Saturday, June 6, 2009

AN EVENING WITH THE DYNAMITE LADY: Of all the things I came to love during the year I spent in Little Rock, Arkansas (1997-98), evenings spent at Arkansas Travelers games (then AA-St. Louis) are near the top of the list. While I've attended minor league games at probably ten different parks, the (now closed) Ray Weidner Field ranks as my favorite. Free parking. Seats were $5, $6 for reserved. They'd sell you a can of beer in the stands for $2 -- $2.50 for premium -- hot dogs for $1.50, every night. And like minor league everywhere, you'd see players on the hustle or a few on their way up. I saw J.D. Drew's professional home debut, although he was a different stripe in many ways. On a couple of occasions, met some of the minor leaguers. Down the road a piece there was a Bennigans which, in Arkansas, had to suffice for an Irish bar. For the occasional pre-game pint, I'd stop in and chat with the lovely barkeep who was working a couple of jobs to help her husband - a player on the Travelers - have a shot. I don't recall his name or hers, so I don't know if he did. I hope so. I wished her well and tipped heavy.

But my favorite part was just how seriously the Arkansas Travelers took their promotion nights. They had the Dynamite Lady for each of three weekend games. A month of free dinners at Corky's BBQ for a lucky fan. But best of all was their annual Clunker Car night where in the middle of the 2d through 7th inning, they gave away a car. Not just any any car, but elegantly crappy (but fully operational and with clear title!) cars. An AMC Matador Wagon, a mid-sixties VW Microbus, a 1985 Chrysler K-Car, and a 1960s sidestep Ford Pickup (the last filled with 10 cases of Mountain Dew, courtesy of Arkansas Beverage Distributors).

I did not, alas, win a car. But on my way home that night I ran into the lady who had won the pickup, filling up opposite me. The doors squeeked, the hood stuck. If that car lasted another 5000 miles, I'd be surprised. But she was a happy woman. "In Arkansas, every boy bugs their mom for a pickup truck from the time they're three years old. And every mom wants to get them one." she said. "Tonight, my son gets his." She left me with a six pack of Mountain Dew and one of my favorite moments in Arkansas and, really, of any anonymous fan with whom I have struck up a conversation.

And in thinking on this, it reminds me I need to get out to see some minor league ball this year. And so do you.

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