The following was written by David Franco over at Next Level Ballplayer. We shared a bunk bed during college and literally never went to bed until we watched the SportsCenter Top 10 for that night. You can follow him on twitter here.
If you’ve been following my life on Twitter (@The_NLB) you probably know that I have been living in the Dominican Republic for the last five months. I help with youth teams when I can, work with coaches, and was recently invited by the Dodgers to work with their Dominican prospects on the mental side of baseball.
Recently I had a chance to tackle one of the items on my baseball bucket list hadn’t been checked off: “Attend an All-Star Game”. If you remember last fall, I was able to check off “Attend Game 7 of the World Series” without buying a ticket, but since then my list had remained stagnant… Until now.
A few weeks ago my wife informed me that as much fun as she’s had living in the Dominican for the past 5 months (not all fun living in a 3rd world country), it was time to head home to visit her family in Kansas City. We looked at the calendar and figured out that Friday July 13th would work best, but because it was so close to the July 10th All-Star Game, moving it up was a no-brainer. I had a prior engagement for Monday the 9th, so the plan became to leave Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic early Tuesday morning and then have my mother-in-law drop me off at Kauffman Stadium on the way home from the airport. Then it was up to me to find a “reasonably priced” ticket.
Tuesday July 10th went something like this (FYI – Everything is completely, 100% true):
4:00am: Alarm goes off in our apartment in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. I’m not a morning person. My wife is the opposite. I keep trying to hit snooze while she’s yelling from the bathroom that our taxi will be here any minute.
6:00am-ish: Our flight takes off for Miami, FL. I have my first adult conversation of the day with my wife about the foods we’re most looking forward to eating. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Dominican rice, beans, and meat that is served everywhere, but let’s get real – I’m pumped for some American food. My top 3 things I can’t wait to eat (in order of desire):
- Chipotle Burrito – Contrary to popular belief, there is next to zero Mexican food in the DR. I haven’t had a burrito in over 5 months. I’d wish that upon nobody.
- Good Ol’ Burger – Not a fast-food burger, but one of those great $10 burgers from a medium-to-upscale restaurant.
- Chick-Fil-A – Self explanatory. It’s delicious.
6:15am-ish: I’m passed out on the flight and sleeping in a way that my neck won’t be happy about later.
9:30am-ish: Land in Miami. We have a few minutes to grab a bite to eat and the only non-sit-down option near our gate is Wendy’s. I’m not a big fast-food burger fan, but this was no time to be picky. I order one of their double burgers and fries, and am thankful that they are offering them before 10am.
11:00am-ish: Mid-flight. Heading to Chicago and raving to my wife about how unbelievably good my Wendy’s burger is tasting. We can’t decide if it actually is this good, or if it’s just a combination of lack of sleep and not having a burger in forever.
12:30pm: In the Chicago Airport trying to work through the plan of getting into the All-Star Game. I was hearing that standing room tickets were going for over $325, upper deck for over $400, and field box tickets were over $1,000. Budget-wise, I didn’t want to spend over $200. I realized that it was a long shot to find even a standing-room-only ticket for that, but crazier things have happened to me (like getting free Yankee’s playoff tickets from a random dude, for example).
The plan at this point was this:
- Get dropped off at Kauffman.
- Walk around and maybe meet some friendly KC folks tailgating in the parking lot.
- See if anyone has any extra tickets.
- If that doesn’t work, head over to the front of the stadium and see if anyone would be looking to sell tickets at the last minute for a discounted rate.
I’ve learned that when trying to get big tickets last minute, you gotta just go mingle with the people and see what happens. My philosophy is this- There are always opportunities to get reasonably priced tickets from somebody, you just don’t know who that person is. If you go hang out and talk to enough people, there’s always a chance you might find the right fan or desperate scalper. This has gotten me into numerous MLB playoff games (including last year’s World Series), a Yanks vs. Red Sox game, NCAA Final Four, Bowl Games and a handful of other big baseball games.
