Midwestern flavor (cont.)
Posted: Monday September 10, 2007 12:58PM; Updated: Monday September 10, 2007 12:58PM
Game 2: St. Louis vs. Milwaukee
"I think we've got it all," Pat said.
We surveyed our rented Hyundai, loaded up for two days on the road, as it sat in Pat's driveway in Madison. This is what Pat, a man who understands both the game of baseball and the necessities of road trips, had packed:
A Wiffle bat and ball.
A Styrofoam cooler loaded with 12 Leinenkugel's, so tailgating could commence immediately.
A road trip CD, the first track of which was the theme to The Natural, and one of the last the theme to This Week in Baseball.
Very little else.
Our destination: Miller Park, where the Brewers were playing the Cardinals. Once more than a dozen games over .500, the Brewers had found new and exciting ways to blow games, and now held only a game-and-a-half lead over the Cubs, who were likewise floundering. St. Louis, once written off, was now only five-and-a-half games back. The NL Central was turning into, to borrow a term from political science, a race to the bottom -- each team doing as little as possible to remain competitive.
We drove East, past vast fields of corn. To pass the time, Pat, a devout fan of the Padres and therefore not so of other NL teams, thought up questions I could ask various players. For example: "Ask Rick Ankiel how is it he can hit the cutoff man and not the catcher?"
I did not ask this question. I did, however, ask Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein about Ankiel, the topic of the day due to his dramatic transformation from pitcher to power hitter (three HRs in his first three games since getting called up from Triple-A).
"It is a great story," Eckstein began, then stopped. "Hey, you better get this down in writing." He waited for me to produce my pen. "[Aaron] Miles and I have the rights to his life story. Any movie about him has to go through us."
"And how is that? Do you have a deal?" I asked.
"We got Ank, and that's all we need." Eckstein smiled, then yelled across the clubhouse. "Miles, we got it in writing, right?"
Miles looked puzzled. Eckstein waved him off. "We're gonna be rich," he concluded.
As Eckstein said this, his teammates did what baseball players do for long stretches before games: nothing. Because of the pregame schedule -- teams alternate batting practice -- the clubhouse often feels like a doctor's waiting room. Ankiel, for example, sat on a couch along with a dozen other Cardinals players, watching Napoleon Dynamite.
I headed out to the field, where the Brewers were taking batting practice while manager Ned Yost fielded questions from the media. Yost is not much of a talker; lots of shrugs and one-word answers. He seems the wrong type to manage a team in Milwaukee, where people are so mellow and friendly, but he's gotten results. He watched BP absent-mindedly as he spoke. That night's pitcher, Chris Capuano, was busy launching balls into the right field stands, a few of which would qualify as mammoth shots. Having gone winless in his last 14 starts coming into the night, perhaps Capuano knew he'd need run support.