Tag Archives: Principal Park

Catching Good News at the Ballpark

I have been going to baseball games since Grandpa Spec threw me in the passenger seat of his 1972 Volkswagen Beetle (sans seat belt) and hauled me to Sec Taylor stadium to watch the Iowa Oaks. It’s been a lifetime of going to games as a kid, of taking my kids to baseball games, of attending games of the Iowa Cubs, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, San Antonio Missions, and Laredo Lemurs. Somewhere along the way I gave up on the notion that winning the ballpark lottery is in the cards for me.

I’m never the one lucky enough to catch a foul ball or a home run shot. Wendy and I have never been on the “Kiss Cam” even when we’re one of ten couples at Principal Park on an April afternoon. I’ve never caught a hot dog out of the golf cart cannon. The t-shirt cannon never shoots the t-shirt my way. I’ve never won Ballpark Bingo. My row or seat has never been chosen to win the free car wash. Yes, there was that one time that they announced my birthday on the board, but that was because Wendy paid for a suite for a birthday party for me with our friends. It’s not so special when you pay for it. (Anyone who heard my message last Sunday is laughing at the sheer pessimism of this paragraph)

So it was that on this past Tuesday night Wendy and I arrived at Principal Park to watch our Iowa Cubs take on the Sacramento River Cats. It was a gorgeous night for baseball. We had been invited to be guests of our daughter Taylor who had some “Cubbie Dollars” given to her for her birthday in July. She also invited a few of her friends. It was “dollar hot dog” night and also “bring your dog to the ballpark” night so we were eating our hot dogs, drinking our beer, and enjoying all of our canine friends running around the place.

At the bottom of the second inning I suddenly heard Wendy on my left scream at the top of her lungs and I saw her jump up out of her seat in my peripheral vision. I turned to see her hugging Taylor, who was on her left, and screaming with joy and laughter.

What?!”

Didn’t you see it?!”

What!?”

Didn’t you hear her say, ‘Look!‘?”

No. You’re on my left. That’s my really deaf ear.

It was then amid the laughter and celebration that Taylor’s friend Kim showed me the video she was taking with her phone. It showed the big video board at the ball park with the message “Grandma and Grandpa Vander Well IT’S A BOY!”

My turn to scream and shout and laugh and hug our daughter, even if it was a little bit late.

Just my luck. I missed it. I didn’t hear her say, “Look!” I didn’t see it in the moment. But you know what? That’s okay. I am so blessed. I may never catch a foul ball, or a t-shirt, or a stale hot dog shot from a cannon. I don’t care.

My grandson is on the way (and I caught the good news at the ball game).

featured photo courtesy keith allison via Flickr

Someday … is TODAY!

Anyone who knows me even moderately well knows that I am among the millions of long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans. My precious young daughters endured long, chilly April afternoons at Principal Park with dad watching the AAA Iowa Cubs play. They did, however, get to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame for a local news story about the ubiquitous “Businessman’s Special” (forgive the extremely poor VHS archive footage):

Taylor even dutifully went along with me on my first visit to Wrigley Field.

Tom and Taylor at Wrigley - 1

When Wendy and I married she allowed me the joy of teaching her about baseball, about the Cubs, and she has walked this journey with me for over a decade. She’s endured the chill winds blowing in at Wrigley with me. We try to watch or listen to every game, often recording it and watching it late if we have to, and planning our travel to the lake to coincide with Pat and Ron calling the game on the radio. My wonderful wife has become such a baseball fan that while I was on a business trip a few years ago she was watching all of the major league roster moves on the MLB network at the trade deadline and texting me up-to-the-minute news. Man, I love that woman.

tom&wendy@wrigley050108

Our family and friends have had to live with (endure, really) the reality that the Cubs are always on at our house. It’s just the way of life at both Vander Well Manor and our Playhouse at the lake. I’m happy to say, however, that more than a few have embraced our crazy. It’s been a blast to share the fun together.

