Red Sox + Houston = happy girl

ballparks.com

I know, I know, I’m behind in my blogging. I’ve been busy. No idea what’s keeping me so busy, but suspect it has something to do with drinking Malibu black in the Cremers’ pool; time seems suspended there. Must be something in the water. (I’m all about full disclosure here.) The Sox were in town this past weekend, and we went to see them; the fact that I’m just now getting around to posting about it is wrong, just wrong.

Minute Maid Park is a gorgeous ballpark, if I do say so myself, and I hope the Sox enjoyed their visit as much as we did. The retractable roof is pretty cool, and the glassed-in views of downtown Houston show off our fine city in all its corporate splendor. 

The outfield wall is capped off with a train full of giant orange blobs. I’m not the only person who wondered why in the world there was a train-load of pumpkins at the ballpark only to realize that, duh! they’re oranges. Minute Maid Park. Get it? If an Astros player hits a home run, the train chug-chugs along the length of the outfield wall. Suffice to say that train has been pretty dormant lately. 

The picture below shows you what the stadium looks like with the roof open. There are little tiny motors that turn as the giant walls of glass slowly, slowly slide apart before your very eyes. At first the movement is so slight as to be nearly undetectable. But before long, the chink between the seams of the walls becomes wider.

The trainload full of oranges. Betcha I could make a lot of mimosas with them. 

Before the game, we did something I’ve always wanted to do, and now that we’ve done it, I feel like a true Houstonian. We ate at Mama Ninfa’s–the original one on Navigation, very close to the stadium. Ninfa’s is a Houston institution, with franchises all over the city, but the one on Navigation is where it all started. She’s credited with creating the beef fajita, which is now a mainstay in most Mexican restaurants. 

I can’t vouch for the beef, but can safely say that the michelada was delicious. There’s a section on the drinks menu devoted to micheladas, with the opportunity to choose which beer will be mixed with the addictive array of spices. There are 15 choices. I have no idea what the spicy salt was on the rim of the glass, but my lips burned for 2 days after consuming every last crystal.

The seafood cocktail was out of this world. Gulf shrimp and sea scallops tossed with avocado chunks and a spicy, lemony cocktail sauce. Yum.

As tempting as it was to get a 2nd michelada, it was time to scoot on over to the ballpark. Ninfa’s offers a shuttle from the restaurant to the park, and we happily jumped on. The passenger van was perfectly pleasant for the short hop on the way to the game; coming home, with at least 40 people crammed into that same van, was a different story. Wooshegaga, that’s a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare: tight quarters, hordes of people and Houston traffic. Yikes.

It was all worth it, though, to see my favorite team and my favorite player. Ells wasn’t in the line-up for the Friday night game because of the flu he picked up from Josh Beckett. He rallied with the help of some IV fluids, though, and sparkled in center field and dazzled as the lead-off hitter. Here he is, at his first at-bat. I know, the pictures are terrible. I finally got a new camera, since the iPhone camera leaves much to be desired, and forgot to take it to the game. Sheesh.

Nobody covers center field quite like Ells.

He’s in the middle, with his hat off for better close-ups. One of the Boston papers ran a headline today that says “Ellsbury displays All-Star form” and I think it refers to his play, but could just as easily refer to his form.

He got his 500th hit today, and was selected for his first All Star game on Sunday. All that, plus a mention on this blog? He’s in tall cotton. 

Now all he needs is a mohawk, like the All Star player who lives at my house:

before...

...and after


I heard the news today, oh boy

It started around age 2, I guess. The baseball obsession. From his earliest days, Payton was a baseball fanatic.

He’s probably not even 2 years old here, but he’s already at the plate, ready to swing for the fences. 

That original swing morphed into this —

and even in 2nd grade, it was game on.

The Red Sox obsession started when he was around 4 years old, maybe even earlier. He has a lot of Sox jerseys and t-shirts. He even had a shirt way back then that says “Yankees Stink” and when he wore it to Fenway Park one year, he was a rock star among Sox fans. He wore it to an Astros game and was featured on the Jumbo-Tron screens. Sweet.

He wears Sox shirts for all occasions, both important and everyday. And not just at the ballpark, either. He wears them pretty much every day, no matter where he’s going.

From playing in the driveway in our Durham house, where we lived for two years, to the first day of kindergarten, Payton wore Sox apparel. Always a Sox shirt, and usually a cap, too.

If they allowed ballcaps at school, he’d wear a Sox cap every day. At one point, we had to clean out the closet because there were so many Sox caps. Every color combination of red, white & blue, and a green one, too. Eventually he got a red one with black flames. There was a green camo one, too, but it disappeared before we had any photos of it. 

Here he is in a Sox cap at his Little League team party in 1st grade, I think. All the other boys on the team wore the team cap, but this die-hard Sox fan had other plans.

He’s wearing a Sox shirt and cap in this photo, taken in his room six months after we moved back to Houston from North Carolina. This kid is (and no doubt will be) a Sox fan no matter where he lives.

His blue Sox cap was with him at the rodeo. He’s not wearing a Sox shirt, though.

I probably made him wear a Longhorns shirt, since it was the most Western-y thing he had to wear to the rodeo. (And yes, I see the expression on Macy’s face. Classic.)

He’s probably still mad about it, too.

For a while, Macy was in on it, too. This is one of my all-time favorite pics of my kids. In New Orleans, on the way home from Fort Meyers, FL, at spring break for, what else? Red Sox spring training.

Of course he wore a Sox jersey for the first day of school in 1st grade, just like he had done on the first day of school in kindergarten. He’s got a Sox backpack, too.

