*Just previewed this post and there are mucho mistakes but I’m tired so I’m not fixing them.*
I certainly didn’t mean to take a few days to get back to the trip posts but life doesn’t care about your plans eh? Anyway, onward we go to day five.
Knowing what was going to happen on this day was a big part of all the nerves I was feeling. It was April 2 and I knew I would be going on the field for batting practice. I knew I would be meeting players and I knew I needed to tell Evan Longoria that he saved my life. I had one chance and if I chickened out and didn’t tell him, I might not ever get the chance again. Just think back and pick out a certain athlete or musician or whatever it may be that was a part of your life during a huge turning point. Now imagine you knew there was a really good chance you would meet them. Imagine the fear that you wouldn’t, like when it could have happened the year before but didn’t, that fear mixed with excitement. No wonder I had a hard time eating haha!
Oh yeah, and before all this I was going to Evan Longoria’s restaurant, Ducky’s. Man who gave me baseball and saved my life, dream maybe coming true later, going to his restaurant which was HIS dream come true, where he had his engagement party, going to his space, are you getting a taste of the level of my nerves? Am I doing a good job of describing it? My hands are shaking as I type the memories.
Dave Haller had told me to be at Tropicana Field at 4:30 for batting practice Ducky’s is in Tampa so Davis came to pick me up with Manda And butch at 1:00. How on earth did I kill time? I can’t remember. That whole day is a blur. Luckily the really awesome parts stand out in high definition.
We drove to Tampa and when we arrived at Ducky’s I felt so happy. I checked in on Foursquare. Coolest checkin next to the Trop? Probably haha. Some other friends were meeting us there so we sat at a big round table. The walls were nothing but big TVs. I got a Dr. Pepper and it came in a Rays glass. How cool! Davis said there wasn’t Rays memorabilia everywhere. The glasses were a nice touch. I pictured it very understated. It was quiet but I’m sure when people gather to watch games it’s loud. It was elegant though. Chic. I asked everyone if Longoria mentions a favorite food there. Manda named a few things and the pickled crab cakes stuck out so that’s what I ordered. I wondered if I’d even be able to eat.
while we were waiting for our food we wandered over to the mini bowling. Way back on Twitter when the trip was just a dream, someone (Professor Twain?) said I should try the bowling. There was no way I wouldn’t try it! The balls you roll are like Skeeball balls. Someone put the bumpers up and you can here me whine, “noo!” Hahaha. Hear me? Oh yeah, there’s video. We each had two turns.
My first turn didn’t start out so well.
Direct youtube link
My second turn was much better.
Direct youtube link
We didn’t finish our whole game since our food came out and friends got there. The pickled wait not pickled. Deviled? I can’t remember, crab. Crab cakes haha. they were so good! Can’t beat crab in a coastal town. I managed to eat them all and try a piece of Manda’s candied bacon. Oh my yum! I had some of Davis’ fries too. They remind me of In and Out fries. I wondered if Evan did that on purpose with the fries since he’s from California. I took a souvenir from Ducky’s – Evan’s sauce.
There was a monkey dish of spicy sauce on my plate and right as we were nearing the end of our visit to Ducky’s I knocked the dish off and spilled it on my pants, purse and #ROTOTROP jersey. Before I could even think, the girls at the table jumped up, stripped the jersey off me and ran away. Davis was at work getting the sauce off my purse and all I could do was laugh. I had Evan’s sauce on me. Too perfect. the girls got the stain off the white jersey like living Tide stain sticks. Yay!
I visited the restroom before we left and was even impressed by that. The stalls are completely enclosed. No gaps in the doors or doors that didn’t lock. They were like little closets with glass doors. Very nice. We took Jayden to pee in the grass and then headed back to St. Pete. Oh my! Would I meet Evan?
Tina was going to meet us at the Trop since she had to work and missed out on Duckeyss. We got to the Trop early and waited around outside the gate. When it was time to go in, there was a surprise. Everyone got to go on the field with me! Originally there were only supposed to be two passes but Davis had asked Dave Haller if everyone could come inside to kill time before gates actually opened. He wasn’t expecting everyone to be allowed on the field but Dave worked his magic again so Davis, Tina and butch came with Manda and me on the field! I was so happy they could all be there!
We walked into the Trop and it was pretty cool to be the only fans inside. It was just us and the team! Oh yeah, and the bluejays haha. We were led down a ramp and passed the Rays clubhouse! We passed Alex Cobb! Alex freaking Cobb! We said hi as we passed and I was told he waved. I love Alex Cobb! Too bad he didn’t stop to chat haha.
