While major league stars across the country chase the pennant, Triple-A minor league baseball still rules in my hometown. Rochester has fielded a baseball team every year since 1877, named the Red Wings since 1929. My earliest recollections are of games at the old Silver Stadium, home to the Red Wings from May 1929 until September 1996. As members of the “Knot Hole Gang,” my sister and I, along with thousands of other kids, enjoyed discounted admission at home games. We sat in the bleacher seats, high up, and surely saw Cal Ripken Jr. play before the Ironman headed off to a long career with the Baltimore Orioles.
We still try to get to at least one home game each summer, now played at the “new” (in 1997) Frontier Field in downtown Rochester. After all, baseball is a Summer Classic.
Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack
We meet up at the box office outside the park; me, the husband, my sister and her husband, nephews K. & D., plus my Dad, his wife, and my two nieces. The husband and I weave through the crowd, past the buskers and sidewalk preachers, and K. darts out to hug me with a huge smile on his face – baseball, you may recall, is his life.
My Dad and I purchase a block of seats on the third base line (facing east and away from the blinding evening sun), and I take back my Red Wings ball cap from K. Clearly, he needs his own ball cap for his hometown team, so my sister and I round up the kids and head to the team shop – all four of them. K. chooses quickly, a modern hat with flames beside the Red Wings mascot logo. The girls settle on a couple of the few feminine choices – one chooses pink and the other chooses a simple black with pink logo. Nice, quick choices. Then there’s D. Is it because he is four years old that he doesn’t do well with choices? Yes, we are staring at a wall of brightly colored caps, and he keeps picking the one just like his brother’s. In an effort to avoid future “That’s mine” meltdowns, my sister persuades him to choose another equally snazzy cap. How much? As I told my Dad later on, you don’t want to know.
I Don’t Care if I Ever Get Back
The ball park is a smorgasbord of summer food, and it is my goal to partake of a wide variety of treats (i.e., I eat my way through a baseball game). Fragrances of grilling and frying fill the air! We begin with beer (of course), hot dogs and peanuts. With a pile of shells at our feet, it is time to move on to the hot pretzel, grilled over charcoal, with mustard on the side! But the holy grail of summer treats is elusive: Cotton Candy.
Our seats are one row down from the top (also known as 40+ stairs up) and we can see the “Sweet Spot” vendor tent all the way on the other side of the stadium. And the crowd vendor with a board full of all that cottony goodness held high over her head is still WAY over hawking in sections on the first base line. K. is lobbying hard, bargaining with Daddy to get THREE cotton candies – one for himself, one for D. and one for ME. Bless his heart, he even checks on which color I prefer. Then on one return from many trips to the restroom, K. triumphantly holds aloft one GIANT bag of pink cotton candy. BRAVO!
Let me root, root, root for the home team
Our Red Wings perform admirably, widening their lead with a two run homer in the sixth inning while organist Fred Costello keeps the crowd clapping and “charging” all night long. I manage to choke down an ice cream cone while the Husband scores a Cracker Jack from a passing vendor; his prize-inside is “educational.” We agree that a tiny history lesson about Thomas Jefferson is really no substitute for a temporary tattoo or an admittedly junky plastic charm. Hey, it’s Cracker Jack! Educational moment unnecessary!
…At the old ball game!
The sun went down an hour ago and it’s barely the 7th inning stretch. The kids are fading. Shortly after a stirring rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” the small folks give hug-thanks for new ball caps and begin a bleary-eyed trudge down the stands. K. waves from the bottom, and the Husband and I are left to quietly enjoy the win. The crowd cheers wildly with the last out, and we pack in another Summer Classic.