Having such a great time just doing a double-header last year for Spring Training, I told my friend Tom Carbone that I wanted to go more extreme and do a “Spring Training Tour”. So, we did the planning in February, Tom got the tickets, I booked the hotels and we set out Thursday afternoon: Five games in Four days.
Needless to say, that was a lot of baseball, but it was awesome. The trip included visits to four different parks, two of which I hadn’t been to yet. The first was Brighthouse Field in Clearwater, FL, home of the Philadelphia Phillies and near the original home of Hooters (confirmed on Wikipedia). It was a very nice park, reminiscent of the Detroit Tiger’s Lakeland park: not too big and great atmosphere, which included awesome Philly Cheesesteaks.
The second park I hadn’t been to was the home of the Yankees: Steinbrenner Field. I would say this park was too big. It might have been our seats, but it didn’t feel like a Spring Training game. We were so far from the players and the park just swallowed up the atmosphere. The Astros didn’t look too good in the two games we saw, but it did get me pumped up to watch baseball again starting this weekend.
While I was gone, Jennifer’s parents decided to visit. Jennifer’s dad helped around the house, mainly cleaning out our garage (Thanks, Jack!) and helping to install some low-flow shower heads in the girls’ bathrooms. I appreciate all the help while I was out of town on my “tour”.
This past week I spent a couple of days going to see some Spring Training Baseball. The first day was this last Sunday where my friend, Tom Carbone, and I visited the Astros’ home field down in Kissimmee to watch the Astros play against the Mets. Tom was well prepared for the rain, but I guess I didn’t get the memo. The game was supposed to start at 1:00, but it was still raining a little bit and it wasn’t looking good when the tarp was still on the field. There was still going to be at least 30 minutes of warm-ups once the players got onto the field. They finally got the tarp off the field and the game started around 2:00. They got one inning in and the sky opened up. The players left the field and we waited for at least ten minutes in the rain waiting for them to announce something. Finally, they called it. The game was canceled. Fortunately Ticketmaster did refund the price of our tickets.
Tuesday was going to be the big double header. Tom and I were going to drive down to Bradenton, just south of Tampa to see the Astros take on the Pirates. Unfortunately, Tom had to pull out because of an important meeting he had to attend for his company, 360Ed. He was a critical part of the meeting and I understood when he decided he couldn’t attend. So, I stood the course and attended the first game on my own. The first thing I noticed upon arrival was that I was in quite the minority at the tender young age of thirty-eight. Apparently weekday baseball is a social event for the retired people of Florida. I was surrounded by old people who were more interested in talking about if their friends were at the game than watch it. It was a good game. The Astros took the early lead and kept pounding it to the Pirates scoring almost 2 runs per inning. They ended up winning 11-1.
The game ended around 3:45 and I had to rush to Lakeland, the home of the Detroit Tigers. It was an hour and a half drive and the next game started at 6:30. I met up with Tom and we headed over to the game to see the Tigers take on the Washington Nationals. Once again, the stadium was very nice for a Spring Training facility. I then came to the realization that the Astros’ field in Kissimmee is just not up to par with the others. This stadium was huge. It probably sat six time that of the one in Kissimmee. I discovered one of the great traditional disserts at Tigers’ games: their Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream. It was a great day of baseball, food, and fun. I vowed to start making this trip something I do every year. Can’t wait until next year.
If you were following my Twitter posts, you would have seen that I sent something about waiting to hear back on our counter offer. Well, to catch everyone else up. We did receive an offer on our house on Saturday. It was pretty low and we counter offered, but still haven’t heard anything back. They were waiting to say anything until after Jennifer could find out if she could get more of the hardwood floor, which she can. She informed the Realtors this today, but we still haven’t heard anything. Hopefully, tomorrow.
On Sunday I went to see the Astros play baseball on their first Sunday home game. They were playing the Florida Marlins and they won 5-1. The picture to the right is what my view was of the game. As you can see it was pretty good expect for the giant floppy hat right over the pitcher and batter, which is where most of the action is. I usually had to look around the lady because she wouldn’t sit back in her chair. In the latter innings, she started getting tired (probably neck strain from that giant floppy hat on her head) and sat back so I had a better view. I still had a great time except for getting sunburned on the left side of my body.
