In the spring of 2007, both of us were on sabbatical from our respective jobs and we had moved up to the cottage in Michigan to spend our time researching and writing. But sabbatical isn’t all about work; it’s a time to rest and rejuvenate, relax and think deep thoughts. And our deepest thoughts, of course, often concern baseball. So while on sabbatical we made two minor road trips: one to the upper Midwest during June/July and the other to the deep South, during a record cold spring.
The trip began ominously enough with us outrunning a snow storm that eventually dumped 14 inches of the white stuff on the cottage and its environs. We had heard the predictions for the storm and we decided that we would leave earlier than planned, outrunning the storm by two hours. But the cold didn’t stop with the North. As we wound our way down south, the temperatures did not moderate. Even Ginny’s pen for score keeping froze and she had to keep rolling it back and forth in her gloved hands to get it to work. In Birmingham, AL, we sat through one of the coldest games we’d ever experienced—and we live in Rochester, New York! The temperature read 32o. Of course, that’s really not too very bad for us; but the locals were freezing. The woman who sat behind us, Diane Johnson, had several layers of clothing on and FOUR blankets. She and her husband, Randy, had driven over from Skipperville to see the game and were troopers about the record cold spring. They explained that they were there because they always had to see baseball early since being deprived of it all winter. Diane asked us how we could tolerate the cold with only our two layers of clothing and one thin blanket each. We smiled and told her that up North in our neck of the woods, the Rochester Red Wings were trying to use a Zamboni to clear the outfield. (The baseball season at Frontier Field ended up starting two weeks late because of the snow and cold.) So we were happy to be in the balmy South, even at 32 degrees.
As we made our way south, the temperatures slowly began to moderate, and while it was still a little cooler than normal for the South, the beautiful bright days and the warming made the trip lovely. The scenery of lush green trees and grass was a treat for us, coming from the color-starved wintry North, and we marveled at how summer-like it looked already.
By the time we reached New Orleans—about ten days into the trip—the extreme cold had cleared out of the South and we were back into shorts, at least during the daylight hours. We had come to New Orleans to attend a College English Association national conference at which we were presenting a paper on the use of travel narratives in college writing classes (of course, we used memoirs from our baseball trips—some of which are now included here). NOLA (New Orleans, LA, for those of you who don’t know the shorthand) was still reeling from Hurricane Katrina that had hit there some year and a half before. But the resiliency of the city was also obvious. Clean up was taking place in many locations. Houses were being torn down and others were being put up. We marveled over the efforts of the city to spring back after such devastation. Still, we enjoyed the lovely summer-like weather as we strolled through the French Quarter and had beignets at Café Monde.
We made a trip to the Zephyr’s ball park a day early to make sure we knew where it was for the game the next day. While we were there, we went to the office to pick up our tickets. When we asked whether the team store was open yet, we were told it wasn’t because they were still putting out merchandise. However, the store manager offered to let us in, since we were from out of town. We chatted with him quite a bit while we looked around. We asked if there had been much damage to the park during the hurricane. He told us they had been lucky, that there was no real damage to the stadium, but it was used as a staging area for the National Guard. When the owner drove over to the park after the storm, members of the National Guard were wearing clothing they had raided from the team store—without permission. Not what we expect from those who are supposed to be guarding us.
After the conference was over, we made our way along the Mississippi River, northwest to Arkansas, where summer firmly established itself. The game in Little Rock began at 10 in the morning and it was sunny. We were slathering on the sunscreen and trying not to bake too much, even though it was only about 65 degrees.
After Arkansas we made our way back across Mississippi and Alabama to Tennessee where we saw the Chattanooga Lookouts play the Tennessee Smokies. The weather had been lovely as we traveled across the south, although we ran into rain in some areas. Then we headed back north. The temperatures slowly dropped as we went through Kentucky, Ohio and eventually Michigan. It was certainly cooler when we arrived back at the cottage, but winter had gone and the area was full into spring. We had been gone for three weeks, but it had been enough for Ol’ Man Winter to blow himself out, leaving behind green shoots, crocuses, and lilacs. Perfect.