The Kid's 10th Birthday Trip: LAA vs. MIL

Mark Hirsch

I took my son out to Milwaukee this weekend to attend the 3-game series between the Angels and Brewers. Herewith follows a lesson in the power of red foam fish.

Saturday was the big day in Milwaukee for the Kid's 10th birthday present. (The whole trip was his present, but Saturday was the day with the best stuff scheduled!) We dragged ourselves out of bed relatively early, and headed up I-43 to Green Bay. It's been 14 years since I was at Lambeau Field, and he'd (obviously) never been there, so I wanted to take him on the stadium tour. If you've never done it, you really should. I won't go into too much detail, but he loved running through the atrium (the atrium floor is an exact yard-by-yard reproduction of the north end of the field, complete with hash marks and the big "Green Bay" logo in the end zone). And while you can't walk on the actual field, you get to walk along the track on the sidelines, and sit in both the bleachers and a luxury box. I texted the wife to tell her that we'd be renting a luxury suite for the baby's wedding in 30 years or so. The wife was not amused.

We had lunch at Curly's Pub at the stadium. The Packers have been running a charity fundraiser during the preseason, where a different player "designs" a special burger each week, with some of the proceeds from sales then going to that player's charity of choice. I got a "Claymaker" burger. Cheddar, avacado, bacon, fried egg, and onion rings on a prime burger. It came with a 5x7 photo of Clay Matthews (for the wife). The Kid got a turkey club, no mayo, and only ate about half the bread, but all of the turkey. He ate much healthier than me.

After grabbing a few items in the pro shop (including a 12-month-old-sized Packers cheerleader outfit for the baby), we hopped back in the car for the drive south. We got to Miller Park around 4:15, and got to our seats (2nd row, next to the camera well by the Angels dugout!) about 4:30. We had to pause for a minute outside the park so the Kid (wearing his Trout Fishhead) could get his photo taken with Bernie Brewer. Right as we arrived at our seats, Mike Trout came by our section to sign some autographs. He was headed into the dugout for BP. The kid had his Fishhead on, but couldn't get through the press of fans to the front before Trout trotted off to hit. We settled back and watched the show. When it was his turn, Trout launched a couple opposite field homers over the fence to right, and then pulled a few more out of the park to left-center. His longest one hit the 2nd deck over the Friday's in left field. He then headed to the outfield to loosen up a bit and shag fly balls (Bourjos was also doing this) but didn't sign any more autographs. When Trumbo came up for BP, he put one in the Harley-Davidson deck, and also banged one off the scoreboard in straightaway center. I kept waiting for him to hit Bernie's slide, but he wasn't pulling the ball enough to left. The Angels headed back into the clubhouse while the ground crew cleared all the BP cages and screens.

There were a lot of fans lining the rail looking for autographs. Most of them were calling out to Trout and (to a slightly lesser extent) Trumbo. Since our actual seats were in the 2nd row, I parked myself in our seats and the Kid stood at the rail one row in front of me. As BP was ending, a ball was fouled off along the rail. One of the security guys picked it up and walked over to hand it directly to the Kid. That's the power of the Fishhead!

The Angels came back out to stretch about a half hour before the game. Once again people were begging Trout and Trumbo to sign, but they were busy getting ready. Finally, about 10 mins before the game, Trumbo trotted over to the rail a bit to our left and signed about a half-dozen autographs before heading back to the dugout. A couple minutes later, Trout was about to head in when he detoured to the same spot where Trumbo had been and took a photo with a fan holding a sign that said something about wanting a picture with him. He signed a couple autographs, then pulled back from the rail and headed towards the dugout. The Kid was wearing his Mike Trout Rookie of the Year shirt. Over that he was wearing his Mike Trout jersey (unbuttoned, because it was warm and humid). And he still had the Trout Fishhead on. I don't know if Mike saw the Kid specifically or not, but he almost immediately detoured straight towards us. He stopped right in front of the Kid. A couple bigger kids (with longer arms) were able to hold out their baseballs for autographs first, but then he took the Kid's ball and Sharpie, signed a neat autograph, and handed it back. He signed one more kid's ball, then went into the dugout. Once again, the power of the Fishhead!

So the Kid was absolutely thrilled. We stuck his newly-signed ball into a hard plastic case, and it currently resides in its case on his desk next to his Trout bobblehead. But the Fishhead wasn't done yet.

The game started, with the Brewers jumping out to an early lead off Jerome Williams. The Angels rallied to take the lead in the 3rd, but the Brewers tied it up again in the bottom of the inning. Chris Iannetta hit a solo shot in the 4th to give the Angels the lead again. In the bottom of the inning Marco Estrada grounded out 4-3 for the final out. Trumbo threw the ball across the field to Luis Jimenez, who trotted to the dugout. Every inning, Jimenez would get the ball after the third out, run to the dugout, and then throw it to some lucky fan. He was distributing them around pretty well (to the left of the dugout, behind the dugout, etc.), and it looked like he was throwing them to specific fans each time. This time he looks to the right. The Kid stands up and holds out his glove. Jimenez looks right at him, appears to notice the Fishhead, points directly at him, then lobs the ball. The Kid makes a clean catch over the outstretched arms of the kids behind him. (Five years of Little League, countless hours of playing long toss/catch, and hitting him thousands of grounders and fly balls pays off!) You have to believe in the power of the Fishhead!

If you watch the Angels telecast of the game (which I DVRed at home and watched Monday when we got back), at the beginning of the 5th, with Trout up to bat, the camera shows a crowdshot of a kid (wearing a Fishhead) holding a baseball and showing it to his dad. Dad is holding a Leinenkugel's. That's us. (If you go back and watch it, remember that the camera adds ten pounds. And the Claymaker burger probably added five more.) That's the ball Jimenez just threw to him. Ever wonder what people are saying or thinking during those crowdshots? No? I'll tell you anyway. We were discussing the difference between a game-used ball (like he was holding) and a clean BP ball (like he got before the game) and how the umpires rub the gameballs with clay before the game. The little details of baseball.

The Brewers took the lead back in the 7th, but the Angels rallied with two outs in the 9th to win the game. (Note to the Brewers: playing "Jump Around" may be a Badgers thing, but it's also a Rally Monkey thing. And like the power of the Fishhead, the power of the Rally Monkey is real. So in six years when the Angels come back to Miller Park you might want to use a different song in the late innings if you have a lead. Just sayin'.)

Final score: Angels 6, Brewers 5. The Fishhead accounted for one photo with Bernie Brewer, one BP ball, one Mike Trout autograph, one game-used ball, one TV appearance, and possibly one Hank Conger 2-run pinch hit HR. That's a pretty good statline for an inanimate foam object.

We celebrated by going to Kopp's for some frozen custard. Just like Little League - the game isn't what matters, it's what treat you get to eat afterwards.

We went to Sunday's game too (and played pregame catch at Helfaer Field in front of Miller Park), and saw Trout go 3-3 with a double, triple, and single in his first 3 at bats. With a runner on 2nd, the Brewers intentionally walked him in his next PA. I was pleased to at least note that we weren't the only ones who booed the decision. Most of the people around us were booing too. I think the Brewers' fans wanted the chance to see a cycle too. He was on deck when the top of the 9th ended, so he didn't get another chance. :-(

And for the record, I did take pictures of the Kid in front of both the Hank Aaron and Robin Yount statues. The Kid and The Kid.

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