Yesterday we had a pair of Realtors come over and we put the house on the market. It was lower than we thinking we could get, but we will still get out with a profit. The rest of the day was spent sprucing up the place, mainly mowing the lawn and putting some fertilizer down.
Since we bought seasonal passes to Disney World last October, we felt we needed to use them before we leave Orlando. So, we decided to head over there today and go to the Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We were just there a few months ago, but we only got through about half of the park and we decided we had best go back so we could finish out the rest. We saw a few live shows: Beauty and the Beast, Playhouse Disney, and Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show. Isabelle loved the Playhouse Disney show because it featured the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and the stunt show was amazing with the live car stunts. The two things that the kids didn’t ride, but me and Jennifer opted for were The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Rock n’ Roller Coaster. Both were great rides and had a lot of unexpected features to it. The Tower of Terror I figured was just something that took you way up high and then dropped you, but it was more than that. It had some special effects that tied into the Twilight Zone and then it rose you up and let you free fall several times. The Rock n’ Roller Coaster was also great. It is an indoor roller coaster, which goes upside down. It was one of the better coasters that I’ve ridden. It was a long day, we got to the park at 9:30 and didn’t leave until 5:30. Probably the longest we’ve stayed at a Disney park before.
We headed home and got there just in time for the start of the Super Bowl. The Giants ended up winning by a field goal just as I predicted. However, I thought it was going to be a last second field goal to win. It turned out to be a last second touchdown. Now the long seven month wait for football to come back. Too bad I’m going to miss Baseball Spring Training this year. But, I guess I can now go to live Astros games. So, no complaints.
Well, I was pissed a few weeks ago when we got a ton of money back from the government for our taxes. You’re probably re-reading the last sentence. Yes, I’m pissed. I don’t want my money at the end of the year. I want it in my pay check every week. I have my W4 set to the maximum number of deductions, but EA continues to take too much out of my check and gives it to the government as a interest free loan. The best tax year would be when you don’t owe anything and you don’t get anything back (in my opinion).
Anyway, since the money was burning a hole in our bank account, we decided to do something with it: we bought a pop-up camper. We’ve wanted one for some time. Just the thought of being able to go away for the weekend and drive it up and boom, we are camping is quite appealing. Jennifer found a couple on craigslist and we out and looked at them this weekend. We found one that was barely used and we bought it.
We were under the mistaken idea that we were going to be able to store it in the garage. We spend an hour Saturday night trying to roll it up the driveway just to find out that it doesn’t fit by one inch. We had to shut the garage about half way down. Jennifer is going to start looking into places where we can store it this week.
Today I took my annual trip to see the Astros play a Spring Training game in Kissimmee. The difference this year: I took Emily along. She had a great time. We bought her a kid’s Spring Training shirt and a hat with a pink Astros star. We sat right in front of the bull pin where the pitchers warm up. When Roy Oswalt, the lead off pitcher was done warming up, the catcher tossed Emily the ball. Of course, when we got home the ball became a chew toy for Austin, which upset Emily quite a bit. She wanted me to get a new one and I told her that wasn’t possible. Oh well, we had a good time and I’m looking forward to taking her again next year.
On the subject of sports, it was a good and bad day for Houston sports. Today the Astros lost the last game of their regular season which puts them out of the playoffs this year. It was an amazing last year getting to the World Series and all, but it wasn’t meant to be this year. On the good side, the Texans finally won. They beat the Miami Dolphins 17-15, in a very exciting game. They are now 1-3, which isn’t a great start to the year. Their number one pick in the draft, Mario Williams, got his first sack in the game. So far, the Texans have looked terrible. I’m hoping that they can turn it around, but I’m not holding my breath.
On the 8th, I went in for a “touch up” on my Lasik. My left eye wasn’t 20-20, so they offered another session. It was really easy, much easier than the first time. Apparently the “flap” that they cut in your eye doesn’t heal in six months. So, they reopened the flap and re-lasered the eye. Immediately after the surgery I was seeing much better. It’s amazing.
On the 9th, we went and witnessed our first shuttle take off. We discovered that the place the shuttle takes off from is only about twenty minutes from our house. We just parked on the side of the road and walked up to the bridge that goes out to the Kennedy Space Center. Someone had their radio tuned into the countdown and when it reached zero, there was a brilliant light and the shuttle was lifted into the sky. It was amazing and can only suggest that if you haven’t seen it you should come to Florida to try and see the shuttle take off. Currently the next shuttle is schedule to go off at night. We are thinking of making a trek out for that one as well.
