300 miles after the game to get to a campground near Pittsburgh. As we drove, we kept a close watch on the Padres-Phils game. Oy! We felt forlorn when Lidge balked in a run but once again this club showed their incredible resilience. We’re all psyched for the final push in September. Given the injuries and lineup shuffles, I’ve felt that if we were within 3 games of Atlanta by September 1st, we’d be very strong. We seem poised.

So we recap… With one 40-foot RV, and two credit cards, I took my three sons, with beds for four, to five cities, visiting six ballparks to watch seven games in eight days. We tailgated, picked crabs, barbecued burgers, chicken and dogs, wore the same clothes a lot, slept in close quarters and bonded, sprinkled in some culture with museum visits focused on airplanes, rock ‘n roll and football and enjoyed great baseball.

It was quite a ride. Thanks for coming along.