Sunday, August 17, 2014

Storm Chasin' Some Bulldogs

The title of this post may cause you to scratch your head a bit or decide that I've finally gone off the deep end. While the latter may be true, there is a method to my madness...

Last week was spent catching up with family that I haven't seen much of in the past couple of years. The week started out with a trip to Omaha, NE to see my brother at his "big boy" job. He is currently the Ballpark Operations Assistant for the Omaha Storm Chasers (a AAA baseball affiliate of the Kansas City Royals). He helps out with the day-to-day maintaining of the Werner Park, including but not limited to, dodging exploding urinals in the men's room, power washing peanut shells for weeks at a time in preparation for Peanut Free Day at the park, and banning and barring unruly patrons from the park for life. If that description doesn't make you jealous of his job, then I don't know what will! In all reality, he helps to make sure that the park is ready to go for each home game and then on game days, the parking lot is his domain.

One of the definite perks of knowing someone on the operations side of things is some first class treatment. Not only did we have some awesome seats waiting for us at the ticket booth, we were also treated to some VIP status parking. You drop the name Matt Owen to any of the parking attendants and you can pretty much get what you want at that ballpark. The game itself was really good. You couldn't have asked for better weather! The Storm Chasers ended up falling to the Iowa Cubs 7-4. But even though I was wearing the Omaha gear, I was really glad to see the I-Cubs win. As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, I've known a little bit in regards to heartbreak when it comes to baseball. To be able to watch firsthand some of the up and coming stars that could be playing in the Windy City soon was a real treat!

Another highlight of the game was being able to see one of my mom's old bosses and his wife, Gary and Karen. When my parents lived out in Washington D.C., they both worked for the National 4-H Council. Gary was my mom's boss and after moving around the country and living in Hawaii for the last couple of years, they recently moved back to Nebraska. They made the short drive up to Omaha from Lincoln and joined us for the game. We all ended up having a great time, bolstered by the amazing seats and even better weather!

That night, after Matt got done working at the park, we headed out for some pizza and family fun time at the miniature golf park. I came out on top, so all is still right in the world! After left the friendly greens, we headed over to the ballpark and were treated to a personal tour of the facilities. Told you being related to someone that works at a stadium has its perks! Matt took us through the entire stadium, including the clubhouse, dugout, press box, luxury suites, batting cages, and even onto the field. Mom and I ran the bases and I made sure to snap a few photos!

The next day, the fam piled into the CRV and headed down to Lincoln to spend the day with Gary and Karen. We were treated to a tour of the University of Nebraska, walked through the historic downtown area of Lincoln, and took in the sights at the University Museum on campus. Growing up as starch Iowa Hawkeye fans, we have been trained to not look too fondly on our neighbors to the west. Despite this gracious hospitality, you won't be seeing my brother donning Cornhusker Red anytime soon.

Memorial Stadium, home of the Nebraska football team
Last weekend, my mom and I made the hour trip down south along the Mississippi River to Oquawka, Illinois. Now if you've never heard of this small, little river town you're not alone. There's not a whole lot that would draw one there unless you have family residing amongst the 500 inhabitants.The reason for our visit was to celebrate the birthday of my mom's sister (my aunt) Carol. It also served as a chance for me to see my cousin Clint and my mom's other sister, Marcia, before I leave for Colombia in a week and a half. The house that we stayed in for the weekend looked out over the Mighty Mississippi River, and while it lacked Internet and cable, it served as a great spot for the weekend festivities. As is to be expected when the Holthaus sisters get together, there was quite a bit of card playing. I held my own, going 6-1 over the course of the weekend. My partnership was in high demand at the table and it proved to be the lucky token for anyone who was paired up with me!

The real highlight of the weekend was heading down to Macomb, IL  and going bulldog hunting. Macomb is the home of the Western Illinois Leathernecks and their mascot is a bulldog. Some of the area businesses and organizations decided to take some bulldog statues, decorate them, and then place them around town for citizens and others to come find and admire. In all, there are 14 bulldogs throughout the town and campus. My aunt's, mom, and I made it our mission to find all 14. Mission accomplished! Not only were we able to successfully locate all 14 bulldogs, but we also got to see some parts of town that we otherwise would have bypassed.

All in all, it was a great week filled with lots of quality family time and some pretty fun adventures/experiences. It was great seeing my brother and aunt's one last time before my 27 month hiatus from the US kicks in!

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