While in Memphis recently for business, I had the pleasure to stay at The Peabody Hotel (http://www.peabodymemphis.com/), which basically puts you in the heart of downtown Memphis. As I was exploring the area, I happened upon AutoZone Park, home of The Memphis Redbirds (http://www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t235). Sadly, during my visit, the team was away, so no baseball for me. But, back in 2005, when I went searching for Graceland, I did have a chance to see a game and I really was impressed. Its was a “big league” park, in a minor league bracket.
I’ve only been to two minor league games, one in Austin, and this one in Memphis, so I didn’t have a lot to compare it to, but I loved what I saw. There was a pure love of the game that was visible in the fans and the players, all encompassed in a park that was perfectly situated in downtown. It had a welcoming vibe, as if it was saying, “Come one, come all.” It added to my love of the game, and left a very deep impression on me and my baseball memories.
Fast forward to Tokyo, December 2010. [I know what you’re thinking, “What the hell does Memphis have to do with Japan?” (Trust me, you’ll be surprised).]
I was days from moving back to the US. I would soon be leaving my room on the 49th Floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, and since I was a guest in residence, but no longer an employee, I was finally afforded access to the guest elevators. A perk for sure! A man entered the elevator and his ball cap caught my attention. It had a scripty “M” on it.
I stood in confusion for a minute…”Which team had an M on it?” So, I finally just asked.
He looked over and said, “It’s a minor league team you’ve probably never heard of.” I said, “Try me, I’m a big baseball fan.”
“The Memphis Redbirds,” he said!
I proceeded to spew my fondness for minor league ball, the visit I made before I left for Japan, how I enjoyed the devotion of the fans, the effort by the players who were all trying to “make it to the show,” and how I truly enjoyed Autozone Park.
Half way through my “soliloquy,” he just began to smile and nod in agreement.
“What did I say that made you smile,” I said.
“I used to own that team, and I built that park,” he said.
He introduced himself at Dean (Dean Jernigan, to be complete, http://tinyurl.com/n73e8wp), shook my hand and said, “Thank you for that.”
It was one of the best elevator conversations I have ever had, and in that instant, as I was staring at Autozone Park in late May, did I take a walk done memory lane to recall that moment.
Baseball really is the tie that binds…from the Graceland to the Land of the Rising Sun!