Each season before day of game tickets go on sale the Arizona Diamondbacks release the schedule of games. This is usually a time of great excitement as I scour the calendar to see which team will be coming to Chase Field. I also try to imagine how the season will be unfolding for each series. Will the Diamondbacks be battling for first place in the division? When this opponent comes to town will it be a potential play-off match-up? Which games will be more crowded than others? All of these thoughts race through my mind as I look at how the season will play out. Along with the schedule, the Diamondbacks also release the promotional schedule. This is usually a list of free giveaways that you receive if you are one of the first X number of people to go through the turnstile. My kids approach that with all of the zeal of kids at Christmas. I guess they figure that if they are going to have to put up with dad dragging them to the ballpark for 81 regular season games that they should somehow be rewarded. So the immediately begin looking for which freebies they are going to be able to snag.
Tiffany immediately begins marking her name on the schedule for each night of D-bingo. This is a game of bingo but rather than numbers the squares are made up of plays that occur on the field. I tend to dread those days since I am continually hounded by everyone who sits around us. Since I keep score at every game they immediately look to me for scoring decisions before marking their cards. I am not sure why Tiffany likes D-Bingo so much since we have never won anything at those games. I usually get a card that has catcher interference, balk, an error by each player, and outfield assists. Once in a while I will get a double play but it is usually not a normal version. I will get something like 1-2-5. I cannot remember ever seeing a play where a batter hit to the pitcher that threw home for a force out then the catcher throws to third base for a second out. So I normally just get frustrated with the D-Bingo cards and ignore them. The one game when I actually had a decent card I had 4 of 5 spots filled for a bingo and only needed a sacrifice bunt. Of course neither team bunted all night and I ended the game still needing that one square to win.
Dakota always selects the games where they are giving either a hat or trading cards. At the age of nine he already has quite a collection of Diamondbacks hats and no little boy can ever have enough trading cards. Dakota also writes his name on all of the kids eat free dates. There is not a whole lot better than going to the ballpark and getting a free hot dog, popcorn and soda. When kids eat free lands on the same date as dollar dog day it’s an added plus. Trina still shakes her head at the thought that her nine-year-old son actually eats 4 hot dogs at the game.
Whitney could care less about most of these or the games themselves for that matter but she does put her name on a couple of games where they are handing out binders and school supplies. Leave it to her to somehow connect baseball and school. She also makes note that the library gives tickets to kids who complete the summer reading program so there will be another game she will have to endure.
After first pass it comes time for serious deliberation. There are three dates that are the holy grail of giveaways. There is always one giveaway that seems to take your breath away. The first year it was beanie baby day. That was the most frightening experience I ever had at the ballpark as women and children clawed at each other for some stuffed animal with a mint hang tag and ballpark certificate. Those games you had to fear for your life just praying you would survive long enough to actually see the ceremonial first pitch. After the beanie craze died down it was replaced with the new stadium pot of gold trinket, the bobblehead. I have to admit, I am a big fan of the bobblehead and usually make an effort to get to the stadium early for a chance to get one. Since I go to pretty much every game and I am usually there for batting practice I have been able to collect all of the bobbleheads that have been given so far. This year for some odd reason we made vacation plans without consulting the Diamondbacks schedule. I think this was a plot by Trina to make sure she did not spend her anniversary at the ballpark but she’ll never admit to that. For whatever reason, plane tickets were purchased before the schedule was released and when we began looking, we were to be gone for one of the three bobblehead games. I was panicked thinking I would be missing a game and a bobblehead. I began interviewing potential proxy fans who I could trust to get to the ballpark early to get the bobblehead for me. It worked out well and my friend Mitch was able to obtain one for me.
Tonight marked the final of the bobblehead giveaways for the 2006 season. It is Chad Tracy bobblehead night. I planned to be at the game early and Trina was to go with me. Dakota was devastated to think he would miss out on a bobblehead and wanted to go. Tiffany had a date and was also frustrated to think that she would miss out. She called her date several times over the past two days begging him to take her to the ballgame but he had other plans and really didn’t understand why she wanted to watch baseball in the first place. (Note to self: Talk to Tiffany about her date selection process because it is totally out of whack.) So I did what any loving father would do, I bought a couple of extra tickets to take Whitney and Dakota with Trina and I to the game. Whitney’s only request was that we get upper deck tickets for the extras since it was much quieter up there and she would be able to read. Dakota too thought it would be cool to sit in the upper deck until Trina expressed her views on spitting over the railing. He then decided it would be much better to have seats next to the swimming pool. We went down to the stadium 2.5 hours early and 30 minutes before the gates opened. There were already lines that stretched to the street and went around the stadium. It is amazing what people will do to get one of these giveaways. There were battles in line as people attempted to join their friends closer to the front of the line. I thought for a moment that I was waiting to see a Phoenix Coyotes hockey game rather than a Diamondbacks baseball game. In the end though it all worked out, the ushers had a bobblehead waiting for me as I went through the turnstile keeping my streak alive and allowing me to add one more bobbing baseball player to Trina’s home furnishings. Trina did not seem quite as enthusiastic as I was but maybe it was just the 300 pound woman pushing against her for 30 minutes that made her feel that way.