On the third and final day of our 2014 MLB All-Star Game vacation, I awoke to my attorney walking through the door carrying two Burger King bags. “You want chicken or beef?” he asked. I took the chicken, and we washed it all down with Coke and cocaine. Our tolerance was back, so we were partying like the elderly – on the verge of death every second. Yeah, the days of puking on movie theater bathroom floors were behind us.
This blog was originally published at Go Gonzo Journal.
My attorney and I were in no hurry to get to Target Field after sitting in the rain for an hour the night before, so we decided we’d try to be there for the end of batting practice at around 4 PM. It gave me time to take a dip in the outdoor pool, which was quick because it was cold as ice. I didn’t have my key, so when I returned to the room I interrupted my attorney attempting to shit. He opened the door with his shorts around his ankles and a roll of toilet paper in his hand.
We got ourselves cleaned up, filled the Skoal can with cocaine, and made our way to Target Field after a stop at Walmart for Sharpies. We both brought a few things to sign just in case we got some facetime with an All-Star. My attorney had a ball given to him by Mike Trout, and I brought a Derek Jeter rookie card I got in a trade with my sister a long time ago. How she got ahold of it I’ll never know.
We parked far enough away from Target Field to give ourselves a sobering walk after the game. We picked up cigarettes, which we were smoking faster than Johnny Cueto throws. It seems every time we did a line we had to smoke two cigarettes – one to dip in cocaine and smoke and another to wash it down. We were rocking Parliaments, so we could do bumps out of the filters, too.
We had a Guinness at our usual spot, O’Donovan’s Irish Pub, just down the road from Target Field, to recover from the shock of seeing so many people filling the streets of downtown Minneapolis. We asked a few scalpers what tickets were going for, and it was around face value, depending on seat location. The day we bought our tickets people were listing them on Ebay and Craigslist for three times face value, but we should have known better. I don’t know that there’s been a game at Target Field or the Metrodome I couldn’t get a better deal than face value. At least we knew the place would be packed.
We finished our beers and made our way through the plaza to the field. My attorney went down to our seats and bought beers while I waited for my camera bag to be searched. I then made my way to the first base side of the field where the American League All-Stars were warming up, but the ushers wouldn’t let me sneak down in the lower levels to snap photos. I made the slow trip to our seats on the third base side, and being just eight rows from the field, the first few rows of our section were double-stacked with fans hoping to get an autograph from the National League All-Stars warming up in front of us. Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, and Troy Tulowitzki all ran laps and stretched near us, but none of them even so much as glanced at the fans overrunning our section. McCutchen had enough time to thank God, but not enough to thank the people who pay his salary. Forget autographs; it was even hard to get a ball thrown into the stands.
After warm-ups, Rod Carew threw out the first pitch and the players were introduced. Twins Glen Perkins and Kurt Suzuki got Minnesota-nice ovations, and I got a great photo of Perkins signaling “peace” on the big screen. It was nice to see Suzuki make the All-Star team for the first time, and it was a bit awkward at the same time. At the All-Star break last year, everyone would have said the Twins would have an All-Star catcher in 2014, but no one could have foreseen it being Suzuki. What he’s done to improve his swing in the twilight of his career is absolutely incredible. No one got a bigger ovation than Derek Jeter, though, and rightly so.
After Felix Hernandez pitched a perfect first frame, Derek Jeter got the American League off to a fast start. The Minnesota crowd gave quite possibly the longest ovation in Target Field history to Jeter before his first at-bat. Jeter became visibly perturbed by the attention as he waved off the crowd in an attempt to get back to the game. The crowd only obliged after another minute or so.
Fittingly, on the first play of the game, Andrew McCutchen smashed a hotshot to Jeter’s left. Jeter dove, full extension, and fired an off-balance rocket to first, just a millisecond late to get the speedy McCutchen. Fans, including my attorney and I, booed the first base umpire, only to discover he was correct after a super, slow motion replay seen at the bar after the game.
Jeter then stepped into the box to lead off the bottom of the first and slapped a “pipe-shot” from Adam Wainwright into right field for a double. Wainwright later clarified his statement given after the game that he was serving up meatballs to Jeter, saying he was just “throwing strikes” and didn’t want to be a distraction. Judging by the rest of the inning, Wainwright’s stuff just wasn’t right. My attorney and I hardly had time to settle back into our seats before Jeter scored on a Mike Trout triple that was bashed off the wall in right center. We were on our feet again when Trout scored on Miguel Cabrera’s home run minutes later. Just like that it was 3-0 American League, and my attorney and I had a lot to cheer about, even though we knew the Twins wouldn’t be the team to host the World Series.
It was more of the same in the next half inning, as Aramis Ramirez, Chase Utley, and Jonathan Lucroy strung together three consecutive hits off Jon Lester to make it 3-2. Lucroy then tied it in the fourth with his second RBI double. Lucroy was in line to be All-Star MVP until Mike Trout doubled and scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by Jose Altuve. Jeter also scored in the inning, making it 5-3. In the next half inning, Alexei Ramirez came onto the field during warmups to relieve Jeter at short, and Jeter received yet another long ovation that lasted from the moment Ramirez took the field until Jeter reemerged from the dugout for a curtain call after shaking every AL player and coaches’ hand. It was a Target Field moment that ought not be forgot.
