My Kids Are No Saints

On June 26th, my family and I went to a baseball game. There's a minor league team, called the St. Paul Saints that plays in the area. They just built a new stadium last year in St. Paul's downtown by the Mississippi River. I'd heard it was really nice, and I'd have to agree. The stadium is currently in its second year of operation. Cool fact: The field was built into the ground, below street level.

It should come with no surprise that we are going to this game because it's a "Girl Scouts Night" game. Before the game, the girls get to do activities on the field and then parade around the field before the game for the fans. I think that last part is extremely strange, but there are many things in our culture I'll never understand. It's the sociologist in me. The girls will also be on the field for the national anthem and then be escorted to their families.

Since I work on Sundays, I had to take four hours of vacation. Getting off any earlier would have been difficult. If I would have went home and changed, we would have had to leave the house at about 3:15 pm. That was the plan. My family would be ready, and I would come home, and in one big swoop I would be changed, out the door, and whisking them away to St. Paul.

My wife changed those plans just as I was going to bed the night before the game. I wasn't terribly happy about that, but I also wasn't going to argue with her. She was clearly determined to see her self-proclaimed "crazy idea" through. I was clearly ready to go to bed. She proposed that she and the kids take mass transit to the stadium. First by bus, and then transfer to a light rail line that goes by the stadium. I would drive the van to work and go straight to the stadium after work.

It really wasn't a bad idea, but I thought about all the bad things that could happen. If I have the van, then all of the kids' special seats are thirty minutes away. Hopefully there's no emergency. Mass transit isn't teaming with sketchy people, but sketchy people do ride mass transit. Hopefully there's no mugging or kidnapping. My kids, if you haven't already got the notion, are in danger wherever they go because of who they are. Hopefully they don't get run over along the route. I have 100% faith in my wife and her competence. It's everyone else I question.

So, the plan my wife created while I slept, full of printouts and notes, would have to succeed. I took the van to work along with a change of clothes, the aforementioned pile of papers, and my normal going to work stuff. I worked and 2:30 pm came.

I decided that I would also have the route punched into Google Maps. I figured it wouldn't hurt to have that in addition to what my wife provided. I would be driving in a direction not as familiar to me, and her print outs only covered the area around the stadium. So, off I went in fresh, non-work clothes about as ready and knowledgeable as I was going to be.

The drive went smoothly until I went to park, and even then it wasn't much of a hiccup. I pulled into the ramp I thought I wanted to park in and immediately the two guys working at the entrance questioned me if I really wanted to park there considering it cost fifteen dollars. My first thought was, yeah, event parking, it's going to be expensive. My second thought was, well, if you're questioning this, maybe it's cheaper down the road? And my third thought was, why do you care? Are you trying to lose business and therefore your job?

I asked them which ramp I was at because I had intended on parking at the Lowertown ramp. It was hard to tell looking at the map since I had turned a few times to get there from the interstate, and like I said, I'm not terribly familiar with the area. They had no idea what ramp we were at. Clueless. I was a bit baffled, but said that I would back out and continue on my way. Once I backed out just enough to see the sign on the outside that said Jackson ramp, I knew where I needed to go. So, I went down the street one block and took a left instead of a right. Still, how did those ramp workers... never mind. Some things are best left alone.

As I drove into the ramp I had intended on parking in, I saw a sign that said five dollar event parking and that it needed to be cash. Definitely better than fifteen dollars, and I knew I had five dollars in cash. I found a great parking spot at street level on the other side of the ramp and on the street I needed to walk down to meet my people. For whatever reason, I didn't realize this right away and walked about 3 blocks in the wrong direction only to come back to the street I started on one block further north than where I started. I was closer to my destination, though. I guess there's a positive in there.

When I met my family at Mears Park, I saw the two older kids were battling dehydration and were already doing a wonderful job of not being obedient. Too much around them to take in, I guess. Excitement for the game and the mass transit journey, I guess. Maybe they were excited to see me? Probably. There are always reasons.

After a few minutes, we walked to CHS Field where the Saints play. I don't know how many blocks it was, but it didn't take very long. The kids were trying their best to get clipped by a car or two, and since we were in an unfamiliar area, everything required an investigation from them. It felt like a longer walk than it was. It was hot, humid, and we'd all already had a long day. I had been up since 5:00 that morning and had worked for 8 hours. Somehow, riding mass transit was probably the equivalent for them. Tempers and attitudes were brewing, myself included.

We got to the field a couple minutes before it opened, and when it did, we got to work figuring out what we needed to do. We needed to get our free hats that came with the tickets. This was a nice thing to have considering the sun was beating down. I apparently forgot we were to get free hats, so it made me happier to know we got more for the ticket price. We also needed to find the guest services area since that was where the Girl Scouts needed to meet. Both were pretty easy to accomplish.

We had time before the Girl Scouts were to meet up, so we found where our seats were. They were in the sun with no overhead shade along the third baseline in the outfield. Knowing we would have to eat dinner there, we checked out what food was available and it was all predictably expensive. There was a patio area we could eat at, at least. To eat at our seats would have been a huge pain. It was about then that my daughter and I went back to guest services to wait until we could go onto the field for the activities.

Technically, I wasn't supposed to go on the field, but since there was no one else from her troop there and most importantly her troop leader, I had to go with because she needed an adult with her. My wife and sons went to the Kids Fun Zone area. My wife paid five dollars for my oldest son to bounce unlimited on inflatables. My daughter wished she could have bounced on the inflatables as well, but since we were there for Girl Scout Night and the opportunity to go on the field to do things, she was forced by us to do that. Besides, we didn't know what the field activities would be.