Wife: My family thinks it’s kind of weird that you want them to just drop you off at the stadium without a ticket and without a way to get home. Plus, if you can’t find a ticket, there aren’t any bars or restaurants within walking distance from the stadium.
Franco: If I can’t find tickets, I can just make friends with some RV tailgaters whom I’m sure will have a TV hooked up to watch the game. Not a horrible worst-case scenario. What is my ticket budget?
Wife: I trust you.
Now for any husbands out there, you know that “I trust you” is a very loaded answer! Will she understand when I buy a $2,000 seat behind home plate? I decide that $200 is what I can reasonably justify (FYI – I have $400 cash on me). With all that being said, she could have said $50. I love my wife.
1:15pm: Looking for lunch in the Chi-Town airport and praying for a Chipotle… Closest thing I can find is Burrito Beach that is set up like a Chipotle. It’ll have to do. I get it to go so I can eat it on the next flight.
Ticket scalping tip – Never expect a scalper to have change. Always have enough 20s, 10s, and 5s to pay exact prices. I paid for my eight-dollar burrito with a $100 dollar bill, then had them break one of the twenties into a ten and two fives. Now I’m set and ready to go.
1:45pm: Finally on our last flight to KC. The burrito is average at best. I decide to keep Chipotle as my #1 food priority.
3:30pm: We land in KC and now I’m fully pumped for the game. We grab our bags and then head outside where my mother-in-law is waiting.
The M-in-Law wants to play 20 questions:
Are we still dropping you off at the stadium? (Yes)
Do you have tickets? (No)
Are you meeting friends there? (No, my two KC buddies couldn’t make it)
Wouldn’t you rather watch the game on a projection screen at the zoo? (Tempting, but no thanks)
You know that the cheapest standing room only tickets are $350 right? (I do now)
Our neighbor just bought Field Box tickets for $1,400. How are you going to find a ticket? (Not sure)
If you don’t find a ticket, then what are you going to do? (Find a TV in an RV)
How are you planning on getting home? (Not sure yet)
She has some good questions, but I appreciate my wife jumping in before I have to defend against the zoo option again.
Wife: Mom. This is what Dave does. He just goes to baseball stadiums and figures things out. Like last year at the World Series. Let’s just let him have his baseball night.
3:53pm: One of my best friends, Matt Toy (who I call PrimeTime), sends me a text, “U still looking for All Star tix? I have a few friends going to the game and can ask if they have extras.” I let him know that I’m still looking and any help would be greatly appreciated.
3:55pm-ish: It’s now officially decided that I’m getting dropped off at Kauffman. Now starts probably the most ridiculous part of the evening… The drop-off.
The drop-off scenario is kind of tricky when the car you’re in doesn’t want to park in the stadium. The goal becomes to get as close to the stadium as possible without getting into a point of no return. Luckily time is on our side, with 3 hours until first pitch. The road that you turn off to head into the stadium has no stopped traffic. There are plenty of cars on the road, but traffic is moving.
We are driving down the street with the stadium on our left, approaching the left turn that we would take into the parking lot if we were planning on parking.
Me: Just pull off on the right side of the road up here and I’ll walk. This is as close as we’re going to get… right here is good… right where those two cars just pulled off…
M-in-Law zooms past my desired drop off.
M-in-Law: I want to get you closer than that
It’s too late to argue. Now our lane now looks like we’re about to get back on the freeway if we continue straight.
Wife: Mom, you gotta make a U-Turn here!
M-in-Law: I can’t!
Wife: Yes you can!!
M-In-Law and Wife as the car is making a fast-and-furious-type U-turn that may or may not have been legal: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
We aren’t close to hitting any other cars, but both of them are literally screaming until we are straight again… I consider opening my door and jumping out.
Me: Okay, just pull over and let me out here… Don’t turn right up there into the stadium… Once you go in, you won’t be able to get back out… Seriously, you don’t want to turn in here… Don’t go in here!
M-In-Law (As if I had specifically asked her to turn into the stadium): I’ll just pull in and then turn around.
Me: There’s no turn around! All lanes are one way coming into the stadium!
She turns in.
Now we’re in those 50 yards of road before cars have to pay for parking. She goes down half way and stops. I can’t get out of the car soon enough. I want to explain why this was such a horrible decision, but it’s no use now. I say goodbye and close my door with absolutely no idea how they are going to get out.
I feel like a middle school kid whose mom drops him off at the movie theater to meet his friends, only she pulls down the wrong way of the one-way drop off lane, then hops two wheels up on the curve as she comes to a stop. All the while, she stops traffic and causes a scene… I’m debating whether I’d rather be that middle school kid… back to the moment.
Other people are watching now. There are six lanes, all with sporadic cars coming in each. The first attempt to turn around results in a horn honk from a car and a my M-in-Law slamming on her breaks. Then she gets across 2 lanes and has to stop horizontal to let a few cars in Lane 3 get by. Meanwhile she’s holding up cars in Lane 1 and 2…
I feel like turning away and never looking back, but I can’t help but watch. She almost side swipes someone in Lane 5 before getting to the empty Lane 6 which she must have assumed was her safe lane out… wrong. As she’s picking up speed and coming up to the street, a Ford truck turns in, both hit their breaks, and then they come to a full stop facing each other.
4:15pm: At this point I’ve seen enough. I can’t stinking watch any more of this. I turn towards the stadium, take a deep breath. Not sure where to go, so I just start walking.
4:17pm: I’m wearing a Miami of Ohio baseball hat. Practically the first tailgate I walk by has Miami of Ohio corn hole boards set up.
4:22pm: Sipping on a silver bullet and eating baseball-shaped cookies with my new best friends who (like me) graduated from Miami. The fact that I’d never met them before had no bearing on their hospitality… The “drop-off catastrophe” is a distant memory.
4:27pm: PrimeTime calls.
PrimeTime: Hey dude. I have good news and bad news. Good news is that I found you a ticket. Bad news is that it’s $270 (Matt knows that’s a lot of money to me).
Me: Cool man. Where are the seats.
PrimeTime: Actually you’d be sitting with Matt Cain’s agent (yes the Matt Cain who was the starting pitcher for the National League All Star Team) in the Field Box section. I don’t know where they exactly are, but I’m sure their good.
Me: So the $270 is face value?
I think about it for a second, but at the end of the day there is no way I’m saying no to this deal. A last minute Field Box ticket for face value from the agent for the NL’s starting pitcher tonight… Seems too good to be true. I call Landon Williams (Matt Cain’s agent) and he answers. This is really happening. In less than 20 minutes after being dropped off I have a ticket locked up and am good to go.
4:41pm: Landon is on his way to the stadium from his hotel. I have some time to kill and want to check things out. I say goodbye to my Miami friends and head towards the fan fun area.
4:46pm: I see a “Hit a Homerun for the Troops” deal where they have five batting tees set up and for every wiffle ball you hit over the fence they donate a buck to a charity. I notice that a few older kids are hitting and feel that it’s safe for my 29 year-old self to take a few hacks. Plus the line is short.
Now by the time I get to the front of the line the average age of the five kids hitting on the tees can’t be more than 10. I look behind me and notice that I’m about twice the size of everyone else waiting to hit. It’s like I’ve found myself at Disneyland in a line to hug Daffy Duck. The kid right behind me makes it worse when he taps me on the mid back (about as high as he could reach) to ask, “Are you in line?”
What a punk. Calm down little man. Yes I’m in line… I’m feeling awkward.
The lady calls me up to tee #2 and I promptly hit my first ball for a home run. I don’t even feel good about it. Check out the kid on the tee behind me in the video. That’s what I was surrounded by. And worst of all, I was flying solo. At least if I was with a buddy, we could wager $5 on whoever could hit the most homers. If needed, the tiebreaker could be that each of us randomly picks an unknowing kid to compete in the homer off (I’ve thought through this too much). Anyways, I line out and ground out to end my three swings and quickly move on… I definitely should have left $2 to make up for my last two lame swings. I feel like I’ve personally let down the troops.