Every year hope has sprung eternal. Opening day is a bit of an annual rite of passage at our house. Wendy has hot dogs, nachos, and cold beer ready. We put it on the calendar and make watching a priority.

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I crank Eddie Vedder’s Someday We’ll Go All the Way and dream quietly that it just might be a day this year, this season.

Every autumn hope has ended with acute, even horrific, post season tragedy or the painfully slow, obtuse seasons in which there were far more losses than wins.

There’s been more sorrow than joy over the years, but it hasn’t really  mattered. We still watch, listen, follow, cheer, scream, and cry. Then we grieve the long months of winter until the sounds of a Cubs game can once again resonate through Vander Well Manor each day.

Ask any Cubs fan and they’ll tell you that this season was special. There was something different about this crew of bear Cubs. There is the zen, hippie manager who organized pajama parties on road trips and petting zoos at practice. There are the expensive free agents that the front office were willing to sign. There are the talented free agents who passed up more money and longer contracts because they wanted to play for this team. The National League infield in the All-Star game were all Chicago Cubs. And, there were wins. A lot of wins. The “W” flag risked getting tattered from consistent exposure to the elements. We’d experienced some great seasons, but we’d never experienced a season like this season.

There’s this thing I’ve learned about hope when all you’ve experienced is disappointment. You want so desperately to give yourself wholly to dance with hope, but you’re always waiting for disappointment to show up, tap hope on the shoulder, and cut in. We’ve been conditioned to expect that our hopes will be dashed. The rug will be pulled out from under us. 

Our team swooned in June before the all-star break and we thought, “Oh no, here we go again.”

Our team won more games than any other team, and we were told “the team who wins the most games rarely wins the World Series.”

Our team lost to the Giants in 13 innings, and we thought “The momentum’s gone. Here we go again.”

Our team couldn’t eek out a single run against Kershaw in Game 2 of the NLCS, then we get shut out again in Game 3. We thought “Surely, this is the beginning of the end.”

Our team gets shut out in Game 1 of the World Series, then loses two of three at Wrigley. We have to win three straight, and win the last two in Cleveland. We’re reminded incessantly by Joe Buck and the rest of the baseball talking heads how long the odds are, how improbable it would be, and how many times the Cubs have blown it before. And, we think, “The dance with hope is over. I see disappointment making its way across the gym floor to cut in. Again.”

Then we win Game 5 at Wrigley and salvage one victory at home. At least we won’t have to endure watching Cleveland celebrate a World Series victory in the Friendly Confines.

Then we win Game 6 in Cleveland and relish the thought of having pushed the series to the limit. Still we have the talking heads reminding us of the improbability, the long odds, the history of our dashed hopes.

Then comes Game 7. Lead off homer by Fowler. Strong effort by Hendricks. 5-1 lead. The Indians get a couple of runs but we’ve got a lead and it’s getting late in the game. Hope is dancing. Hope is literally cutting the rug, and we are feelin’ fine. Put on the dancing shoes.

Nine outs away.
Six outs away.
Four outs away.

Two down. Bottom of the 8th. Bases empty. Just one more out and we’re on to the 9th. 

Indians double. 

Indians Home Run. 

Tied 5-5. 

There is disappointment tapping hope on the shoulder. “Excuse me. I’d like to cut in.”

Rain delay. Seriously?!

Texting with Madison in SC.

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Texting with Kevin M.

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Texting with Chadwicke.

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Texting with Kevin R.

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Texting with Matthew.
Texting with Harry.

Then comes the top of the 10th.
Cubs score one.

Cubs score two.

The Cubs are doing it. They are defying the odds and the naysayers and the talking heads and the curses and the nagging disappointments.

Carl Edwards Jr., the kid we watched pitch at Principal Park for the Iowa Cubs just a month or so ago, is in to close it.

Indians score one. Disappointment is still trying desperately to steal the dance.

