I am sitting in the front seat of the family Toyota Camry. The roadmap is open with a highlighted route that I had chosen for us to take on our trip to Denver. It was a journey that we had made several times, in fact, once a summer it felt like. There weren’t many different ways from our small town in western Kansas to get to Denver, but we made it a point to take as many routes as we could. Once, even stopping at Amance Internment Camp outside of Granada, Colorado.
The reason for our yearly trek to Denver was simple, baseball. My dad being a Los Angeles Dodgers fan and myself being a Colorado Rockies fan made it fun. Both teams in the National League West, it made for even more interesting razing of each other when the teams did or didn’t make the playoffs. Even though during those years the Colorado Rockies were not one of the best teams, I started every season with high hopes. High expectations that stayed with me throughout the season, even if they were mathematically out of it.
On the days when we would drive to Coors Field, I remember hearing sports radio on in our car. Talking about the game that was about to be played. Walking to the stadium from our parking spot somewhere in downtown Denver was an experience that was unlike any other. Fans of both teams are talking about the pitching matchup, the smells of the local pub, and the sound of the local sports TV broadcast in a sports bar lining the streets near the stadium. And even though you might be headed to Coors Field, the buildings hid the view of it until you walked right to 20th and Black in Denver.
Those were the days.
Days that I thought I would never get back. Until, I had a child of my own.
Living in Kansas City, going to Kauffman Stadium is a much different experience than it is in Denver. Kauffman Stadium for one was built during a time when baseball stadiums were moving away from the inner city for the vast expanses of suburbia. You didn’t get the smells of pubs, sports bars, or fans walking the streets talking about the matchup under the shadows of skyscrapers.
Baseball in Kansas City is a different experience.
Instead, my son sits in his car seat in the back, my dad in the passenger seat, this time, I am in the driver’s seat. But, we have the local sports radio station on in the car as we pull into the parking lot. From our parking spot, we can see the stadium in front of us. Fans are in the parking lot, not all of them are walking to the stadium. Instead, they are tailgating, grilling and having a good time.
As we walk to the stadium, I can see the excitement in my son’s eyes. While the Kansas City Royals might not be “my” team, I know that they are his. Wearing his Eric Hosmer shirt handing his ticket to the attendant both say, “Let’s Go Royals!”
Grandpa kneeling next to him to help show him how to find our seats seems like it is a moment straight out of Field of Dreams. I let them have this moment together. We find our seats, Dippin’ Dots in hand, my son looks around in amazement. He sees the scoreboard, dances around, hoping, wishing to be one of the people the camera finds. Grandpa is encouraging him to keep it up.
It’s all about the experience.
The game begins, and not a moment into the 2nd inning, we are walking towards the outfield experience at Kauffman Stadium. An experience that I was annoyed with at one point thinking that it took the “younger” generation away from actually watching the game. But the more time that the three of us spent at Kauffman, I realized that it wasn’t about taking them away, but bringing them to the game and getting them excited about baseball.
That is exactly what my father did for me by making those yearly trips to Denver and to Coors Field, he brought me to the game. Now, he his sharing the same experience with his son and his grandson. While the 4 hour trip to Denver has been replaced with an 8-hour drive to Kansas City from that same small town in western Kansas, followed by an hour trip to Kauffman Stadium, the experience, the excitement continues.
Baseball for this family is more than just going to a stadium. Baseball is about the experience, the smells, the sounds, the excitement the crowd brings when a runner is moved from first to third on a line drive. Baseball is about bringing the three generations of our family together to share in those experiences.