With the Red Sox down in St. Pete playing the Rays who this year, are very much IN it as we head into playoff time, this seemed like a very appropriate rerun.
Harold takes a road trip to the Trop, by Rich Paschall
Friday was “Fun Day,” or at least that is the way Harold saw it. It was a day given over to sports. Harold read all the sports he could in the morning paper. Watched some on television. He even made time for high school or college games in the area. In the late spring and early summer, there was minor league baseball to be seen. Every Friday could have an appropriate sports theme.
On one particularly nice Friday in the baseball season, Harold decided to drive all the way to St. Petersburg to catch a major league baseball game. It’s not that the Tampa Bay Rays, who did not play in Tampa, were an exciting team, but the visiting team was making a rare appearance. Actually, it was Harold’s favorite Midwest team. The Chicago Cubs and the Rays were having an interleague game and Harold thought that was just about the only reason to drive over an hour to get to a baseball game.
The details of this road trip were laid out in Harold’s computer-like mind the night before. He knew exactly what to take, when to leave and how long to stay at the park. It would be a treat to see the park, as Harold had absolutely no reason to make the trip before this. It would be years before the Cubs would come that way again, so they certainly had to be on Harold’s schedule as well as the Rays’.
Neither team was very good. In fact the Cubs were in last place and the Rays were not in the running for anything. The Chicago organization called it a “rebuilding” year, but most years were rebuilding years for the Cubs.
It had been that way since 1908. Still, Harold had an unexplainable affection for the team so he decided to take the trip. When the appointed hour came, according to his expert calculations, he was off.
He arrived at the parking facility more or less on time and spied the ticket office right away. There were not a lot of cars as the team needed a winning season to fill the lot, so Harold got a spot close to the ticket windows. He put up the sunshield in the front window and then added another for the back.
It didn’t matter. The car would be hot when he returned, sunshield or not. With plenty of time before game time, Harold took a leisurely stroll to purchase his tickets. He only had to wait behind one person when he heard someone call out.
“Harold? Harold, is that you?” It was George, a former colleague from work and his wife Martha. Whenever he heard their names together it reminded his of a movie or show, but he could not remember which one.
It was not important to him. George, like many Cub fans, would travel almost anywhere to see the boys in blue play. Older Cub fans with time on their hands frequently made vacation plans to include a Cubs’ road game.
“Hello, George, Martha,” Harold said, not at all certain he was glad to see them. “What brings you down here this time of year? People normally visit in the winter.” At that, it was Harold’s turn at the ticket window.
“I need just one ticket,” Harold declared. “I don’t want one of those 281 dollar tickets. I think a 66 dollar ticket is quite enough.” Actually Harold thought that was too much but he figured it would be a rare treat. When he collected his ticket, Harold turned around and said to the couple, “Well, it was nice to see you again.”
But when George got to the window, he had other ideas. He said to the person selling tickets, “Can you get us two tickets right next to that last guy?”
“Sure,” she replied and sold him the next two seats. Harold would be on the aisle and the couple from the north would be right next to him.
“Hey Harold, wait up,” George shouted and the couple hurried along to catch up with the master planner. The problem is, George and Martha were not in the plan. They all went into the park together and Harold and George had to stand around for fifteen minutes while Martha went to the women’s washroom.
When they got to their seats, the National Anthem was being played. George decided to sit next to Harold for half the game in order to tell him everything that happened since Harold had retired. Martha took the second half to update George on local gossip, most of it having to do with people Harold could not remember — or possibly never knew.
Harold’s seat on the aisle did not prove to be so ideal, since vendors and fans frequently went by, obstructing his view. Beer vendors were particularly annoying because when they stopped in front of Harold, they were usually there for too long.
The game moved along slowly. The Cubs fell behind early due to errors and poor relief pitching. It did not look major league. At precisely three hours after the start of the game, the alarm on Harold’s watch went off. He announced to the now somewhat tipsy couple, it was time to go.
“Go?” George shouted in horror. “It is only the bottom of the eighth. The Cubs could have a rally. See, I have my rally cap.” At that George took off his cap, turned it inside out, and put it back on his head.
“But I have somewhere to go … and the game has run long.”
Martha protested, “You’re retired. Where do you have to go? Sit down and watch the Cubs come back.” The couple put up such a fuss that Harold sat back down just to put an end to the scene. Rays fans around them were shouting at them to sit down. It was embarrassing to the usually quiet Midwesterner.
The Cubs went three up, three down in the ninth, as might be expected from such a team. The threesome filed out with all the others. When Harold got to his hot car, the traffic was building. The trip through the lot and onto the roadway was slow and painful to Harold.
Although the Cubs had played pretty much as he’d expected, the day had not gone as Harold planned. Harold, master planner of retirement time, had been defeated again.