We’re Back

“How do you pronounce ‘Tomah,’ Wisconsin?” Mitch asks the woman at the hotel’s front desk. “TOE’-mah” comes the reply. “Hell, if you live here.”

Seems quaint and peaceful enough to house the tripsters for the first night of UBT; plus, we always enjoy a fine sense of humor. Besides, Tomah — with its forests, farms and wooden lodges — gives us a jump on getting to Minneapolis when the gates open at Target Field. Sunday, June 2, features a 1:10 start to wrap up the Mariners series.

It isn’t that we’re any more eager to see a new Major League ballpark. It’s just that there’s more square footage to explore than in the more intimate venues.

We arrive soon after the gates open, but do we enter? Not on UBT. We take a stroll around the outside of the ballpark, which unveils several treasures: banners of many key Twins players over the years hang neatly on a fence toward a construction site; statues of the most highly regarded Twins dot the landscape at various gates; and, families are everywhere.Minnesota Twins Sign - Target Field - Minneapolis, MN

Today’s giveaway? A Josh Willingham jersey for the youngsters. We see lots of cute young fans, from infants to Little Leaguers, donning them throughout our stay.

And, it’s good they have that extra layer. A stiff breeze accompanies the bright sunshine all day.

Our seats are second deck in the shade in right field. Folks are wrapped in blankets.

After an inning or two, Mitch and I begin our trek around the inside of this fairly new park. It reminds me somewhat of Nationals Park, but is less conventional.Target Field Action - Minneapolis, MN

Nooks and crannies and small, exclusive sections dot the various tiers. Open concourses can accommodate large moving crowds.

One can enjoy the action all around the park on both levels as there’s plenty of room behind the seating. That’s our mission the remainder of the game. Areas in the sun feel most comfortable.Twins Lefty Connects - Target Field - Minneapolis, MN

I’m not sure if the wind assisted, but the home team launches four bombs to back Scott Diamond in a 10-0 shellacking. Mitch and I don’t believe the wind is a factor for any of them.

As the game winds down, we’re in center field, where a friendly usherette directs us to get our “First Time at Target Field” certificates. A pleasant couple asks about our trip. They notice our next destination, their home town.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Utlimate Baseball Trip – This is Still Day One?

Our next official stop is a parking lot in Madison, WI. After listening to some Saturday afternoon MLB games, this is where UBT13 baseball truly begins.

We exit toward a sandlot ball field where a couple of youngsters have a pre-game catch. Families picnic and relax beneath the trees.

Mitch pulls two tee shirts from a box. Tees with a baseball logo on front and game schedule on back are UBT tradition since our very first trip.Official UBT 2013 Shirt

Folks approach the wearer, both on and even well after UBT, to ask questions and validate our obsession. We hear a lot of “I always wanted to do that.” As you’ll continue to read, Mitch and I don’t just want.

Turning behind us, we soak in the Duck Pond, aka Warner Park. As we approach the entrance, we feel an energy that never dissipates throughout our incredible evening.

The LaCrosse Loggers and Madison Mallards line up on each baseline for pre-game. The area behind the concourse is packed with a variety of concessions and paying customers.Warner Park 1st Base Crowd - Madison, WI

Northwoods League college wood bat baseball is alive and doing quite well in Madison, averaging 6,200 energetic fans per game. Tate Matheny (Mike’s son), a freshman at Missouri State, roams the Mallards outfield.

Mitch and I soak in a quick top of the first from the concourse railing behind home plate. As we prepare to head for our seats, an usher notices the UBT itinerary on our backs.Warner Park Warmups - Madison, WI

Chris Burwell, the usher, takes us aside. More UBT magic.

Following a quick introductory chat, he has someone that he wants us to meet. Who’s talking with a sponsor a few steps away? Steve Schmitt, the Mallards friendly owner, who quickly asks Chris to grant us VIP treatment. General Manager, Conor Caloia, also stops by for an introduction.

Chris carefully fits Mitch and me with wristbands and shows us upstairs to a sprawling deck behind home plate called the Tricor/West Bend Club. We enjoy the game, conversing with other fans and staff, and the goodies from here until the final out is recorded in the Mallards’ easy 9-1 win.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Ultimate Baseball Trip 2013 – Day One

Waking up in Tomah, Wisconsin – Part Deux

Seven minutes into UBT13, we get a flat tire. Besides an occasional cranky laptop, this is the first mechanical challenge on one of these trips. Apparently, we were overdue.

We never submitted resumes to Daytona, but we’ve done this before. Except, never on a busy highway entrance ramp with a rusted post holding the spare captive. After just under a two hour delay, the proverbial tarp comes off and we’re back on the road.

Our first destination? Paul’s Family Restaurant in Elgin, IL.Pauls Family Restaurant, Elgin, IL

As you can imagine, we enjoy unique experiences on UBT, so I point out to Mitch a certain sandwich I espy on the menu: apples, bacon and cheddar cheese on multi-grain toast. Both of us plan to concoct these tasty treats at home. After all, it’s the simple things in life, right?

Our first “official UBT” destination? New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, WI. Before and after miles of farmland is nestled a large, almost fairy tale-esque building with a gift shop, tasting room, self-guided tours and a patio.New Glarus Brewing Company Entrance

The building and fairly large stone parking lot come into view as you wind back a lane, hidden from the two-lane highway. I believe I saw more people there than at O’Hare.

At least I saw more people having fun on that patio on a beautiful sun-filled afternoon. Black Top IPA tops my list of offerings. If this were a beer-tasting blog, I’d share more about their various styles.

New Glarus Brewing GlassesSuffice to say our first cold pints of UBT13 lead to a pair of souvenir glasses. (Hey, it’s their 20th anniversary.)

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Ultimate Baseball Trip 2013 – Preface

Sunday, June 02, 2013 – Waking up in Tomah, Wisconsin

First of all, a warning: this series of posts isn’t within six degrees of OOTL baseball (or even Kevin Bacon) connection. However, it has everything to do with our passion for baseball.

Our story begins in the Harrisburg area, on a “Field of Dreams” baseball diamond, where I met Mitch Mansfield. With both of us playing doubleheaders in throwback wool uniforms on a 90-degree June day, we discovered that we share a passion for the game beyond what may be considered “normal”.

Fast forward past many collective baseball experiences, including breakfast with a Hall of Fame pitcher, rubbing mud on the official baseballs prior to a single-A game, and annual baseball-themed trips. Granted, lots of fans enjoy a leisurely baseball weekend in an away city. On a scale of 1-10, we crank that knob up to 11 or more.

Mitch has carefully organized each trip, as we usually attend five games in five days in five different cities. He’s even tossed in a day in Cooperstown and All*Star baseball tournaments with trophies and prizes. We’ve had as many as twelve participants, but only three consistencies: Mitch, baseball and me.

Usually, without any prompting or planning, something magical happens on these trips. The aforementioned invitation from the umpires in South Bend, Indiana to rub up the game balls qualifies as a prime example. As of yesterday, we stick another baseball memory in our hip pockets.

As you continue to read, you’ll realize that we’ve ripped off the knob on that mere 1-10 scale this time. That’s one reason only the trio of consistencies could manage an excursion of this magnitude. This year’s journey covers many, many miles and nine ballgames in eight cities in eight days. Fairly aggressive itinerary, even for us, yet we’ve tossed in a couple of baseball-related museums just to prove we’re off the charts.

Planning and logistics have ended. Mitch picks me up at O’Hare before 9 AM.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short