All by myself in a packed place

I’m almost to the point of total boredom with Kansas City. There, I said it.

The trip to Kentucky came at a perfect time. It not only got me out of Russell and the trouble I have at home, it also got me away from Kansas City and some of the thigns that go on there. Believe me, if I didn’t have work to get done or an appointment with Crista today, I might have stayed in Kentucky a little longer. I’m going to have to find time to go back there. Probably not during the summer because Kentucky can be quite humid, even in the higher elevations of the Appalachian valley. 

I woke up at 4:30 yesterday and left Kansas City at 5;20. I had a 10 am appointment in Hays with Crista. I was groggy the whole way. I took seroquel before going to bed Wednesday night, and while it helped me sleep, it left me lagging a bit as I drove west on Interstate 70. Crista could tell I was worn out during our appointment, which ended after 45 minutes. It wasn’t anything with her. I was just beat. 

I had to stay at home for a little while to get some aggravating work done. I left Russell at 4:45 and drove to Topeka, where I stopped at Buffalo Wild Wings to play some trivia. My favorite game, SIX, is at 7:30 Wednesday and Thursday evenings. I could have stopped in Salina and played a little longer, but if I did, I wouldn’t get out of Salina until 8:30, which meant I’d be back in Kansas City no earlier than 11. By stopping in Topeka instead, I was able to get back to Kansas City before 10, which meant I could get Outback to go. 

Today has been a lonely sojourn. Stopped at Buffalo Wild Wings near Liberty to see if Larry was playing trivia and/or Tina was bartending. They weren’t. I stayed for about 40 minutes then headed to Zona Rosa. The music playing on the jukebox at that B-Dubs was beyond awful. I wanted to scream. I didn’t stay that long, didn’t order food. 

Finally made it to Minsky’s just before 4. Somehow, I feel lonely even though the place is packed. There’s a lady sitting to my left who probably thinks I’m totally perverted. 

Return to routine

I’m driving my car again, and I’m sitting on my familiar barstool at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa. Slowly but surely, I’m back to the routine life. 

I returned the rental today, even though it wasn’t due back until tomorrow. It saved $23 in parking fees at KCI. I already ran up enough as it was, parking there for six days. But what else was I do? It would have been cheaper to park at Wichita and drive up the Kansas Turnpike, but that would have taken extra time. The rental fees out of Wichita would not have been that much different than KCI. I probably could have rented out of Wichita had I not had the appointment with Crista last Wednesday. Would  have been able to drive to Wichita Tuesday night, wake up early, rent the car, then go. 

I know I made the right decision to drive all the way to Kansas City yesterday. It would not have been fun driving three and a half hours across Missouri after going six yesterday. I figured I might as well get it all done yesterday. 

I would not have been able to leave early because of all the work I had to get done, and what about traffic? Maybe I would have got to enjoy more White Castle, but now I have an excuse to drive to Columbia every so often. That and the rye Triscuits. A dozen boxes should last me until June, but they might be too hard to resist. 

This trip really opened my eyes to what is lacking in Kansas and the Kansas City area. No White Castle. No rye Triscuit. No Marathon gas stations. Very little Shell stations. No Mobil stations. At least there’s Zaxby’s in Lawrence, becuase Chick-Fil-A does not have variety, and Raising Cane’s is highly overrated. I am still praying Buzztime will come to Hays–other than the Fort Hays State studnet union–soon. 

I also don’t like staying in a hotel for only one night. Usually, I try to make it three nights, uusally more. When I stopped in St. Louis last week, it was the rare times in recent years I was in and out of a hotel. I did it last year going from Russell to Wichita and then to Lawrence in the morning. Kansas City is usually three nights or more. 

I have to go back to Kentucky. Sooner not later. 

Return to Missouri

ST. CHARLES, Mo. — Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois are all in my rear view mirror. So is the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County. 

