Monday, February 6, 2012

Tour 2012

Now that I've finally finished studying for my first ARE, I can bring everybody up to speed on what our plans are on the 2012 ballpark scene. First, the traditional update. Not much new for me since the summer. I started taking my licensing exams, as I just mentioned, and Lauren and I are still in the process of wedding planning. We're pretty close to setting a date, and in the meantime my job search in Wisconsin remains fruitless. Even though Iowa is not where I want to be longterm, I'm fortunate to have a job and a wonderful fiance, or it would make the winters unbearable. Erik continued his job at Potbelly's in Madison throughout the summer while also taking up a few small political gigs, one in Ohio. For the last few months, he has been heading up efforts to recall Wisconsin governor Scott Walker in attempt #2 to defeat him, and hopefully this means he is done making sandwiches for good. I find myself personally invested in Erik's recall efforts, not only because I'm hoping a new governor would mean the state economy would improve enough so I could find a job, but also because Erik's busy schedule greatly affects our ball trip plans for this year.

Having said that, things are uncertain for this year. I'd like be able to tell you that we're going to Marlins Park in the spring, but work obligations have forced Erik to cancel a trip each of the last two years, so I can't say that with any confidence. What I can say is that by March 19th when all the recall signatures are done being verified, we should know whether or not this is happening. Ideally, we'd be going to Miami sometime between April and June, depending on when the recall election is scheduled. I really have zero interest in going to southern Florida during hurricane season, so the sooner the better. I'm really excited about this trip for many reasons. With each passing year, as Erik and I grow older, we understand that obligations to ball will gradually have to become less and less a priority. With Erik going to law school in the fall, and me getting married in November, Miami could really be our last hurrah. I do sincerely hope we can go on a weekend roadtrip every year, but I think we both know that from here on out, nothing is set in stone. On a more basic level, of course I'm excited for this trip just to see the park and to watch the exciting new team the Marlins have put together solely on speculative ballpark revenue. The park looks absolutely hideous in almost every way, and I'm very anxious to get there and make fun of it, particularly after Mike Stanton goes yard and the monstrous home-run animated statue is unveiled. Every rendering and picture of the park I see convinces me more and more that Jeffrey Loria and David Samson are on crack. Seriously, a giant fish tank behind home plate? I give them credit for doing something unique, but that'll never last. A month into the season, either all the fish will be dead, or some pitcher will become distracted by it and heave a fastball into the crowd. I'm not even going to get into the new uniforms.

If - and again, this is a big 'if' - things work out well with Erik's schedule, we've also talked about making it down to a White Sox game this year. The stadium is not one of my favorites, and I hate Chicago, so why are we going? Sunday, June 24th marks the 5th anniversary of the start of the main tour, which we also happened to start at US Cellular Field on a Sunday afternoon. The White Sox just so happen to be playing the Brewers on that day this year, so really it couldn't fall into place any better. We'd really like to get down there and celebrate this milestone if we can, and maybe stop off for some Lou Malnati's pie and sneak into the IIT architecture building just for old time's sake. I can't believe it's been 5 years already! I've definitely been looking forward to writing a 5-year update on my stadium rankings for quite some time.

There are a couple of other local ballparks that we definitely want to see this year while Erik is still in Wisconsin. The Milwaukee area is finally getting a Northwoods League team this year, although not in nearby Waukesha as was long speculated. Kapco Metal Stamping, Brewer HOF-ers Robin Yount and Bob Uecker, and Concordia University have teamed up to present the Lakeshore Chinooks of Mequon, about a half-hour north of downtown Milwaukee. This team is forcing my Waterloo Bucks to change divisions, so it better be worth it. Another place I'd like to visit this summer is Simmons Field in Kenosha. Ever since our discovery of the Sheboygan A's and the Wisconsin State amateur league, I've wanted to see this park, because until then I had no idea it still existed. It has hosted the AAGPBL Comets and the Midwest League's Kenosha Twins as tenants, among others in its 92-year history. This historic field is falling into severe disrepair and even has a section quarantined off, but the Kings of the Wisconsin State League still play there. It's probably a piece of junk at this point, but it wouldn't feel right to have lived this close to a piece of history for so much of my life and never make a trip down there.

Another baseball season is right around the corner. Pitchers & Catchers report in 12 days!