The activities on the field were kind of lame, and my daughter felt so too. There were long lines, and she was lying on the field bored as we waited. I've gotten used to being bored at my age, so I just stood around looking at the field and the city surrounding it. We waited in that line so that she could have some random person pitch six tennis balls to hit (and hit into a crowd of people on the field, no less). Some of the other kids got to hit pitches thrown by a Saints player.

After we were done with that we went to get a few autographs from the Saints players that were still around (and were in the line of fire of those hitting tennis balls). The first one we asked didn't have a marker. I guess that's why no one was standing around him. This part of the field activities went much quicker as signing one's messy and not so legible signature in a hat is easy to accomplish in a short period of time.

We then lined up so that the Girl Scouts and chaperones could parade around the field once along the warning track (dirt edge around the entire field). There weren't many people in the stands, but they waved and cheered. The entire time we walked around the stadium, my daughter kept asking why we were doing this and that it was stupid and silly. I didn't disagree with her. All I could say to her was that I didn't know, and we were going to do what was planned.  I told her that apparently this is fun and meaningful for some people.

When we were done parading around the field like future Miss America contestants, it was time to stand around on the field for what felt like twenty minutes. I'm assuming it was five to ten minutes, but it felt like a long time. I could have checked my phone, but I don't think that would have made me any happier. My daughter sat in the grass making new best friends (anyone she meets is her best friend). At least she wasn't complaining.

Since the opposing team was from Winnipeg, Canada, the Canadian national anthem was sung first. A man about sixty years old sang a deep and moving anthem. I wondered many things during that time. Should I become Canadian? Is this guy actually Canadian? Did they recruit him through some type of talent search to sing when Canadian teams come to St. Paul? Did he win a contest? Does he travel with the team as their anthem singer? Wouldn't it be cool if he was dressed like a Mountie? The Dudley Do-Right cartoons apparently influenced my childhood view of Canadians quite a bit.

A young girl then sang the U.S. national anthem. I wondered if she was a Girl Scout. I wondered, how does one get the opportunity to sing the anthem at a game? She did a great job, even if "perilous" came out sounding unconventional. And when she was done, I felt one with the other fans as we cheered. They were cheering for Team America and this girl's singing. I was cheering mostly because we were finally able to leave the field.

My daughter and I then went to find our seats as the game started. My wife and and two sons were there already waiting to exchange experiences. About thirty seconds after we sat down, we all agreed that we were hungry. More accurately, they all complained they were hungry, and I couldn't deny that I was hungry also. It was 5:00, and we are an early-to-dinner kind of family, and none of us had eaten since around noon. So, we all got up and started to walk the concourse to see what we would like to eat.

We passed by the patio area we'd seen earlier and that's where my family sat down as I continued on to get food. Thirty-eight dollars later, I'm carrying a stack of food back to the table. The woman who took my order wanted to see how I was going to carry it all back and was impressed when I stacked it all just right. I was a little worried walking to the table that I would lose it all but was feeling pretty proud of myself for the small feat I accomplished.

I got to the table and declared that what I bought was all I was going to spend my money on that day. As I unstacked the food, the cheese on each burger stuck to the cardboard container containing the food above it. So much for my good idea. Still, it was the best that could be done, and it was all still edible.

Three innings or so later, we made it back to our seats. From then on, I didn't really get to watch much of the game even though it was "literally" in front of me. The two oldest kids kept wanting to drink water, something they never want to do at home and were being defiant to do all day up until that point. They kept fighting over the water bottle, once again something they don't care about unless they are bored, irritable, and inconveniencing their mother and me. Throw in a cranky, continuous game of musical chairs, because there were open seats around us, and we had ourselves a great distraction from the purpose for which we went.

One would think going to a baseball game would mean that watching baseball was the outcome. That is not the case. It always turns into me spending the whole game watching them. And they spend the whole game being bored and trying to find ways to relieve their boredom. They both wanted to go back to the inflatables to play. They wanted to bother other people watching the game, wander around, and climb on seats and handrails.

It was a frustrating afternoon, but finally, the ninth inning came. The teams were tied after nine innings, and so it was obviously going into extra innings. We had to decide whether or not we were going to stay or go. The decision was made to leave as it was already late. There really wasn't any indecision on my part. I'd had more than enough of the experience. On the way home they were saying they had fun. I don't understand. It hurts my head.

I'm glad we left. The game ended up lasting for another hour (the Saints lost 9-6). As it was, the kids didn't get to bed until 9 pm, and I didn't get to bed till about 10:30. I was working overtime the next morning, so I wanted to get a decent night's sleep. Fortunately, I was going in a little later than normal.

I like to do things with the kids, but this is our fourth time taking the kids to a professional sporting event. The best they have ever behaved was at a Timberwolves game. It seemed like there was a lot more going on to keep their interest (another game we didn't stay for all of, and ironically we got the tickets for free because it was, pause, a Girl Scouts Night). Also, they loved the howl-o-meter, which allowed them to be kids and be noisy. Baseball is a completely different sport, and I would even throw the  MN United FC soccer match we attended in with it, when it comes to the ability to  entertain my kids. There has to be constant action and general entertainment.

I think the kids would probably get a lot more out of going to a park than a sporting event. The kids love going to the park, they don't get to go very often, and it's free. They'll have loads of fun. I get to sit there and not worry about watching anything else except them. They get to run around. They get to yell. They get to be kids. They don't have to sit down and pay attention to something they don't understand. Because, let's be honest, they're really not that concerned with the intricacies of a sport. They're five and seven.

So why do we keep doing this? Ask my wife. She says, passionately, "Memories!"

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