(picture: Noah’s Ark waterpark- Day 2 of the break)
All-Star Break started off with a bang midday on Sunday when I got invited to brunch by Michelle (Jonathon Crawford’s host mom). I left with Jonathon Crawford, Zack Powers, and Denny Clement and headed to the Jet Room. The Jet Room is a neat little restaurant on the backside of the Madison airport, where all the private planes fly. Right outside our window was a little blue and orange colored jet. Besides the view, it was the best breakfast I’ve had this summer. Don’t get me wrong, I love my peanut butter and banana waffles I make everyday, but I had some awesome Eggs Benedict. On the way back, I drove through town and saw a big commotion on State Street. Apparently one Sunday in the summer (Maxwell Street Day) all of the stores and some local vendors set up outdoor shops. There had to be at least a thousand people on State Street, so I took the opportunity to “people watch.”
After a while of watching, I had to drive back home to watch the Women’s World Cup Final. U.S.A. vs. Japan. The U.S. had girls twice the size of the small Japanese, but we gave away two goals and they tied up, 2-2, and forced overtime. I had a busy day and had to leave for Sean’s (my host brother) baseball game. We left as soon as the U.S. scored their first goal in overtime and thought that would be enough to hold them. It was so painful listening to the U.S. implode on the radio. It was such a shame we lost, but at least Japan got something to be happy about after a devastating year. Sean’s game was fun and it was the first time I watched him play all summer. He plays in a local wood bat league where the players are 18-40. The other team had some really good guys in their 30s and beat Sean’s team by 12.
Highlight of the night was beating Spyro the Dragon, finally. Ryan and I worked so hard on it and finally the work paid off. Next up on our list of retro games we need to beat: Gauntlet Dark Legacy (PS2). After beating the game I went to the gym and kicked my butt at squats. It was a good off day.
Wisconsin Dells is a very touristy place, which my dad describes as a “mini-Vegas.” There are hundreds of hotels and it seems like all of them, like The Great Wolf Lodge and The Wilderness, have their own water parks. One hotel, The Carousel, even boasted that they had 9 pools inside!
On Day 2, about twelve members of the Mallards set off for the largest waterpark in America, Noah’s Ark, in Wisconsin Dells. If you go to Noah’s Ark, make sure you get the $10 discount after filling up at Shell Gas Station. After a 45-minute drive to the Dells, we were there, ready to ride some watercoasters! There was one problem- there was a thunderstorm. Water parks will stay open if there’s rain, but not for thunderstorms. One really dumb lady when she heard that the water coasters were shut down temporarily asked, “Is the lazy river still open?” After a 30-minute delay, it was hot and sultry again and it was time to ride. We stayed there from 10 a.m. to the 8 p.m. close- a really long day. We left the park twice to eat two terrible meals- at Burger King and Taco Bell.
The best ride at the park was the Scorpion’s Tail (giant blue ride with the loop, right of center). You step into this telephone booth-like chamber and when the door closes, you hear a voice counting down “3,2,1…” At the end of the countdown, the floor drops out of the telephone booth and you virtually freefall for two seconds, building up speed for the eventual loop. The worst ride there was The Curse of the Crypt. Nick Sutherland, one of our pitchers, said he had ridden on it last year and said it was horrible. We interpreted that to mean that the ride was scary, so despite being scared, our bravado told us to check it out. It ended up being the dumbest ride I have ever been on. You walk through this cold basement for 10 minutes to get to the ride, and when you finally get there, you sit in a giant motion sensor room. The ride is based on optical illusions, but it was not at all scary, or good, for that matter. So, when he said horrible, he meant horrible. The Plunge (the two smaller blue slides) had the most bang-for-your-buck. The line was extremely short and you could race each other. Also, off the second jump, if you lift up, you can get some serious air.
The tallest drop, The Point of No Return (tall tan slide) was only okay. It is an older slide and scratched your back up on the way down. The ride should actually be named “The Atomic Wedgie,” and it was far from my favorite. The Stingray (tan half pipe on the left) was a great 2-person ride and Time Warp (not in picture) was another really fun one. We were exhausted from the sun beating down on us the whole day, so we drove back that night.
I slept in and went to Lake Mills with my host brother Sean. I went to Lake Mills in the first week in Madison because we have family friends who live on the lake. Even though I was a bit waterlogged from the day before, I am always up for a little tubing. I got into the boat with Sean, Leo (family friend) and a kid who plays for the St. Cloud River Bats, named J.R. Reynolds. He goes to Ohio University and was at Lake Mills visiting his cousin on his last off day of All-Star Break. Small world that we would both know someone in a town of less than 3,000 and be in the same boat on the same day. Sean and J.R.’s cousin tubed for about 20 minutes and it was time to switch. We turned off the boat, switched life jackets, and got in the tubes. The boat wouldn’t start. We determined that the battery was dead and we were in the middle of the lake. A nice family towed us back in and we swam in the lake a little and got burnt.
I would’ve loved the opportunity to playin the All-Star game but overall, it was a good All-Star Break. Note: “Break” is a relative term. I didn’t really stop moving the whole break, which is why I’m now posting about it a week later. But, it was a good time to step away from baseball, get two lifts in, and have some fun in the water.
