With the Carolina Mudcats team away two weeks straight, where else would someone like me go for a mini-vacation but a ballpark! Greenville South Carolina had been on my radar as it was home to the Boston Red Sox High-A team The Drive and it was less than a five-hour car trip – all interstate. According to Brian Hopkins, a scout for the Cardinals, tree-lined city streets, Reedy River Falls and Fluor Field, home to the team, were must-sees and all within walking distance of the downtown hotels. Icing on the cake was one of our former Mudcats had been traded to Boston in the offseason and was playing for The Drive – Alex Binelas.
Of course, downtown hotels don’t come cheap, but after reflecting on our limitations going anywhere during COVID, it was an easy sell. I was able to get a lower rate thanks to being a Hilton member, a “senior” and agreeing to a non-refundable status for cancellation less than a week out. The location of the Hampton Inn River Place was perfect – steps away from the falls, restaurants, historic district and a half a mile from the ballpark. I made the reservation while praying for good weather and Alex not being promoted.
As with almost everything I do, there is usually some type of saga to make things interesting. This mini-vacation was no exception. We got the car loaded up with the luggage, cooler with lunch, two-rev’ed up Boxers and their stuff for boarding. I was making one last check of lights and locks and I hear expletives coming from the garage. It must be Jake misbehaving I told myself as I had visions of the quilt stuffing, he tried to eat on the way to Santa a few years ago. Not that lucky. My battery was dead! We unloaded the dogs and then debated if it was faster to take Rick’s gas-guzzler or try to jump the car and then get the battery replaced at the auto parts place. Rick opted to change clothes, remove the old battery, drive to Auto Zone for a new battery, drive home, install the new battery, change clothes again and get all loaded up again. Amazingly, we were under way only an hour and a half later. I mumbled something about why a car with so many bells and whistles doesn’t have an indicator to let one know the battery is low. “It does. The car will start and then die a few times,” Rick tells me. “Oh.” I almost didn’t dare tell him that it did exactly that the day before. I should have been allowed to take Auto Mechanics in High School instead of stupid Home Economics learning (not) cooking and sewing!
When we arrived in Greenville, downtown was exactly as Brian described, except he left off the part about one-way streets and streets with multiple names! Between the car GPS and my Smartphone, we did finally find the hotel despite each offering a different way. We had an hour to kill before heading out to early dinner. Rick looked for restaurant listings while I watched General Hospital. Between the hotel and ballpark were several restaurants but most didn’t open until 5. In the Places to Go booklet, Rick found a recommended BBQ called Mac’s Speed Shop a block from the ballpark. We could eat and go straight to the game.
Getting there was easy. The hotel was a block off and a half off Main St. We passed through the historic district and saw several restaurants all closed until 5PM. Once at Mac’s, we were seated across from the bar at a high table with high seats. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Rick exclaimed. I looked at him and asked what was wrong. On our tabletop was a large QR square to scan for the menu. I was saving my battery for game pictures and videos; Rick – well, he still insists on having his flip phone. Two minutes later we were perusing a real menu as were most patrons seated after us. When will restaurants understand that they will sell a lot more food and drinks if people didn’t have to squint at their phones while scrolling up and down?
As we were waiting on our food, I spotted a guy at the bar wearing an Alex Binelas Louisville jersey. I texted Alex’s mom Amy and said, “There’s a guy at the restaurant we’re at. He’s wearing an Alex Binelas jersey.” (Last August Louisville sensation Binelas who had been drafted the month before, was promoted from the rookie league to the Mudcats. Rick and I had met Amy when she, husband Pete and daughter Athena came from Wisconsin to see Alex play in his first minor league games. Getting to know the families of the players is one of my favorite parts of my job in Guest Relations.) Amy answered my text – “That’s Bobby! Alex’s best friend!” It turned out that Bobby was there with them eating out on the patio. We visited briefly before Rick and I headed across to the street to the ballpark.
To be continued