DREAMS OF SAN DIEGO……………………………COME TRUE
Another HSL annual league trip is officially in the books, and man was it a Winner, with a capital freakin W.
A great salesman once said, when asked about his product line, "I sell dreams". For each of the league members participating on this trip, we bought that dream, and San Diego was a baseball fan’s dream come true.
This year’s junket had an excellent turnout, with 10 of the 13 league members participating. Although not without a few bumps in the road, the overall experience dictates that we would have to rate this trip as one of the finest ever assembled. Details will follow, but suffice to say that Magpie and Tirebiter outdid themselves, and may have just earned themselves a job as permanent travel agents.
There was the usual fretting going on prior to departure, with Skippy contacting me via fax, e-mail, cell phone, home phone, and carrier pigeon in an effort to determine just how many hours before scheduled takeoff that I was going to pick him up. I got him on board about 9:10, a full 90 minutes prior to our 10:40 (or was it 10:30?) departure. After stopping once to see if he’d forgotten the airline tickets, I noticed that we had plenty of time to get to Eppley, so I thought it was only appropriate that I give Dave the opportunity to see the area where I spent the days of my youth. Who among you wouldn’t want to see the field where I played my first baseball game, visit my childhood home, and walk the halls of my elementary school? Next time, give me a call well in advance and I will arrange the tour for the entire league.
It was getting to be close to 10:00, so I reluctantly agreed, after much prodding and pleading, that we should cut the tour short and head for the airport. Being familiar with the neighborhood, I knew a few shortcuts that would expedite our path to the airport and save us a few minutes; I just didn’t know that the roads would be closed. Damned Mike Fahey, he’s got to hurry up and get this city finished. I also failed to anticipate that a train may block our path for several minutes. When this did in fact occur, we patiently waited and watched as the union card toting, hourly paid switchman finished his coffee, put down his paper, and leisurely sauntered over to the switch to complete his assigned task, once he was damned good and ready to do it. The train moved, and we were once again on our way.
We boarded our luxury jet in plenty of time (in retrospect, we probably would have had enough time to see the swimming pool where I took my first lessons), and we were on our way to the city by the sea. The flights themselves were without incident, save for the commotion generated when our flight attendant became incredulous and asked the aforementioned Tirebiter, within earshot of the entire aircraft, "You want ANOTHER beer?" And his response, you wonder? YES I DO.
Things started out great in SD and only got better from there. We arrived at Petco Park early for Friday night’s game, in order to check out all the details and architectural nuances of this unique stadium. Certain entrances and areas of the stadium do not have as much "curb appeal" as others, but nine out of the ten league members in attendance felt that the stadium kind of "grew on us" and we would likely rank it among our top ten venues to watch a ball game, if not top five. It doesn’t hurt to have clear skies, 75 degrees, and no wind every day, coupled with some fabulous scenery of the "two legged dear" variety, not to mention excellent seats with a waitress! The waterfalls at the main entrance, the Western Auto parts store built into the stadium, the palm trees, and the large twin towers all made it interesting for the first time visitors. Oh, the one member who didn’t particularly care for this jewel? None other than our beloved Stretch McCurmudgeon. From the elongated one’s perspective, there were a host of problems with this deal, including, but not limited to (as you lawyers like to say):
These factors, coupled with Dontrelle Willis bringing out the Blue Tips and tossing them on the gas can, made for a somewhat miserable experience for Stretch. I think it may have also had something to do with the fact that there was no San Diego Chicken in sight, making it impossible for Blongo to write the trip expenses off as a legal matter associated with his landmark case. That is one angry man.
Additional highlights during the ballgame included a three run dinger by Ramon Hernandez and a solo shot by Mark Loretta of the Padres, and a stellar 30 point outing from Skipjack minor leaguer Brian Lawrence. All in all, an excellent first night.
After the game, the boys decided to sample some of the San Diego nightlife, and no one was disappointed. Jimmy Love’s served as the primer, with yours truly pre-sampling numerous versions of alcohol to ensure that the concoctions were safe for my fellow brethren to imbibe. Mission accomplished.
