Keith had a church thing at the Lutheran church closest to my parents’ house in Jacksonville (St Matthew’s) so we took a mini-vacay because it’s summertime and the living is easy (even if travel with littles isn’t so easy). Our first evening there we headed downtown to see the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp play baseball. I hadn’t been in the new stadium (it opened in 2003; I’m slow) and I definitely hadn’t seen a game since the team changed names from the Suns to the Jumbo Shrimp.
The name change suits the team (because Florida), and the stadium is awesome! We had third baseline seats, and could see everything. The beer was cheap and cold ($1 beer night), and the game was short in length thanks to a rainout the day before (only a 7 inning game). Henry liked dancing in the grass seating berm and sliding down the inflatable slide (bring money if you want to do this or play the other outfield games). I think even my mom had fun (and she’s an indifferent sports-ball watcher).
The next morning we checked out the Dinosaurs in Motion Exhibit at the Museum of Science and History for free since we have a MOSI annual pass. We even got my parents in for free (something they always like) since our pass is for five people! We controlled the dinosaur bones’ movement and sound via levers, wheels, and game controllers – Henry’s dream! Other parts we enjoyed were seeing the live animals from Florida, building structures, and zooming through Jacksonville’s history (not so interesting for a little).
My favorite activity of the day, however, was taking the monorail to and from the museum. It’s just so cool to ride above the road and see the city and river from a different perspective. Henry was all about it, too!
For this week’s Field Trip Friday (on a Saturday – hey, I’m nearly in my third trimester and tired so the Hen is lucky to get a field trip these days), Henry and I traveled to St. Petersburg to attend our first Rays Fan Fest. A precursor to Spring Training games, this free event is for the fans – autograph signings, prizes, and activities for the kids were all happening.
Since even the parking at the stadium was free, I thought it would be cool to take Henry because if he didn’t handle it well, it didn’t cost us anything to try. And he was a gem! One of the first things he did was reach down to touch the turf grass, and of course his next move was to take his shoes off to run around. Somehow I managed to stop him (a miracle in itself since this kid loves to be barefoot), and then we made our way around the field. He took off running (without me) the actual bases Rays players run so I had to sprint after him to catch up. I must have looked ridiculous, but he couldn’t stop laughing.
Other highlights for Henry were getting a free lollipop from a pelican mascot (don’t know what team he was representing), the dance party with Raymond (the Rays’ actual mascot), practicing his pitching skills, and taking batting practice with some of the Rays’ pitching staff. This last one required a 40 minute (or so) wait in line, but he made friends with the kids in front of him so he did pretty well. Until it was his turn to bat. He was assigned to Xavier Cedeño, but he wasn’t having that and launched into a meltdown. Did I mention it was close to naptime? He wanted to be in the line with his new friends, and the Rays’ staff were kind enough to accommodate my tired kid.
Choosing the pink bat, Henry took to the plate. After a few swings and misses, he connected the bat to the ball and got a hit! And he thought his batting practice was over – he did it! Except he had a few more balls left, so I convinced him to go back. He tried this time with a smaller bat for bigger kids, so it didn’t go so well. The ball player pitching kept trying to help, but Henry’s stubbornness confused him. When his turn was actually over, Henry didn’t want to leave so another meltdown ensued. I carried him kicking and screaming (while apologizing) out of the batting area. After he calmed down, we split an ice cream because we love ice cream and can eat it in February in Florida. Sleepy Hen laid down twice on our walk to the car, so I had to carry his ~34 pounds most of the way, but we had a fantastic time so it was all worth it.
It seems fitting that on the day Keith leaves to attend the ELCA’s National Youth Gathering in Detroit, Michigan (Rise Up: Together – http://www.elca.org/YouthGathering) that I write about Henry’s first MLB experience rooting for our hometown team, the Tampa Bay Rays (Rays Up!). This past Saturday, Thrivent sponsored its annual Lutheran Day at the Rays, where Lutherans from this part of Florida could all attend a game together and support the Eckerd organization. Our church, the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, had twelve of us sign up to go, and the game did not disappoint!
We arrived a little late to see the Rays take on the Astros, but once we found our seats the Rays came alive and scored. Henry calmly sat in our laps for the first part, probably overwhelmed with everything happening in the stadium – from the lights shining, the music blaring, the crowd roaring, and the TV screens flashing – a lot was happening for our little guy to take in. He really liked the music and cheering, and soon began to dance and clap for the home team. Another awesome thing happening was the crazy thunderstorm raging outside the ballpark – we could see the wind and rain hitting and moving the roof and shaking the lights at the top of the stadium. It was scary, but also very cool.
During the middle part of the game, Henry and I walked around the whole stadium. I tried to acquire a first time attendee buttons for him, but they were gone by mid-game; next time I’ll get him one for sure. We also tried to see the sting rays in the touch tank, but Henry decided he didn’t want to wait in a long line. So we played musical bats, colored mascot pictures, and climbed all over a giant baseball glove. When we returned to our seats, the Hen was ready to watch baseball and eat popcorn (mostly eat popcorn). He got antsy again so Keith took a turn walking around with him, but they made it back in time to see the Rays win! Henry and us Lutherans must be good luck charms for the Rays, who were having a losing streak before the sweeping Astros weekend. Rays Up, indeed!