Starting with my pre-teen years, I became a huge fan of the New York Yankees and Mickey Mantle. In the summer of my 11th year, my Dad surprised me with tickets to my first Yankees game-a doubleheader. Box seats near the field, a steamy summer night, and plump Yankee Stadium hot dogs were a perfect combination (I was a little too young for "Beer He-yah). It was a great vantage point to see my hero, Mickey Mantle. Although he was entering the twilight of his career, the Mick delivered the goods that night-five home runs over the course of the doubleheader. i was spellbound. Unfortunately, I was also sweat-bound, since I had started to develop a fever shortly after we entered the stadium. Little did I know that I was being attacked by the chicken pox. I kept my eyes glued to the field and guzzled copious amounts of soda in a desperate attempt to ward off the evil illness that was overtaking me. The last thing I needed was for Dad to notice that I was not feeling well. Fortunately, his eyes were glued to the field, too. We managed to get through both games before those pesky bumps enveloped me. The train ride home was an interesting and itchy experience-a mix of excitement about my first major league game and delirium from a 103 degree fever. As uncomfortable as the ride home was, I would not have cut short my time at the doubleheader for anything. Years later, I still have the scorecard and the Yankee yearbook that Dad bought me.
A few years later, the Mick announced his retirement- a sad and stressful day for many Yankee fans. My body rebelled after the shock of the retirement news hit the airwaves. I was so upset that I promptly broke out in hives. It took several days for my body to recover. I always wondered if the bumps were a weird form of baseball karma-related shingles, with bumps lying dormant in my body until I thought too much about Mickey Mantle.
Both Dad and Mickey Mantle are no longer with us. I still remember that day like it was yesterday, though. It provided me with the early realization that some of the most important parts of life are experiences with those we care about, not things. That philosophy has served me well through visits to wonderful Marriott hotels and other locations as I embraced travel as an adult. One place that I probably should not visit is Cooperstown, though. Breaking out in red welts while viewing a Number 7 uniform is definitely not my idea of a good time!