July 2009

Pujols and Piniero in Philadelphia (7-24-09)

1 - citz bank park.JPGIt had been a couple months, but Friday afternoon, Tim and I hopped into the car and headed down the PA Turnpike bound for Citizens Bank Park.

There was one reason, and one reason alone, that I decided we should go to this game — Albert Pujols.  The guy is a monster.  I wanted to get our third peak of this future hall of famer.  And I was hoping he would go yard for us.

We tend to go to more day games than night games.  Many of them have no batting practice.  So I decided we’d head down a little early for this game so we could watch some BP and maybe see Pujols put on a display of his skills before the game got started.  I was also hoping we’d see Jamie Moyer.  I’ve seen him hanging out signing autographs before games with his own sharpie.  I was hoping he’d be out so we could try to get a picture with him.

However, none of it was in the cards.  Little did I know that thousands of 7-year-old Jonas Brothers fans would be out in force.  The Brothers Jonas were playing next door to Citizens Bank Park.  They managed to make our 72 mile drive take over 2-and-a-half hours.  We completely missed BP.  It wasn’t the most pleasant driving experience.

Interestingly, we have NEVER made it to BP at Citizens Bank Park.  Never.

Anyway, we were at the park early enough that we didn’t have to hurry to get into the stadium once we parked.   The Phils fans have a good time before games.  Tailgating is rampant.  So we decided to play a little catch in the Lincoln Financial Field parking lot…

2 - catch at the linc.jpg…then we grabbed our tickets from will call and Tim watched some bees in the flowers outside the home plate entrance:

3 - bees at Citz Bank.JPGAnd, there were lots of bees.  If you go sit there, be careful that you don’t get stung!


4 - citz directory.JPG After we headed into the park, Tim really wanted to look at the “map.”  Just in case you are interested, here it is.

I wasn’t too excited to spend a lot of time looking at the directory because I didn’t know what time it was and if we were risking missing Pujols’s first at bat.  Tim on the other hand wanted to take a nice, slow, thorough look at this thing.  Luckily, it all worked out.  We didn’t miss anything.

When we made our way into the field seats by the third base dugout, we found players stretching down the base lines, the Philly Phanatic warming up the crowd, grounds crew people were doing the final prep work on the field, and the announcer was reading the starting line-ups.

 

Here is what the scene looked like:

5 - pre-game festivities.JPG And, before long, it was game time.  We sorta have a standard game plan at Citizens Bank Park, and it usually starts with watching the first couple innings from the SRO areas behind home plate.  At this game, we decided to move a little to the right for the beginning of the game so we could get a good view of Albert.  Unfortunately, no first inning fireworks — here is his swing resulting in a ground out to first base:

6 - pujols grounder.JPG

At the far right, you can see the ball (a blurr) just entering the picture.  Sadly, there would be no Pujols HR on this day (although he did get one hit)…and this is the best I could do as far as action shots of Pujols goes.  But here are some less interesting “batting stance” shots:

7 - pujols at bat.JPG

In the bottom of the inning, I was happy to get a chance to see my old buddy, Joel Piniero, on the mound…

8 - utley-piniero.JPG

…here he is shown with a picture of Chase Utley about to fly out to Ryan Ludwick in CF.

But back to Piniero.  Joel was a Mariner from 2000-2006.  Joel started out great with the M’s.  It seemed he was poised to be a terrific starter for years to come for the Mariners.  However, he cooled off.  He ended his time as a Mariners with a career record of 58-55.

Anyway, it was great to see Joel in action once again — and he got the win for the Cardinals.

In the top of the second, the Cardinals took the lead 1-0 and Tim asked to go to the play area.  I figured it was a good time to go because Pujols had just been up in the first inning and we probably had a while before he was up again.  So, as requested, it was play area time:

9 - playarea time.JPG

Tim loves this little marble maze in the picture to the right.  Actually, he generally just loves the Phillies play area.  By far, it is his favorite of any park we’ve visited.

After playing in the play area for a few minutes, it started to rain a bit.  Although it didn’t seem like much, they closed the play area.  I told Tim we could go get his ice cream and check out the what is going on in the game.

Before we got ice cream, this is what we found on the field:

10 - citz rf rain delay panaramic.jpg

No play area.   No game.  Yep, its time for ice cream.

We headed up to the second deck because I had a brilliant idea that it would be less crowded.  In my defense, I had some decent logic here.  90 percent or more of the field level seats are out in the open (in the rain) while much more of the second deck is under cover.  So I figured the field level concourse would be packed.