But the best moment for my attorney and me was when Glen Perkins took the field to throw to his teammate Kurt Suzuki and close out the win. Perkins was perfect, dealing with an insane crowd relative to what he’s used to, striking out one and getting Charlie Blackmon to groundout to second for the save. Suzuki and Perkins celebrated as they usually would with a high five in front of their home fans, but there was visibly more energy in the celebration – as if they weren’t playing for a team that’s lost 90 games in each of the last three years. I can only imagine what that celebration would look like if the game really mattered.
I showed this photo to a female friend sitting a row in front of us who was going through her photography phase, and she was impressed. She had been snapping photos during every event shooting a Nikon in auto mode, and when I asked what her aperture range was she couldn’t tell me. I had to look myself and found out that her range was better than mine, yet I got the better night photos. The guy sitting next to me wanted a print of the photo so I wrote down my email address for him before we made for the exits.
My attorney and I decided we’d stop at the bar near our motel for a few drinks, but there was something about his silence that made me think he had an ulterior motive. He did. We didn’t get through one drink before he was outside calling on prostitutes. Before I knew it, he was taking $200 out of the ATM and heading back to the motel to prepare some party favors (i.e. cocaine) and get directions. I finished my attorney’s drink and my own and made my way to the motel. My attorney was fueling up with a line before his drive. I did one with him and told him to take his time so he gets his money’s worth.
While he was out, I went through the photos I got at the game and edited the ones I thought were worth a damn. An hour or so later, my attorney ran through the door, sweating.
“Jesus, I need a line after that,” he said, laughing.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I got to the hotel, and it looked like some kind of sting operation was on!”
“No,” he said, chopping up some blow. “I took the steps figuring I didn’t want anyone to see me, and there was some big, white dude sitting on the steps giving me the eye. Then I got to the room and there was another guy in the hall eyeing me. So I turned around and went right back down the steps, and the guy in the stairwell says, ‘You made the right choice.”
“Holy shit,” I said as my attorney snorted a huge line and handed me the rolled up twenty. “Well, at least you didn’t go through with it and end up with a felony.”
“Soliciting prostitution is a misdemeanor,” he replied as I snorted.
“Yeah, but cocaine possession isn’t!”
We both broke out laughing, cocaine pulsing through our bloodstreams and dripping from our noses.
All-in-all our 2014 MLB All-Star Game vacation was underwhelming given what we spent. Our tickets were $750 each for the events, gas was another $200, drugs and alcohol totaled around $750, the motel room was $120, and our merchandise total was around $400. That’s nearly $3,000 for three days of All-Star baseball events that featured neither of the Twins’ top prospects, a celebrity softball game with no celebrities, and a Home Run Derby that saw the runner-up hit just one homer in the final round. The actual MLB All-Star Game was really the only thing worth face value, and even then, $295 is overpriced when you have to pay to pour your own beer and not have any camaraderie with the All-Stars. I guess you have to pay $595 for that.
I’ll never see another MLB All-Star Game and neither will my attorney. I knew this was my first and last chance, and I’m glad I spent the money, but I encourage MLB and its new commissioner, Rob Manfred, to review the economics of baseball. If they do, I know they’ll see how they’ve alienated the real fans of the game in favor of bigger revenues from box suite sales and television contracts featuring more commercial breaks thanks to longer games than we had 20 years ago. Bud Selig single-handedly made baseball the moneymaking machine it is today but at a detriment to the game itself. Selig didn’t make the All-Star Game matter. He created a way to avoid another tie that humiliated him once before. He also turned a perfectly entertaining Home Run Derby into a glorified batting practice session. And Selig didn’t end the steroid era. He created it and even endorsed it. If something isn’t done to make the games shorter and more available to middle-class fans, Selig will go down in my book as the second-worst MLB commissioner in the history of the game, just behind Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Keith Olbermann has an idea for shortening games, which will work now. It’s called enforcing the rules.
Making the game more available to real, middle-class fans will require a big change that may not make the players happy. Not that I sympathize with the players, but as Hunter Thompson wrote, sports are a lot like politics. The deciders don’t have the voters’ interests in mind. All they care about is money, and there’s no way the MLBPA agrees to a salary cap that reins in the money spent on player salaries to make the game cheaper for middle class fans to attend.
A more rational approach would be to lower prices of seats as game time nears, which is very doable. Anyone who isn’t in their seat by the start of the third inning is shit-outta-luck. I hate late arrivals. They’re the upper class, rich pricks that don’t make any noise anyway. If a season ticket holder isn’t going to use their seats for a game, or sell them, or donate them, someone should be sitting in those seats, regardless of price. Ticket-takers scan every ticket that walks through the gate, so we already know which seats are still available, which would make it easy to fill those seats. It would also limit scalping, as holding ticket inventory would cost a scalper every minute that passed before first pitch – not that it doesn’t already – but a declining “face value” would further increase that cost.
So Rob Manfred has a blueprint for reinvigorating the game of baseball for the middle class that doesn’t include allowing Alex Rodriguez to use steroids while recovering from injury or making the All-Star Game matter. My only other advice for Manfred is to do what Selig didn’t – listen to the fans. You’ll be beloved more for the money you save the fans than the money you save the owners and players.