Lets talk Disney...and the Twins!
As you may have noticed from the smaller sports sections the last couple of weeks, I have been on vacation. Despite what some of you out in Lakes Country may think of me and my work, I think it was a well deserved vacation.
Again, as some of you may know, the Perham EB/EOT Illustrated goes to press on Wednesday mornings, making Tuesday our deadline day. This vacation for me and my family marks the first time since I moved to Perham in 2000 that I have missed a Tuesday, and this vacation had me missing two Tuesday's.
I am writing this column from beautiful, warm and colorful Kissimmee, Florida. For you geography majors out there, that mean's we are in Disney Country. Unforutnatly, by the time this column appears in print, I will be back in cool, colorless Perham. Hopefully, when we return, the snow will be gone and the beautiful colors of Lakes Country will begin to reappear.
Let's talk about Disney for a moment. First of all, it's not a Disney vacation. It's a Disney work-week. Disney is exhausting. Here's a tip. If you plan a Disney vacation, make sure to keep a vacation day or two open for your return home for you to recover. There is a lot of walking, and even more waiting in lines. No matter how well you may plan your day, you will wait in line after line.
There are ways to by-pass some lines with "Fast Pass". But as we found out at Hollywood Studios, sometimes they just don't give out the line-jumping "Fast Pass". For us, that meant making a decision on whether or not it was worth a two-hour wait for a 6-minute ride called "Toy Story Midway Mania". We passed.
In general, Hollywood Studios was kind of a waste of time, and money. You make your own call if you make it down here.
The rest of our Disney experience was pretty good. Animal Kingdom was fantastic. Worth every penny. We meet Mickey and Minnie Mouse, we went on a safari ride to see African animals, saw a "Bug's Life" 3-D movie inside the Tree of Life, watched "Finding Nemo, The Musical" and played in DinoLand.
The highlight for me was while watching the musical. My 7-year-old daughter, Danni, whispered into my ear that she was having the best day of her life. What parent doesn't like hearing that?
We also went to Blizzard Beach water park, which again, was worth every penny. Kids and adults will have the time of your life, weather permitting. We picked the perfect day, weather-wise, 80 degrees, no wind and occassional clouds to provide some shade.
At Blizzard Beach, I was lucky enough to meet Donald Driver, the wide receiver of the Green Bay Packers. It just so happened that my 5-year-old son, Max, kept going down this kiddie waterslide with Driver's son, who I'm guessing is also around 5-years-old. I struck-up a conversation with Driver, who was very friendly and cool, despite being a cheese-head. I mentioned that I was a sports reporter, but I only covered high school sports. He jokingly said I was lucky to not cover pro athletes. "Most of us are complete jerks," he said with a big smile.
We chatted for about five minutes and I saw him throughout the day. He was being friendly and polite to everyone I saw approach him. Then, I saw someone ask him for an autograph. He politely told the guy to leave him alone, he was trying to have a fun family day with his kids.
Why do some fans have so much trouble understanding that pro athletes are people, just like you and me. He doesn't want to have his family day interupted by autograph seekers. There is a time and place for everything.
The day at Blizzard Beach coinsided with the first day of March Madness, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. It marked the first time since high school that I didn't take "sick days" from work to watch the first two rounds of the tournament, which as far as I'm concerned, are two of the best sporting day's of the year.
I was so wrapped up with vacation, I didn't even fill out a bracket sheet for the first time since I could write. Just for the record, I'm picking North Carolina to win it all. O.K. I pick the Tarheels EVERY year. GO HEELS!
Finally, it was Dad day. We made the drive from Kissimmee to Clearwater on the Gulf coast to see the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies host the Minnesota Twins at Bright House Field, which is one of the nicer minor league parks I have seen. I was in heaven. Sitting on a grassy hill in right field, watching major league baseball under the bright sunshine, instead of in cramped seats under a teflon roof. Awesome.
We missed out on some autograph opportunities because we got stuck in traffic on our way to the park (Tampa, which Clearwater is a suburb of, has the worst traffic of any major city I have ever driven through). But the one major league pitcher the Twins brought with on this road trip, reliever Jesse Crain, signed my son's Twins hat. Manager Ron Gardenheier was working his way down the autograph line when we were asked to move by stadium ushers to make room for ticket holders.
It was fun watching my son yell at every player who came close to us. Out in right field, he yelled and waved at Michael Cuddyer everytime he took the field, and Cuddyer waved back, or gave a thumbs up. When minor league pitcher R.A. Dickey was doing sprints along the outfield wall after starting the game, Max yelled at him, "Nice job buddy." Dickey said thanks kid. Next time around, Max yelled, "It's my birthday." (He turned 5 on March 17, so it wasn't really his birthday, but close enough to try to fish for an extra autograph.) Dickey said Happy Birthday buddy. That made Max's day.
By the way, the Twins scored two in the top of the first and made it stick, as they won, 2-1. I like this Twins team. If Mauer and newcomer Joe Creede stay healthy, and the pitchers continue to progress, I predict they will win the Central Division.
Then the day my daughter was looking forward too the most finally came. Magic Kingdom. The Holy Grail of Disney's world.
Magic Kingdom is massive. You need to take a tram ride from the parking lot to the mono rail. Then take the mono rail into the park. The size is a little overwhelming. And the lines were daunting. So much so, that we canceled a planned day at Epcot Center to spend a second day at Magic Kingdom. Danni just had to see as many princesses as possible. As long and tiring as the day and the week was, the light parade and fireworks over Cinderella's Castle at Magic Kingdom is something my kids will never forget.
Now, I have a refreshed view of returning to work. I'm ready to deal with coaches who get mad when I have the nerve to write a story about their team losing a game, or parents who think I favor other teams, or don't get enough pictures of their kids in the paper. Spring is here, and I can't wait to get back to baseball and softball games, track and golf meets, tennis matches, and preparing to help manage the Perham Pirates for my third summer. Nothing can ruin my memories of the week my kids had. I had to remind myself as I was getting tired of the crowds, the lines, and all the walking that made my already bad knees feel like I needed a wheelchair, that all the work I do isn't for me. It's for my kids. I work to provide them a home, food, education and entertainment. I work to provide them a future, and I work to give them opportunities to have life changing moments and memories. This week is one my kids will never forget and will tell their kids about. And nothing can ever take away from me.