Growing up just 20 minutes from old Comiskey Park, I grew up loving the White Sox. I’ll never forget my first game. It was June 20, 1985 -- I still have the ticket stub. My dad and grandpa Chuck took me to the old ballpark with my Cub Scout troop, and despite my incessant cheering for my childhood heroes Carlton Fisk, Harold Baines and Ron Kittle, the Sox were pounded 12-1 by the Oakland Athletics (and to this day, I still hate the A’s). Despite the setback, I remember watching the entire game, clinging on to every pitch.
It was with much anticipation that I took Jaydon took his first White Sox game 27 years later. It was a typically hot Chicago August evening as we watched the Sox battle the Los Angeles Angels. Although growing up 15 hours from U.S. Cellular Field, Jaydon has grown up a White Sox fan, thanks in part to former University of Georgia baseball star Gordon Beckham playing second base for the Sox. We walked to our seats in the hopes of seeing his favorite players -- Beckham, home run powerhouse Adam Dunn and future Hall of Famer Paul Konerko -- lead the Sox to victory. I was really hoping his first Sox experience would be much better than mine, so didn’t mind dropping $150 to get some good seats.
It was an outstanding game -- several lead changes, home runs and extra innings -- and we missed most of it. We got there well before the first pitch, and even got to to see the Sox staked to an early 4-1 lead. Then Jaydon wanted some food. In talking up the game experience to him I mentioned the unique and delicious food options at The Cell, so I obliged. We trek 15 rows up to the concourse and get a nachos with cheese and salsa, two Chicago-style “Comiskey” dogs and two “souvenir Cokes,” which is Coke but tastes better because it’s in a special cup. Jaydon thought that was a bargain. Down $30, I disagreed. Only one inning missed. Not bad.
We get back to our seats in the second inning and the lead has narrowed to 4-3. Not sure how that happened. After an uneventful half inning for the White Sox and Jaydon already through with his “souvenir Coke” the inevitable happens.
“Dad, I have to use the bathroom,” he says.
Knowing not to test a 9-year-old bladder, I cram the rest of my hot dog, his hot dog and the rest of our nachos in my mouth, excuse ourselves from the five people separating us from the aisle and make the 15-row trip back to the concourse. After the restroom trip, Jay reminds me that his mom said we should grab him a Sox cap while at the park. So we walk around the concourse to find the “official” gift shop, of course stopping at every little souvenir stand so he can determine he doesn’t like any of the caps. We arrive at the gift shop, seemingly miles from our seat, and Jay has a field deal browsing wall-to-wall White Sox apparel and gifts. After much consideration, he settles on a cap, but then wants to look at the toys. An avid Lego fan, he’s enthralled by the selection of Lego White Sox players. He wanted the whole team. I talked him down to one -- Gordon Beckham, of course. Out another $40, we take the 15-minute walk back to our seats. It’s already the fifth inning and the Sox are now down 5-4.
I tell Jaydon we are not going to leave our seats for awhile, and he agrees. We catch an uneventful fifth inning and see the Angels tack on another run in the top of the sixth. Then nature calls again.
“Dad, I’m really sorry, but I have to go to the bathroom,” he says.
I glance at the guy next to me and I sense he feels my frustration. He gets the rest of his group to stand up so we can make our way to the aisle and the 15-row trip to the concourse, again.
After the restroom, Jay reminds me about this fun place for kids at Sox park that I told him about a long time ago. It’s called “FUNdamentals,” an attraction where kids can practice their baseball skills with White Sox “coaches.” I mentioned this to him months ago, but intentionally neglected to him about it this trip because I bought good tickets and wanted to watch the game. I knew FUNdamentals closes at the seventh inning so we walked around the ballpark to the attraction.
Jaydon had a blast and didn’t mind the long waits to hit, pitch, run and field. Meanwhile, the White Sox hit a couple blasts to tie the game at 6. After 30 minutes of FUN, the attraction closes and we take the long walk back to our seats, of course stopping to pick up some frozen lemonade and cotton candy (another $15 gone). It’s the ninth inning, and I’m determined not to miss another pitch.
The game goes into extra innings and the Sox shut down the Angels in the top of the tenth. At the bottom of the inning, with one out and one on, Alex Rios slams a home run to center field, giving the White Sox an 8-6 win.
In more than a hundred professional baseball games attended, I’ve never witnessed a walk-off home run, and my son gets the chance in his very first ballgame. And underneath his new Sox cap, gripping his Gordon Beckham lego and souvenir cup, Jaydon had a big grin on his cotton candy-covered face. It made the hole in my wallet and the worn rubber on my shoes all worth it.