Well, it might have been.  But I’m not sure it would be possible to be any more “packed” than the second deck concourse.  We got stuck walking through it and it took a while to get out — without ice cream.  Check out what it looked like (taken from the third deck):

11 - rain hiding.JPG

Now that I see that picture again, I guess that not many of the seats up there are covered.  Oh, well.

We finally made it through the third deck to a food stand that *appeared* to have ice cream.  By this time, Tim was begging and praying for some ice cream:

12 - ice cream pleeeeeease.JPG

Well, they only had ice cream in pint cartons.  That’s unacceptable.  But they pointed us to “Seasons Pizza” where we could find ice cream helmets.  (Referring back to the directory above, we usually get Tim’s ice cream helmet at “Old City Creamery” behind section 137 on the 3B line).

So on we marched on our ice cream buying-and-eating trek that would eventually have us see almost the entire ball park…or so it seemed.

Indeed, Seasons Pizza had ice cream helmets with chocolate sprinkles ($5.00).  We bought Tim’s helmet and went up into the stands so he could sit down and enjoy his helmet.  We went toward the top of the upper deck so we’d be under cover.  There were tons of open seats because everyone was packed into the concourses below. 

Here is Tim at the first stop on our ice cream eating tour:

13 - 1st ice cream spot.JPG

The rain stopped.  They started to uncover the field.  Here is what it looked like from our first ice cream seats of the day:

14 - citz upper  3B-home tarp panaramic.jpg

Soon, people came for our seats.  Tim decided he wanted to go down to the field level.  I thought that seemed like a good idea.  There are a lot of standing room counters on which tim usually sits to eat his ice cream while I stand and watch the game.

We headed down numerous flights of stairs until we found ourself in the field level concourse.  Or, I should say, the still extremely over crowded field level concourse.  Number of counter spots available:  zero.

So we heaed up to the second deck down the LF line.  Not gonna work.

So we headed back to the third deck where there are also lots of standing room counters.  Unfortunately, they are out in the open and, consequently, they were soaked.  But we eventually found one that was under cover.

The melted ice cream eating resumed:

15 - 2d ice cream spot.JPG

It looked really cool up there with the sun coming through the rain clouds.  The bad part was that they were about to start playing the game again, and we couldn’t see the field.

Instead, this was our view:

16 - citz upper LF concourse city panaramic.jpg

So it was on to our third set of ice cream seats — actually another counter, not seats.

17 - 3d ice cream spot.JPG

This counter was wet too.  But luckily I bring lots of extra clothes for Tim — in case he destroys his clothes with chocolate ice cream — so I could wipe down a spot for Tim to sit.

Here was our view from our third and final ice cream spot:

18 - citz upper LF panaramic.JPG

It was a long road to this final ice cream eating spot — but we were happy with our journey and destination.  We recorded the moment with a self portrait:

19 - self portrait.JPG

Hey, look at that, the Ryan Howard shift!

20 - defensing howard.JPG

Next, we decided to go spend some time in the outfield and by the bullpens.  We’ve never really hung out by the bullpen at Citizens Bank Park before.  So I thought it would be a nice plan.

On the way down the long ramps in the LF corner, I took some pictures of the front and back of the big scoreboard/video screen in LF…

21 - citz scoreboard back-n-front.jpg

…then it was time to head to Ashburn Alley in CF…

22 - ashburn alley.JPG

In the picture to the right, the green walls going down into a big pit are the walls of the bullpens.

Tim loved the statue of Richie Ashburn out there:

23 - Ashburn Trophy.JPG

Tim kept calling the statue a “Trophy.”  He loves trophies!  In this picture, he is swinging a fake bat and then running to the base on which Richie is standing.  He did that over-and-over-and-over-again.

Here is the view of Ashburn Alley from the Ashburn “Trophy”:

24 - citz ashburn alley panaramic.jpg

Next, we headed over to the area by the bullpens where we found a steel beam with a two foot high concrete base…

25 - SRO beam.JPG

Tim had fun standing inside the groove in the beam, and the concrete base was great for boosting me above all of these fans (top right) standing around “watching” the game.  We also had a good view of the bullpens if we scooted a few feet closer to CF:

26 - andrew carpenter no. 48.JPG

In the picture to the right, the Phillies’ Andrew Carpenter is warming up (the ball looks like a blur in the middle of the picture) and the Cardinals relievers are milling about up top.  Carpenter came in and gave up a HR to Julio Lugo.