We got a lot of wear from the original jersey, a Nomar Garciaparra #5 authentic MLB version. He wore that one for a couple of years, and I still have it. I keep thinking I’ll do something special with it, like put it in a shadowbox with other memorabilia to preserve the Sox legacy. For now, it’s hanging in the laundry room, and every time I see it, I smile at how tiny it is, and how the tiniest jersey was worn by the biggest fan.

Here he is at Fenway Park in jersey and rally cap, showing off his newly-toothless grin. He had just turned 6, and was already a veteran traveler to Boston and Fenway Park.

Guess what he wore to his 6th birthday party? Yep, a Sox shirt. He loved the shirt, but wasn’t too happy about having to pose for a photo.

He looks a little happier here, celebrating Ed’s birthday in, what else? a Sox jersey. 

Here he is before the birthday bash, in yet another Sox shirt. He and Ed are smiling so big because they love the Red Sox! In fact, it was Ed who first brainwashed Payton into becoming part of Red Sox Nation. Thanks, Ed! I’ve never been more proud than I was during a game at Fenway when Pay was little (4 or 5 years old at most) and quickly established himself among our seasoned seat-mates as a real fan. He knew who was next in the batting order, and who made the last out. It wasn’t long before the men around us were asking Pay questions about the roster, and he knew the answer every time.

Riding the T after a game at Fenway, happy with a Fenway Frank or two in his tummy and a pennant in his hand. This boy loves baseball, and to him, baseball means the Red Sox.

This was his face when he came home from school one day in the 1st grade to find his room contained new bunk beds. I love the look on his face almost as much as the fact that he’s wearing yet another Sox shirt.

He’s all dressed up here for Mother’s Day.

And for YaYa’s birthday. Well, as dressed up as Pay gets. Which is fine with me. If he’s not wearing a Sox shirt, something seems just the slightest bit off.

In 3rd grade, he wore Sox shirts on the first day of school: and the last day of school. He got an award at the end of the year from Mrs. Spearman, probably for being the biggest Sox fan.

It was more of the same for the first day of 4th grade.

Hanging out with Snoopy, in a jersey of course.

She’s a Sox fan, too.

After the Nomar jersey came the Veritek version. Then Youklis. Then Beckett. 

I’m sure there were more, but they all sorta run together after all these years.

We’re really lucky to be able to go to Boston every summer and stay with our dear friends-who-are-now-family. The trip is the highlight of the year for all of us, and getting to go to Fenway as well as hang out for a couple of weeks on the shore, is the best.

At the airport on one of those trips when the kids were really little, Pay was decked out in Sox championship apparel. People traveling from Houston to Boston on that flight with us knew where that kid was headed. First stop, Yawkey Way. 

Catching some z’s on the beach in Salisbury, north of Boston. Notice the cap?

Wearing one of my favorite Sox shirts at Markey’s Lobster Pound, one of the best places on Earth. This shirt says, “It’s obvious you wish you were part of Red Sox Nation.”

Indeed.

Another Sox ensemble while enjoying another delicacy at the shore: Blink’s Fried Doe. Payton prefers chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles. Only they call them jimmies at the shore.

One year we went back to the shore for Thanksgiving. It was cold on the beach, but we took a walk. Pay wore a Sox shirt, and no coat.

Back at home, we buy the MLB extended cable package so we can watch every Sox game. 

Payton always gets new Sox shirts for Christmas, which makes him smile. Santa knows what that kid wants most. 

Fuzzy dice to go with the new shirts. Good stuff.

I don’t remember what we were celebrating here, but I’m sure it was fun. And the Pedroia shirt means it was a special occasion. Or a Tuesday. Either one.

When Pay broke his wrist in the 5th grade and had to get a cast, he got a red one. While wearing a Sox shirt, natch. Then he tried to scratch inside the cast with a mechanical pencil, and the eraser got stuck and he had to get another red cast. Three days after the first one. I told him that if he did it again, the third cast would be pink.

There was no third cast.

This past summer, Pay had to go to Fenway without me. I was home recovering from the latest bout with the post-mastectomy infection and wasn’t fit to travel.

He brought me a get-well gift. Guess what it was: a new Sox shirt of my very own. My favorite player had changed his number, so I needed an updated shirt. Sweet boy.

Red Sox apparel is such a big part of Payton’s life, and his wardrobe. Our family has logged lots of hours at Fenway and spent even more time camped out in front of the TV watching games from home. We check the box scores in the morning paper, and on any given day during the MLB season Pay can tell you exactly how many games ahead or back the Sox are in the playoff pursuit. We’ve had fun seeing the Sox at our home ballpark, Minute Maid Park, during interleague play, and at Camden Yards while visiting friends in D.C. When the Sox were playing the Rockies in Colorado en route to the World Series, we were ready to pack up and drive there, but the quick sweep made it a moot point.

My baseball-loving son doesn’t have a lot to say; he’s a pretty quiet kid. But get him talking about the Sox, and you’d better settle in because it may take awhile. We’ve bonded over good games and bad, big hits and strike-outs, bad calls and triumphant victories, opportunities lost and capitalized upon. We are a Red Sox family.

And as another Little Season is upon us, Payton, the biggest Sox fan of all, just got drafted by the Yankees. Worst. Thing. Ever. (in his mind, anyway.) This happened once before, a few seasons back, and he was pretty upset. He handled it like a pro, though, saying he would wear the dreaded navy blue jersey, but with a Sox shirt underneath, close to his heart. And when he “lost” his Yankees hat a few days into the season and needed to wear a navy blue Sox hat, I didn’t question him. He decided he would play hard while on the field, because that’s part of being on a team, but would take off the Yankees jersey as soon as the games ended. I admit, it was pretty weird to see him in Yankees gear. Wonder if he can still fit into his shirt that says “Yankees Stink?”