collageThe 15th consecutive incarnation of the Great Baseball Road Trip ended a little over a week ago, which is appropriate because it allowed us the chance to properly recover. As we’ve probably mentioned before, we’ve been taking this trip with a rotating but consistent cast of characters since 2000. A few of the other participants have been on anywhere from 7-10 trips. A few have been on a couple, and a few have just been one-timers. But we’ve been on all 15 — traveling the country to see ballgames in major and minor league parks every summer. These trips used to last around 7-9 days, but kids and busy schedules have condensed them recently into four day sprints (even carving out four days, it seems, is a minor miracle).

This year’s starting itinerary was as such:

Thursday — Vikings training camp, then a Class A game in Burlington, Iowa.

Friday — Morning golf, then a Cardinals game in St. Louis.

Saturday — Morning golf, then a Class A game in Quad Cities.

Sunday — Field of Dreams in Iowa, then return home.

But as much as the road trip is planned, it often turns out to be the things that are not planned that stick out in our memory. That’s not particularly surprising, since it’s always been that way in our life — and we imagine in the lives of others. When we are taken out of our element, off the charted path, we encounter the moments that are the most vivid.

Three examples from this year’s trip:

Friday: We were ahead of schedule on the way to St. Louis, meaning we had a couple of hours that were unaccounted for while driving — that is, until, we saw a sign for a “family fun center” off the highway. We slammed on the brakes and veered toward the off-ramp, giving sleeping passenger Jon Marthaler a near-heart attack in the back seat. But it was worth it. Let’s talk about it: Mini-bowling, laser tag, air hockey, basketball and bumper cars. Just us and about 30 or 40 kids. The laser tag was by far the highlight because, well, confession: we had never played laser tag. Someone should have told us how great it was because now we want to go back. Birthday party? We almost stayed too long and wound up arriving at our Busch Stadium seats right at the start of the game.

Saturday: At the Quad Cities game, there was a Ferris Wheel in left field. Yes, inside the stadium. What a country! Our other road trip attendee, Rocket, had the idea that we should go up in it, naturally. Only he didn’t remind everyone that he is terrified of heights until we actually climbed inside. Jon proceeded to laugh maniacally, but it all worked out for the best — including one of those two pictures you see (no, not the creepy one of us in the corn, the other one).

Sunday: Because of some work entanglements for both Jon and Rocket, we weren’t sure what we would be able to accomplish Sunday, the final day of the trip. The original itinerary had us going to the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa, then possibly golfing again or attending a town ball game in Minnesota. We quickly realized the timing wouldn’t work for town ball, but then we also discovered Cedar Rapids had a game at 2 p.m., which was just about the perfect time. A discussion of whether to go to Field of Dreams or Cedar Rapids from Quad Cities quickly evolved into a scheme to do both. And, of course, we pulled it off because that’s what the GBRT does.

Had we not made it to Cedar Rapids, we wouldn’t have seen the most bizarre ending to a baseball game one could imagine. With the game tied 4-4 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Logan Wade for the Kernels hit a ball that rolled into right field. He caught a piece of the catcher’s glove upon contact, meaning he was going to reach base regardless because of interference, but it’s still a live ball. Peoria’s fielder’s slowed up, and Wade rounded first and turned it into a hustle catcher’s interference double. But wait, it gets weirder. He advanced to third on a wild pitch. After that batter walked, Peoria attempted to intentionally walk the next batter. But on the first pitch of that attempted intentional walk, there was another wild pitch and Wade scored the winning run.

So yes, that’s how the trip ended. The home teams went 4-0, with the final game decided on catcher’s interference and two wild pitches with two outs in the ninth.

We arrived home at around 10 p.m. Sunday. That was a little over a week ago. We have sufficiently recovered, we think — quite possibly enough to write an optimistic Wolves post soon.

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