It started out as a quiet day as I had it off and had to take Thomas to his weekly scout camp at the Ethan Allen Homestead. He goes each year, loving the archery, games and usual incredible high temperatures. It's out in the open so they do their best to torch the kids.
Paula also had the day off from work and took Kate to her half day soccer camp. She is fast, loves it and is quickly learning the game. I love to watch her play.
After we did the drop off, I suggested we meet up at our favorite place, Great Harvest Bread Company, where we manage to scarf up free samples of bread along with our cup of joe. We sat for a while discussing our plans for the day when Paula suggested going the Lake Monsters game that night as the kids had received some free tickets from a special reading program.
The kids have received numerous prizes, awards and paraphernalia due to their love of reading. It seems each and every business and organization in Burlington gives you something if you read and we take advantage of it. We're still trying for the cabin cruiser that the local fish hatchery is giving away but reading forty-five hundred thousand books on fly fishing takes time.
So, anyway, we hadn't received our free tickets to the game in the mail yet so Paula, ever resourceful, called up the Lake Monsters office and talked directly to their GM. He graciously said to just come down to the ticket office and he'd take care of us. As it was kids reading free night, we got there plenty early. Last year, we went to free mystery bobbing head doll night and the lines were beyond belief.
We arrived to short lines and I was pretty happy about that. We got our tickets within minutes and headed straight for the food as we didn't have any dinner. We grabbed a few slices of pizza and a hot dog and headed for our seats. But first, we made the all important stop at the beer stand. After dropping five bucks for a delicious Shock Top ale, we headed towards our general admission seats. I commented that we should sit on the first base side as the third base side in the family section where no alcohol is served.
So, heading through the tunnel, we turned left and looked up. A man with a clipboard was sitting in the first of four fancy recliners which are for lucky fans to use, who win a raffle. But tonight, this man asked us if we would like to sit in the seats. As I didn't know who he was, I asked and he said he worked there. Being at the right place and time had we won us the right to sit there all game long. Paula and I looked at each other and said, "Sure!". So we sat, still amazed at our good luck.
These seats were right above the dugout and really close to the players. We also knew that in between innings, Champ, our beloved Lake Monster, would be dancing on top of the dugout. It just so happened that tonight was his birthday celebration so all his fellow mascots from around the region joined us, including Skip, the mascot of the Vermont Mountaineers or Wood Chippers or some name like that. He came by and shook our hands. I told him our chairs were made of bear skin and were comfortable. As he frowned, Paula told me that he wasn't a bear but a Woodchuck. I apologized and luckily he did not eat me. All the Lake Monster employees were also dressed in the favorite costumes. It was going to be a good night.
As we sat prior to the start of the game, several people that we knew walked by and asked how we got such good seats. I told them it was clean living but they didn't go for that. We told them the story and told us how lucky we were.
In the second inning, Sam, the guy who gave us the seats, came by and ask me all our names. At the end of that inning, he got on his microphone, announced our names to the crowd and presented us with Lake Monsters baseball hats. We had our picture taken for the newspaper and the smiles continued.
We sat amazed and then Thomas turned to me and said, "It's the first time that I'm glad you like alcohol, Daddy, because we got to sit in these great seats!" I'm not sure how good I felt about that but I only had one beer as it cost forty five dollars but as per usual, I digress.
We finished our food and beer which I shared it with my lovely bride. Thomas asked if we could head down to the bouncy castle. The Lake Monsters have a variety of fun activities for the kids and they are pretty cheap at a buck a piece. There was nobody in line and Thomas jumped right in. I started chatting with the attendant. The bouncy castle time limit was three minutes but Thomas was having fun and we were talking. As no one else came up, he stayed in a little bit longer than the usual time. Thomas was good and sweaty by now. I finally dragged him away as I could vaguely hear the national anthem being sung. We got back in time to see the Tri-City Valley Cats score three runs on no hits and three Lake Monster errors. It might be a long night for beloved Monsters.
So, we continued to watch the game. The kids begged for some cotton candy so Kate and I ran down and grabbed a bag. We brought it back to our seats. She and Thomas shared the ever-so nutritious ballpark fare and their faces were sufficiently covered with a nice pink sugar coating.
In about the third inning, the Valley Cats were headed back to the dugout. I held my arm up and hoped one of the players might toss a ball in stands. And he did. Just as I was about to grab the prize and give it Thomas and Kate... the guy in front of me jumped up and grabbed it. Then, he did the nicest thing, he turned around and handed it to Thomas. He was thrilled. He handed the ball to Kate for her inspection. They both smiled. I tapped the guy and the shoulder and thanked him. No big deal, he said.
Later, Kate and I trekked down so she could have her turn at the bouncy castle. There was a long line but we waited. She had a blast too but only got a few minutes compared to Thomas' fifteen.
Fast forward to the seventh inning stretch, I looked over at Paula and gave her the nod, secretly asking "Can we go now?" Thomas somehow intercepted the nod and gave the big old sad face saying, "Please can we stay to the end?"
Paula said (or it felt like she said), "Stop being a fuddy duddy and let's just stay to the end!" So we did. There was an announcement that after the game, all the kids could come on to the field and run the bases. Thomas and Kate were excited and stifled yawns, but still were raring to go after the game.
So, we sat and sat. I decided to start making my own cheers as if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I started cheering for our own Sean Jamison, who became really inspired with my yelling his name and on a 3-2 pitch, proceeded to foul off about eight pitches in a row. Kate gave me a look and said, "You're embarrassing me, Daddy!" But I was not to be denied. Finally, all my yelling paid off as the payoff pitch came. Good old Sean hit a long fly ball in deep foul territory, which was promptly caught for the third out.
As the teams headed off the field, I got another chance at a ball. I raised my hand once more and the Valley Cat fired it my way. There was no stopping me this time as I knocked over four kids and dove for the ball.
Well, okay, it came right in my hands and i caught it. I looked at Paula and smiled. She was so impressed. Then she pointed to the little kid in front of us, he had a glove on and a sad face. I tapped him on the shoulder and gave him the ball. The smile on his face with worth it. His Mom thanked me. No problem, I said.
The game ended and our beloved Lake Monsters lost. Thomas and Kate headed down to the field, got to run the bases and we headed home. As we walked to the van, we talked about all the incredible things that happened that night. We got home and all plopped into bed quickly.
I got up early for the work the next morning and saw Thomas' baseball sitting on the bookshelf by our front door. I smiled when I saw what he wrote on the ball: "Best game ever! 8-8-11".
I couldn't agree more.