Now a PE teacher at Nelson College. I coached the Nelson College 1st XV 2000-2008 and Nelson Rugby Football Club (tap...tap) 2009-2011.
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While the day was overcast with drizzle lingering ominously in the air we again drove through the spaghetti junctions of Texas freeways. We found a park at the Baymont Inn about a couple of miles from Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. With the gnarled up traffic patterns I was not keen parking too close to the congestion of the ground and we were prepared to walk to the stadium. We then spied a complimentary hotel trolley bus going directly to the ground, for hotel guests. With a bit of Kiwi ingenuity we bluffed our way in and so secured a nice safe drive to the ballpark.
We were staying at the Scottish Inn about five miles from Minute Maid Park and with no public transport available from there, we were forced to again drive close to the ballpark and then walk the final mile or so. We located a parking building in the Theatre district of downtown Houston and took in the sights as we walked down Texas Drive to the ballpark.
We repeated our trip of last week, but this time with a new player. Eric, Bill and Kathy’s son and Kitty’s nephew, decided to come for the ride. He said it would be un-American not to come with us. He is a real character and I think it was Eric who put the red into red neck. The logistics were the same except this week we went the opposite direction on the Red Line of the “L”, to Addison instead of 35th Street station. Then out into the bright sunshine and one of the real palaces of baseball at the famous intersection of Clark and Addison. The area outside the ballpark was strewn with people and bars as everyone was enjoying the atmosphere of Wrigleyville.
This was always going to be a long day for Kitty and I. The trip to U.S. Cellular Field involved a drive from Bill’s place to the South Bend airport to catch the NICTD (Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District) South Shore train into central Chicago. From there it was a short walk to the “L” (elevated train) to catch another commuter train – Red Line - on to the ballpark. Because of the idiocentric nature of the American Mid-West we would also be changing time zones, from Eastern Time to Central standard. All this necessitated an 8:00 am departure for the scheduled 3:05 pm kick off.
In a set up similar to Atlanta, the La Quinta hotel had a van which ferried guests to the airport. From the airport Kitty and I boarded a train, part of the RTA (Regional Transit Authority) system, into Cleveland city. The system is called the Rapid Transit System but the title is a classic example of an oxymoron. It took about 40 minutes to make the six mile trip. Still, it was pretty comfortable as we took the Red Line from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to Tower City/Public Square. Do not get off at West 117- Madison, it looks like the end of the line, but it isn’t.
The Pirates had originally played in Recreation, Union and Exposition Parks, all in what was then Allegheny City. Allegheny City was annexed by Pittsburgh in December 1907. In 1909 the club moved to Forbes Field where they remained until 1970 when they shifted to Three Rivers Stadium. Then in 2001 the club shifted just down the road to the beautiful PNC Park. Of the many great ballparks that sprung up around the league in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, this park stands out as one of the best for creating an experience that reflects the glory days of baseball.
As we were staying a little way out of the city itself we took the unusual step of driving to the ballpark today. It was only about a fifteen minute drive and we parked a mile from the ground, to avoid too much traffic and took a peaceful stroll over the Ohio River and into The Great American Ball Park. I had presumed that the park got its name because the Reds quite pompously believed that theirs was the best park going. However, Great American is actually an insurance company who bought naming rights to the park. Not quite such an interesting background story.
The Best Western – Atlanta East/Airport had a really good shuttle service that ran from the hotel to the airport every half hour. From there we used the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transport Authority) train into Five Points station in central Atlanta and linked with the bus service to Turner Field. Kitty and I had time to stop for a refreshment on the way before getting to the ball park in plenty of time for the scheduled seven ten start.
There is a really efficient tram service (the PSTA) that leads right down Central Avenue and takes you to the doorstep of Fergie’s Sports Bar right outside Tropicana Field (or “The Trop” as us locals like to call it). It seems that we cannot get away from that doyen of Canterbury rugby so with plenty of time in hand we indulged in the “bucket of beer” special – five Buds for $20.
Since it was Kitty’s birthday we decided to treat ourselves to a cab ride to Marlins Park. It was actually a short trip that cost about ten dollars with the tip. As to be expected, the ball park in its first year of operation is very sleek and modern. Because of the famous Florida heat it was of course a necessity to have a roofed stadium and with the temperatures in the 90’s, it was a welcome relief to get into the cool of the arena.