We rolled to LaCrosse on Friday and anticipated a large crowd at the #2 fan-grossing summer ball stadium in America. There was one problem. It was pouring! Looking at the radar, there were giant red thunderstorm blobs across the MidWest. We still had to mentally prepare ourselves to play though. We ate at my favorite place, North County Steak Buffet and I had two tiny, but good, steaks and a salad.
The owners at LaCrosse expected a huge crowd and they did not want to lose money on tickets and concessions. LaCrosse’s coach even told us that we would wait all night to play this game if it came down to it. Game time was scheduled at 7:05. We showed up to the field at 4 for BP and then sat on the bus until around 8:05. Finally, they called the game because the field was flooded. They rescheduled the game for the next day, when we would play a 7-inning double header.
The temperature was 95 with a heat index of 100 to 105- Man, was it humid! My theory is that I have become a sissy when it comes to weather since being in Wisconsin. The first few weeks here were in the low-50s and this week it has been over 90 everyday. Coming from Georgia, 90s weather should not be bad, but since I have become a sissy, it was hot. We got to the field at 2 for BP for our first game at 5. I played first, which is usually an easy position, but I found myself panting. I am not out of shape. I work out 4 days a week and play everyday, that air was just thick. We won the first game by 1 and had 30 minutes before the next game. All I wanted to do was lie down on the bench and pass out. My jersey weighed 10 pounds due to the sweat.
LaCrosse brought some food over so we could fuel ourselves for the next game. They brought over Granola Bars, bananas, oranges, and grapes. Some of the team was hungry for more, but that fruit was just what I needed. It gave me some great energy for the second game and my first at bat I hit one off the fence in center. I played third and only got one ball. Somedays third is boring- but not usually. We got on the bus and I passed out. It was a long day of baseball and we had a 3-day All-Star Break coming up starting the next day.
(Photo by: Jim Addis. Maynard Duck zip-lining from right field to home plate before the game)
Loggers 1 (8-15)
Mallards 6 (16-8)
When my family used to go to Disney World when we were growing up, my dad claimed he only disliked one ride in the whole park- “It’s a Small World.” Looking back on that ride and its simple, annoying lyrics, and out-of-date thrills, I can see why he disliked it so much. This post has nothing to do with that ride. But, I had another “this is such a small world” moment today.
The baseball community, especially in summerball, is so closely connected. When we first arrived in Madison, dozens of guys drilled others about players on their teams because they have played with them in the past. On almost every team we’ve played so far, I have been connected to one of the represented schools, which makes for good and endless conversation. My small world story from today starts two weeks before Madison.
Ashley Hearn, a girl from my high school in Georgia, graduated in my class and now attends the University of Wisconsin. When talking with one of her close friends two weeks before coming to Madison, I told her friend that I would be playing for the Mallards in Madison, WI, and her friend responds, “I am pretty sure Ashley Hearn is working for that team this summer.” There are probably a few hundred college summer league teams, and the fact that a girl from my high school in Cumming, GA is working for the team I am playing for this summer is so neat. Not only that, but she has an internship with ESPN Madison this summer. I got lucky and had the opportunity today to do a recorded interview for her summer sports radio talk show. I sat down with her and her co-host, Peter Swanson, and talked about the Mallards, Davidson, and about high school. If you live in Madison and would like to check it out, it will be aired 4 p.m. this Monday on 91.7 FM (WSUM- the Wisconsin student station). I had a great time and was so glad I got to do that.
Going into today’s game, we were still .5 game back of Eau Claire. We have won 7 of our last 10, but we have not gained ground because Eau Claire has done the same. Our goal is to win the first half of the Northwoods League season and we have about 10 games left. It looks like it will come down to the wire, with a big last series against the Express July 4-6. We won again tonight behind another great start from Joel Effertz (Madison College). Our offense struggled tonight against La Crosse’s starter who threw 100% cutters (the famous pitcher of Mariano Rivera), but we knew we would score more when they went to the bullpen. That’s exactly what happened and we turned a 1-1 game into a 6-1 game and won by that score. The two big promotions for tonight were fireworks (whoohoo!) and playing catch on the field after the game. The team passed out around 200 baseballs so that families could play catch in centerfield. That was a huge success and the fans came to get their ball signed after they were done. It was a bit overwhelming, but Willie Argo (Illinois) said it best when he said, “As long as people still want my autograph, I am happy to keep signing.” And sign we did. I believe the 6,750 fans who packed the ballpark (and the Duck Blind) left happy.
Congrats to the newlyweds who came to the game tonight in the bachelor and bachelorette parties! The groom-to-be took a few cuts during bp today and whiffed a lot. Then, his soon to be wife dug into the box and started crushing line drives all over the field. Did I also mention that his soon-to-be wife was in her wedding dress and high heels! Hilarious.
Eating, sleeping, dreaming about baseball 24/7- that’s what life this summer has been. Right now, I wouldn’t want to do anything other than that. Tomorrow is our first day off and it is well deserved. Since nearly everything I do revolves around baseball, I’m going to a baseball game tomorrow! It will be my first trip to Miller Park as the Brewers complete their series against the Twins (which is becoming a big inter-league rivalry). There will be pictures. I lifted at midnight tonight so I would not have to lift on my off day. Great decision. Now it is the 3 a.m. and I’m waking up at 8 to eat breakfast. Sorry readers, I know it’s long.