Going to the Dogs

I remember June 14, 1998 like it was yesterday. That is one of those dates that you remember your entire life and pray to whatever deity you worship that you never have to go through that ever again. It was in the midst of the Arizona Diamondbacks inaugural season and considering that the franchise was brand new they were doing pretty well. The seats at then Bank One Ballpark were filled to near capacity. Most people were there to see what this “baseball thing” was all about or more importantly they were there to see the stadium and its retractable roof. The season was nearing the halfway point all the regulars were beginning to find their routine. I was among them. By this time I knew where I would be parking, how I would get to the stadium, what gate I would enter, and what I would do once I got to my seats. I know that sounds pathetic. After reading that I thought “I sound like the Rainman”. Still this was new territory for Major League Baseball fans in Arizona. We’d never had to do this for a whole season so we really were pretty clueless.

Regardless of my preparations, I was not prepared for June 14. That day I was taking my son to the game. He was just barely one and this was going to be one of the first of many father-son outings. We were going to go down early and watch batting practice then take in a game. We went were going down 2 hours early which I thought was plenty of time for my son to experience everything that Bank One Ballpark had to offer. Early that morning I got a call from a friend who was likewise going to the game. He suggested that I “better get down to BOB quick”. The gates were not scheduled to open for another 4 hours so I was confused. The fear in his voice though told me that I should heed his advice. I grabbed the seat cushions, my scorebook and my son and left for the game.

I should have known something was up when there was limited or no parking anywhere near the stadium. We had to park blocks away from where we usually parked. As I neared Bank One Ballpark I began seeing large crowds of fans standing out in the extreme heat. Nearly all the fans there had small children that they were dragging behind them. I wasn’t sure what was going on so I asked the lady who was running to get in line before anyone could get in front of her. “It’s Beanie Baby Day!” she exclaimed. I had no idea what a “beanie baby” was so that meant nothing. I got on my cell phone and started making some calls. I quickly learned that these were small stuffed animals that collectors everywhere were clamoring to get. The Diamondbacks had 6,500 of these to be given to children 15 and younger as they entered the ballpark. There were clearly more than 6,500 people already on the plaza. I made a beeline to the back of the stadium to the back door. There were hundreds of people there too but at least it was in the shade.

As the gates opened the crowd pushed like a giant tsunami engulfing the ticket takers and security. I felt like an extra on the Poseidon Adventure trying to stay upright while the whole world turned upside down. There was screaming and arms flailing as people attempted to get the snake beanie baby. I have never been so scared in my life as I was that day.

Flash ahead to 2009 and my young son is now nearly 12 years old. The mental scars from beanie baby day have healed at least for him. When the promotional schedule was announced for this season my kids immediately pointed to April 26, 2009 as the day they “had” to be at the game. I immediately broke into a cold sweat as they explained that it was “webkinz” day at the ballpark and that Webkinz were small stuffed animals that collectors were clamoring for. My mind raced back to that fateful day in 1998 as I relived the terror of that day. Once again my son and I made our way down to the ballpark and I feared for my life as we turned the corner. Rather than the angry mobs of 1998 it was fairly calm and orderly. As we walked through the gate they handed my son a Webkinz. I wanted to hug the guy handing out the promotions and bless him and his family. I held back the tears and instead just thanked him. I can’t tell you how relieved I was. For the Diamondbacks to come back and win this game besides was just icing on the cake. I have survived Webkinz day even though I didn’t actually get one myself I feel triumphant.

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