Eight years doesn’t seem like a long time for a sports franchise, does it? That’s all that exists in IronPigs history. Heck, I’ve got shirts older than that.
Plus, I can remember the first game I ever attended at Coca Cola Park, just like it was yesterday:
It was a dark and stormy night…
Okay, not so dark. A steady mist, sometimes turning into a light rain, had been falling for some time prior to this Friday night game in April 2008.
But wait, I wasn’t a season ticket holder? I wasn’t at the Phillies opening game? Nope. Too much memory to what happened with that stadium out near Easton. I wanted to know it was real, first, and I’m not really a Phillies fan so no need to get involved in that opening day circus. i just wanted to check out this new park.
The game was to be against the Norfolk Tides, and the web site said it wasn’t rained out. We hadn’t been to the new park yet–I’m not sure they’d won a game–so we were going regardless. Mrs. Kram had to work late or wasn’t interested–can’t remember. It was the three of us: Me and the boys: 9yo and 5yo. We arrived around 6:30 for the 7:05 start, and there were very, very few people in the park. The very first thing I did was purchase a hat. It had been a tradition of mine for many years, to always purchase a new hat on my visit to a park. I can’t remember why, but neither kid opted for a hat. I wasn’t sold on the pig head, so I got the “away” LV. We then walked around the outfield to our seats on the third base side. Section 115. To this day, that’s one of my favorite sections in the park. We were neither under cover, nor in the rain. Our seats were right on the line where we’d get massive drips from the club level overhang. No matter–we were having fun and decided to get some hot dogs and beverages at the concessions. We stood at the rail to eat them, as that was a nice dry spot. Between the rain and the losing and the newness of the team, the stadium was near empty–felt like we had the place to ourselves.
Neither kid could finish his hot dog–but both wanted ice cream. Figures. Then, as the game began, I think we took up in the seats behind ours, where we had some chance to stay dry. The Pigs were winning and we were having a blast. They even announced that the fireworks would be cancelled–but we stayed anyway. For the last two innings, we moved down into the first row of 115–the seats right on the field. We chatted up the players as they warmed up on deck:
Me: “Go get ’em JJ!”
Junior: “How do you know they call him JJ?”
Me: “His name is Jason Jaramillo, what else are they gonna call him?”
It was a blast. The Tides hit a grand slam and came from behind to beat us. Typical 2008. Plus no fireworks. But no matter. We loved it and we’d be back.
And we were. Several times, in sections 118, 104, 105, 102, 113, and in a luxury box (304?) as a guest. Needless to say, we received a call over the following winter asking us if we’d be interested in a 9-game plan. Thing is, the nine games were never the perfect ones I wanted, and there was no financial benefit to the deal. I’ll just build my own 9-game plan, unless…
“Unless you’ve got something in the club level,” I said. “I know it’s sold out, and that you have to buy the full-season plan (at the time), but I could be convinced.” I was surprised when Mrs. Kram didn’t freak out at the purchase of 144 baseball tickets for the 2009 season. Game on!
For the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the kids would pour over the promotional schedule, choosing the games one by one, for who would accompany Dad to the games. Youth sports schedules, work schedules, and vacations would have to be taken into account. It worked well, but Mrs. Kram decided she’d like to make it to more than just the occasional game, so when the four seats next to ours came available in 2011, I had to do it. 288 IronPigs baseball tickets per year since then.
Since then we’ve had our share of laughs (OK, maybe more than our share) and our share of disappointments (we all like to win) as we’ve come back over and over again. We’ve seen changes to the park and seen folks come and go. We’ve made some great friends. But it’s essentially the same stadium and the same game. On a recent Sunday, Junior drove to the game. He DROVE to the game! Eight years might not be a long time in the life of a sports franchise, but to a 9-year old just learning about the game, eight years can mean a wealth of baseball knowledge, and, evidently, a driver’s license.
Pretty soon I’m going to have to go back to two seats again, I guess. The boys who couldn’t finish their hot dogs that first day will be off doing their own thing, or will have summer jobs (Aside: The amount of errands he runs for people around the park? Junior should already be an IronPIgs employee. I asked him about it this winter, and his response? “Only if I can get a management position” Sheesh–look out Kurt.) Kram3 still comes to the games, but not very often. He prefers soccer or hockey or SteelHawks now.
I know the boys think of Coca Cola Park and the IronPigs as just someplace we go, and something we do, from time to time. These days, seems like they can take it or leave it. But, in many ways, they grew up at Coca Cola Park. Hopefully, some day when they’re older, they’ll look back at these Spring and Summer evenings and realize how special it was.
I know I already do.
See you at the park,