I’m in St. Charles at another White Castle, the last White Castle in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana…you get the picture. Better enjoy it now. I may have another reason to come back to the St. Louis area soon, but I don’t come this way very often, sadly. I wish I did. 

I figure I’ll be in Kansas City by 6:30. The drive across the state should be fine until I get to Blue Springs (exit 21 on I-70). It will then get congested all the way to I-435 near the Truman Sports Complex, then open up on 435 as I go north. 

I doubt I’m making an appearnace at Buffalo Wild Wings. I love The Pulse, the Monday night sports trivia game, but I’m really not in the mood to waste time tonight. I’ve got work to do. Besides, tomorrow night is when I want to be at B-Dubs, because Dana is tending bar starting at 5. 

I need to go back to Kentucky when I have more time. I had a great time, even if LSU lost two of three. It was fun. 

Thank you, Kentucky

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — Last post from Kentucky. I am at a gas station/White Castle off Interstate 64, about 35 miles from the Ohio River and the Kentucky/Indiana state line. 

LSU lost to Kentucky yesterday 10-2, giving the Wildcats the series two games to one. Not much of a game. Kentucky scored four in the first, three in the third and three more in the fourth, and that was that. The Wildcats still lead the SEC East and are just one game behind Mississippi State for the overall SEC lead. LSU is now 10-8 in the league, which means it is more than likely headed for the one-and-done round of the SEC tournament. The top four teams–as of now, State, Kentucky, Auburn and Arkansas–will have a bye to the double elimination portion of the bracket. 

I’m going to miss Kentucky. Had a very good time. I enjoyed visitng with Bill Franques, who honestly put up with my crap much longer than any human being should put up with me. I really put him through the wringer more than a few times. He probably has taken more from me than anyone except my parents, and this includes Peggy, Caitlyn, Robb, Dawn, Liz, Lisa and even Crista. He’s a great man for doing so, and I’m very glad we still keep in touch. 

I picked up some White Castle in Shelbyville. Can’t get that in Kansas or Kansas City for that matter. St. Louis is the closest location to where I am. I can get Zaxby’s in KC, which I might do tonight when I get to my usual spot, the Fairfield at KCI. 

Okay, time to hit the road. Next stop, Indiana. 

Last go at the Cliff

We are less than an hour from the final game of the LSU-Kentucky baseball series. It’s a rubber game, as the teams split their doubleheader Friday, with the Wildcats winning the opener 12-5 and the Bayou Bengals the nightcap 4-3.

This is LSU’s final game at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The field has been here since 1969, but the stadium itself opened in 2002 as part of a renovation. The 2018 season will be the Wildcats’ last at Cliff Hagan, as they are moving into a new stadium off campus the next season. LSU and Kentucky probably will not play next year, but if they do, it will be in Baton Rouge. The next time LSU will come to Lexington will be either in 2020 or 2021.

Bill told me the likely SEC East road trips next year are Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The Tigers go to Auburn, Ole Miss and Texas A&M in the West. That leaves Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State at home. plus Missouri and either Florida or Kentucky.

With no game yesterday, it was more like a typical Saturday I would spend in Kansas City. I treated Bill to lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings, then went about the rest of my day on the other side of town. I went to the other B-Dubs in Lexington and played three hours of trivia. I left at 7:30 and decided to call it a night.

It’s chilly in Lexington. The sun is not out, and the mercury is struggling to climb above 55 (13 Celsius). There’s a good wind blowing from left to right, which means the ball will carry very well to right field, which is already very short (310 down the line, 350 to the power alley).

Tonight is a working and packing night. Tomorrow I’m on Interstate 64 and Interstate 70 to Kansas City. If I’m there by 7 pm CT, I’ll be happy.  Other than returning the rental car to KCI, it’s pretty much normal in KC (read: trivia at B-Dubs and maybe Minsky’s) until I have to go to Hays Thursday.

Ten hours at a baseball park

As Crystal Gayle and Gary Morris sang in the mid-1980s, I have made up for lost time.

