Now there's the Devil Rays we know and love

I set the TiVo to record the MLB Extra Innings feed of this morning’s game. If I’d been 100% sure it would be showing up for free, I might have woken up earlier to watch it; as it was, I had to fast-forward through major portions of the game, which turned out to be a good thing. It was the Yankees’ YES Network coverage, and it looked like they had dug up a lot of old films of teams and players visiting Japan in the past, including Mickey Mantle celebrating his 24th birthday while the Yankees were on a barnstorming tour of Asia. (Actually, maybe ESPN showed the same footage yesterday morning, but I wouldn’t know.) Also, there will be a suitable-for-framing 8×10 photo of a Yankee great inside the Sunday Daily News every week.

Anyway, now that we know I’ll be getting MLB Extra Innings free for the first week of the season, Levi, you’re invited to my nameless apartment for the real Opening Day on Monday. It kicks off with Tigers at Blue Jays at 10:00 A.M. (And then the question is, since this morning’s game was the first one in the Extra Innings package, will they define “first week” as lasting only until next Wednesday, or all the way through Sunday the 11th?)

Hanger-on Luke wanted to make sure I had explored all possible rental car options, including in-town locations of the various rental car agencies, especially the Enterprise location on Sheridan Road that’s fairly close to Levi and Stacey’s place.

Yes, I did, and the problems are that, as far as I can tell, Enterprise’s “unlimited mileage” is only good in the five states nearest Chicago; various others, including Dollar, Thrifty, and National, prohibit taking their cars into Canada (and they don’t seem to have any convenient city locations in Chicago anyway); and, believe it or not, Hertz and Avis are more expensive at their in-town locations than at O’Hare…but less expensive than Midway. Seriously, someone needs to investigate the Midway rental car situation.

Luke also wondered about perhaps picking up the car on the 20th and dropping it off on the 31st to possibly save some money. Also as far as I can tell, there wouldn’t be much price difference between that and the current plan of picking it up on the 19th and dropping it off on the 1st.

And, importantly for me, by getting the car on the 19th, I’ll get a chance to spend the day of the 20th at the Illinois Railway Museum, which I’ve never been to before and which is supposed to be a very nice place. (Yes, a non-baseball activity. I’m sorry, but I like trains, too.) And then on the 31st I can go play pinball at one of the semi-secret locations in the suburbs where Stern puts their new pinball machines out for testing, to see if they need to do any last-minute tweaks. Or Levi and Stacey can go buy stuff at Ikea in Schaumburg. Whatever.

In conclusion, I think we’re getting a pretty good rate from Hertz, considering how many miles we’re going to be putting on one of their cars.

(P.S.: If Southwest really was charging negative $100 for Burbank-to-Chicago round trips, I would be there for breakfast and baseball tomorrow morning, and maybe every morning. But no such luck.)

Original comments…

mr. troll: Yes, we’re all sorry that you like trains, too.

Jim: Shame on you, leaving this comment on the date of Amtrak’s 33rd anniversary.

Here it comes

And we have an itinerary for the second road trip: it will be Itinerary #3, with the addition of a minor-league game on Saturday, August 21, in Davenport, Iowa, to see the Twins’ Class A affiliate, the Swing of the Quad Cities (my new favorite baseball team name), host the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in their newly renovated stadium…a stadium which originally dates back to 1931, making it the second-oldest stadium on the trip by over 30 years.

Turns out my existing contact lens prescription is going to be just fine for watching baseball. But it’s nice to have a medical exam to find out that I probably won’t suffer a detached retina during the trip.

Something I forgot to mention in the last entry: I did check rental car rates at both O’Hare and Midway airports, and the rates at Midway are ridiculously expensive compared to the ones at O’Hare, to the extent that it would only have made economic sense for me to fly through Midway if Southwest Airlines was charging negative $100 for Burbank-to-Chicago tickets. So even though I’m a regular viewer of “Airline” on A&E, I’m flying American Airlines instead.

The best evidence yet that this is really going to happen

Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to make it to The Rocketship for Opening Night in Japan/Opening Early Morning in America. I will instead be celebrating Opening Day next Monday, the way it’s supposed to be, here in my non-named apartment. Sometimes it’s advantageous to have a Tuesday-Saturday work schedule.

