Updated Apr 8, 2011 - 9:57 am
My favorite Dave memory
Happy Opening Day 2. To be honest it is never very exciting opening in Oakland. There just is not a lot of fanfare or celebration there. They did sell it out and I get a kick out of seeing the fans there but other than the extended introductions it felt like most any other game.
Things will be quite different tonight here in Seattle. The Mariners organization knows how to put on a show and they have been working hard on this one. We actually saw some of it when we returned from Texas Wednesday night. Just a tiny sliver that we could see as the team busses pulled up to the building. After that it was into the clubhouse the guys went and one of my favorite sights in baseball.
I love watching as the guys, particularly the new guys walk into the clubhouse for the first time after spring training. They look for their lockers which already have their uniforms hanging in them. They had about a half an hour to hang out until the truck with their luggage arrived and they did just that. Many of the guys went through the process of taking shoes out of boxes, opening bags of new batting gloves, placing items from their spring training boxes in the lockers that will house their things for the next six months. It is a beginning.
As is Opening Day. Today for me will be mostly about Dave Niehaus. He will be remembered in the ceremonies today as well as throughout the year as his "Dave" patch is prominent on the right centerfield wall. A lot of folks have asked me and others on the broadcast team how we are doing and how Dave has been missed. I will tell you and then I will share one of my favorite Dave stories.
As expected it was tough when the broadcasters arrived in Peoria because Dave was not there and that time of year was one of his favorites. I missed seeing him in the early morning in the clubhouse telling stories of what he had done in the off season. I missed seeing him sitting at the picnic table outside the clubhouse enjoying the morning sun with his cup of coffee and newspaper.
I missed seeing him in the booth in Peoria on an off day. There was no such thing for him. No broadcast that day? No matter. He would be there.
It hit me hardest when we boarded the plane to leave Arizona and he was not in his seat. Last row first class window seat. A coach was there instead.
We will have these moments throughout the year. Every now and then out of the corner of my eye I think see him. I forget and when I realize it isn't him there is sadness. Despite this we try to celebrate him and we will do that tonight and I will do so now with this story which I have told on the air but never written.
We all know by now of Dave's love of white shoes. Fans are encouraged in fact to wear them tonight and Felix Hernandez tells me he will wear them (he has several pairs unfortunately with belts to match) to the park as well. I actually found myself shoe shopping once on the road with Dave which to this day remains one of my favorite memories of him.
We were in Kansas City two years ago. KC is a favorite stop for the broadcasters. The food is good, the ballpark is pleasant and they buy shoes there. I learned this on my first trip my first year on the job. "Are you going to Bob Jones? Are you going to Bob Jones? Are you going to get shoes?" I kept hearing.
Bob Jones Shoes has been in Kansas City for years. It is pretty unspectacular, a worn, dusty and dated building inside and out but it is home to thousands of pairs of designer shoes all at good prices. This is where the guys would stock up on their footwear. I would always get a good chuckle when I walked into the booth after they had made a trip to Bob Jones and hear the guys discussing their newest acquisitions. "Boys talking shoes," I would tease. "Now who would believe this."
Two years ago on our trip to KC the broadcast group decided to go to Stroud's for fried chicken for lunch one day. It was a great lunch. Six of us sitting around a red and white checkered table clothed table eating the world's best fried chicken and fixins family style. With Dave at the table telling stories it felt like family. When lunch was finished Dave turned to Kevin Cremin who was sitting next to him. "You want to go get shoes?" he asked. Cremin declined. Dave proceeded to go around the table and ask everyone. "Shoes? I am going to Bob Jones." As others had other things do I got the sneaky suspicion I was going shoe shopping.
"Shannon? You you want to go get some shoes?" he asked.
"Sure Dave." I answered. I knew it wouldn't be as fun for him alone. I was going shoe shopping with Dave.
We headed out. He drove which I have to admit was sometimes a scary experience. The store was in downtown, far from the hotel and the ballpark but he knew Kansas City like the back of his hand. He had been there so many times. We chatted in the car. I think we talked about the Hall of Fame trip. He offered me a mint. He was in grandpa mode which I saw sometimes and treasured.
We got to the store and he pointed out the lay of the land to me. "Women's shoes that way, I will be in the back. Meet you in twenty minutes at the front."
I browesd through the shoes and found a pair. In twenty minutes I made my way to the front to make my purchase. As I was finishing up Dave and a sales clerk carrying boxes came up behind me. "One pair!" Dave said disappointedly. "You only found one pair!"
It wasn't restraint mind you. Size restrictions. There just aren't a lot of 5 1/2 sized shoes in the bulk stores. I knew I wouldn't be buying a lot of shoes that day. That is not why I went.
Dave on the other hand had eight boxes. He showed each to me marveling over the leather of one pair. Three of the pairs were, you guessed it, white.
After he checked out he asked me if I had looked at the handbags in the back? Handbags, I missed those. Could I have a few more minutes? Dave said to go ahead and take a look and he would bring the car around the front to get me.
Size is not a problem with handbags and I found a few. When Dave pulled around the front and saw me walking out the door with two giant bags he laughed and rolled his eyes, "It looks like I was too late!" he joked. "I'm not taking that from someone who just bought eight pairs of shoes," I replied.
We headed back to the hotel, talking the whole way. I don't remember what we talked about but I know it was comfortable. Just an easy chat as we drove through Kansas City.
As I walked back into the hotel I smiled. I was with Dave when he bought some of those darned white shoes. I knew then and there that would be one of my best memories of anything I did in this game.
White shoes. If you got em, wear em tonight for Dave.
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