And then we were on the field! As soon as I felt the turf under my feet I hit my needs and ran my hands over the fake grass. It felt like real grass! It was short and tight and I could feel the filler they put in. I was touching the Tropicana Field grass! We were in the area behind home plate. We weren’t alowed to go very far. There was a rope set up like they have to form lines at the bank. There was no music on yet.I started a voice note on my phone and kept my phone in my pocket. I hoped to record everything that happened down there for my memories.The place was so quiet! When you stand on the field in a dome like that you can really feel the enormity of the place. I remember noticing that at Chase Field last year.
Eventually the players started coming out for batting practice and I started meeting them! They all asked Jayden’s name and gave him love. Jayden was in puppy heaven! I think Wil Myers wanted to take him home. Manda was telling me who the guys were as they came up. I got hugs from all of them! Wil Myers, Sean Rodriguez, James Loney, Matt Joyce, Yunel Escobar, Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, Jose Molina, and Logan Forsyth. Logan was the last one for me to meet that would round out the starting lineup for that night’s game. I also met reliever Joel Peralta. At one point a ball from batting practice rolled over and I had it in my hands when I met Loney and Forsyth so they both offered to sign it. Steve Carney came over and I asked for a real hug since we had only met briefly in the radio booth the night before.
Who am I forgetting? I’m forgetting someone. Tee heeeee heeeeee YES I MET EVAN LONGORIA! Video or it didn’t happen right?
What Davis didn’t capture and I’m glad is me hitting my knees as Evan walked away and crying. He said he’d come back! I didn’t want him to walk away. I wanted to talk to him forever, to tell him that baseball saved my life and he started it and I wanted to ask him about Elle and tell him about Jayden and just talk and he walked away but I hugged him I hugged Evan Longoria!
Jayden licked my tears from my face and I stood up, pulled myself together and met more people. Players and coaches and media guys Marc topkin, Joe Smith, Roger Mooney, Todd Kalas, Dave and Andy again and Neil Solondz came over and I finally got to meet him. He also dropped a surprise on me. He wanted to interview me later for that Sunday’s episode of This Week In Rays Baseball!Whaaaaaat? Wow. Oh that wasn’t the only surprise for that day. Dave Haller had emailed me that morning to let me know to be back on the field at 6:30 for a surprise. Hmmm. I was already going to be back on the field at 6:00 because Kelly nash wanted to talk to me for TV. Neil was trying to pin me down for an interview, I had met Evan longoria, wow wow wow! Evan was supposed to come back, would he come back?
I did get to tell him he saved my life! the picture that was taken of us was for the Times. Evan put his left arm around my shoulders and my right arm went around his waist. Luckiest girl ever! Well except maybe jaime. Jayden was on my left and that picture was in the paper. Davis cropped it for me so I could make it my Twitter profile picture. I’m told we both have big genuine smiles and look very happy. that picture captured my utter happiness. I’ll never change it!
I haven’t yet uploaded all the videos with the players but I uploaded to more two share in this post. First is my meeting with Ben Zobrist.
He is so tall! I didn’t know that until I hugged him. He was so fun to talk to. My face hurts from grinning as I listened to that just now. What a great guy!
And my face hurts again from grinning as I listened to this next video.
Direct youtube link
Longoria, Zobrist and Maddon were all apart of that magical 2008 season that saved my life. I got to tell Joe too! How many people from Tucson can say they stood on a major league field and talked to Joe Maddon about scouting and Mexican food? I must be the only one right? Wow. You can here how happy I was to meet Joe. What a dream! I’m so grateful there’s video or I might not believe this all happened!
Oh yay, time for lunch and a break.
I remembered while I was eating to explain why I wrote a few posts ago that on the jersey the hashtag was in all caps, #ROToTrop. I showed the jersey to Marc topkin on the field and he pronounced the hash tag so it sounded like Robocop. It was funny but maybe you had to be there.
When the Rays were done with batting practice the Jays were coming out on the field. We started discussing whether to stay on the field when someone, I can’t remember who, said we could go check out the new 360 walkway before gates opened. We did talk to one Bluejay though, Jose Bautista. He strolled over to say hi and I asked for a picture since B is a blueJays fan.
We left the field and took a walk around the Trop. They opened up the walkway so you can walk around the whole place now. It was cool to still be the only fans inside. I could hear the Jays taking BP below us. Davis pointed things out like the gong and the TV area and stuff. We ran into Enrique Oliu again. He was talking with Orestes Destrade so I got to meet him too. Sweet!