I took the picture to the left because I thought it was an interesting view of the outfield wall.  You can see the corner of the Phillies’ bullpen in the bottom right of that picture.

In the RF corner of the field level concourse, there are a couple big baseball games and a BBQ stand.  I’ve never taken Tim over there because I haven’t wanted to test his patience standing in line for the games.  However, at this game, I decided he was ready — and he did great standing in line watching the other kids play the game.  Here is the game we played:

27 - Ballpark Pinball.JPG

The kid in the Utley shirt is standing at the control box.  There are two big buttons.  One says “pitch” and one says “swing”  When you press the pitch button, a door opens up on the pitcher’s hand and a volleyball sized baseball rolls down the board.  Then you press swing and try to hit the ball into one of the slots at the top.  You get three outs.

Most of the kids got three outs without getting any hits.  The first kid we watched who got a hit was a pro at it.  He ended up scoring four runs.  Tim and I played together and we ended up with two triples and one run scored.

Here is the view of the RF-RCF seats and concourse from the Ballpark Pinball game:

28 - RF corner concourse.JPG

These pictures are the same, but taken on different settings of my camera.  The red arrow is pointing toward the top of our standing room beam.

And here is a picture taken from our beam toward the concourse leading to the RF foul pole and the 1B infield concourse:

29 - RF concourse.JPG

You can’t tell from this shot, but the concourses at Citizens Bank Park provide a ton of room for standing room viewing of the game.  My only complaint is that the concourses are often windy.  However, it was nice at this game.  Really no noticable wind in the RCF concourse area.

Next, Tim wanted to go up onto an elevated walkway all the way out in deep CF.  They call it the “rooftop” for some reason.  They have cheap bleachers out there.  We took a couple panaramics up there, here is the first which is closer to the small section of bleachers (the bleachers are toward the RF side of the rooftop — and are shown in the first picture in this entry, below the liberty bell):

30 - citz CF rooftop panaramic.jpg

The rooftop seems like a nice place to hang out and have some drinks and food with friends.  There are a bunch of picnic tables with umbrellas for shade up there.  But the big brick wall blocks out your view of a huge portion of the outfield.  The wall is the backside of the batters eye.

As you’ll see in the next picture, during the game, they fence off the bottom section of the historical time-line and wall of fame area to the left end of the brick wall.  My guess is they do that so people don’t stand on the fence and bug the people in the bullpen, which is just below that area.

Here is another picture from the rooftop where you can see the red and blue fence blocking the area above the bullpen.  Also, this is taken from deeper CF, toward left a bit, and it provides a much clearer view of the field:

31 - citz CF rooftop panaramic2.jpg

We took this funny picture of ourselves before heading down from the rooftop:

32 - excited self portrait.JPG

Finally, we headed down to the fancy seats behind the Phillies dugout for the ninth inning.  The Cardinals were blowing out the Phils so there were plenty of empty seats and no one checked out tickets when we went down between innings.

This was our view of the Phils hitting in the ninth:

33 - phils last chance.jpg

Above, on that swing, Pedro Feliz grounded out.  Below, two seconds later, Carlos Ruiz got nailed in the side of the leg.  Matt Stairs followed with a fielder’s choice / error by Albert Pujols.  Finally, J-Roll and Victorino grounded out to end the game.

At the beginning of the game, they announced that Adrian Johnson was the home plate umpire.  They don’t have a separate umpire tunnel at Citizens Bank Park.  I wasn’t sure if they would exit through the Phillies dugout or the Cardinals.  I figured we’d try the Phillies side.  But I figured wrong.

After the final out was recorded, Johnson started walking toward the Cardinals dugout.  I yellowed, “Hey, Mr. Johnson, Adrian Johnson!”  He stopped and turned around and looked my way for maybe five seconds.  He couldn’t figure out who called his name.  So he turned around again and left.  No umpire ball for Team Cook.  Thus, we snapped our family record 7 game streak of getting a ball.  Oh, well.  It wasn’t a surprise, we’ve got a grand total of 1 ball ever at Citizens Bank Park (from Rockies 1B coach and former Mariner Glenallen Hill) and 1 total ball ever from the Phillies (J-Roll in D.C. in May).

All in all, we had a great time at the ball park — highlighted by our tour of the park looking for a spot for Tim to eat his ice cream.