I can safely say that I have now had more than my fill of Cliff Hagan Stadium after not traveling to Lexington during my years working with LSU’s baseball program.

Seven hours, 34 minutes of actual baseball, plus the hour before the game and the hour between games.

It isn’t the longest day I’ve spent in a college baseball stadium–the regionals at LSU far surpass that–but it’s one of the longest days I’ve spent in a facility during the regular season.

For the record, Kentucky won the first game 12-5, and LSU the second 4-3. The Bayou Bengals were down 3-0, but rallied with three in the fifth to tie, then scored the winning run in the eighth on an RBI single by Antoine Duplantis.

Tomorrow’s game is the last of the series, and the last for LSU at Cliff Hagan, period.  LSU and Kentucky probably won’t play in 2018, and if they do, it would be at Baton Rouge. The Wildcats are opening a new stadium in 2019, the earliest LSU could return to Lexington, but I don’t look for that to happen until 2020 or 2021.

Finding an LSU road series to attend in 2018 will be difficult. Arkansas goes to Baton Rouge. If LSU plays Missouri, that will be in Baton Rouge too. Texas A&M is too far. So are Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia. Ole Miss? Maybe. Vanderbilt? Maybe. Tennessee? Less likely. However, I may be able to convince my dad to go to Nashville or Knoxville if my brother and his family could make it.

The games were the easy part of yesterday. The hard part, of course, was the flat tire on the Cadillac. The trade is going to work out better, since the Expedition has more room for my baggage to carry back to Kansas City. I’ll stow everything in the hotel room there and retrieve my Chevy at KCI for the drive back to Hays (I have an appointment with Crista Thursday at 10).

The bad part about the long, long, long games? Finding something to eat after.

There was good food in the press box at Cliff Hagan, but I was trying to be the good Catholic, so I passed on the entrees and stuck to chips, cookies and brownies. I did get a pretzel and a bag of peanuts at the concession stand, but passed on anything heavier, hoping the games would end before 11.

Nope.

My body was acting like it was still on Central time. I’m convinced Central time is better than Eastern. TV shows come on not too late, but not too early. The news at 10 p.m. might be late for some, but it beats 11! Sunday NFL games kick off at noon. Perfect hour. Buffalo Wild Wings opens at 11, when college football games kick off on fall Saturdays.

By time I got back to my SUV parked behind the right center field fence, it was already 11:15. Then I got lost and went through downtown, right past Rupp Arena. I finally found my way back to Interstate 75, where I went to Man O’War Boulevard to look for a grocery store.

If you’ve never been to Lexington, you would do real well to have a map handy. Interstate 75 goes right past the northern edge of town and then turns southeast. The University of Kentucky, Keeneland race track, and the airport are all well south of the interstate. This is in stark contrast to Louisville, where Interstate 64 passes right by the KFC Yum! Center, the city’s main arena, and Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Triple-A Louisville Bats.

I’ve also seen interstates cut right into downtown Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Atlanta and Birmingham, among other places. In Nebraska, Interstate 80 bypasses downtown Omaha to the south and Lincoln to the north, but both cities have spurs directly into downtown. And Interstate 49 has made Alexandria, Louisiana almost disappear from the map. If you stay on I-49, you’ll never know you went through Alexandria. By time you realize it, you may be in Shreveport (northbound) or Lafayette (southbound).

I found the supermarket, stocked up, then stopped at one of the few establishments open very late, Taco Bell. Since it was after midnight by this time, I didn’t feel so bad about eating meat.

By time I got back to the hotel–which is not in the best part of Lexington–it was 12:30.

Today is the off day. I now recall during the SEC tournament having an off day on the Friday after winning the first two games, then having a whole day to burn in Birmingham. Same thing in Omaha during the College World Series.

Time to jump in the shower.

An (almost) four-hour tour

The first game of the doubleheader is over. Finally.

