After a week and a half of spring training games, Jon and I finally felt like we knew the lay of the land well enough to try to get the two autographs that we'd had in mind when we started this trip.
The first of these was from Ken Griffey Jr. Jon had pain-stakingly brought with us the baseball card that had been the one and only birthday present that his family could afford for his 13th birthday. I was sure that if Griffey had understood the role in Jon's life that baseball in general and Griffey specifically had played, that he would have been falling over himself to sign the card, but there's just no quick way to communicate that kind of depth of knowledge as a guy is running onto the field. “HEY GRIFFEY! YOU WERE INSTRUMENTAL TO MY HUSBAND'S FORMATIVE YEARS! COME SIGN HIS CARD” just doesn't roll off the tongue, you know?
And to avoid any unintentional build-up now and unnecessary letdown later, I'll just go ahead and tell you now that we did not get said card signed. Something for us to keep working toward, I suppose.
The second autograph that we'd had in mind was Ryan Freel's on a t-shirt that I had gotten over a year before and had sported proudly, feeling like I was very much ahead of the curve. In fact, I had sported it so proudly, every single day at the gym, that it was starting to get a little worn out. To make matters worse, I continued to proudly sport this shirt to many of the games, which didn't exactly leave it in the best shape for signing.
Actually, wearing the shirt had prompted several conversations over the course of our trip. People would ask me how I thought Freel was going to do this year (well, awesome, if he can get any playing time, yadda yadda yadda), whether I'd seen him lately (you mean, other than on the field?), and whether I knew him personally. That last one cracked me up. If I did know him personally, I certainly wouldn't wear his number. I'd probably wear 3 just to get on his nerves. I can be like that sometimes.
But I digress. What I've been trying to get at over the last four paragraphs is that, except for a dirty t-shirt and a 15-year old baseball card, we didn't actually have anything for anyone to sign. So, on the day that we set aside to try to get some autographs, I sat alone in the front row of our section, wondering what I would do if anyone other than the two previously mentioned people showed up.
It wasn't an issue for quite a while because no one did show up and instead Winter and I spent quality time identifying circles, flags, the letter S, and whatever other shapes he could point out on the billboards around the field. As we were passing the time, something for the other players to sign fell out of the clear blue sky when Jon caught a foul ball from Twins batting practice.
If we didn't know it was meant to be already, we were sure then.
The front couple rows began to fill up with autograph seekers like us. A woman in her 30s sat next to me with her two sons, probably about 7 and 9. The kids were as cute and enthusiastic as could be and were doing their best to flip through the program to identify the players and sound out the words in their descriptions. The didn't have to wait long until a couple people came by to sign that program for them.
The first person by was Jason Romano, whom the woman said she thought was very good-looking. I couldn't disagree more, though; Romano is, in fact, breath-taking. The photos definitely do not do him justice. I'm just lucky I didn't actually have to come up with a coherent sentence while he was signing my ball, because I would have opened by mouth and all that would have come out would have been “homina, homina,” which might have been a little embarassing for everyone involved. (Though, apparently admitting it later is just fine.)
A boy nearby, probably about 15, had Romano sign his hat, then immediately turned to his father and said “maybe I can get someone else I don't care about to sign this hat, too.” For crying out loud, he could at least wait till the poor guy was out of earshot to start being an unappreciative little ingrate. But rather than smack him, which is what I wanted the father to do, he laughed, so I guess we can figure out where he picked up that kind of behavior.
A little later, Danny Graves came by. The woman also thought he was very good-looking and went on to some length about his smile. When he made his way down to us, she actually stammered a bit, but managed to get up the pluck to ask him to sign her arm, which made him smile even more, which made her stammer even more. She was very disappointed to find out from the program that he was married.
The woman and the kids yelled at some other players to come over (I managed to correct their pronunciation before they started shouting to “FEE-lipe”) but that was all the excitement that we were going to get that day. Soon it was time for the game to start, and we filed back to our seats to watch the Reds lose, 12-11.
We hadn't gotten the two autographs we'd set out for, but we did get an awesome foul ball and some bonus autographs. And there was always tomorrow.