And, the Jonas Brothers must have let out early.  It only took about an hour and a half to get home.

 

Season Fan Stats:

20 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
7 Stadiums
(Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park)
16 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs,
Braves, Padres, Dodgers and Cardinals– and sort of the Giants)
16 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (4), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3) and Yankees)
18 Baseballs (12 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire, 1 Nationals) 
4 Divisions Closed Out (So far in Tim’s Life — AL West, AL East, NL West, NL East)
 
3 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ryan Perry) 
2 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
 
5 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose (2), Orioles Bird (2), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)

Baseball & The Cubbies in D.C. (7-19-2009)

On June 3, 2009, I knocked off work early and Tim and I trekked down to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C to witness a piece of history — Randy Johnson’s 300th career victory.  However, the rain put the kibosh on our plans.

July 19th was our make-up game.  Instead of seeing Randy Johnson’s 300th win, we saw Kevin Hart’s third.  It was a fun game — but as the math would reveal, it was about 100 times less memorable than if we would have got to see Randy’s big win.

The process of exchanging our rain out tickets for these tickets was made 50,000 times more difficult due to the inadequacies of the Washington Nationals telephone system.  I called them at about 4-5 different numbers I found on their website.  They all led to the same automated phone system.  No humans ever answered.  I was dumped into a “general” voicemail box and none of my calls were returned until I got creative.  Eventually the team store gave me the number 202-640-7000.  From that number, you can get a company phone directory.  I went through the front office directory on MLB.com and entered random Nationals employees into the phone directory.  The first 3-4 employees went straight to voicemail.  I was beginning to think that no one actually worked at Nationals Park.  Eventually, I reached someone.  She told me I could only make the exchange at the box office at the stadium and they wouldn’t hold tickets aside for me — just in case I didn’t show up.  So I was stuck driving 2.5 hours not knowing if they’d have any cheap seats to exchange for our cheapseats tickets.

When we got there, they didn’t.  All the cheap seats were sold out.  So we had to get tickets about twice as expensive as our original tickets.  This was frustrating.  I pulled out my card to pay the extra money for the more expensive tickets.  The guy asked me if I was buying more tickets.  “No.”  “Then you don’t need your card.”

It was the first good moment in the whole process:  they made a straight exchange for my cheap seats tickets.  This made me happy.  A small amount of redemption.  But the Nationals as an organization have a long way to go to get back in my good graces.  The handling of the rainout and then the unanswered phone messages and emails did a lot of damage.

Anyway, there is a game to report.  Let’s get to it.

To add to my already mounting frustration while heading down to the game, I missed the exit from I-95 to I-295.  So I had no clue how to get to the Park.  I saw an exit sign that said “To Naionals Park.”  So I took it.  Then I drove around totally clueless for about 15 minutes until I magically popped out of nowheresville and onto a bridge heading straight to Nationals Park.  This is what I saw:

1 - road to nats park.jpgWe entered through this entrance by the 1B line.  We’d never been around this side of the stadium, so it was good to see what it looks like over there.

We entered the stadium and there was a lot of hoopla going on — the Nats fans and employees were all jazzed up for the beginning of the game (FYI, we got there about 10 second before the Nats took the field):

2 - festive nats park.JPG

Often times, we walk into a game and Tim instantly informs me, “I want ice cream!”  Today to my surprise, he told me, “I want ice cream, after we eat lunch.”  He wanted chicken strips and fries, which interestingly is what we had at our only other game at Nationals Park.

We bought the chicken and fries and sat in the handicap accessible seats behind 1B field level seats.  This was our view:

3 - nats 1B chxfries seats panaramic.jpg

At our first game here, the attendants were dictators.  They checked tickets everywhere.  I had to sweet talk a guy to let Tim and I sit in the LAST ROW of the upper deck to eat Tim’s ice cream helmet.  I was happy to find the stadium much more relaxed at this game.

Here is Tim between french fries:

4 - serious tim.JPG

Tim was a little camera shy today.  He was all smiles and laughs all day except when the camera looked his way.  This is serious Tim.

I am excited for this entry because I felt like I got a lot of good action shots at this game.  Here is the first:

5 - johnsons on broadway.jpg

Okay.  So there really isn’t much *action* going on here.  But I wanted to get a picture of Nick Johnson and give him big SeaTown props.  Both today and at our last game at Nationals Park, N-John came to the plate accompanied by the sweet sounds of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Posse On Broadway.

