When The Best Travel Moments Aren’t The Ones You Plan…

I am a compulsive planner. In fact, I actually have to plan not to plan things.

(Yep, it’s a problem.)

So imagine my genuine surprise that one of my son’s all time best travel moments isn’t something I planned!

If you’ve been following Mom With A Map, you may be aware that our family took a 24-day road trip this past summer. It was about this time last year that I began planning our crazy adventure.

Needless to say, I spent QUITE a bit of time planning out every second of that trip!

Our dates for the trip shifted a few times, and we updated the route to include some special family activities. One of the changes involved a re-route across the state of Missouri so we could visit St. Louis for a Cardinals game.

We are huge baseball fans and my son, Miller, is especially obsessed with the Cardinals. I knew he would be thrilled to visit Busch stadium, but I had no idea it would turn into one of the best travel moments of all time!

The day of the Cardinals game we woke up on the other side of the state in Kansas City. We’d attended the Royals game the previous evening and then spent entirely too long exploring Science City. After eating a late lunch in a gas station (I’m totally serious, read about that adventure: here), we drove nonstop to St. Louis.

With less than an hour before the first pitch, we managed to check into our hotel across the street from the stadium and change into red. Then we proceeded to buy tickets to the game. Since we were cutting it close, we really just bought the first thing we came across with zero research on where the seats were in the stadium.

As luck would have it, we ended up about 15 rows behind the 3rd base (visitor’s) dugout.

A few innings into the game Miller noticed that the player who warmed up the left fielder before the start of the inning would toss the ball up into the stands. (Side note, if you’re familiar with baseball that will likely make sense. If not, don’t worry too much about that detail- it’s sort of irrelevant.) Anyway, Miller asked if he could walk down the aisle to stand next to the dugout in between innings to see if he could get a ball.

Admittedly, I wasn’t paying that much attention. Who knew this would lead to one of the best travel moments (Most of these details have been pieced together from Miller’s story and a few other fans that observed the whole interaction and came to tell us about it.) But apparently the player tried to toss him the ball, and a bigger kid jumped up and caught it right in front of Miller.

Not really a huge deal. Miller was bummed, but optimistic that he might get a ball the next inning.

What we didn’t know is that several of the Pirates players saw the interaction including the former Cardinals player, David Freese. (Another side note for non-baseball fans, David Freese won MVP of the 2011 World Series and was a HUGE reason the Cardinals won that year! Since then he’s been traded and recently played in the 2018 World Series for the Dodgers.)

As Miller made his way down the aisle several of the Pirates players waved him closer to the dugout. They proceeded to give Miller fist-bumps and handfuls of bubble gum and sunflower seeds. Then as stunned fans watched, David Freese handed him an autographed ball and gave Miller a high-five.

Miller returned to our seats proudly showing off the ball, and declaring it the best day of his life. And, naturally, his best travel moment EVER.

(Incidentally, he was the most excited about getting high-fives and fist-bumps from “real” players. I cherish this picture that some random fan took when the players were talking to Miller and giving him fist bumps. Of course since they didn’t know Miller, they weren’t including him in the picture. But they later stopped by our row to admire the ball and offered to text me the picture.)

The icing on the cake came later in the night when a Cardinals player hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th inning to win the game. Talk about not being able to script a better evening!

Years from now, I hope the kiddos remember the beauty of watching the sunset at the Grand Canyon. I feel confident they will continue to check dollar bills from time to time to see if they were printed in Fort Worth. Subsequently speculating that we watched that exact dollar bill get printed when we toured. And I hope as they continue to study history they’ll recall the emotional video we watched at the lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore.

But, one thing is certain. The kindness shown towards Miller by David Freese and the other Pirates will NEVER be forgotten.

I will never advocate for NOT planning; However, this was a great reminder that sometimes the best travel moments can’t be planned in advance!

You may also enjoy reading:

The Most Family-Friendly National Parks

College Football Stadiums: The Ultimate Bucket List

Sporting Events With Kids

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