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June 6, 2014
This is Not Your Father's Baseball Road Trip
Day 10: Little Rock
Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman, the proprietors of Cespedes Family Barbecue, are taking a baseball road trip and chronicling their travels at Baseball Prospectus. You can find the series introduction and itinerary here.
Started in: Mount Pleasant, TX
Intro, by Jake Mintz
While we sped northeast across Arkansas towards the state capital, a friendly face awaited us. My father had flown in to Little Rock yesterday morning to join us for a small leg of our journey. The city is a particularly special place for my dad, who lived there for a year while working for the 1992 Clinton campaign. Through his connections we were lucky enough to get our own personal tour of the Presidential Library. We enjoyed the collection of signed baseball memorabilia, but the best part of the tour was looking at all the old, incredibly 90s pictures of Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea chillin’ like villains.
After the tour was over, we hopped in the car and my dad drove us around Little Rock pointing out all the places where he’d lived, worked, eaten, and hung out. We went past the capitol building and the Governor’s Mansion as my father waxed poetic about what Little Rock was like in 1992. “Sorry for dragging you guys along here. Thanks for humoring me,” he kept saying, even though we weren’t humoring him at all. Watching my father’s eyes light up as he relived the most exhilarating time of his life was an absolute joy.
He pulled over next to one innocuous-looking art shop and rolled down the windows. “This building was the first campaign office we had. I remember getting dropped off here late in ’91 and walking into a completely empty space. It was just a couple chairs here and there. Crazy to think about what it eventually became.” As we drove away from the site, I couldn’t help but imagine the room bustling with activity, hundreds of phones on the line with hundreds of people. All politics aside, seeing my father speak so passionately about a period in his life was a moving experience for me. I hope that at some point in my life I can be a part of something similarly meaningful, something that I can look back on and take pride in years after those days have come and gone. Other than this road trip, I mean.
Once we had spent some time revisiting my father’s past, it was time for something even more important: giant steaks. After a week of eating almost exclusively at Whataburgers and ballparks, Jordan and I were desperate for a real meal. My generous father subsidized our stomachs’ desires and ordered us an enormous three-pound porterhouse at Doe’s Eat Place in downtown Little Rock. Succulent food wasn’t the only thing being consumed at dinner, as we set up my laptop with live coverage of the MLB Draft. After our actual and draft-related hungers were more under control, we made our way across the Arkansas River to North Little Rock and Dickey-Stephens Ballpark, home of the Angels’ Double-A affiliate, the Arkansas Travelers.
Arkansas/Springfield Game Notes, by Jordan Shusterman
National Anthem: A tiny pre-teen with an enormous but still pitchy voice belted out the anthem in 1:28, just two seconds shorter than Jake’s projected time of 1:30.
Mascot Creepiness: One of the Travelers’ mascots is a giant horse wearing an old-fashioned military uniform. This mascot was not creepy at all, and was in fact one of the best mascots I have ever encountered—both distinct and well-designed. Ace the Horse was a joy to be around. Unfortunately, we didn’t encounter the team’s creepier and more famous mascot, Otey the Swamp Possum. Another day, another failed attempt at interacting with a swamp possum.
Purchases: Jake’s dad picked out a pretty sweet Arkansas travelers hat. I purchased at least four slushies.
Trip Counter (We’ll be counting some of the things we run into on our travels.)
Whats Next (Jake): After driving my dad to the airport at five in the morning, Jordan and I will start our day off at Graceland, former home of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus...or something like that. Then, after picking up some BBQ downtown, we’ll drive west back to Huntsville, Alabama to watch the Stars play a doubleheader. I’ll be throwing out the first pitch for game two of that doubleheader, and you better believe I have something special planned.