Soon, the action picked up:  Alfonso Soriano hit a double:

6 - soriano doubles.jpg

Soriano seemed to be the only big name in the Cubs line-up.  I’m not up on the Cubs.  I’m not sure where everyone else was — no Aramis Ramirez and no Milton Bradley.  So my Cubs photos focused on Soriano.  He looks like he is going to hit a bomb on every swing he takes.

While sitting here, I noticed that the out-of-town scoreboard was telling a happy story:

7 - good news from cleveland.JPG

After eating, Tim wanted to go check out the play area in CF:

8 - mlb cheat sheet.JPG

The play area is the red and blue thing to the far right of the picture.  To the left, there are some big signs with all of the 30 MLB team logos.  Usually each stadium has the team flags or logos in order of the current standings.  Nationals Park just has the logos.  Not sure why.

 When we arrived at the play area, they had just told everyone to clear out.  Some kid had spilled some bodily fluids (not sure what) out there and they brought the hazmat trucks in to clean up.

So we stood in straight away CF and watched the game.  This was our view:

9 - nats cf field panaramic.jpg

It was a good thing we got booted out of the play area or we would have missed Soriano hitting a bomb in his second at bat:

10 - soriano bomb.jpg

In the interest of full disclosure, the top left picture is actually a foul ball right before the HR.  But the top right, is the actual HR swing.  A pretty sweet swing.  I thought we were in Chicago — the whole stadium went crazy!

Did I mention that I love my new camera?  Check out these floating ball shots I took from straight away CF:

11 - floating balls.jpg

After we got these shots, it was time for the play area:

12 - playarea.jpg

The most frequently broken rule?  No. 8 — no food or drink in the play area.  The violators:  Moms and Dads.  Not this one.

After a little while, play time was done and it was off to the RF seats for us.  Here is an interesting picture of Tim that I took through his seat:

13 - thru seat.jpg

Can you tell what Tim is doing in this picture?

The Answer:

14 - nats ice cream helmet.jpg

In the picture to the left, Tim is holding out his spoon after telling me to take a picture of his ice cream.  By the way, for the first time ever, he went with Cookies’n’Creme — and he loved it.  In the picture to the right, Tim is all concerned that I missed getting a picture of the ice cream on his spoon.  He was very invested in that shot and was upset by the idea that I might have missed it.  As you can see, I nailed it!

This was our view from our ice cream seats:

15 - nats rf ice cream seasts panaramic.jpgAfter I cream, it was time to try to catch a home run:

17 - hit it here.jpg

Unfortunately, Adam Dunn couldn’t quite find the seats in this at bat:

18 - dunn done.jpg

[NOTE:  click on picture to enlarge.  You'll be able to see the ball in the top picture right at the bottom of the "T" in "Tickets."]

Check out all of these empty seats:

19 - empty seats.jpg

See the yellow circle at the bottom right?  That’s where Tim and I sat for the ninth inning.

So, all season, I’ve been trying to get a good action shot of an outfielder catching a fly ball.  Its harder than it sounds because you don’t know when a ball will be hit to any given outfielder.  Somehow, I got two decent shots at this game:

20 - running catches.jpg

In the top picture, the ball has just hit the leather of Soriano’s glove.  In the bottom picture, you can see the ball a couple feet above Adam Dunn.

While we were sitting in these seats, we noticed the Nats bullpen catcher would sometimes throw his warm up ball into the stands after warming up Josh Willingham in RF.  Tim wanted to play catch.  So we decided to give it one shot at a ball before going to find a spot to play catch.  It worked like this:

21 - nelson robledo to TJCs.jpg

As far as I can tell, the Nats bullpen catcher is former career minor leaguer, Nelson Robledo.  We were sure to thank Mr. Robledo for his kindness.

Then it was off to play catch by the batting cages in CF:

22a - playing catch.jpg

In the middle picture, Tim is showing his pitching leg kick.  He just learned his pitching motion in the last couple weeks.  I didn’t teach it to him.  He just copied what he saw me and other pitchers doing.  He does a full wind-up at time too.  These pictures are poor quality because we were in a dark hallway type-area.  Eventually, we were told not to play catch in there — “BOO, NATIONALS!  BOO!”  If we can play catch in a busy area of a bustling new Yankee Stadium without incident or reprimand, surely we should be able to play catch in an empty area of Nationals Park.