However, in celebration of the impending start of the season, I have a sudden flurry of news. First of all, they may have annoying pop-under ads on other web sites, but it turns out that Orbitz is very good at letting you know that Burbank-to-Chicago fares have suddenly plummeted to the extent that they’re cheaper than fares from LAX.

Plane ticket in hand (well, e-ticket confirmation printout in hand), I went ahead and booked the rental car for the trip, following a certain amount of sleuthing. The only rental car agencies serving O’Hare International Airport that had deals with fully unlimited mileage and unequivocally said it was okay to drive their cars into Canada were the big two, Avis and Hertz. And Hertz was cheaper, thanks largely to their AAA member discount.

Thinking of the portions of the trip where there will be hangers-on, I reserved a “full size” car, which to Hertz means “Ford Taurus or similar.” Consumer Reports says that the Taurus is “roomy and comfortable with a decent ride and a spacious rear seat and trunk,” and that “[t]he bland but well-assembled interior has a comfortable driving position for most.” (Actually, the last time I rented from Hertz, I got the “or similar”: a Toyota Corolla instead of a Ford Focus.)

It occurs to me that I’ve made one crucial assumption, and perhaps I should ask: hey, Levi, how do you feel about taking the ‘L’ to O’Hare after work on Thursday, August 19th, to meet me, so you can sign yourself up to be the Additional Authorized Operator on the rental car?

All of this is now reflected on the itinerary. Now I’m off to the ophthalmologist, because I want to make sure I will be able to see all of these baseball games perfectly.

Now, as you all know from hearing me rant about it, I think Major League Baseball has done a lot of stupid things lately.

In fact, more often than not, the phrase “Major League Baseball announces” is enough to get me worried.

But one thing they’ve done extremely well is use the Internet to bring their product to fans in ways that, just a few years ago, weren’t possible. They have game tickers, pitch-by-pitch updates, and a variety of video packages that is pretty impressive.

By far the best thing they do, though, is have the radio broadcasts of all games available on their web site. Having spent years tuning in KMOX after dark to (barely) hear the Cardinals, being able to listen to games clearly has been a sheer, unadulterated joy. We don’t have the Internet at home, but getting to hear day games while I’m at work, and getting to catch up on particularly exciting games from the night before has been wonderful. On top of that, when the Cardinals aren’t playing, I can listen to, say, Vin Scully.

And this year, for the first time in five years, they’re not raising their prices. Maybe they’re learning? Probably not. But right now, I don’t care. We’re hours away from the first game, and soon my workday will fly by at the pace of a ballgame.

Now, if they could just do something about that site design. I suppose it could be worse. It could flash and play Smashmouth or something.

Oh, and Jim, you’re invited to the house for a big breakfast and a viewing of tomorrow morning’s game featuring your favorite team and that team that couldn’t hit Josh Beckett. Game starts just after 4 AM Central Standard Time, and just after 5 AM Rocketship TiVo Time.

Not just "The Simpsons"

If it’s almost time for the baseball season, it’s obviously time for various networks to break out whatever Kevin Costner baseball movies they have in the videotape library. Over the weekend, Turner Classic Movies presented “Field of Dreams,” and Encore countered with “Bull Durham.”

I hadn’t seen “Field of Dreams” since it was in theaters 15 years ago, and I had completely forgotten about the “road trip to Boston to kidnap James Earl Jones” part of the plot. If nothing else, it made me want to play catch with my father. I mean the movie as a whole, not just the part about kidnapping James Earl Jones.

Now, “Bull Durham” reminds me of my summers from 1987 to 1990 in the Duke University Talent Identification Program’s Summer Residential Program, which I see they’re now calling The Academy for Summer Studies. I actually went to a Durham Bulls game as a “field trip” in 1989, but didn’t see the movie for a few years after that, because its R-rated content would have been too much for my tender young mind.

I will quibble with the depiction in “Bull Durham” of an out-of-town game being recreated using sound effects, in a movie supposedly taking place in the present day, although I guess they were trying to give it a timeless quality. But I’m reasonably certain that, by 1987, even small-town radio stations broadcasting Class A minor-league games had advanced as far as broadcasting out-of-town games via a telephone hookup. (Durham kind of seemed like a small town at the time, although I only saw limited portions of it. From what I can tell from afar, these days, it’s no longer like that. Even the Bulls are now in a newer, bigger stadium near the Interstate, and jumped to Class AAA.)