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On the road again

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HOUSTON — I opened my eyes an instant before the foot smacked dead-center into my forehead. Wham!

Pleased by the solid thud of Nike-to-skull contact, my attacker giggled as he readied for another kick. I was pinned down, my escape route blocked by a beverage cart. All I could do was tilt my head to the right and hope he’d miss.

This was no back-alley street brawl. I was on Continental flight 1876 from Greater Pitt to Houston’s Bush International. A 2-year-old had squirmed out of his seat and toddled down the aisle. His father scooped him up, but the path back to their seats was blocked by the mid-flight beverage service. He stood next to my seat, holding his amped-up son, and the boy decided to play soccer with my head.

The woman in front of me had her seat fully reclined. With her scalp inches from my chin, I could easily see was in need of another dye job. The poor sap next to me in 10E was trying to sprawl as much as he could in the middle seat, and had an iron grip on the armrest. I was trapped.

So went my introduction to the glamorous life on the road as a baseball beat writer.

I went into this gig knowing there’s a ton of travel involved. Some of it will be boring — I’m talkin’ to you, Cincinnati. Some, such as New York and LA, will be more trouble than it’s worth. But, overall, it should be interesting. I’m looking forward to checking out other ballparks, and seeing how they compare to PNC Park.

From a fan’s point of view, PNC is a terrific place to watch a game. As a sportswriter, though, it’s one of the worst places to cover a game. The press box seems to be haven built as an afterthought — too high, with no protection from wind, rain and snow and with a long trek to the clubhouses.

Despite its geeky name, Minute Maid Park is a great venue. There’s that crazy hill in center field, lots of nice little touches for the fans, and everybody acts like Gene Autry when they play “Deep in the Heart of Texas” during the seventh-inning stretch. Oh, and the media lunch room has all the Minute Maid products you care to gobble up.

I took some aspirin last night, so my head wasn’t ringing when I woke up today, and there’s no bruise on my forehead. Good news. It’s almost time to walk down the street to the ballyard.

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