Next, we headed up to the Red Porch to watch the game with the party people in the house.  People were having a good time up there.  This was our view:

24 - nats red porch panaramic.jpg

…and here is what it looks like up on the Red Porch:

23 - red porch.jpg

Next, we headed over to the seats behind the Cubs’ dugout.  Here is a panaramic from the top of the aisle:

25 -nats cubs dugout panaramic.jpg

When I took this picture, Tim was sitting on my shoulders.  I was sure this guy in the yellow shirt and Nats hat to the far right was going to kick us out of the section and tell me to take Tim off of my shoulders.   Last time we were here, that is certainly what would have happened.  However, he did just the opposite.  He told me, “You have your hands full, why don’t you grab a seat.”  Excellent idea.  Thanks.

I grabbed some seats in the fourth row.

They gave us an excellent view of Notre Dame football start Jeff Samardzija:

26 - samardzija.jpg

Hey, did I mention that future Mariners Hall of Famer, Sweet Lou Piniella was in the house?

27a - Sweet Lou.JPGIt was game time for the Nats.  Despite sending their best hitter to the plate…

27 - last hope.jpg

…Cubs Win!  Cubs Win!  Cubs Win!

28 - congrats cubs.jpg

And it was time for Kids Run the Bases:

29 - nats 1B side track.jpg

The gal standing on the grass by first base in the Nats jersey is in the process of shouting, “MARINERS!!!”  I didn’t get her back story, but she said the Mariners are her favorite team.  Good to see we’ve infiltrated the Nationals!

Here is Tim at first base:

30 - run first base.jpg

Tim ran about 10 feet passed first base and than stopped.  He turned around and he yelled that he wanted me to run with him.  He came back over to me and I explained that only kids can run the bases so I couldnt’ run with him.  In an odd twist, Tim decided he didn’t want to run without me on this day.  So we just walked around the track and looked at everything.

I got this picture of the Nats doing some field touch-ups:

31 - painting W.JPG

And with that, we left Nationals Park for the final time this season.

But before heading home, we decided to go see a few other attractions in the D.C. area — you might have heard of them:

32 - capitol area.jpg

Tim loved the fountains at the WWII memorial.

Eventually, we had to hit the road to head home.  We had directional difficulties on the way down, so we decided to have some more on the way home.  This is an easy drive.  I’m not sure what the hecked I was thinking.  All I had to do was head up I-695 and connect to I-83 in Baltimore.

Sadly, I missed the I-695 turn off from I-95.  No problem.  I figured I’d just head into Baltimore and connect to I-83 downtown…by this:


 


33 - holy baltimore batman.JPG

The Baltimoreans decided it would be an excellent idea to put a street festival on the street leading to the I-83 entrance.  Hey, no problem.   I was looking for an opportunity to detour all around downtown Baltimore.

Oh, well.  Here are our goodies for the day:


34 - nats goodies.JPG

[Note:  Ball from Robledo, ice cream helmet, exchanged ticket showing $0.00, and Nationals give-away of insulated lunch bags].

Season Fan Stats:

19 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
7 Stadiums
(Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park)
14 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs,
Braves and Padres, Dodgers — and sort of the Giants)
15 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (3), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3) and Yankees)
18 Baseballs (12 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire, 1 Nationals) 
4 Divisions Closed Out (So far in Tim’s Life — AL West, AL East, NL West, NL East)
 
3 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ryan Perry) 
2 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
 
5 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose (2), Orioles Bird (2), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)

Griffey & Sensation: Two Kids Combine To Make Sweet Music

It’s the All-Star break…no Mariners games to watch.  What better time to share a non-game-based Mariners story?

Raise your hand if you know that Ken Griffey, Jr. has his own rap song?   (Not just a rap song about him, but a song in which HE IS THE RAPPER - or one of them, at least).  This is my story about Ken Griffey, Jr. , the recording artist, and his buddy, Kid Sensation.

[For those with short attention spans, you can check out and buy the three Griffey-based songs here , here, and here (or on iTunes)...and an Ichiro! song here.  For the rest of you, please come on a ride with me back to the 1990s.]



king2.jpgMy story starts where so many of my best stories begin:  The King County Domed Stadium a/k/a the “Kingdome.”

I loved the Kingdome.  Safeco Field is outstanding, but the Kingdome will always feel like my baseball home.  When they imploded the Dome in 2000, I calculated that I had spent 78 entire days of my life at the Kingdome – 97% or more of that time was at Mariners games.