5:07pm: I make my way to the front of the stadium and Landon calls. He just parked and is on his way. He’ll call me when he gets to the stadium. When I hang up I look down and notice that my phone battery is blinking. Crap. I quickly write down Landon’s phone number just in case and pray that my phone holds on long enough to meet up and get my ticket.
5:15pm: Landon calls.
Me: Hey man… hello… hello.
Phone is dead. Not good timing. Never met Landon before in my life and have no idea what he looks like. On top of that I don’t want to keep Matt Cain’s agent on a wild goose chase trying to find some random guy who wants a ticket. After all I’ve been through to get to this point, is this seriously going to happen now?!?! I’m kind of panicking.
I need to borrow a phone. In this day and age that shouldn’t be hard right?
1st lady: A stadium worker that is just standing to the outside of the line going into the stadium and not doing anything. Excuse (clearly lying): “Sorry, I’m not allowed to let people borrow my phone.”
No problem. There are tons of people around here.
2nd guy: Wearing a Pirates jersey shirt and standing around as if he’s waiting for someone. Excuse, “Oh sorry man, I’m getting ready to head into the stadium right now.”
No time to argue, moving on.
3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th guys: Five dudes standing in a circle is a no brainer to get a quick phone loan.
Me: Hey fellas. My phone just died. Any chance I could borrow a phone real quick to call a buddy of mine? I’m trying to meet up with him to get my ticket.
They stop talking amongst and awkward silence follows…
Finally, Dude #1: Um, sorry man. I don’t have my phone on me.
Everyone else is silent and trying not to make eye contact.
ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW!!! I want to go crazy. It’s 2012 and I guarantee every single one of you idiots has a phone right now! Freaking Matt Cain’s agent is walking around with my Field Box ticket and I can’t get a phone loan from a group of five guys standing in a circle in no apparent hurry to go anywhere.
Do I look that shady? Next Level Ballplayer t-shirt, Miami baseball hat, and khaki shorts that my wife says are “Soooo cute.”
This is miserable. Time is of the essence. I go to the next group of two dads and their two teenage sons. One of the dads is understanding and hands me his phone while giving instructions to the group to “surround this guy so he doesn’t run away with my phone.” I think he’s joking, yet the two teenagers kind of shuffle behind me so that I’m literally making my call inside a circle of four. If I weren’t so happy to have the phone period, I would have told them to chill out.
1st call to Landon: One ring and then voicemail. I immediately call back. Second call goes straight to voicemail. Third does the same. I don’t know what to do. It’s awkward standing in this “security circle” making phone calls that keep going straight to voicemail. Then one of the guys suggests I send a text. Great idea buddy. I text Landon where I’m at and that I’m wearing a red hat, hand back the phone, thank everyone and then exit the security circle.
I walk back towards Gate B where I told Landon I’d be and notice that two of the five guys in the group that “didn’t have phones” are now texting. I want to cause a scene, but decide against it.
Now I have to play the waiting game trying to pick an agent I’ve never met before out of out of a sea of people. Five minutes seem like forever. Not sure what else I can do but wait. Borrowing another phone doesn’t sound appealing.
A few minutes later a couple of guys walk up dressed in a nice shirt and jeans.
“Franco? Hey man, great to meet you. I’m Landon and this is Brodie.”
FYI – Brodie is an agent also. You might have heard of a few players he works with (multiple agents work with each player): Derek Jeter (endorsements only), Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman, Roy Halladay, Adam Jones, and more.
I feel that my “cute” shorts are leaving me a bit under dressed. I’m over it. Landon and Brodie are super nice guys.
I glance down at the ticket Landon gave me. Section 113, Row V, Seat 4, Face Value:$270. We make our way into the stadium.
