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Taking in a game with my new friend Uncle Slam, the mascot of the Potomac Nationals.
Taking in a game with my new friend Uncle Slam, the mascot of the Potomac Nationals.
You never know who you'll meet on the baseball trip.
You never know who you'll meet on the baseball trip.

The triumphant return of the baseball trip

Last summer was pretty eventful for me. I graduated from Marquette University. I managed to convince my bosses here at OnMilwaukee.com that I was competent enough to be employed. And, perhaps the most significant for me personally, I started making a living doing what I always dreamed: reviewing movies, the good, the bad and the "Grown Ups 2."

It was surely a busy summer between moving and interning and job hunting and occasionally sleeping – eating was off the table. But oddly enough, something was missing, one of my fondest family rituals. Something had fallen through the cracks.

Lost in all the hubbub was the Mueller boys’ annual baseball trip.

Ever since 2003, my dad and I pick a part of the country with a hefty supply of baseball and sightseeing, pack up and head off, prepared to get a week full of good eats, great games and even greater memories.

Except for last year. With my employment status, housing, money and overall future still a question mark, taking even just a week off from the post-grad hustle seemed out of the question. So the baseball trip was sadly shelved. 

I missed the less-than-exotic sights of cities like Erie, Pa., and Springfield, Mo. I missed scoring incredible games as the warm summer sun gracefully melted into cool night, lit by the stars and the lights of a ballpark. I missed eating like Guy Fieri – but with even less concern for my arteries. And, most of my all, I missed laughing, joking and talking sports – and just life in general – with my dad.

But be gone, feelings of bittersweet nostalgia and gloomy regret! The baseball trip is back. This time, the journey – set for a month from today – takes us to Texas for five games in Dallas with the Texas Rangers, followed by a visit to San Antonio to see the Missions, the city’s AA minor league affiliate for the San Diego Padres.

Of course, we’ll get a taste of more than simply baseball and ballpark franks. We’ll sample some of the region’s delicious barbeque and see if it can hold a candle to our past stops in Kansas City and Nashville. We’ll check out Jerryland. We’ll remember the Alamo.

Most importantly, we’ll make a stop at Dealey Plaza. My dad is a massive Kennedy nerd. A careful look in our basement will reveal not only a model miniature of the Kennedy death car, but also a mini-model of the car behind the Kennedy death car. He’s always been interested in presidents, how they took on the most important job in the country and how they helped shape the present and future, but Kennedy has always fascinated him the most. How he lived, how he died (don’t bother with the conspiracy nonsense; the Mueller house is a Oswalt/lone gunman house) and how his legacy formed. So it’ll be great to be able to bring him to such an important historical location, watch him geek out and share in that experience.

That's the plan, but the best moments – the ones we still laugh about to this day – often come out of nowhere. Stories involving rickety Pittsburgh bridges, sketchy Detroit streets, oversexed moviegoers in Kansas City and mascots of all shapes and sizes in cities across this great, baseball-rich land.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the baseball, which will be awesome no matter what. It’s always a rush to see a new stadium, see how they do things and, of course, watch the game – all next to the best sports fan I know, the one who made me into the sports-loving fiend that I am.

The trip has certainly changed a lot over the years. Minor league teams soon got mixed in with the major league locales (both are awesome, and though they may be the minor leagues, the baseball is still professional). The ladies of the Mueller clan have managed to talk themselves into coming along on a few trips – including the Dallas portion of this upcoming expedition. Our respective careers have evolved as well. Work never sleeps, meaning laptops are now necessities for packing. I blogged on our last trip; I’ll almost certainly do the same again here.

Perhaps the biggest change is the dweeby little kid that napped and read books through the long drives between cities soon grew up, evolving into a young (still dweeby) man able to take the wheel himself and now even knock back a beer – or five – with his old man.

Time changes everything, but the core of the baseball trip still stays the same: A man and his kid on the road, seeing the country, watching the greatest game on Earth and laughing, bonding and chatting about life – and everything that small four-letter word encompasses. Last summer may have required a detour, but the road still winds on with no end in sight, paved with only the finest grass-grown diamonds.

Next stop: Texas. 

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