Davis and I both walk really fast so before I knew it everyone else was left behind. We ran into someone from Twitter who works at the Trop and then Tina was there. We used the ladies and then went over to see the Ray tank. I was getting a little stressed about time since I had to be back on the field to talk to Kelly Nash. The visit to the tank was a quick one. They told me to put my hand in the water straight down and the ray would graze my fingers. When it happened I jumped and squealed since I couldn’t see it swim towards me haha! There was a sink to wash hands and then we were off again, hoffing it back to the field. I had wanted to swing by the suite for some water but there wasn’t time. We were getting in the elevator and Suddenly Manda was there. Butch was off to start letting people in since we had the tickets. We walked to the edge of the barrier again and Kelly Nash came over. it was wonderful to meet her! I exclaimed at how tiny she is. She might be tiny, but she’s a force! She prepped me on the interview we would do. she asked the questions so I could start thinking about them. Then it was time to head over to the dugout. wow! Manda came with us and I was sat in a chair facing the dugout with the field behind me. Kelly sat next to us and Jayden lay down between us. Kelly started prepping me again and then Manda was there with cold water. Oh sweet relief! At one point Kelly said Matt Moore walked behind us. matt Moore! He was starting that night.
We sat for awhile and then it was time for the interview. This was live TV! kelly let me know they were talking to her through her ear piece and then she was talking to me. It was over pretty fast. It’s cool to see how that stuff works behind the scenes! When I stood, Dave Haller was there and told me I’d be throwing out the first pitch! Wow! I had wondered if maybe that was what the surprise was since the timing was right. Beyond the first pitch though, I was to be inducted into the Super Fan Hall of Fame! Dave walked Jayden and me over to two other fans who were also getting inducted and handed me a ball. I remembered my pitching lesson with Adam Pendleton the day before and gripped the ball to throw a four seamer haha! They told me I’d be throwing the ball to Raymond, the Rays mascot. I could hear that the Trop was filling in and then the PA guy, I’m sure it was rusty, introduced each of us and told a little of our stories. There had been no preparation in my head for this haha! Cheers and cowbells rained down on us and we threw our pitches. Raymond missed the ball haha. I can’t remember who was there to tell me. Dave Haller? manda? Raymond came up to me and I think they got a picture of us. Talk about a blur! Jayden was like what is that thing and why is it hugging you? Then we were leaving the field. “Bye Field,” I said wistfully.
I was oh so ready to sit down in the suite and drink some water. It wasn’t over yet though. As we approached the suite, Neil Solondz was there ready to do my interview. We stood in the hall outside the suite as the game was starting. After the interview I mentioned having told Dave and Andy I’d stop by and bring cookies and Neil walked me to the booth. I had the first pitch ball with me and decided I would have everyone sign it. Dave and Andy were happy to see me again and during a break they wanted pictures. I asked them to sign the ball. I think I had Dave Haller sign it there too. It was tough to leave the booth again. the emotions of the day started welling big time and leaving Dave and andy was the cincher. I could feel tears spring to my eyes.
We were walking towards the suite and I was trying not to cry. I had a whole new group of people to meet that night and I was excited. Someone said my name and it was Professor Twain! That was it. I started bawling. Great way to meet someone for the first time eh? I through myself into his arms and my tears soaked his Tampa Smokies Jersey. Mrs. T was there too and we decided to take Jayden out for a potty break. He’d done a lot too! We almost lost Mrs. T coming back inside. Security stopped her. What? We called back to them that she was with us and they let her go. Crazy.
Finally we made it up and into the suite and I got to meet the others. Ed and his wife are from England and they brought me a bunch of British goodies! Not just for me either, goodies for Jayden, too! ed’s wife was telling me what everything was and I got a kick out of her saying “biscuits”. She’s so very British! That was a little later in the evening after I’d rested from the day and chugged water. I also desperately needed coffee which the suite didn’t have, so Ed ran out and got me a cup. Yay, friends!
I didn’t even use my radio during this game. Professor Twain sat next to me doing play-by-play. It was awesome! We thought we were going to be on the jumbotron for the seventh inning stretch but since I wasn’t with the other super fan hall of fame people, we weren’t. that was fine by me! There had been so much excitement that day, I’m not sure I could have handled more.
Mrs. T and I went and checked out the team store on the suite fllor. We had our own freaking team store! Butch came with us to by a hat. Mrs. T bought me a Longo shirt and a baseball bracelet! I swear I hardly spent any of my own money on that trip. While we were in the store I heard Metallica playing and knew that would be Grant Balfour coming into the game. Darnit, I was bummed to miss him. The Rays lost that night but they got him in for some work.
I was sad to leave the suite. It had been home for three games. They even let us keep stuff in there, like Jayden’s mat and stuff. A lot of pictures were taken with me and friends and Jayden and then it was time to go. “Bye suite, “I said wistfully.
What an amazing day! I’d be back the next day as a normal fan, sitting in normal seats. That hadn’t been the original plan, but I couldn’t be in St. Pete while the Rays were playing and not be at the Trop. So it was bye field and bye suite, but not bye Trop yet!
When I got back to my room I called B and got ready to pass out.