Itís that time of year again, a time for hot dogs, peanuts, and baseball. Friday night was the home opener for the New Orleans Zephyrs, and this month is the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Shrine on Airline. With such glorious weather, how could I not attend?
Iíve been a sports fan most of my life, but baseball was never included in the list of sports I watched.
I had never actually been to a baseball game until the Zephyrs came to town, and I picked just the right season to start attending.
It happened to be the year the Zís won the first ever AAA World Series, and the games were fun and exciting.
I even stayed up until the wee hours of the morning watching the Series, dragging into work the next morning with some major luggage under my eyes.
After that magical season, I couldnít help but be a baseball fan.
Iíve been away from the Zephyrsí games for a few years, and Iíve missed them. Thereís something about sitting in a beautiful ballpark on a cool evening watching a ball game that appeals to me.
I get a kick out of the little boys with their gloves at the ready, praying for a foul ball to come their way, and the kids who get excited to see Boudreaux that giant rat come their way.
Itís also really great to see families as a whole come together for the games, spending quality time together.
Tickets to most professional sporting events are so steep, especially when refreshments and parking are factored in, that most families canít afford the luxury.
But not so at the Shrine on Airline. The most expensive game ticket costs a whole $10, with discounts available for kids under 12 and senior citizens, and parking is only $3 – the cheapest Iíve ever seen.
To lure you in even further, the team often has some sort of giveaway for attending. We got posters and magnetic team schedules and a couple of packs of Mentos last week, but in the past weíve received hats, t-shirts, balls, and even a Lance Berkman bobblehead which has a place of honor in my book case. Itís a popular place for birthday parties (and theyíll put your childís name on the big scoreboard), and someone even proposed there the other night.
There are all kinds of goofy things during the game, like the chicken dance during the 7th inning stretch, and the cool little gun thing that shoots t-shirts into the crowd. The other night they gave away a dozen roses to someone, handed out pizzas, and had the dizzy bat race – a real crowd pleaser.
In the midst of all that was an honest-to-goodness baseball game. I like a lot of hitting during a game, but that didnít happen. There were a few great catches, including a diving one at the wall by Carlos Gomez, and a few stolen bases, although one to third base was so poorly executed that even I could have put the guy out.
During the entire game I got up exactly once, to buy raffle tickets from my sister who was working the booth there. This yearís 50/50 raffles benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters and a generous sponsor is matching funds raised, so I had to buy tickets. As soon as I got on the concourse a roar went up from the crowd and I knew that I had missed the Zís one and only homerun of the game. I managed to see it go over the wall, but thereís nothing quite as exciting as watching that perfect hit come off the bat, and I missed it. I didnít win the raffle either.
After the game was an interesting little video about the stadiumís 10 year history. I knew that several sports had been played there, that the Super Regionals there was one of the most successful and exciting, that President Bush had spoken there in 2001, and that the stadium had not only sustained some costly damage during Katrina, but had been used by the National Guard and FEMA for recovery operations. What I didnít know is that the stadium has been in two major motion pictures, Failure to Launch (aka Boudreauxís big screen debut) and Mr. 3000.
When the video was over, we were treated to one of the nicest fireworks displays Iíve ever seen. Colors danced across the sky and baseball music blared from the speakers while the crowd sat transfixed. It ended with a beautifully choreographed rendition of ďNew York, New YorkĒ and an illuminated Metsí logo, symbolizing the beginning of the Zís affiliation with the New York team.
Walking out of the stadium I realized that this was one of lifeís most rewarding and understated nights – good fun, good company, and beautiful weather. Who could ask for more?