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Open Flavor Friday: Theme parks, Ken Griffey Jr. and ginger ale

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This is your weekly semi-frequent open thread to talk all things not-soccer-related with the Sounder at Heart community. This series will continue until competitive matches dominate weekend content again.

These dragon does breathe fire
These dragon does breathe fire
Dave Clark

Open Flavor Fridays returns with me talking about my trip to Universal Studios Orlando, thoughts on Ken Griffey, Jr and ginger ales.

Universal Studios Orlando

This was not a scouting trip due to the MLS schedule. My grandma lives in St. Pete, my uncles live outside of Orlando and my "real job" is with Comcast-NBC-Universal. It just made sense to a spend a couple days at Universal Studios Orlando. Plus, my wife and I love Harry Potter and we hadn't been to Diagon Alley yet.

One of the things that is so impressive about the two Harry Potter-themed sections of Universal is that they are fully immersive. Everything feels like it belongs in the world of Muggles and Magic. To get into Diagon Alley you go through their mock London. It's just beyond mock Hollywood, mock New York and mock San Francisco. It looks like London of Rowling's world.

Part of what contributes to the Harry Potter flavor is the other attendees. It's the kids and adults buying into the environment - playing with their interactive wands, wearing their robes with a house tie, twirling their scarves, staring in wonderment like first years. Seeing all of that was a reminder that immersive theme parks as much about buy-in from the attendees as they are about the designers and artists. Without the 33%+ of people wearing Potter stuff it wouldn't have been as real, but with them is was magical.

Ken Griffey, Jr.

The Kid is going to the Hall of Fame. I have a story about that. It's one of my favorite memories of both pre-Army life and my time at KJR-AM Seattle.

Back when I joined the Army, as a thank you for that decision, a friend was able to have me shag batting practice flies in the Kingdome. I did this for a long, nearly two-week homestand. Most of the time I was in right field, pretending to be Buhner. In the lockerroom I met The Kid. He offered to let me sit in his famous chair. At 19 I still beamed, said yes. A few seconds later I got up. I expected that to be my only interaction with Griff.

Four years later, my biggest goal on leaving the US Army was to work in sports media. Eventually that led to a job with KJR. At the time it was Seattle's only sports radio station. Griffey didn't like KJR. I don't know why. Something happened while I was in Tennessee, or Kuwait, or California or someplace not here. But I was working at SafeCo Field during pregame coverage with Seth Everett. Griffey didn't mind Seth, but I was the new KJR-kid.

Seth introduced me as recently out of the Army and somehow that sparked a memory for Junior. He asked me if I worked the clubhouse a few years ago. I said I had. We made some kind of silly normally meaningless small talk. Eventually I said how my back was bothering me.

"Hey, I can crack your back. My trainer just taught me how to do that."

And he did.

"I'll come on the show you produce, but nowhere else."

And a few weeks later he called in from Anaheim.

Several years down the road my first "article" about sports was a long-form message board comment called "The Answer is K." It was shortly after Ken ripped my heart out demanding a trade. He'd been poor in Cinci and Seattle needed a left-handed bat. That story is how I broke from commenter to sports writer. It took even more years until he came back to Seattle. By then he was old, bad and a future Hall of Famer.

I still love Ken Griffey, Jr. He was my first sports love and it remained even after he tried to kill that love. I'm so thrilled to see him in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He's as worthy as anyone I've ever seen.

Ginger Ale

Most ginger ales are sweet (mass market) or ginger-spice (Reed's, etc). But the Midwest and Florida's West Coast carry something called Vernor's Ginger Soda. The classic, pre-mass market, flavor of this is because the original Vernor's was aged in oak barrels. I love it. I love most versions of ginger ale, but when I'm in Ohio/Michigan or Florida I have to have Vernor's. It's a crime against ginger ale, but I love it.