Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack . . .

22 Nov

Having been blessed with three beautiful boys, my cup runneth over.  Jeff made me a father at age 26, and I think his passion for sports started sometime during his first day on earth.  And so the father/son sports memories we created together started early on- his first in-person Knicks game with me was against the Bucks when he was 3.

Baseball meets the Klein Brothers

Jeff made it clear as he was growing up that one of his goals in life was to go to a game at every major league baseball stadium in the country. He just loved going to baseball parks, and not just for the sake of seeing the game.  It was the total experience, not the least of which was going early to see batting practice and trying to catch a ball, and then checking out the food selections at different stadiums. What an aweome idea on his part !  I told him that this would be our lifelong pursuit together.

In thinking about what to get Jeff for his 16th birthday, I had a brainstorm.  I would plan out a 3 day baseball trip for just the two of us.  We would go to 3 different ball games over the April break in 3 different cities on 3 consecutive days.  I was so pumped up when I thought of this that I basically blew off a day of work to scope out schedules, book trains and flights.  Could life be any better than going on a baseball trip with your 16 year old son ?  No it couldn’t.

 

And so I typed it all up in an itinerary, which listed the games, times, travel arrangements, hotels, etc., and I put it in a gift box and wrapped it up.  During a family dinner at a local restaurant about a month before his birthday, I decided to give him the box so that he could anticipate the trip well in advance.  He clearly thought it was clothes or something, as he didn’t look too excited when I handed him the box.  When he ripped it open and took out the stapled pages, he started to read.  His mouth was agape from the moment he started reading until he finished, and the sheer shock and joy on his face is what I will remember for therest of my life.  It is so vivid and will never fade.

 

Game #1 - Phillies v. Marlins

The trip took us first to the old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia to see the Phillies play the Marlins.  It was a cold, raw and misty April day, but Jeff didn’t care.  He was in his glory, and so was I.  The biggest excitement during that game was that one of his greatest hopes came true.  He actually snared a foul ball !  It was off the bat of Ivan Rodriguez, and the ball is still sitting in protective case in Jeff’s room today.

 

Game #2 – Camden Yards

From Philly, we took Amtrak to Baltimore for an Orioles game at Camden Yards the next day.  Jeff flipped for Camden Yards, as the food selection was off the charts and he had never been to any of the new modern stadiums that featured so many delicacies.   Very cool place.  Great time.

 

Game #3 - Fenway Park

From there, we flew the next morning to Boston for a visit to see the hated Red Sox.   I have always traveled frequently to Boston on business over the years, but I’d never been to Fenway Park.  When the boys were young, I always told them that the main reason for going to Boston was not really business.  It was to put a curse on the Red Sox.  Until 2004, they believed it was working nicely.  Despite the fact we were in enemy territory, Jeff loved the historic ballpark,  He always had such a keen appreciation of tradition and history, which continued to manifest itself all the way through the Middlebury years.  It was a great conclusion to an awesome trip.

The experience of bonding with Jeff one on one in celebration of his 16th birthday was so special that I made sure I carried on the tradition with Drew and Brett.  For Drew, it was a basketball trip in 2007, and for Brett it was a baseball trip just this past July 4th weekend.  And of course one of the biggest laughs Brett and I had after our final game at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. on July 4th was when we were out having dinner and Jeff started frantically texting me about the now famous “Calm, cool and collected” debate that was going on in Newport with all his friends.  I texted Jeff that anyone who didn’t agree with me that the correct order was “cool, calm and collected” was an alien.  He and I were greatly outnumbered, however, and we all agreed to disagree.

Tragically, Jeff never came close to realizing his dream of visiting every major league park, although our entire family did go to Petco Park in San Diego during the summer of 2007, adding to Jeff’s total.  But Drew, Brett and I have vowed that we will live out that dream for him, and in doing so, we will bring his beautiful spirit into every stadium that we visit.   And by doing that and carrying his spirit with us, I do believe that in the end, he will realize the dream.  And I also believe that he will know.

 

Rich Klein

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One Response to “Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack . . .”

  1. Vikash Khanna November 22, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    Rich- He will know.

    Also, thank you for helping put that curse on Boston. Though the Red Sox came back on us in ’04, the bad sports karma rubbed off on their hockey brethren last year—-the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead of their own. So the city’s curse is still very much alive!

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