“Honey, I want to take the kids to a ball game,” said Jeff. Did I need to get my ears checked or was my husband offering to plan our next family outing? We’d never been to a baseball game as a family before. I should have known that he had something up his sleeve.
A few weeks later, we parked at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, TX. Eight-year-old Jack and 10-year-old Emma finishing their most recent run-through of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” just as we were unbuckling our seatbelts.
“I’ve got the tickets covered,” Jeff said. “Let’s go get ready.” He handed me our family’s packed bag. When I looked inside—swim suits? I sighed. He must have grabbed the wrong bag. “Are we going swimming in the ball park?” I said jokingly.
“Something like that,” Jeff replied, smiling. “Just trust me.”
I was sure he was kidding. A swimming pool in the ballpark?
It was no joke. Twenty minutes later, Emma, Jack, Jeff and I were in inner tubes, floating in the Choctaw Lazy River. Ironically, the largest pool in pro sports is in a minor-league baseball stadium. Perhaps more ironic, its first float bragging rights belong to an NBA all-star. Jeff didn’t hesitate to inform us that his favorite Dallas Mavericks’ player, Dirk Nowitzki, had been given the honor of breaking the river in when it first opened. Like a little kid, Jeff insisted he was in the same blue tube Nowitzki’s lanky body had lazed in.
Were we at a baseball game? I could see home plate and smell hotdogs. Were we at a waterpark? A gentle current guided our inner tubes around the figure-eight channel surrounding two islands with lifeguard stations. Or, were we at a concert? I knew we’d hear the National Anthem, but evidently Frisco RoughRiders’ home games often start and end with performances by live acts.
I heard the music and sports announcer, but I also heard the soothing sounds of the water features—two curtains of rhythmic water that flanked the lazy river. Its front edge was a waterfall—like an infinity edge pool, albeit one stretching as long as an Olympic-sized pool. The best part of being among the floating spectators? From our position just behind right field, we had a 270-degree view of the stadium. If the RoughRiders would hit, miss or catch it, we’d see it.
“I’m bleeding,” Emma feigned after the fourth inning. I started to panic, but my eyes rolled when they saw the ketchup dispenser. Our Thirsty Thursday tickets—when the public can purchase individual passes for the Choctaw Lazy River (also available to purchase on Sundays)—came with all-you-can-eat hot dogs and brats from the adjacent Cabana Bar & Patio. The kids basically lost it when they found out they could eat their hot dogs in the river. Floating and eating? Why not? If any place could pull off that unusual combo, it was the Choctaw Lazy River. Meanwhile, Jeff took advantage of the Thursday special, $1 domestic draft beers, while I enjoyed my Dr Pepper.
Though we were in the lazy river, the live action was nonstop. By the bottom of the ninth, the bases were loaded. The silence from the stadium’s bated breath reminded us the RoughRiders had already racked up two outs. The scoreboard reminded us they were trailing by two runs. Not an ideal scenario for the home team. Even Jack and Emma sat up on their tubes and turned their attention to the hitter. It’s funny how kids can sense anticipation.
“Cardona can bring them in,” said Jeff, not blinking for fear he’d miss the pitch. With the players’ names already easily rolling off his tongue, he was the RoughRiders newest biggest fan. The opposing team’s pitcher wound up his arm and released the ball. It was flying so fast I couldn’t see it.
Jose Cardona clearly saw it. I heard the wooden bat make contact with the invisible projectile. It soared in a straight arc over right field. Instinctively, I braced myself for the splash. The ball was headed for the pool!
Jeff and the kids, on the other hand, extended their hands like the rest of the Choctaw Lazy River crowd, bracing themselves for the catch.
But at the last minute, the ball landed with a thud, just a few feet from the wall separating us from right field. The third base runner effortlessly slid over home plate. The second base runner wasn’t so lucky. But the umpire’s arms said it all. SAFE! The score was tied.
Thankfully, the RoughRiders came through and pulled off an amazing win. We’d never been so excited for a game to go into extra innings. But, we’d also never watched baseball from inner tubes floating lazily in a refreshing river. Jeff had really hit this family outing out of the park.Swing into action and plan your family trip in Frisco>>