Kentucky defeated LSU 12-5 in a tidy three hours, 51 minutes. The second game will now start at 7:05 ET/6:05 CT. The Wildcats will end the night atop the SEC East regardless of the outcome of the second game.

LSU never led. The Tigers scored twice in the second to tie the game, but by time they scored again, the Wildcats led 7-2.

Kentucky second baseman Riley Mahan went 5-for-5 with three RBI, while Luke Becker, who entered the game as the designated hitter in the fifth, hit two home runs, including a grand slam in the seventh that shut the door on the visitors.

It has been a warm and muggy day. Reminds me some of my days in Louisiana, but nowhere near as oppressive. I knew it was coming; heck, the humidity gets bad once you get past Salina on Interstate 70.

I’m trying not to eat meat on all Fridays, even though Good Friday was last week. So far, so good.

Other than the tire dilemma, it’s been good. I can’t concern myself with the outcome of the games. I have no control over them, something I should have learned a long, long time ago.

Flattened

I’m finally at Cliff Hagan Stadium for today’s LSU-Kentucky baseball doubleheader.

The morning was an ordeal. 

In the hotel parking lot, someone pointed out to me my left rear tire was flat. Then Bill noticed it when he came to bring me my media pass. 

I deicded to try to put air in the tire. The two gas stations closest to the hotel did not have air machines. A station a little further down Newtown Pike did have an air pump.

Bad idea.

First, it was in a neighborhood which took me back to my New Orleans and Baton Rouge days, as well as a few places I’ve seen in Kansas City, notably around the Truman Sports Complex. 

The air machine was not good. I didn’t know how to work it. I panicked. Big time. 

I finally said screw it, drove back to the hotel and then called Avis to tell them about the problem. Someone came out to put the spare tire on, then I had to drive to Blue Grass Aiprot on the southwest edge of town to exchange cars. I traded the Cadilliac XT5 for a Ford Expedition. Not bad. 

I made it to the stadium just before 1. I’m parked behind the right field fence. It will be a long walk back, but it won’t be for quite some time. 

I should have been able to handle the tire better, but it’s resolved and I’m back on track. Thank God. 

This will be a welcome respite from my life in Kansas, if only for three days. Need it every so often. 

Time passages

It’s almost 7 a.m. in Lexington, meaning it’s almost 6 back in Kansas. Changing time zones can mess up your clock when you’re not used to it.

I’ve changed time zones a few times going the other way when I’ve gone to Goodland or Sharon Springs, which are on Mountain time. Goodland, Sharon Springs (Wallace County), Weskan, Tribune (Greeley County) and Syracuse high schools have to start games an hour earlier in most instances so their opponents don’t get home very late. For instance, if Hugoton played a football game at Goodland and it started at 7 p.m. Mountain instead of 6, the Eagles wouldn’t get home until 2 a.m. in all likelihood.

Anyway, there will be baseball and lots of it at Cliff Hagan Stadium today. LSU vs. Kentucky in a doubleheader starting at 2 ET/1 CT.

It turns out Kentucky needed a waiver from the Southeastern Conference to play a doubleheader today. SEC rules do not allow for a doubleheader on day one of a scheduled three-day series. Fortunately for LSU and Kentucky, Wildcats coach Nick Migione and athletic director Mitch Barnhart prevailed upon SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to allow the doubleheader today in light of the forecast for tomorrow, which calls for a 90 percent chance of rain, with rain of up to one inch falling.

Kentucky comes into the series 10-5 in the SEC, leading the East division by two games. LSU is 9-6 in the league, two games behind leader Arkansas, although the Bayou Bengals won two of three from the Razorbacks in Fayetteviile two weeks ago. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and a series win on the road against a strong team would do wonders for my alma mater.

UPDATE: Now 9:10 and I’m ready to roll. I won’t need to be at the park until a little after noon. But I’ve got things to do in town.

