INTERLEAGUE CHRONICLES: THE FINAL FRONTIER
The Royals final six games of interleague play took them to Houston and Pittsburgh. That meant a couple of unique modern ballparks…as well as the chance for me to visit (re-visit) the Johnson Space Center in Houston…the home of NASA (with apologies to Washington DC….Kennedy Space Center in FL…etc)
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PNC Park in Pittsburgh opened in 2001. It offers a great vew of the Alleghany River…the Roberto Clemente Bridge that many fans cross for ballgames…and of course the Pittsburgh skyline.
Before the gates open you get an idea of the impressive total view of downtown. The broadcast booths are very high up…so it takes some getting-used-to when broadcasting a game…but you can’t beat this perspective on the city.
A Saturday stroll through downtown with Don Free and Bob Davis meant bumping into Royal fans in town to cheer on the visitors. They made the trek from Overland Park and loved seeing a new ballpark. Royals coordinator of communications and broadcasting, Colby Curry, also made the trip to see PNC for the first time.
Bob and Denny on the air inside air conditioned (thank goodness) Minute Maid Park in Houston. When it’s closing in on 100 with Texas-sized humidity readings, the roof and AC come in mighty handy.
My cousin (and Houston resident) Jeff Nunn, with me and another Jeff: Jeff Lovell. He was a Sigma Chi fraternity brother. His father is Jim Lovell, a Gemini and Apollo astronaut, and before that a Naval Aviator…an American hero. Tom Hanks played the part of Jim Lovell in Apollo 13.
There’s Jeff Lovell’s dad, Jim, on the left. He flew on that ill-fated mission with Jack Swigert and Fred Haise. Kevin Bacon played Swigert in the movie, Apollo 13. Bill Paxton played the part of Fred Haise.
This is the room formerly used as “Mission Control.” NASA used it on missions from the mid-60’s to the mid-90’s, the “glory days” of NASA. They’ve replaced this room with a new modern Mission Control. They’ve restored this room to look exactly as it did during the Apollo days.
My cousin, Jeff, standing in front of a Saturn V rocket, that would have gone to the Moon if not for budget cuts in the early 1970’s. It now lies indoors in a climate-controlled building. It’s amazing how big it is…and how powerful these rocket ships were.
In the museum at the Johnson Space Center, there are several Moon rocks on display, including this one that the public can touch. This was a piece of a rock brought back on Apollo 17.
This is NASA’s Space Vehicle Mockup Facility. This is where the astronauts train for missions to the International Space Station. It’s in a massive, warehouse-sized building. These “pods” are linked up in space, providing living and working quarters, and this facility allows astronauts to train in an exact replica, minus the zero-gravity of space.
This is a “pretend” space shuttle. Astronauts use this and other shuttle simulators to practice, practice, practice. Here, the payload bay is open. Crews deliver and retrieve satellites, among other things, in this compartment. The Shuttle fleet is due to be retired next year after almost 30 years of use. Ares 1 is due to start carrying Americans into space in 2015.
They say men are from Mars. My cousin and I may never make it to Mars. I hope I live long enought to see people travel there.