OpinionDecember 3, 2006


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2005 Baseball Road Trip Part XIII
St. Louis and Arlington

By Kevin Naughton

I woke up early on August 6th in Cincinnati and started out my day with a shower and a donut. I made a ham sandwich for myself and headed out towards St. Louis.
 
I arrived at the stadium a little bit early once again, found a parking lot a few blocks away from the stadium and made my way towards Busch. I killed some time walking around the outside of the stadium and checked out the portion of New Busch which had already been built. I was pretty impressed with the construction process. New Busch sits partially on the footprint of the old Busch Stadium and because of this they had to build the stadium in halves. On the day that I arrived in St. Louis, the new stadium was half up and seats were being installed on the first base side. It was strange seeing half of a stadium almost completely finished while standing where the other half of the stadium should have been.
 
After snapping some pictures of the new stadium, I headed into the old one to find my seat. This was another stadium for which I had bought tickets before leaving Nevada. I figured that Cardinals fans would be snapping up tickets towards the end of the season, especially since it was in its last year of existence. When Andy and I bought the tickets, we chose “Best Available” and paid $17 apiece. I was extremely disappointed when I went inside and found my seat. I was in the absolute highest row, pretty far removed from the infield. That is what happens when you let the computer choose your seats though. I could have very easily bought bleacher seats that were closer to the field and were a few bucks cheaper.
 
I know that a lot of St. Louis fans have very fond memories of the old Busch Stadium, but I for one am glad that it’s gone. The team did a fairly good job of trying to turn a former multi-use facility into a baseball only park, but it still had many of the symptoms of a baseball field in a football stadium. Many of the seats were very far removed from the field and some sightlines were obscured. There were also some large areas where seats could have been placed closer to the field, but instead were left empty or were filled with memorabilia. I cannot wait to get a chance to check out the New Busch.
 
The game that day was not very exciting, but all the Braves fans in attendance certainly went home happy. The highlight of the day for me was seeing Andruw Jones hit a pair of home runs; one solo shot and a grand slam. The Cardinals lost the game, 8-1.
 
After the game I spent some time walking around the outside of the stadium and slowly worked my way back to where I parked. After having already spent five hours in my car that day, I had to drive another ten hours to Arlington – I decided to split the remaining drive in half. I finally stopped my car that night around ten in McAlester, Texas, after driving for six hours. I spent the night in my car in the parking lot of a small gas station.
 
I woke up early the next day and, after putting my contacts in, drove the remaining four hours to Arlington, Texas. I was in a good mood despite being tired because I knew that I had made it to my last stadium. No more worrying about rainouts, flat tires, alternators, or anything else of the sort.
 
I did not bother buying a ticket ahead of time for Ameriquest Field, and I am glad that I had not. I went to the ticket window and started discussing seats with the lady behind the counter. She was very nice and made several suggestions based on my desired price range. I settled on a bleacher seat in the front row.
 
I headed into the stadium and picked up a chili dog on my way to the bleachers. I was pretty impressed overall with the stadium. The sightlines were nice and clean and it was possible to see the stadium from the walkway around the first level. I staked out my spot in the bleachers and started baking almost immediately. It was definitely one of the hotter days on which I had seen a game. I do not recall seeing or hearing an exact temperature, but it certainly rivaled Baltimore for the hottest of my trip.
 
The game was not very impressive as the Rangers absolutely destroyed the Orioles. The Rangers hit 3 home runs in the game, one of which landed just a few rows away from where I was sitting. They would go on to win by a final score of 9-3.
 
Between the sixth and seventh innings the Rangers invited several children out to celebrate their birthdays. I had seen this happen numerous times already this summer, and what should have been an unmemorable moment became a highlight of my trip. The PA announcer went through the first five or so kids and then came to the last one. It was a pretty young looking boy and there certainly did not seem to be anything too exceptional about him. Until the PA announcer said his name that is. They announced that Jack Daniels was celebrating his fifth birthday. What had been polite applause for the previous kids turned into a near standing ovation for the kid. The PA announcer even went back to him a second time and the stadium erupted again. I feel bad for the kid, but I would like to meet his parents. They seem to have a great sense of humor.
 
Towards the end of the game a huge bank of clouds started to form and move in – it was possible to see lightning in the distance. They ended up evacuating the upper deck in the ninth inning. Almost as soon as the last out had been recorded the clouds opened up and it began to rain. I could not help but think that it was the perfect cheesy, Hollywood ending to my road trip. It was unbelievable. Out of all the possible cities and weather conditions that I could have ended my trip in, it had to start raining as soon as I had finished.
 
I took a long slow walk back to my car thinking about my road trip. I had been planning it for five years and just a little over four months after I started, it was all over. Luckily, I had my family waiting for me in Southern California, so I still had a reason to keep driving instead of finding a campsite to sleep in for a few days. I jumped into my car and started driving towards Santa Clarita. Scott Caldwell, who I had stayed with on my way to Houston, had told me earlier in my trip that you could start out before sunrise and not drive all the way across Texas before sunset. I had laughed it off at the time, but I soon found out just how true that statement was. I left Arlington around four that afternoon, and finally crossed the Texas-New Mexico border a little after one the next morning. I would have stopped much earlier, but I really wanted to make it out of Texas before I stopped that night. I passed out in my car in a rest stop just outside of El Paso.
 
I woke up around eight the next morning and started the rest of the way to Santa Clarita. I did not stop anywhere on my way except to buy gas and I made it there around 6:30 that night. It certainly was not the longest drive of my trip (New Jersey to Chicago at fourteen hours takes that award), but it was by far the worst. I never want to drive across New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California again without air conditioning. I kept in contact with my Dad throughout the day. He was waiting for me, along with his girlfriend and my brother, at his girlfriend’s brother’s house. When I finally made it, he was waiting for me in the street. I parked the car, shook his hand, posed for pictures and headed inside the house.
 
I do not recall too much about that night, but I remember being asked all sorts of questions and receiving a copy of the newspaper story that had been written about my trip. It had been published the day before in the Reno Gazette Journal. I was awestruck. My story was front and center on the sports page and took up more print than Steve Young’s induction into the Hall Of Fame. To see the article yourself, feel free to check it out. The thing that surprised me the most was the map that they had made of my trip. It had lines going to all of the stadiums and showed exactly where I had been. I knew that it sounded crazy driving across the country to see a game in all thirty stadiums, but when I was on the trip, I kind of broke it down day-by-day and it never seemed like too much. Seeing the map tied it all together for me though, and it showed me exactly how crazy my trip was.
 
I spent the next day alternating between the rides at Magic Mountain and sleeping in my Dad’s camper before spending the night at one last campsite. The next day my brother and I hopped into the car for the eight hour drive home. My road trip officially ended around 5:00 on August 10th.
 
There is still one more article left up my sleeve. In it, I will offer my rankings of the stadiums I visited and include some important tips for any potential road trippers out there.

 
Kevin Naughton has been home now for more than a year following his road trip. He can be found on the Cafe's forums where he posts as luckygehrig.
 
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