Posts Tagged ‘Memoirs of an Unforgettable Day’

Memoirs of an Unforgettable Day

October 6, 2017

The Big Flag, Opening Day
Minute Maid Park, 4/03/2017
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It looked pretty much the same when we carried it out there yesterday, 10/05/17, prior to the 8-2 Astros win over Boston in Game 1 of the ALDS. Only the stakes were bigger and we were wearing orange.

 

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By now, the Game 1 details are pretty much nothing more than another doughnut dunk. The Houston Chronicle even captured the essence of what everyone shall forever remember this morning when they simply repeated the same word in emphatic bold and big letter treatment:

“Boom! Boom! Boom!”

Need any help on what that headliner commemorates for history? We didn’t think so. And Justin Verlander and his buddies of the mound did a pretty good job of stifling all Boston Red Sox attempts to get back of the game too.

Brian T. Smith has become my favorite local game coverage writer. His opening and closing c0lumn words today about Jose Altuve’s 3-homer “dream game” descriptively sets the tone for the same thing I’m trying to say here too. So, what do you say we just borrow from the man who already has said it so well, and been paid for doing so:

Smith’s Opening Thoughts: “The third one was blasted over the Crawford Boxes, rocketing toward glass, sunlight and downtown Houston.  And at that point – surreal, earsplitting, wonderfully ridiculous – Jose Altuve told himself to snap out of it and just wake up. It couldn’t be real. He literally had to be dreaming.”

Smith’s Closing Thoughts: “If you were there or you watched it on the screen, you’re telling yourself the same. And in 10 years, then 20 and 50, we’ll be saying this. Remember the Astros first playoff game after Hurricane Harvey? When Altuve hit three home runs in one day? It wasn’t a dream. It’s already living history.”

Now do yourselves a favor and read the entire article in today’s October 6, 2017 Houston Chronicle Sports Section, pp 1,4.

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Our secondary big moment at the game was special because it was personal. I never dreamed I’d ever be on the field with the Astros at a special time like yesterday, actually even walking past the catcher as he was warming up Justin Verlander in center field prior to the game – actually looking over the catcher’s shoulder as he took a fast one that sounded like a small explosion as it landed in his glove. – Geez – I didn’t have a bat, but I couldn’t have hit it, anyway – even if I were an extra 20 feet further away from the normal 60’6″. – More on this experience shortly.

My good friend, Dr. Sam Quintero, had invited me to watch Game 1 of the Playoffs, but the day prior to the game, he found himself invited to be one of those people who bring the big American flag on the field prior to the game. He right away enlisted the help of his oldest son, UH student Sam Quintero, Jr., to also participate – and then asked me – me of the long tooth and incredibly poor old man exercise habits to join in the fun.

“Sure,” I said, “I’d be honored.”

If I live that long, I will turn 80 this coming New Years Eve. Not once did I stop to think: Is this an age appropriate commitment for a guy my age – and with my health issues? It was only when I turned in my waiver of liability certificate to the Astro Foundation that I began to think: “Did I just sign up with the “Make a Death Wish” program?

On the same day that Jose Altuve would come to wonder if he were living a dream, I would shortly earlier – in the same place – in total anonymity – be getting ready to go through the polar opposite experience as a volunteer big flag bearer. Was this little more than a living nightmare? And it all started with the absence of clear gate entry information on how we could enter the ballpark in our pursuit of our bowels-level volunteer assembly point. By the time that my buddy Sam and I returned from our two-block sidewalk misdirection stroll in the heat, I was beginning to mentally review my quick word “sure” agreement to do this thing in the first place. As I rolled around the firm “Sure!” in my mind, it began to playback in the voice of that Disney character they used to call “Goofy”.

We had to be there a couple of hours prior to our 2:45 PM presentation of the flag. About 30 minutes of that time was used by the 100 or so members of our group, just waiting outside in a sort of cattle-style transfer corral outside the down ramps we would be traveling. It was enough time to figure out that, holy smoke, I’m the oldest member of this merry little band by a long shot. Now my job boils down to just hoping I can stand in the heat for two hours without falling over. I would have sat down on the concrete floor, but then I could not have gotten back up. So, endurance against the odds has to be my focus for these two hours. I’ve done it all my life. Now I’ve got to do it again.

My expression must have been telling. My friend Sam smiled and asked: “Having second thoughts?”

“Not about carrying the flag,” I said. “I’m just hoping I can stay upright for as long as I’m needed to stay upright.”

I do have a balance issue that is helped by the cane I carry, but I had made the decision to leave the cane in the car once I learned that I would not be able to use it in my handling of the flag. Oh well, I figured the flag could keep me balanced. Unfortunately, I hadn’t counted on what was going to keep me upright while we waited to take the field – standing up continuously, holding the unfurled flag in our subterranean waiting area pit.

Sometimes humor is the only thing that saves sanity. After a long period of instruction on flag-grabbing, our specific placements, and then holding the unfurrowed and heavy flag like the world’s longest winding snake for the last half preparatory hour, I looked to Sam on my left and Sam Jr. on my right, and then made this comment to the elder one: “You know what, Sam, every time I think I’ve convinced myself that there really is no place called ‘Purgatory’, something like today comes along to bring it back, bright as daylight!”

Then, about 2:47 PM, we finally started moving toward the field. On the back side of the flag, our so-called east coast section, was the last to enter the full daylight of the reason we volunteers had come to do this thing in the first place. The pace was brisk. And the chance to fall was present. If any of us fell, our captain told us that we needed to then hit the ground rolling, making sure we remained under the flag and out of sight, rolling until the flag had come to its resting spot in center field. Fortunately, I did not fall, nor did anyone else. We got our job done through the presentation of the colors and Our National Anthem, sung by Clay Walker. At one point, I got a muscle spasm in the left heart side of my chest. It was a solitary scary moment, but I just recited The Serenity Prayer and pulled a little harder on the flag.

The pain went away. And everything worked out great.

All I can say now is that I shall be forever grateful that my friends, the Quinteros, both helped me be there, and got me though there, without me once failing, falling, or stumbling to any noticeable degree. I did slightly stumble once on our way out, but young Sam Quintero caught me long enough for me to find my balance again. And we all made it through OK.

High Moments

  1. The roar of the crowd when we all brought in the flag of our United States of America.
  2. The one pitch from Verlander that I got to watch from a little more distant batter’s perspective.
  3. The flight of the live American Eagle as he sailed directly over us as a reminder to us all. – We are the melting pot that is America.
  4. As Americans, we must all work together to make America greater than it’s ever been – and we must all understand that liberty and justice for all are the only keys that make that engine of American strength run on full power.
  5. Our group of 100 or so people who handled the flag yesterday got a special lesson from our flag experience. Few of us will never know most of the others who shared the honor of taking that giant flag onto the field at Minute Maid Park yesterday, but we will never forget what we did together on October 5, 2017 – and why we did it.

Go Astros! ~ Let’s keep it rocking and rolling!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle