How Mallory Almost Killed Sun-Tan

August 25, 2012

This story should really be called: “How Mallory Almost Brutally and Viciously Murdered the Innocent and Lovable Sun-Tan!” But I felt like that title was a little bit lengthy…

Every Summer since I left Middle School, I’ve gone to Cross Country Camp. Four years of Cross Country. Four years of Cross Country Camp. There’s only one other kid in my grade who’s done that. Her name is Jori.

Anyway, Cross Country Camp is always the toughest week of training each year. Six days of running 2-3 times a day on roads, trails, and dunes with other strength, abdominal, and upper-body workouts thrown in. Cross Country Camp is also always the most fun week of frivolity each year. Six days of constantly being around some of my favorite people in the world. Sure, the training is hard, that’s not a lie. But the difficulty of the workouts is unbelievably outweighed by the good times we have: We shop in a nearby town, we swim in Lake Michigan, we kayak down a chilly river, we play countless games of Euchre, we get ice cream at Moomers, we have a Talent Show, and we go to a baseball game.

Perhaps someday I’ll write a post about all the other things that happen during my favorite week of each High School year. Today, however, is the story of How Mallory Almost Killed Sun-Tan. It happened my Senior year of Cross Country Camp…I remember it well…

*Insert dreamiest transition yet*

The sun was just about to kiss the horizon in Northern Michigan, that fateful July day. Everyone on the Gull Lake Cross Country Team was busy showering and getting dressed in their Sunday best for the baseball game they would be attending that evening. It had been a hard day. The infamous Dune Workout had occurred only a few hours earlier and everyone deserved some fun. There was no better way to achieve fun then to go to a Traverse City Beach Bums baseball game.

The Traverse City Beach Bums are a “professional” baseball team centered in Traverse City, MI. They’ve been active since 1915, which means they’ll be celebrating their 100th anniversary soon! Their home field is Wuerfel Park. The first game ever played in Wuerfel Park, in 2006, was between the Traverse City Beach Bums and the Kalamazoo Kings. That game had a sell out crowd of 5,285 attendants. The most important thing about the Beach Bums, though, is their Mascots. Sun-Tan and Sun-Burn.Two bears dressed in Beach Bum uniforms. Long story short, everyone loves Sun-Tan and everyone hates Sun-Burn. Pretty simple.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know much about baseball. I have no idea whether the Beach Bums are good or not. In fact, I sort of hate sports. Especially watching them. But I look forward to my yearly trip to Wuerfel Park like a little girl who asked for a pony looks forward to Christmas. It’s one of those situations where it’s not really where you are or what your doing. It’s who you’re with. Everyone else can have their Super Bowls. They can have their Wimbledons and World Cups. They can have their March Madnesses and World Series.  For me, the greatest sporting event of all time is the Gull Lake Cross Country Team’s annual trip to Wuerfel Park.

One other quick thing, the Team has this affinity for cheering. Every year, when we go, we’re the biggest and loudest cheering section in that whole stadium. We make chants. We pick favorite players. We sing songs. We start waves. And we scream until our throats are ripped raw. It’s a blast. Maybe a little bit obnoxious. Oh well. And because of our prodigious cheering, we’re pretty tight with Sun-Tan. The good Mascot. And that’s where our story picks up. Where was I…?

Dressed to the nines, the Team filed into our train of Soccer-Mom Vans, ready for a night of fun. When we got to the park, people were already getting antsy. Whoops and hollers  escaped our lips as we took our seats. Clearly, Coach Flynn had gotten us some pretty sweet seats, because Sun-Tan was dancing on the dugout right in front of us! It was going to be a good year. Was.

They game went…I don’t know how it went. I wasn’t really paying attention. I just screamed when the Beach Bums were up to bat. And cheered when they were in the outfield. All I know is that the Beach Bums ended up losing in the 11th inning. But does that really matter? No. The point of this story is How Mallory Almost Killed Sun-Tan! (I mean, if she really needed to kill a mascot, she could at least kill Sun-Burn. Nobody likes Sun-Burn.)

There we were, cheering on our favorite baseball team when, all of a sudden, our idol strolled up the aisle to sit next to us. It was Sun-Tan! Titters of excitement shot through our group as the lovable, dancing bear sat in an empty seat. Then, for some reason that I still don’t understand to this day, Mallory (a fellow Teammate)  reached over and yanked on Sun-Tan’s ear! Cries of shock exploded from our mouths as Mallory tried to apologize, saying she didn’t mean it. Sun-Tan (who, of course, has a permanently happy face) seemed to take it okay. He seemed to take it okay, that is, until he grabbed a cup of water and threw it in her face! Mallory quickly ducked out of the way and the drink hit Willie, who was standing behind her. Willie, thinking quickly (perhaps rashly), reached for his cup of water and threw it at Sun-Tan! Luckily, all of this happened right at the end of the game. You can bet we hauled it out of Wuerfel Park when the last player struck out. Sun-Tan seemed like a nice bear, but who knows? I mean…he is a bear.

Overall, it was a great afternoon. I don’t remember who they played. I don’t remember the final score. I’m surprised I even remember that the Beach Bums lost. What I do remember is dancing with Sun-Tan and my Teammates to cheesy songs like “YMCA” in between innings. What I do remember is inventing a cheer for this horrible player, Jose, simply because he caught one ball. What I do remember is me convincing all my Teammates that it was a good idea to make farting noises at the same time any player from the opposing team swung. What I do remember is Coach Portis laughing so hard with us that he cried. What I do remember is laughing so hard that I couldn’t breath. What I do remember is gasping and snickering with everyone when Sun-Tan threw that water. What I do remember is that it was one of the happiest days of my life.

There are two Truths I learned from my visits to Wuerfel Park. One is something I’m sure Coach Portis intended to teach us: The rewards of hard work. We had to get through the rigorous Dune Workout to get to the fun of the baseball game. Coach Portis often taught us all to find the rewards of hard work, it’s probably a goal of every Coach to teach their athletes about the fruits of labor. About the glittery hardware that can come after a tough race. Two is something that I’ve seen many times in life: Joy isn’t found in what you’re doing. But who your doing it with. I despise watching sports. But add a few great friends watching it with me and, all of a sudden, it has the potential to be the most fun I’ve ever had. It’s similar to The Quest for Fast Food. Was driving around in a van all night really the fun part of the Quest? Of course not. It was the people I was with.

Whether it’s relaxing in the Bahamas or watching the Traverse City Beach Bums play baseball, the joy of the action is found in who is sharing the moment with you.

-Brian Wiegand (An Idiot, A Superman in training)

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One Response to “How Mallory Almost Killed Sun-Tan”


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