With Sam and his family gone, it is now just Kitty and I for the time being. She has another Kiwi friend coming over to join us at the end of this week. We made a very detailed route to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Initially we were going to drive as close as we could to the ballpark and walk from there. After driving into Baltimore city itself, we realised that a walk of any length would be a bit iffy late at night (it was to be a 7:05 pm kick off). So instead we sussed out that there was a light rail station right at Campden Yards. We drove the ten or so miles back to Linthicum Station, parked the car and hopped on the MARC (Maryland Transit Authority – don’t ask me how they made MARC out of that) train back into the ballpark. We still got there in plenty of time as we purchased the cheapest tickets available – ten dollars each. We thought that it would be rude not to take a look at the Sports Legends Museum which was also located in Camden. They had an outstanding array of exhibits on all sports, especially focussing on baseball – the Orioles and football – the Baltimore Ravens. With the same ticket we were also able to go to Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.
Sam was travelling to Washington today by train, so we arranged to meet him and his son Josh at the stadium. The Nationals generously come up trumps with tickets at the 11th hour, including tickets for our two guests. As I had already purchased four tickets I would be able to sell the ones that I bought to scalpers outside the ground. Kitty and I arrived at Nationals Park early and I made my sales pitch. I sold the four tickets which had cost me ten dollars each for the sum price of ten dollars. The guy was only going to give me five dollars, but I haggled him all the way so that I could at least get the price of one beer for my forty dollars spent. I am a very good businessman and a great entrepreneur.
For a well-educated guy, Sam can be quite naïve. Kitty and I met him and his whanau in the costly Hyatt Regency hotel on the banks of the rolling Delaware River. As the temperature had again soared into the high 90’s we thought that a cool drink would be the order of the day (put on Sam’s tab) before adjourning to the closest station on the SEPTA (Southern Pennsylvania Transport Authority). Once again the train was congested and we had to stand. Sam believing to be the guru of balance decided that he could stand unsupported. Wrong Sam, that’s what they have the hand rails for. Only some fleet footed work from yours truly saved my mate from an inglorious face plant. Apart from this, it was an uneventful and much more comfortable trip than New York, to the last southbound station on the Broad Street Line, Pattison Street Station and into Citizens Bank Park.
While it was a breeze getting to Yankee Stadium the other day, Citi Field is a different kettle of fish altogether. Sam, Chris, Kitty and I boarded the Number seven train to Flushing Meadows. The seven train is part of the elaborate Metropolitan Transit Authority systems that runs through the five boroughs and is nicknamed the “International Line”, for all of the ethnic neighbourhoods of Queens the elevated rail makes its way through on the way to the ballpark. We picked it up in 42nd Street in Times Square in Manhattan and it was about a 25 minute ride. It was rush hour and the temperature was about 100 degrees. We had just visited the Holocaust Museum and Kitty likened our train trip to the Jews in Nazi Germany on a caboose travelling to Auschwitz.
Another friend flew into New York today. Chris Goodman is also a Nelson College Old Boy whom I taught and coached. His family are good friends of Kitty and I so it was good to meet Chris and he will be sharing the Ramada Inn with us for the duration. He arrived early, so we thought that it would be a good idea to make our way to Yankee Stadium and meet up with Sam. We used the effective subway system and easily located Yankee Stadium. The country is currently in the middle of a heat wave and Chris’ mother, Trish, gave him the sage advice that he needed to keep his fluid intake up. We of course took her to her word and quickly located a watering hole, Billy’s Sports Bar and Grill.
An old friend from Christchurch joined us for our pilgrimage to the shrine of baseball that is Fenway Park. Garth Samuels and I went to school and played rugby together in our formative years through the ages 15-20. Sam went on and excelled as a skilful lock for the much vaunted and champion New Brighton forward pack through the 1980’s. He is going to share our viewing pleasure for the next five games. A good bugger who does not mind the occasional beer. So, we used the Boston subway system, the T, to travel to Fenway Park. If you are ever going to use it, you take any Green Line train except the one on the E branch. You then use either the Fenway of Kenmore stop and walk the couple of blocks to the park. You will probably have developed a thirst from the exercise so I would recommend a stop on the rooftop at The Baseball Tavern to quench that thirst. It worked for us anyway.
Kitty and I decided to use the very efficient Ontario public transport system, aptly named the GO system to travel into Toronto. It was a very short drive from our lakeside accommodation to the train station and then a pleasant 45 minute train ride which took us to within a ten minute walk to the Rogers Centre. It is very easy to find your way as it is located next to, what was until 2007, the tallest free standing structure in the world, the 1,815 foot tall CN Tower. We had time for a tour of the stadium which convinced me of one thing. This stadium was not really built for baseball.