Baseball, and Ruby Slippers…

(Note: see photo gallery that accompanies this post on the “Baseball Tornado” page)

When I first told my parents I got the Director of Sales job in Oklahoma City, the first two words out of my father’s mouth were “tornado alley.”  It’s certainly no secret the central/south region of the United States sees more than its fair share of twisters.  But, as any Michigan resident can tell you, Michiganders are no strangers to tornados.

In fact, I and the majority of my friends can tell you where we were the day a tornado hit downtown Kalamazoo back in 1980.  I was 10 at the time, at home with my dad in our basement.  He had his beer, I had my Orange Crush, we had the radio on, and had a good ol’ time.  Though looking back on it, I’m sure dad was more concerned than he let on, especially since mom was at work, which meant she was close to downtown.

A good deal of damage was done, and lives were lost that day.  It gave me a healthy respect for storms, but didn’t make me frightened of them.  As a result, moving to “tornado alley” didn’t really scare me.  In the short time I’ve been here thus far, there have been some storms that rolled through, but nothing serious.  That is, until the week I went to Dallas…

The parent company of the hotel chain for whom I work is known as IHG, or Intercontinental Hotels Group.  If you’re not familiar, let me take a moment to say this is a GREAT company to work for.  No company is 100% perfect, but this one is pretty darn good.  Their portfolio consists of 7 brands: Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites.

Day one of the Regional Meeting for the went well.  I met colleagues from all over Texas and New Orleans.  Though I’m not new to IHG, I *am* new to the south central region, and EVERYONE was welcoming, and eager to help me if I ever have questions.  At the end of the day, the company treated the group to tickets to see the Texas Rangers play the Chicago White Sox. (side note: being a Cubs fan, I of course was pulling for the Rangers)

Sadly, my eagerness to see the game was diminished by the national news coverage of a tornado that was hitting Oklahoma City.  Thanks to social media and texting, I was able to get in touch with my new OKC friends and make sure they were all safe, as I watched MSNBC broadcast live coverage from the OKC affiliate.

Back at my hotel, Candlewood Suites – Oklahoma City, the staff new what to do, got the guests into the halls, and made sure everyone was safe.  All I could do was watch it happen on tv.  Knowing my new friends and work family were ok, put my mind at ease, though I felt a little guilty about being lucky enough to not have been there with them.  Little did I know my luck was about to turn…

3 shuttle buses took our big group to the ballpark. Those same buses would bring us back in stages: one bus was returning at 8:30, the second at 9:15, and the third would come back when the game ended. I enjoy baseball, so I volunteered to stay until the end of the game.

It was a VERY windy night.  I’ve never seen wind like that at a ballgame before.  The wind was wipping around so much, it was picking up loose paper, wrappers, and napkins, and flinging them out on the field.  With the way the wind swirled, center field looked like a trash dump.  It was so windy, in fact, they evacuated everyone from the upper deck, and had them all come down to the lower levels.  Then came the thunder and lightning. It was so close to the stadium, I was amazed they kept playing.  And play on they did.

Until the heavens opened in the 4th inning.

It began to rain in biblical proportions.  I was thankful my seat was far enough back under the upper deck that I didn’t have to move.  I was quite content to sit and watch the torrent come down, as the ground crew struggled to cover the field with a tarp, while at the same time trying to keep said tarp from blowing away.  At one point, the rain began to let up, and seemed to stop, so a stampede of people began rushing for their seats.  Unfortunately for them, the respite was brief, and the downpour began again even harder, bringing waves of laughter and applause from those still dry under the stands.

Everything was fine and dandy until a tornado warning was issued.  The stadium staff now had to herd thousands of fans down to the ground level.  They did a great job of this, and it seemed to me that everyone was cooperative, and followed instructions.  People were lining the walls, standing in the restrooms, filling every nook and cranny of the lower level.  Then it got REALLY interesting…

A tornado had been spotted in the Dallas area.  So much for me dodging the bullet.  The stadium staff now began moving people to the tunnels under the ballpark.  The first thing I noticed was how hot and humid it was, but because of various service doors being open, there was actually a pretty good breeze down there.  Moving along with he herd of humanity, I didn’t get to take in my surroundings as much as I wish I had.  Since we were still WAY to early for the final pickup time, one of my travel companions was on her phone, coordinating the shuttle pickup.  The tricky part was going to be finding a way outside.

Down in the tunnels, everyone was crowded together, lining the walls, which reminded me of the storm drills we did in elementary school.  With such close quarters, it got very warm, very quickly. But, there was still that breeze, and it had to be coming from somewhere, so we followed it.

Sure enough, after wandering onward a little further, we found an access tunnel used to bring vendor goods into the stadium, and the fresh air rushing in from outdoors felt glorious! There was, of course a security person posted there, keeping people from exiting. However, while he was preoccupied with a group of people around the corner, we made a break for it!

By this time, the rain had stopped, and using our smart phones we knew the tornado had passed, so we made our way to the shuttle bus.  After getting on the bus, we heard a cheer from inside.  An announcement had been made that they were about to resume the ballgame.  Really?!?  Oh well.  None of us were interested in going back in, which was good because the game didn’t end until after midnight, and the Rangers lost.  At least I got an adventure out of the deal, some pics that don’t do the weather justice, and I didn’t need ruby slippers to get home.

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