G54: JUSTIN SMOOOOOOOOOOOAK! (Rangers win 9-6)

This was going to be a fun game. I had talked up this game to my daughter for about a month. She and I went along with a friend (not the wife, as she stayed home with the baby), but my daughter had been talking about it for awhile, and in the immediate days leading up to this game, she was super excited. Mostly for the fireworks that were going to come after the game. She’s 5, and I can’t say I blame her. Growing up in Philly, it was a big deal to go to a Phillies game that had fireworks after it. In the last several years, I’d pick Rangers games with fireworks to go to, not for the fireworks, but because I could get out easier. You go to a fireworks game, and about 80% of the people stick around, it makes getting out easier. Not now, the kid was way too excited. She was talking about buying a foam finger, playing the games in center field, she was just seriously worked up.
So we got to the game, but since we ran into some traffic on I30, and were slightly delayed in getting out from Garland in the first place, we didn’t have time to go to the gift shop and play the games before the game started. We had some nice seats (if I remember right, it wasn’t far from where Zonk used to sit in Section 32). Samantha got all kinds of excited about when she heard Justin Smoak announced. You see a few weeks back the Rangers sent out this letter about a meet and greet with the players for the “Jr Rangers Club” members to meet two players. IT was supposed to be today actually (June 5), but it got rescheduled due to Fox picking the Rangers game. Anyway, she was supposed to meet Chris Ray & Justin Smoak.
Ever since she heard Justin Smoak, she became all about him. JUSTIN SMOAK! She just lit up whenever she heard his name. So when Chuck Morgan was announcing the lineups, she did it again. When the Rangers took the field, I pointed out Justin Smoak to her. She started jumping up and down. You’d think she’d seen the Beatles during the height of Beatlemania or something. Or if your tastes are more modern, “Justin Bieber” (shudder). Anyway, I cannot tell you how cool it was to watch her get excited just by seeing Smoak standing there throwing warmup tosses around the infield. It was amazing. However, it was NOTHING compared to what happened in the bottom of the second when Justin Smoak jacked a home run into right field. She gets excited by home runs anyway, but the fact it was Smoak that hit it? She started screaming her head off (in a good way), and just jumped up and down in place for like over a minute straight. I mean – HOLY COW – it was, as her father, just astoundingly cool to watch. I commented to the friend that was with us about how cool it is as a baseball fan to see my child have that kind of excitement about it. I hope she doesn’t get bored with the game as her years go on, and she sticks with it. I only hope that some day she gets to see her kid do that for her, as I saw last night. Definitely one of the all time highlights of childhood, as it was the kind of thing I used to do as a kid too, although not quite with the girly squealing. Praise be to God for that kind of beauty and innocence. I pray she never loses that.
As for the home run itself, when I got home, I watched it on TiVo (I always TiVo games I’m at in case something cool happens). The ball hit into the upper home run porch then bounced off something and went further back into an area I’ve only ever seen a ball hit once before – over a decade ago by Lee Stevens. It was QUITE a shot, and the fact he hit it up at eye level that far was just stinking amazing.
Also around this time Rangers Captain paid us a visit, and gave her a hat. She was afraid of him at point blank range, which is odd. She loves seeing him at games, but apparently just from afar. Oh well. As my wife said “It is a giant horse”. :)
Not long after Captain left, Samantha wanted to go to get the foam finger. Those who know me know that I’m the kind of person who wants to get to the game, and get to his chair about an hour before the game starts, and just sit there till the game is over. I usually wig out about having to move for any reason (even my own using the bathroom), but as I sat there for the first few innings I realized I wasn’t at this game for myself (didn’t even score it), so I very happily took my daughter out to see the sights in center field. I knew center field would be closed off after the sixth due to fireworks, and I wanted to be back in the middle of the sixth, so I decided to head out in the middle of the third. We walked back to the center field shop, bought her foam finger, and headed out to play some of the games. She had a blast in the games, and at this point, it was the bottom of the fourth. This was the big seven run inning the Rangers put up. As that was happening, we were hearing what was going on, so I fired up the iPhone and realized that there was a lot going on. While we were standing in line waiting for one of the games, Josh Hamilton hit his home run (which I saw on replay didn’t land all that far away from where were were). I got Samantha to look straight up, as we were waiting right under the scoreboard, and she saw the fireworks from there. She loved that, of course. But I have to say. Standing out there watching her enjoy the games, getting so stupid excited dancing around the gift shop with her foam finger, I cannot say how much I love this little girl. I pray to God that I don’t let her down too much in life (every parent lets down their kids somewhere along the line – nobody’s perfect). Her look on life at this point in her life is just absolutely refreshing. It’s humbling to me that she does this knowing God already, and that’s the true thing I hope she never loses.
Anyway, we had started walking back around the end of the seven run barrage – I did get to see Vlad Guerrero’s almost triple – I was standing all the way at the back of the section right behind the right field foul pole when that happened. On the way back to our seats, we got her some ice cream in a Rangers cap to eat. We sat there and finished off the rest of the game, but she got excited when something cool happened, and was sitting there waving her foam finger, it was really REALLY cool to watch. I feel bad writing about it, because I think back to last night, and I just marvel at watching her, and I can’t think of any new good words to describe it. That’s a failing on my part, when I get too excited, my vocabulary fails me.
Yeah, I was at this game, but the actual game was kind of meaningless. CJ Wilson started, and was “meh”, as he gave up a four run spot to the Rays in the top of the second, which at the time put them up 4-0. I thought “Well, they’re the best team in baseball now, here we go”. In all fairness, not all of them were earned, there was a big bobble by Kinsler that led to a couple of unearned runs. Still, Wilson hasn’t looked totally sharp the last few outings. After the game was over, Wilson took to Facebook and said this, “winning vs the rays felt good. vladdy and the rally rangers backed me up BIG TIME.” He’s right, but we could use an outing where he doesn’t need to be picked up, which hasn’t been the case the last three starts. I still very much think he’s a good choice to be a starter now, but I think we need another of the earlier outings, instead of the more recent vintage.
Samantha got to see the dot race, which she thought was great. She also got excited that “her dot” won (Red). She wasn’t as excited about that as she was for the foam finger or the Justin Smoak home run, but wow, it was much excitement from a five year old about a dot race. :)
Around the eighth, as is the custom whenever there’s a fireworks game, Chuck will announce they are coming, and you get one big firework shot off from the main fireworks show (not the ones you get for home runs) as a sampler. That happened here, too. The reason I point it out is that in the middle of the ninth inning, Samantha said “I want to go home!”. I said “Why? Don’t you want to see the fireworks?” Having never actually seen a real fireworks show before (this was her first save for a couple when she was a tiny baby), I think she thought the two home run fireworks and this sampler were it. I told her there were a ton more to come, and she hasn’t even seen the real fireworks yet. That seemed to perk her up, and we sat through the fireworks show.
Man, I simply cannot say how much I loved going to this game with my daughter. Since my kids were born, it might be the best and most enjoyable game with her, save for possibly her first. Although the fact that she can interact back wasn’t something when my wife and I took her when she was like 6-7 weeks old.
Thanks to everyone who helped out with this game, from the Mascot guy to the folks who helped out with tickets, and to Lina who helped out mostly in taking Samantha to the bathroom. I’m not quite ready for that at the Ballpark yet. :)
This was a fantastic night out, and I thank God for the blessing of the fun we had, as well as the blessing of my child. I love her a lot.
Yeah yeah, the Rangers won too. That’s not what this entry was about, though.