No phone or watch at this point, so time from here revolves around the game…
Our seats are awesome. 22 rows up. In between the third baseman and left fielder.
Landon and Brodie are great dudes and I’m enjoying hearing them tell personal stories about the different All-Stars warming up.
A few highlights from the pregame portion:
- Verlander was long tossing in the outfield before the game with Napoli. A photographer gal about 10 feet behind Napoli is taking pics of the field and oblivious to the first 2 times Napoli had to jump up to catch a ball that very well might have drilled her. Finally when Verlander was throwing from a good 200 feet, he over threw Nap and literally missed this gal’s head by less than a foot. Still not sure she knows how close she was to a few days of headaches.
- The Direct TV Blimp is SWEET. Not sure if this is old news, but it has a massive TV on the bottom of the blimp that was clear as day to watch the sports highlights they were playing.
- Luke Bryan sang the National Anthem while constantly checking the lyrics on his hand. He was up close on the big screen at the stadium while doing it, which didn’t make it any better. If you get paid to perform in front of lots of people for a living, it shouldn’t be too much to ask you to memorize a song, LET ALONE THE NATIONAL ANTHEM. You’re better than that Luke… at least I assume you are, because I’d never heard of you until right now.
- The fly over was freaking cool! I don’t get worked up for fighter jets flying over stadiums, but this stealth bomber deal was pretty sweet:
- Cano got booed again during introductions. A few Royals fans nearby explained that Cano had promised to put Billy Butler on his HR Derby team and later changed his mind. Fair enough KC, boo away… With that being said, Billy Butler wouldn’t be anywhere near my top 10 HR Derby participant picks.
The most exciting play in baseball happened: A Pablo Sandoval triple… Jeter almost made his patented Jeter Play. Prince has got to scoop that ball!
Cain has just gone two innings of 1 hit, shutout baseball. Really interesting listening to Landon talking about the insider details of the negotiation process that led to Cain’s $127 million dollar contract. I’m not going to write about everything he said, in case he wouldn’t like that info going public (I don’t want to turn into a gossip reporter).
Landon takes off for a few innings to go sit with Matt Cain’s family who are sitting a section or two away.
Melky goes yard and the crowd goes crazy for him. I find it very interesting that the Royals fans would rather root for former Royals playing in the NL than for the AL to win home-field advantage in the World Series. Insert ‘Royals World Series’ joke here.
Landon comes back from hanging with Matt Cain’s parents and gives me the rundown on how they were feeling after his performance. I feel very informed. For the record, Landon is a GOOD DUDE. Super humble, easy to talk to and very open and honest about life as an agent. He’ll definitely be someone I will keep in touch with.
Harper plays a can of corn into a base hit. That’s a clown catch, bro. Best part by far was the Sandlot movie clip they played right afterwards on the Jumbotron. It was the clip of the uncoordinated main character tripping over himself and missing a routine fly ball. Literally the entire stadium was cracking up at the expense of Harper. I can’t imagine that there are too many times in All-Star Game history that one player was laughed at by the whole crowd. He ends the inning with a routine catch, using two hands… I was really hoping he’d miss it.
Chipper gets a gift-wrapped single from Ian Kinsler. I’m not saying it wasn’t the right thing to do, I’m just saying he over-sold it in his “last grasp” effort to corral the ground ball. In a playoff game, that’s a 4-3 put out.
I’m starting to wonder how I’m going to get home to my in-law’s house. The plan I have in my head is to catch a ride back with Landon to his hotel and have my wife pick me up from there.
Five minutes later (before I ask for a ride) Landon informs me that he and Brodie are taking off early. We exchange nice to meet you’s and then they take off. Back to square one with finding a ride. I decide to enjoy the rest of the game and figure it out later.
Two random guys come down and sit in Landon and Brodie’s seats. I thought about saying something but then remember that I’ve been these guys who sneak down to find better seats numerous times. I choose to give grace. A minute later, John and Greg introduce themselves to me and say that they are buddies with Landon who had texted them to say that the seats were open… Glad I didn’t give them any crap.