Mother Nature conspires with Ernie Banks

LEXINGTON — I’m 821 miles from Russell. I’m 593 miles from my hangouts on Barry Road in Kansas City, Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa and Minsky’s Pizza. I’m in a state I’ve never been to, and one of the only two cities in the Southeastern Conferernce I had yet to visit until now. 

Yet here I am, sitting at the bar at a Buffalo Wild Wings, playing Buzztime trivia. 

It can mean (a) I’m a creature of habit; (b) a very boring person; (c) very dedicated to Buzztime; (d) somoene who doesn’t like adventure; or (c) all of the above.

My schedule for the weekend has been altered. I think it’s a good alteration. 

When I got off Interstate 64 in search of the Kentucky capitol (not a state capitol; Kentucky is a commonwealth) in Frankfort, I found I had a message from Bill Franques, LSU’s longtime baseball publicist and the man I am really here to see this weekend (along with Lexington and UK campus, because as I said before, I’ve never been). 

Instead of playing single games Friday, Saturday and Sunday, LSU and Kentucky will play.a doubleheader beginning tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT. Tomorrow’s game was originally scheduled for 6:30 ET. 

The National Weather Service has forecast a rainy weekend across all of Kentucky for a week. Now, the meterologists are saying it will be a gullywasher Saturday, with up to an inch of rain Saturday.

For some reason, Kentucky scheduled Saturday’s game for 6:30 instead of the daytime, which would have been much better to wait out a rain delay. Maybe with all the rain that is expected, it wouldn’t have mattered. 

Instead of playing a makeup doubleheader Sunday, the coaches decided to move the second game up a day. 

Southeastern Conference rules forced the hands of LSU coach Paul Maineri and his Kentucky counterpart, Nick Mignone. 

If the doubleheader were scheduled for Sunday, both games would have to be seven innings, not nine. The rule is in place ostensibly to allow the visitng team to catch its flight after the Sunday game. 

I understand the idea behind the rule. Airline tickets are non-refundable that close to the flight, and no team wants to be stranded at the airport or face an extrmely long bus ride home.

In the case of this weekend’s series in Lexington, the travel rule is totally unnecessray. LSU flew charter to Lexington and can leave whenever it needs to. 

I don’t see why the SEC cannot waive the seven inning game rule on Sundays if the visitor is traveling by charter flight or bus and both coaches agree to play two nine inning games. The NCAA Division I baseball committee has demanded teams play as many nine ining games as possible, yet the SEC won’t allow flexibility when it is available. 

Also, I don’t see why a team cannot stay over and play Monday if they receive permission from its school administration. Or in the case of Mississippi State vs. either Ole Miss or Alabama, travel back to Oxford or Tuscaloosa and vice versa? 

I would be in favor of all series staritng on Thursday so teams would have Sunday as the built-in rain day. But I understand not wanting to miss two days of class. 

Tomorrow will be a long day at Cliff Hagan Stadium. First game at 2, clear the stadium after the game, then start the second game at approximately 6. 

Saturday is now an off day, with the Sunday game still scheduled for 1 ET. It doesn’t affect me, because I’m not leaving until Monday anyway. 

I’m on Eastern time for the first time in almost 12 years. There was no sign on Interstate 64 in Indiana marking the change from Central to Eastern, but I set my watch ahead when I crossed the Wabash River, and then my iPhone and iPad adjusted when the GPS inside detected the line had been crossed. 

The drive from St. Louis to Lexington took seven hours, including stops at the Indiana state line, the Pilot travel center I blogged from, and then the Kentucky capitol. The hotel I’m staying at is full for the weekend, as is every other hotel in Lexington because of the horse racing season at Keeneland, the second largest horse track in Kentucky. Unless you’ve been living under rock, you can guess #1. 

If SIX weren’t the Buzztime game tonight, I probably would have skipped. But I love that game and didn’t want to go two weeks wihtout playing it, so here I am. I won’t stay after SIX. My body is still on Central time, but I have to deal with the reality of Eastern time, so I’ll get to bed and be ready for tomorrow.