In other news Jennifer was named Abby’s “room mom”. So, she helps out and coordinates parties for the class. This week she went up for Apple Math and Science Day. They had four different stations and Jennifer manned the “less than or greater than an apple” station. She would name an object and then the kids would have to say whether it weighed greater than or less than an apple.
Abby’s doing really good in school. She got her first report card this past week. She got all “Satisfactory” grades. They don’t start getting letter grades until second grade.
One more restaurant craving this morning: breakfast tacos from Taco Cabana. Breakfast tacos in general are non-existent in Florida. There’s something about eggs and bacon wrapped in a fresh flour tortilla, which is mouth watering.
In the afternoon I headed to my friend George’s house. From there, we headed to Minute Maid Park in order to go to see the Houston Astros take on the Atlanta Braves. It was one of the fastest games I’ve been at: two and a half hours. Astros were down 4-0 most of the game and came back, but still lost 4-2.
While at the game, they showed the weather forecast on the Jumbotron: a tropical depression is forming in the gulf and is heading right for Orlando. Fortunately, it should stay a pretty minor storm and it will have blown through before we head back to Florida.
The picture today is again from the family reunion. My cousin Paul has climbed onto the bounce house’s slide to play with the kids.
One thing that’s nice about living in Orlando is baseball’s Spring Training. About half of the Major League Baseball teams spend the month of March down in Central Florida. The Houston Astros’ home is South Orlando in Kissimmee, about a forty-five minute drive from where I live. The past two years, I’ve made it a point to make it out there to see at least one game and this year was against the Detroit Tigers. One of the nice things about Spring Training is that the stadium is small and pretty much every seat is nice and cheap. Well, I couldn’t get anyone to go with me, so I went myself and I’m glad I did, because I got monster seats: first row right behind home plate. It was great. The batters were warming up right in front of where I was sitting. I took some great pictures of the Astros baseball players. The Astros ended up loosing, but it was a nice day to have a hotdog, some peanuts and to get some time away from all the estrogen in my house.
Yesterday was the first time I got to experience what it was like to have both Abby and Emily in school. It was great. The house was so quite. Me and Jennifer (with Isabelle) went out to lunch to Logan’s and it was great being able to sit there and actually eat. I went ahead and extended my vacation one extra day and I’m glad I did so I get to experience one more Abby and Emily Free Day.
Abby and Emily went to “Kid’s Connection” (the Wednesday night children’s activity get-together at church) in their Halloween costumes. Abby is going to be a princess (no surprise there) and Emily is a poodle puppy. I’ll have pictures of them in their costumes on Halloween. They got candy and made Halloween crafts.
Tonight was the Madden Next Gen Wrap Party. Most of the team met at a Chinese restaurant called The Crazy Buffet. We had dinner and toasted champagne to celebrate finishing the game. Unfortunately, the game is still going on. I haven’t been called in, but my boss, Brian, has taken over what I was doing in order for me to get some rest with the family.
Well, the Astros lost again, getting swept in the World Series by the White Sox. I don’t think the Astros did a bad job. It was a thrill for them to get to the World Series for the first time ever. Every game came right down to the last few innings. Hopefully they can make another run next year.
Well, it was a pretty bad day at work. I ended up being there all day and into the evening. One issue after another kept coming up.
Abby went back to school today while Emily, Isabelle and Jennifer went to get the oil changed in the Sequoia. When we bought the truck, we got some free oil changes, but the dealership is quite some distance from our house so it’s a pain in order to go and get the oil changed there. Then, Jennifer had a bad experience waiting in line to get the oil changed. You have to go through the regular repair line where everyone lines up their cars and the attendants come out and ask you want is wrong with your car. Jennifer waited around for twenty minutes while everyone else but she got waited on. Even after she got out of the car and complained they still helped other people before getting to her car. She’s sworn not to go back there to get her oil changed again.
The poor Astros. I’ve just stayed up until 2:30 a.m. as their game went to the 14th inning and they came up short again. If they don’t win the next one that’s it. Every game has been close, but they just haven’t been able to follow through.