One thing I loved about the Kingdome was it was sparsely populated.  Often times 15,000-20,000 people were crammed into 55,000 seats.  There was a ton of room to move around and get to know the place.  And I did.   I knew the place backwards and forwards.

In 1991, the Kingdome became even more exciting for me.  For a 2-3 year span, my family’s partial season ticket plan landed in an interesting spot – about 3 feet from Ken Griffey, Jr.’s  good friend and Seattle Rap Legend, Kid Sensation (a/k/a Xola Malik – pronounced “Ko-Lah”).


TheKids.jpgWhen I was growing up in the 80s, we would go to 10-20 Mariners games each season.  In 1991, my parents decided to get the 20-game plan.  We were in the second row behind the visitors’ bullpen (3B line) in the first four seats on the right side of the aisle.  Across the aisle in the front row, there were two guys in their early-20s who always seemed to be having a great time.  One of them immediately seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place him at first.

Right away, we noticed these guys were interacting with Griffey from the stands.  Griff would give them a nod or a point of the glove.  Then, we saw the “familiar looking guy” exiting the Dome with Griff through the players’ parking lot.  “Who is this guy?”


rollin.jpgBefore long, I made the connection.  I had Kid Sensation and Sir Mix-A-Lot in heavy rotation.  I soon recognized my Kingdome section-mate on the cover of Kid Sensation’s debut album “Rollin’ With Number One.”  (By the way, my favorite K-Sen song at the time was “SeaTown Ballers,” check it out here).

I wasn’t a shy kid.  So I was quick to introduce myself.  Xola was one cool dude.  Xola and his buddy, who I will call “C” and is Griff’s friend from Cincinnati, were always willing to chat with me and my buddies.  When I didn’t have my 20-game plan tickets, Xola and C would let me and my buddies sit in their extra seats (they had what seemed to be about six seats that were often times filled with their friends, including Craig “Younger Brother” Griffey and D.J. Train (see M.C. Ren and N.W.A.))

I seemed to be the only person in the Dome that figured out that we were sitting next to Kid Sensation.  And for a teenage guy who was already listening to Kid Sensation’s music it was extremely cool.


power.jpgIn 1992, Xola came out with his sophomore album, The Power of Rhyme.  I bought it immediately and was psyched to find a track, “The Way I Swing,” featuring the vocal-stylings of the Mariners All-Star Center Fielder.  “Swing” is the first episode of a trilogy of Griffey-based songs released by Xola between 1992-2009.  All three are “must have” tracks for any fan of Ken Griffey, Jr. and the Seattle Mariners.

“The Way I Swing” begins with Dave Neihaus’s classic call of Griffey’s home run in his first career at bat in the Kingdome.   From there, the two friends banter back-and-forth about their mad skills in the batters box and recording studio.  (e.g., “One likes to Bat, the other likes to Battle, one from Cincinnati, and the other’s from Seattle, Griffey’s batting average is three-oh-oh and the Kid is undefeated with a dozen K.O.’s”).

Considering that Griffey undeniably is a first ballot Hall of Famer (he should be a unanimous selection) and one of the best baseball players of all time, it is utterly amazing to me that “The Way I Swing” is not universally known by all baseball fans. 

So check it out here and download it here - and preview the 2009 remix here and download it here.

The second installment in the Griffey-trilogy is 2000’s “Do Your Thing.”  “Thing” doesn’t feature Griffey on the microphone, but it offers an unique behind-the-scenes look at Ken Griffey, Jr. “the friend.”  Xola pays tribute to Griff’s accomplishments as a Mariner, reminisces about the good times the two shared during Griff’s first stint in Seattle, and offers Griff encouragement and love as he joins the Cincinnati Reds.  The song can break your heart as a Mariners fan, but offers a moving glimpse into Griff’s personal life and his decision to return home to Cincy.

You can preview “Do Your Thing” here and download it here.

Finally, with Griffey’s resigning with the Mariners in 2009, Xola released the celebratory track “Back Home.”  The song is pure joy.  It begins with a radio host announcing to his Seattle listeners that Griffey has resigned with the Mariners, it includes excerpts from Griffey’s re-introductory press conference, and it perfectly captures the sheer joy and elation that die-hard Mariners fans felt the day Griffey decided to come “Back Home.”

You can preview “Back Home” here and download it here.

