Great AMERICAN BRO'D TRIP 2
A struggling Jayson Werth, cold 50-cent beer & baseball's brilliant SocialSecurity alternative ring road true
Editor's note: With the Houston Astros' home opener set for Friday (let's just pretend the season hasn't started yet, that there's no 0-4), CultureMap is running stories that highlight the national pastime. Here is part three of Jeremy C. Little's second Great American baseball road trip. This time, he attacked spring training.
DAY 4: LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., (WASHINGTON NATIONALS @ ATLANTA BRAVES)
DEL BOCA VISTA
After two nights at the spectacular Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort in Disney World, we relocated to a three-bedroom condo at the Cypress Pointe Resort just up the road in Lake Buena Vista to accommodate our growing bachelor party crew.
Stereotypes are fun because they’re true. Old people love teal, pineapples, and palm trees. An entire cottage industry of wholesale bamboo furniture is predicated on this axiom. Exhibit A: Our new accommodations, which, while clean, roomy and comfortable, look the way "The Macarena" sounds. Somewhere Jerry Seinfeld’s parents are nodding in approval.
Dabbo and Doogie made a supply run to the Walgreens across the street, returning with two palettes of Big Flats — the unofficial 50-cents, beer-flavored beverage of The Great American Bro’d Trip — and nothing else that was on the shopping list.
With a cooler bag full of premium budget lager, we made our way back to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for a St. Patrick’s Day matinee matchup between the Atlanta Braves and visiting Washington Nationals.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Unlike the Braves-Red Sox tilt we attended earlier on the trip, tickets were available for seating throughout the ballpark, although it appeared to be a sellout by the first pitch. We elected to sit on the outfield lawn among an eclectic smattering of high school softball teams, drunk townies, Disney families who were giving Dad a chance to enjoy himself for a few hours, and a guy dressed as a leprechaun.
We immediately made friends with Mary Ann, the jovial, midwestern ballpark attendant standing directly behind us. I’ve yet to meet a retiree working at a ballpark that didn’t genuinely seem to enjoy it. Seems like a nice alternative to Social Security. The lawn offered a spectacular view of the park and playing field once the sun finally set in the third inning and my pupils had a chance to dilate.
The Braves soon-to-be-39-year-old third baseman Chipper Jones is awesome for a lot of reasons. He’s been with one Major League club for his entire career (18 seasons and counting), his given name is Larry Wayne but he goes by “Chipper,” he’s one of the best switch hitters to ever play the game, and, most importantly, his entrance music is the guitar solo from “Free Bird.”
He also launched a fourth-inning homer that sparked Atlanta’s offense to a 7-6 win over the Nats, who weren’t in the game until a six-run surge led by Adam LaRoche in the top of the eighth, long after Braves starter Tim Hudson had left following a dominant performance.
Outfielder Jayson Werth, who signed a seven-year $126 million contract with the Nationals during the offseason, was in the lineup, but you wouldn’t have noticed unless you were really paying attention. Somebody had better explain to Mr. Werth that when your last name is a homonym and you’re not playing up to your multi-million dollar deal (he makes roughly $36,000 per plate appearance), nasty headlines are easy to write.
Having learned form the day before that the ESPN Wide World of Sports parking lot was not designed for quick escapes, we packed accordingly: Wiffle ball equipment and the aforementioned cooler bag full of Big Flats. Several people watched from their cars, hoping we wouldn’t hit an errant foul off their hood, while the lot took a solid hour to clear out.
Although we stayed until long after the lot had emptied, nobody asked us to leave, which was interesting given Disney’s reputation for Draconian security.
DAY 5: LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. to COCOA BEACH, Fla.
Although we originally planned to take in a day game between the Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals at Space Coast Stadium (named for its proximity to Cape Canaveral) in Viera on Florida’s Atlantic coast (it’s about an hour east of Greater Orlando), we instead detoured to Cocoa Beach to soak up some genuine spring break atmosphere.
I’d like to say the highlight was the scenery, which certainly had its merits, but of more interest was the sketchy townie carrying a snake around the beach in a thinly veiled attempt to conceal the fact he was dealing drugs to spring breakers. (Yes, college kids make poor decisions while on spring break. Amazing, I know. Someone alert the media.)
On deck: We check out what’s left of the Astros and the injury-ravaged Cardinals in Kissimmee ...
Editor's note: Check out the other first two parts of the baseball road trip:
A Walt Disney World ride with Jon Lester and how a crazy female driver fits in
Lasting lessons from spring training: When things smell & an institution lets you down