I love being surprised by American cities. It’s not that I had low expecations for Oklahoma City — I had heard that Bricktown Park was beautiful (and indeed it is) —  but the surrounding area really was impressive.

The whole area surrounding the ballpark is called Bricktown…and it is built with red brick, which gives it a real nice look and feel. There’s a very vibrant stretch with restaurants and bars galore along a canal. You can even take a boat ride up and down said canal. Multimedia producer Joe Cronin likened it to the River Walk in San Antonio. I’ve never been, so I’ll have to take his word for it. But it made for a nice evening stroll despite the heat (it’s 97 here today).

That, of course, was after four games of Big 12 baseball action. The Big 12 conference tourney got underway with a quadrupleheader and there are several first-round potentials playing here. First guy I saw was Texas OF Drew Stubbs. He didn’t show all that much in the opener, but man can he run. Extremely graceful, scouts say he can be a Gold Glove CF in the bigs right now. He didn’t do anything with the bat on Day One, as opposing pitchers really jammed him inside all day.

The other guy really of note was Missouri LHP Nathan Culp (Nebraska lefty Tony Watson was a surprise reliever to one batter on Day One and boy was there a lot of scrambling behind home plate to see him. Alas, he only threw a couple of pitches). He started out awfully, allowing two runs in the first inning, leaving everything up. Everything Oklahoma State hit was hit extremely hard. But to his credit, Culp settled down, gave up a solo homer in the third and a single run in the eighth. He pitched into the ninth inning to tie a school record with his 11th win. He did give up 11 hits, but he didn’t walk anyone and struck out six. It’s not exactly the kind of performance that will vault him several spots higher, but it won’t hurt his stock any and he showed some toughness to settle down and pitch deep into the game without his best stuff early. I still see him as a sandwich pick or second rounder.

On a more serious note, we took time this morning to head over to the Oklahoma City bombing memorial. That tragedy, believe it or not, took place 11 years ago. The memorial was finished in 2000 and it is quite powerful in its simplicity. There is a brass chair with a glass bottom (that’s illuminated at night) for each of the 169 victims of the bombing. There’s also a stunning reflector pool between two gates. One gate has 9:01 etched in it, marking the time the minute before the blast. The other has 9:03, the minute after the explosion that changed everything. In addition, there’s a rescuer tree to thank all those who came to the scene to help in the aftermath. And to me, perhaps the most interesting thing of all was a wall of the original building that’s still standing with the names of all the survivors of the blast etched into it using original granite (the pathways have been made with granite from the original building as well). I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a memorial that also honored those who survived. I thought it was a very powerful way to show that despite the destruction and the life-changing effects of something like that, the resilience of those who lived through it is equally important to remember.

OK, back to baseball. We get to see Drew Stubbs one more time and then Nebraska ace Joba Chamberlain tonight before we head home. — Jonathan

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