Royal times in Nashville

Sunday night, and the Royals have a night off. But I’ll get to them.

I’m back home today after experiencing a bit of Nashville during the last couple days.

The university photographer and I boarded a plane and flew over Thursday evening. The reason for our trip was to gather information and photos for our cover story in the university’s spring alumni magazine – a child psychiatrist who teaches at Vanderbilt and recently authored a book about child anxiety.

When we arrived at our hotel Thursday night near downtown Nashville, some live music was pouring out of a bar across the street, and it was obvious then and there how much of a music capital it is.

Friday morning, we met our cover subject for breakfast at Marche, a cozy little corner diner with a retro vibe in East Nashville. We hit it off with some good conversation there before heading to her place – a beautifully restored and decorated 1910 home – for the extended interview. We continued the day with a photo shoot on the Vanderbilt campus, a visit to her private practice, lunch at Desano Pizzeria, some basketball at the YMCA and then sat in on one of her Vanderbilt classes Friday evening. It was a fun, stimulating day, and once again I’m struck by the wonderful things the alumni of my university are doing.

Our work complete for the day, The Photographer and I began looking for a good place to eat and watch the Royals game Friday night. After driving aimlessly for several minutes we pulled up to Broadway and stumbled on The District. Again, music was blaring from every corner and it was very apparent that that was the place to be.

We parked the car and found the game at Bailey’s Sports Grille. A nice hostess standing at the door directed us to an elevator and the second floor, where the game was playing on multiple big screens – with sound. There were a few Baltimore fans, but mostly the room was filled with Royals fans. And we hooped and hollered with every play that went the Royals’ way. It was a great environment to watch the game.

Here’s a good read from The New York Times
The Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals, two cornerstones of the American League, had never played each other in the postseason, despite distinct periods of success in both towns, especially in the 1970s.
In the first 17 years after the playoff format was introduced in 1969, one or the other team was in the American League Championship Series in all but four of those years, though neither had been to the Championship Series in a very long time.
So, on a cool night that provided a fitting backdrop for a playoff game, the teams finally engaged in a battle worthy of the wait. The Royals took an early four-run lead, and the Orioles fought back to even the score after six innings.
Having downed some tacos and beverages, The Photographer and I decided around the fifth inning to head back to our hotel and catch the rest of the game there. When we exited the bar, however, we were greeted with a torrential rain and thunderstorm outside. It had been raining on and off all day. … We walked a few bars down before turning back and returning to the second floor of Bailey’s, in our wet clothes, until the storm passed.

We were back at our hotel for the ninth. I had begun dozing off during the 10th inning, but my eyes burst wide open when Alex Gordon launched his game winner to right field at Camden Yards. … I dozed off again for the bottom of the 10th inning and re-awoke to see the postgame playing on the TV. I could tell by the commentary the Royals had won, turned off the TV and lights and went to sleep for good. Game 1 of the ALCS was in the books for the Royals.

Saturday, The Photographer and I got going around 9 a.m. and had a free day to explore more of Nashville before catching a late afternoon flight. … My first goal was to explore a bit of Music Row and find Ben Folds' studio, which has been the subject of a little controversy recently. We found it …

We continued to take some time walking the neighborhood, which was amusing and underwhelming at the same time. The streets are lined with squatty, understated office buildings and old houses that have been converted into studios. Banners promoting music artists line the front yards like political signs.

Next we headed to see the Parthenon replica in Nashville’s Centennial Park …

And we wandered around a vintage locomotive in the park as well …

From there was headed a few blocks over to walk around Vanderbilt’s athletic facilities and explore the campus a bit more …

For lunch we headed Burger Republic, which had been a recommendation from one of my students. She was right on – awesome burgers. And delicious shakes, too. I went with the signature Burger Republic – Vermont white cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, Guinness-braised onions, Burger Republic sauce – and a chocolate peanut butter shake. Wow.

Next up, Union Station. Nashville’s version has been transformed to a high-class hotel.

We walked from there to re-explore downtown Nashville during the daylight hours.