Texting with Taylor

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I have always dreamed of this day. I had always envisioned being in Chicago. I imagined driving to Elgin and taking the train into the city and the Red Line to Wrigley. But, there was something so right about being here at Vander Well Manor. It was just Wendy and me listening to Pat and Ron call the game while we watched the muted television feed. This is where we celebrate Opening Day with hot dogs, nachos, popcorn and beer. This is where we listen and watch and cheer and groan and cry nearly every day from April through September. Now it’s November. It’s the last day of the baseball season. Game 7 of the World Series. The Chicago Cubs were the last team standing. We won the big one.

Hope shrugged off disappointment this time. It’s time to dance, really dance, for the first time in 108 years. Wendy and I hugged, and cried, and went outside to #FlytheW.

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Someday was TODAY. I can’t describe how much fun it was to exchange calls and texts and messages and posts and tweets with friends and family. And, most of all, with the little girls, now grown, who endured  chilly April afternoons at Principal Park with dad watching the AAA Iowa Cubs play and learning to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. 

It’s root, root, root for the Cubbies, if they don’t win it’s a shame…

No shame tonight. We won. It’s time to dance.

madison-watching-cubs-in-sc

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The Latest 06-05-2016

Talk about celebration! This week began with a holiday and ended with a family wedding. Here’s the latest.

On Memorial Day Wendy and I headed to Des Moines for our second Iowa Cubs game of the season. Some friends gifted us their tickets which were in the fourth row right behind the I-Cubs’ dugout. It was a hot, sunny day and we both became crispy critters as the afternoon wore on. Our boys of summer sent 14 batters to the plate in the 6th inning and scored 10 runs including a grand slam by top Cubs’ prospect, Wilson Contreras. It was a ball!

Upon our arrival back in Pella, we walked across the street to Kevin and Linda’s. They were having a Memorial Day cookout with friends from Central’s theatre department. We enjoyed a little food off the grill and a cold bevy or two. It was great to see Rob Kahn, who had returned to Iowa after his professional turn in two Shakespearean productions in Philadelphia this past spring. I ended the holiday by moving the lawn.

With the end of May and the  beginning of June, there was plenty of work on the plate in the shortened work week. Month end deadlines combined with beginning of the month tasks. The weather has been making the turn toward summer with warmer temperatures and occasional strong storms.

It was a lovely evening on Wednesday when we went to see our friend, Nathan VL, play baseball at Pella’s new sports park. The young boys of summer played a great game and it was fun to cheer them on.

I’m not sure what to make of the fact that one year after we moved in, both of our neighbors have sold their houses. Hopefully that’s just a coincidence! Just yesterday we met our new neighbors to the north, Greg and Chanelle, who moved in from Grimes. The gaggle of teenagers next door has given way to a flock of 3 (and one on the way) wee ones. No word yet on our new neighbors to the south. More to come.

On Friday we headed to Boone in the afternoon. Wendy’s brother, Lucas, got married to Brooke on Saturday. The Hall clan gathered for the festivities. The only members missing were brother Josh, who continues to serve as an Army dentist in Korea, and his fiance, Ellie. Friday evening was spent finishing up decorations at Seven Oaks Lodge, rehearsal, and a pizza dinner. It was great to see family, especially Wendy’s brother Jesse and his daughter, Sophia, whom we had not seen in a long time. We also loved meeting Abby, Jesse’s girlfriend, who hails from Camdenton – just down the road from our Playhouse in the Ozarks.

We drove back to Pella on Friday night and I spent Saturday morning on the lawn. Then it was time to clean up, pick up Grandma VH, and head back to Boone for the big wedding. We arrived about 2:30 and busied ourselves helping out. I got to chauffeur Brooke, and personal attendant Suzanna, up to a private spot where Lucas was to see his bride in her dress for the first time. I also helped out as usher for the ceremony.