From there, it was on to a local Disco bar for a return in time to the 70’s. Possum brought out his tye-dye shirt and purple granny glasses and performed a rendition of "the Hustle", much to the astonishment (and chagrin) of those around him. Brain surgery does funny things to people, and is not recommended unless required. Thank goodness for shock collars.
We did have one scare during the postgame festivities, as a panic-stricken Shamu placed an urgent phone call to the Skipper, distraught at the prospect of being ditched by the rest of the league posse and being left behind with Magpie and Possum. Based on the tone of his voice, you would have thought he received a weekend sentence to a jail cell with a couple of horny prisoners named Bubba and Ramrod. Shamu eventually caught up to the rest of the crew, his worst nightmare being avoided.
The night ended without further incident, with a high stakes game of Texas Hold ‘em being held in public view in the hotel lobby bar capping off the evening, or early morning as it was.
Most of us shot out of bed Saturday morning, well rested from a night of peaceful slumber in our posh accommodations. As with most situations, there was an exception here as well. It seems that Screech, being only a one year veteran of these trips, was not experienced enough to avoid the two cardinal sins on an HSL trip:
Needless to say, Screech was never the same. He was driven to chain smoke the rest of the trip and walked about in a trance-like state for the remainder of his stay, mumbling incoherently about Juan Encarnacion.
Once we gained some sustenance, we boarded our limos stocked with alcohol for the short jaunt up to Del Mar and our crack at winning a few Benjamins wagering on the gluepots. Itchie Magic once again reigned supreme, as the betting windows turned into my personal ATM. I don’t see what’s so difficult about betting on horses. Find the horse that has the pink silks with the diamond, and if their number is divisible by three, then they’re the winner. Bet them along with every other nag in the race, and you’ve got yourself an exacta winner. Get with it fellas.
Del Mar is a beautiful setting, with a well manicured racetrack, an excellent facility, and prime seating in the front row on a perfect day for the boys from the HSL. This was definitely a very enjoyable diversion as we primed for our second trip to Bark Park.
Once again, limos arrived and we made it to the stadium in good stead, after a short tour of Torrey Pines and a breathtaking look at the Pacific Ocean en route. At the stadium, we indulged ourselves with a pre-game feast on world famous Randy Jones Barbecue as we anticipated that evening’s matchup between World Series hero Josh Beckett and Adam Eaton of the Padres.
Beckett did not disappoint, with a solid pitching outing backed by his own run scoring double, and the Marlins rolled to the win. In an effort to totally discredit the Ryan Klesko Theory that balls just won’t carry out of that park, light hitting Khalil Greene effortlessly launched a homer close to 400 feet for the Pads. Take that, Klecker.
Other significant events of note involved our inclusion as part of the largest crowd in the history of Petco Park, and our witnessing of the Major League debut of pitcher Steve Watkins for the Padres. When he’s inducted in to the HOF twenty years from now, we’ll be able to say "We were there" for his debut.
Saturday evening’s postgame was slightly tamer, with the consensus entertainment decision to gather at a local pub and re-live a few of the highlights of Mouse’s renowned sexual prowess as well as the curious collegiate study habits of the esteemed barristers in our group. The two conclusions I could draw from the conversation include some strong advice that I would offer to my acquaintances:
During the evening, we were also fortunate enough to witness the generosity of Shamu, as he befriended a homeless Bushman and proceeded to provide him with the one thing he so desperately needed, a glass of beer. It’s heartwarming to see such humanity firsthand, and I’m quite sure Shamu made a compadre/compatriot/companion/special friend for life.
Sunday was a day of recovery, as the HSL’ers packed up to head back home. I thought perhaps it was Groundhog Day, as I watched Shamu speed through the buffet line in a mesh shirt…didn’t I see him eating in a mesh shirt on Friday…..didn’t I see him eating in a mesh shirt on Saturday….oh well, I must be getting old.
Special recognition once again goes to Mitch and Jim for flexing their corporate muscles and landing us great ballgame tickets, comp’ed limos (that’s free, please don’t argue), a box at Del Mar, and the opportunity to get together and talk baseball with a bunch of good guys.
Let’s start planning next year’s trip and do it all over again.
Best of luck getting to the finish line..it looks like it’s going to be a barnburner.