John and Greg are hilarious. They were high school baseball teammates that hadn’t seen each other in years, but acted like best friends that see each other every day. That’s the beauty of baseball (and I guess other sports too, but I’m partial to baseball).
I learn a few interesting things from John and Greg (whom names I’m actively using in conversation).
John lives in Nashville (Where I used to live) and we have mutual friends, including my best buddy, PrimeTime.
John played college baseball at Yale. It’s always easy to spot “baseball guys”. John is one of them and I feel we’d be good friends if I were still living in Nashville.
Greg played in the Arena Football League for 5 years and more importantly stars in the Arena League video game, which he owns and evidently still plays on a regular basis. John enjoys bringing this up every few minutes in some sort of joke.
John: “So do the kids in the neighborhood know you’re in a video game?”
Greg: “Well, I was dominating this one neighborhood high school kid in basketball once and it came up, so all the kids know now. I’ve lent out the game to most of them.”
John (impersonating Greg yelling at a neighborhood kid): “Haven’t your parents told you I’m in a video game?!?!”
The hilarity of this might be lost in translation, but trust me. I was cracking up and am still giggling as I’m typing this.
Greg(to me): So you were just dropped off at the stadium. How are you getting home?
Me: Not sure.
Greg: Where do your in-laws live?
Greg: We’re going right by there. You want a ride?
Jack pot. Awesome. Ride home secured and I didn’t even have to ask for it.
John and Greg want to head over to where the players come out. We head over and join a modest amount of people who inform us that we just missed Charlie Sheen. In the next few minutes we see Joe Buck, Tim McCarver (worst announcer in the history of the world), Jack Peavy, Erin Andrews, Sean Casey, Kevin Millar, Cam (the big gay guy on Modern Family), and a few others.
By the way, the NL won 8-0. The game was over after the first and the crowd never got more excited than they did for the stealth bomber flyover.
As we’re waiting for more players to come out, I start talking with a few guys who have brought their young nephews to the game decked out in Yankees gear. One is named Jeter (like real birth certificate name) and the other is named Yogi. Evidently there is a sister named Maris that didn’t make it AND all of their uncles are named after Yankees also… Wow. I needed to take a video.
I ask Greg a question like, “Hey Greg, what was the rest of the David Freese story you started earlier?” I notice a small laugh from John.
Me: Your name is Greg right?
Gary: No man, actually it’s Gary.
John: We thought it was funny when you started calling him Greg and I told him he wasn’t allowed to correct you. By the way, did you know Gary was in a video game?
I like these guys a lot.
Ok, now to the David Freese story:
GARY and John are outside of a nice steakhouse the other night in KC and David Freese pulls up in a cab and gets out. David asks them where the entrance to the steakhouse is.
Gary is a huge Cubs’ fan and takes the opportunity to talk a bit of trash, “If you were on the Cubs, you’d be able to figure it out on your own.”
Freese: CRAP! I left my phone in the cab.
Freese starts off on a dead sprint up the street and successfully runs down the cab that already had half a block head start. Then he heads back to where John and Gary are with a huge smile on his face.
Freese to John and Gary: Don’t tell me I can’t &#^$*&# steel a bag!!! Did you see that crap? I just ran down that cab like it was nothing! Now how do I get into this place?
Freese signed a few autographs for John and Gary and then they pointed him in the right direction. And that was it. Both said that after that encounter they are now David Freese fans. Down to earth, funny guy who’s not afraid to mix it up with some fans. Gotta respect him.
John and Gary pull into my in-laws’ driveway and drop me off. We trade business cards, I say thanks, and they head off.
Not a bad night. Great seats, great new friends, great conversations, and another check on my baseball bucket list.
- Tailgate Silver Bullet- $0
- Tailgate baseball cookie- $0
- Field Box Seat- $270
- Stadium Lemonade- $0 (Thanks Brodie)
- Large Water- $6
- Ride home from the Stadium- $0
- Total- $276