Suzanna Mom Hall Dancing

It was a bright, sunny and windy day. It has been a long time since this many of the Hall clan were together. I enjoyed taking photos and watching Wendy’s joy as she got to hang with her siblings. The wedding was simple and beautiful. You gotta love a wedding reception catered by Hickory Park in Ames. It was after 10 p.m. before we left Boone. Grandma VH was a trooper. She slept a good part of the drive home.

Looking forward to heading back to the lake this week and working remotely from the deck. Hot, sunny weather in the forecast. Love it. Next weekend is our annual summer kick-off weekend with Kev and Beck.

Baseball Links Generations Together

ICubs GameWendy and I headed to Principal Park in Des Moines yesterday afternoon to attend our first Iowa Cubs game of the season. It was great to sit in the sun, get sunburn, eat a hot dog, and quaff a few cold ones despite our boys of summer getting trounced by Oklahoma City.

One of the many reasons I enjoy baseball is the history and traditions of the game. Given my love of history and my tendency to be nostalgic to a fault, it makes sense that I would love a game that has roughly been played the same way for almost 200 years. It’s a game that binds generations together.

My first trips to Sec Taylor stadium (now known as Sec Taylor Field at Principal Park) were in the early 1970s. About once a summer my grandpa Spec would drive me to Sec Taylor (with a requisite drive by of the Iowa State Capitol building) for an afternoon game. In those days the home team was known as the Iowa Oaks, the AAA farm team of the Oakland Athletics. Grandpa would get us bleacher seats in the shade of the open grandstand roof, behind home plate. We watched some of the great players of Oakland’s  World Series winning “mustache gang” as they made their way up to the bigs.

Today, when I sit and enjoy the Iowa Cubs in a much nicer park I am reminded of my grandfather. I never fail to have memories of bringing Taylor and Madison to games when they were young. They still humor dad with an occasional trip to the park even though neither of them really cares about the game. I relive memories of bringing our young friends Nathan and Aaron. And, God willing, I dream of the day I get to bring my own grandchildren to a game at the same park, just as Grandpa Spec brought me.

Principal Park

Baseball links generations together.

The Latest 08-16-2015

Our week was full and the highlight of the past seven days was the wedding of our friends Matthew and Sarah Burch on Saturday night. The week began on Sunday afternoon at the house Matthew and Sarah are moving into in Hunter’s Ridge outside of Pella. It was Lincoln’s 7th birthday and they were having a a gathering of family and friends for a cookout to celebrate. It was a the first chance Wendy and I had to meet some of Sarah’s family.

Union Street Players annual meeting and Potluck Picnic.
Union Street Players annual meeting and Potluck Picnic.

On Monday night Wendy, Suzanna and I all headed to West Market Park for Union Street Players’ potluck picnic and annual meeting. It was a gorgeous evening and we had a great turnout. I have just completed my 10th year as President and Wendy just completed her 11th on the Board, most of those years serving as Treasurer. We decided earlier this year our time of service on the Board has been fulfilled. Time to let others step up and step in to leadership. Elections were held and we officially entered lame duck status until September 1st when the new officers will take over.

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The gorgeous summer weather would continue on Tuesday and it was a great night for baseball. For the second year in a row, the Vande Lude boys treated me to Dude’s Day as a birthday present. We headed to Des Moines and had pizza at Scornovacca’s before heading to Principal Park to watch the I-Cubs take on the Nashville Sounds. The I-Cubbies dropped the game 3-2 but a good time was had by all.  Throughout the evening Chad and I plied Nathan and Aaron with “Dude’s Day Questions.” Two of my favorites:

Tom: Dude’s Day Question. Blonde, brunette, or redhead?

Nathan: Redneck.

Tom: If mom was a superhero, what would her super power be?

Aaron: Kissing daddy.

