In recent years in this space, we've given updates along the way of the annual baseball road trip we take with friends. With a somewhat compacted trip this year -- four days, Friday-Monday -- over the Memorial Day weekend, however, we decided to save it all up for one post when people might actually be reading.
We did write a couple of things for print here (on hockey and wandering in Kansas City) and here (on Major League Soccer), so we won't rehash that part. Instead, here are some bullet points on the trip:
*This might have been the most exhausting and densely packed (in a good way) trip we have attempted. Our crew -- Rocket, P-Money and friend of the RandBall covenant Jon Marthaler -- left Minneapolis on Friday morning around 9:30 a.m.; we arrived back in Minneapolis around 11:30 p.m. Monday. In between, we saw an Iowa Cubs game (Friday), a KC Royals game (Saturday), a Sporting KC Major League soccer match (Sunday) and two Cedar Rapids Kernels games (Monday doubleheader). We also played nine holes of golf on three different days, played mini golf another day and drove more than 1,000 miles. This is all somehow possible.
*Golfing pro tip: If you are an average-to-poor golfer traveling, there is no need to seek out the best courses an area has to offer. Most decent-sized cities -- Des Moines, Kansas City and Cedar Rapids, in our case -- have very decent municipal courses with fairly easy access to tee times. We either booked or walked right onto all three courses. All three were in great shape, and green fees were about $15 everywhere for 9 holes. That's really all you need if golf isn't the primary reason for your trip.
*Byron Buxton is the real deal. The Twins' No. 1 pick in 2012 is tearing it up at Cedar Rapids. He was 3-for-5 with two walks in Monday's doubleheader. He is extremely fast. You don't need us to tell you that, but there it is anyway.
*The Cedar Rapids ballpark isn't much to look at from the outside, but inside it is a perfectly suited Class A ballpark -- a major upgrade over the Twins' previous affiliate in Beloit. That's us pictured above with Mr. Shucks, the mascot.
*Kansas City is a lot further from Cedar Rapids than you might think. In our initial planning, we didn't really do the math on it. We just assumed it was about as far from KC to Des Moines as it was to Cedar Rapids. FALSE. If not for some, ah, clever driving getting out of the Sporting KC match Sunday afternoon, we might still be driving to Cedar Rapids. It's almost 6 hours away from the far western suburb where Sporting KC plays. Noted.
*We had perhaps our unhealthiest four days of eating in the past 10 years. No, seriously. It was a steady diet of car snacks, hotel breakfasts, barbecued meats, ballpark food, bar food and fast food. It was dollar hot dog day during the doubleheader Monday in Cedar Rapids, and we're not even going to publicly admit how many hot dogs we ate. We are eating a salad for lunch today and it's not even close.
*Funniest moment: Rocket playing mini golf, missing a two-foot putt, angrily raking the ball toward the hole, missing again, kicking at the ball, then tapping the ball hard enough that it hopped outside the course off a rock, into the parking lot where it kept bouncing until it settled into a ravine. It was the first time in recorded mini golf history that anyone was in danger of losing a ball.
*Best thing about minor league games: We were sitting so close to the field Monday in Cedar Rapids that we were giving hitters scouting reports while they were on deck and they were actually listening.
*Unbelievable weather fortune: The weather forecast for pretty much the entire trip looked dire. Rain and thunderstorms were forecasted everywhere. But somehow we had zero rainouts -- even getting an extra game Monday because of a Sunday rainout -- and threaded the needle driving between multiple thunderstorms on multiple occasions. Everywhere we went either seemed to get pounded by rain when we left or was pounded by rain before we got there. It was even actually sunny for a lot of the trip.
*The bubble hockey tournament referenced in one of the above links was so intense that two of the plastic players (one from each team) were knocked off their pegs and lay motionless on the fake ice. Turns out that you can lift up the bubble from one side to put them back on their pegs. Also noted. (By the way: With Jon as our teammate, we took down Rocket and P-Money 4 games to 2 in a best of 7. It was only one quarter to play at the Blue Line bar in Kansas City. We really can't recommend that place enough).