I’m convinced the music never stops there. Inside the door of every bar or club were scenes like this one …

As we passed by, we heard musicians of all kinds playing originals and classic covers from Steve Miller Band, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and – arguably the most memorable soundDave Mason’s “We Just Disagree,” to name a few. If only I had a few more nights there – and the Royals weren’t progressing through a magical postseason run – I would have loved to spend some time taking in more music.

Around 2:30 p.m. we were heading to the Nashville airport and caught the first leg of our flight to St. Louis. … I always enjoy flying Southwest Airlines, and their extremely pleasant flight crew is one reason for that. The lead flight attendant, in addition to making it known she was Cardinals fan, humored us prior to the takeoff by saying the flight was headed to Hawaii. Later, as the flight crew was preparing for the landing, the captain misspoke and said we were approaching Nashville – to which the flight attendant interrupted, “We’re going to St. Louis, Tim. … Or Hawaii.”

In St. Louis, the Royals game was playing on a TV at the gate, and several fans were cheering them on again. We watched Baltimore tie the game, and an older gentleman said to another, “We better get control of this game.” The other gentleman chuckled and replied, “Well, at least we’re not behind. As long as we’re tied or ahead, we’re doing ok.” … As we boarded the plane, several passengers asked the flight crew for score updates, and the Southwest crew obliged, announcing the score a couple times although it remained tied throughout the flight.

We got off the plane and headed for baggage claim as I worked to get the live stream of the game going on my phone. I pulled it up in the top of the ninth inning as we grabbed our bags from the carousel and saw Mike Moustaskas lay down the bunt to move Terrance Gore to second. Then I watched Alcides Escobar drive in Gore for the lead run as we made our way outside to flag down a shuttle.

When we got on the shuttle, I still had the game going on my phone and started to turn down the volume out of respect for the others on board. But a woman quickly stopped me, saying, “No, no, turn it up! We want to hear it!” And there we were – a loaded shuttle bus – huddled together and watching Game 2 of the American League Championship on my iPhone. We cheered as Jerrod Dyson got on base and then Lorenzo Cain singled to push in the insurance run before Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler struck out to end the inning. Here are the game’s highlights.

How is this happening!? The Kansas City Royals are playing deep in the postseason. People are hanging on to every at-bat in sports bars and airports. The Royals! They’re asking for score updates in-flight and then watching the game on some random guy’s iPhone in an airport shuttle! For the Royals! I’m in complete awe.

The shuttle dropped us at our car and we managed to keep the game going on my phone for most of the bottom of the ninth until we lost the signal. We listened to the conclusion and the postgame on the radio.

From The New York Times ...
The Royals also extended their postseason winning streak to nine games, dating from the 1985 World Series, their last appearance in the postseason before this year. The last time they lost was Oct. 23, 1985, when John Tudor of the St. Louis Cardinals tossed a five-hit shutout in Game 4 of that memorable series.
Back in The’Ville, we began unloaded our bags and equipment outside our office building and I discovered that I didn’t have my suitcase. In fact, I had a woman’s suitcase that was identical to mine. In the excitement of the Royals game at baggage claim, I grabbed the bag and failed to check the ID tag and confirm it was mine.

So before the night was over, I made the 90-minute drive back to the airport. Exchanged the suitcase I picked up for my own. And got back in my car to make the 90-minute drive home for good.

But, hey, the Royals are leading the American League Championship Series, 2-0!

Some good reads …

The sport’s best story keeps getting better, one late-inning win at a time, in a way that somehow makes it feel both more and less real with every wild night. They are supposed to be nervous here, on this stage, the little upstart not used to playing with the baseball world’s full attention but instead they’re treating it like a bachelor party. ...

This Royals season has always been like a movie. The characters are all there, from the backup outfielder who shaved ZOOM into the side of his head to the faux-hawked first baseman who invited fans to drink on what ended up a $15,000 bar tab.

The drama has been there, too. Bad enough in May to fire the hitting coach, good enough in August to be the hottest team in baseball, and now the group that ended the longest playoff drought in North American sports and captivating the baseball world with six of the wildest playoff wins you’ll ever see. So this has always had the parts of some kind of movie, but now this is less an underdog story and more like the kind of movie with nothing but explosions and chase scenes.

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