Thursday night was supposed to be a bridal shower for Sarah at our house and a Guy’s night out with Matthew and the boys. Matthew’s guy’s night transitioned to just a dinner between Matthew and me, then late in the afternoon Matthew bailed on me to spend some time with family who had arrived for the wedding. So…..while Wendy and the ladies celebrated Sarah I walked down the block to McQuade Pub and enjoyed drinks and stogies with Kevin and Linda which is always, always a great way to spend the evening. Wendy had a great time with Sarah and her friends.

On Friday we enjoyed a quiet day at VW Manor. Late in the day Taylor and I enjoyed a nice time of conversation downstairs in VW pub watching the Cub’s and White Sox and Kevin McQuade joined us late in the game to watch the Northsiders win their eighth game in a row. Taylor took off to join Emily Boyd and her boyfriend, Zac at George’s Pizza for dinner. Wendy made wonderful Tilapia filet’s for a quiet dinner just the two of us.

Before Patio Deck

Patio DeckIt was a hot one on Saturday, but I was determined to tackle one of my summer honey-do projects before heading to Des Moines for the wedding. I had stained some green treated 2x4s late in the week and spent Saturday morning building a deck step outside our patio doors on the back patio. Felt very manly.

It then felt manly getting cleaned up and donning my tux. Wendy, Taylor and I drove to the Temple for Performing Arts in Des Moines where Matthew and Sarah’s wedding was scheduled for 5:30. It brought back a lot of memories for Wendy and me as we got married  at the Temple on New Year’s Eve 2005. We arrived about 4:00 and checked in with Matthew and Sarah who were taking pictures in the Grand Ballroom. After snapping a picture or two we met Taylor and Kevin & Becky Roose at the Centro bar for drinks.

The grand ballroom is an unbelievably gorgeous venue for a wedding. Matthew and Sarah were stunning and the wedding was really meaningful. Matthew had asked me to stand and provide a brief introduction of him for those who may not know him. It was fun to share a few words. After the ceremony everyone moved into the Recital Hall for drinks and appetizers as they readied the ballroom for dinner. I enjoyed conversation with Matthew’s friend from his grad school days at Fuller and we also hung out with Chad and Shay.

The dinner was amazing and it was a wonderful feast. When the feasting was over the dancing began. So much fun was had by all. Late in the evening Matthew and I stole away to the guy’s dressing room where we had a few minutes of quiet time and I got to pray over the groom. By the end of the evening it was the Vander Wells, Rooses, and Vande Lunes who were the last ones on the dance floor. It was midnight before we got home.

This morning it was back to Des Moines where I had the privilege of sharing the morning message at Westview in Waukee. Taylor came with her friend Curtis. After the service she and Curtis headed to the Des Moines Art Center for a lunch date. Wendy and I had lunch at the Roose’s with Keith and Tanya Wilhite.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 19

The sun rises at one end of the heavens
    and follows its course to the other end.
    Nothing can hide from its heat.
Psalm 19:6 (NLT)

There days on this chapter-a-day journey that a verse will jump off the page at me because it seems so apt for the moment. It may or may not have any deeply spiritual meaning, it is just so true for the day, or the hour, or the season in which I find myself.

So it was with the verse above. As I sit to write this post in the summer of 2012 we have been suffering through record high temperatures and serious drought conditions. Nothing and no one can hide from the sun’s intense heat. Last night, Wendy and I braved the heat and headed out to the ball game at Principal Park. From our seats behind home plate we watched the setting sun glaring off the gold dome and windows of the gorgeous Iowa State Capitol Building.

It’s hot and dry and uncomfortable. But this season too, shall pass. It’s part of the natural order of the seasons that God, the Creator, put into motion. So, I dressed cool. I ordered another cold beverage. I enjoyed the great summer pastime as the I-Cubs won a pitchers’  duel against the visitors in extra-innings. It wasn’t the most comfortable evening we’ve spent overlooking Sec Taylor Field, but I honestly don’t have a complaint.

Today I’m reminded to make the most of this day and this season, no matter where it finds me on the journey.