In 2009, Xola has, for the most part, retired the Kid Sensation moniker.  He is preparing to release a new album simply as Xola Malik (lets face it, neither Xola nor Griff is a “kid” anymore).  Meanwhile, he is a successful businessman (see http://www.henchhench.com),  a dedicated philantrophist (see http://www.liveunited.org/music), and a creative producer/performer and actor.

Sitting next to Xola back in the Kingdome was a thrill.  Although I didn’t meet Griff while sitting with Xola, I got a peak into his circle of friends and a what it must have been like to hang out with him back in his 20s.  Plus, Xola and C were just fun to be around.  I recall once that Xola ordered a bag of peanuts from Seattle’s famed peanut vendor Rick Kaminski…


king1.jpg…and then sent Rick all the way up to the cross aisle and down toward the next section to throw the peanuts.  The Peanut Man fired the peanuts behind his back a good 100+ feet over 25 rows of people…


king5.jpgThe Peanut Man threw the peanuts from the top arrow to Xola standing at the point of the bottom arrow,
and nailed Xola in the hands.  Sadly, Xola does not quite have the glove Griff has and the peanuts escaped his grasp and landed in the bullpen.  (That’s alright though, Griff doesn’t quite have the same skills in the booth as Xola, so we’ll call it a draw).

Well, that’s my story of Griffey the recording artist and his friend Kid Sensation.  I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you’ll check out and enjoy these three great Griffey-based songs. 

Tim and I will be checking out our first second-half game action this weekend in D.C…hopefully they actually play a game this time.

Fenway Park – Part 3 of 3 (A Moment to Remember – 7/5/09)

1 - more copley ball.JPGFor the second day in a row, we woke up and had breakfast and played some baseball in Copley Square.  On this day, however, we just played catch and did some base running (on four drains in front of the Church in the square).

Soon, it was time to head to Fenway Park for our final game of the weekend roadtrip.  We were hoping for a Mariners sweep.  But it wasn’t in the cards.

I’m going to break with my usual protocol and skip to the fourth inning.  I’ll go back and cover the game from the beginning, but I don’t want to bury the most important part of this unfortunate Mariners loss in the middle of the entry.

You might have noticed by now that I am a big Mariners fan. And, by definition, that means I am a huge Ken Griffey, Jr. fan.  Ken Griffey, Jr. means everything to Mariners fans (at least to real Mariners fans).  I was 13 when Griff broke into the Mariners back in 1989.

The Mariners were a fairly unimportant team until 1989. Well, they were important to me and about 10,000 other people in the state of Washington.  But they were sort of a minor league Major League team to everyone else.  They had zero winning seasons in their history.  There were constant rumors and threats that the team would move — most notably to Tampa, Florida.  The Kingdome — as beautiful and perfect as it was — was largely empty.  (By the way, that wasn’t sarcasm, the Kingdome was, indeed, beautiful and perfect).


2- me and griff 1991.jpgAnd then, in April 1989, things changed.  KEN GRIFFEY, JR. ARRIVED!  All of a sudden, one of the most celebrated young ball players in baseball was a Seattle Mariner.  People started to pay some attention to our club.  People started showing up at the Kingdome.

In 1991, we had a WINNING SEASON!

In 1995, we WON THE WEST!  We made the PLAYOFFS!!  We were two games from the World Series.

The Mariners were no longer going to move away!  Instead, they built Safeco Field.  It was a golden era in Mariners baseball.

Long story short:  Ken Griffey, Jr. changed baseball in Seattle, he saved baseball in Seattle, he IS baseball in Seattle.

Therefore, when my son was born in 2006 and we started going to baseball games together, I had a goal:  Take Tim to see Griffey.

We have had incredibly bad luck in this respect.  Prior to this weekend, we had gone to see him play more than 10 times, and Griff played in only three of those games.  In those games, he has had gone hitless (but with a bunch of walks).

So we turn to this game.  Shortly before game time, they announced the starting line-up.  I was more saddened to learn that Mike Sweeney would be DH’ing and Griffey would have the day off.

I started thinking worst case scenario.  This is very possibly our final Mariners game of the season.  They don’t come back to the Northeast this season.  In 30 years, would Tim have to tell his son, “Yeah, your grandpa took me to see the great Ken Griffey, Jr. when I was a boy.  But I never saw him get a hit.”  I hated the thought.  But there was nothing I could do about it.  The Mariners were facing a lefty, Jon Lester, and Mike Sweeney had to get his work in to stay sharp.

Then in the fourth inning (with no disrepect to Sweeney), something wonderful happened:

3 - sweeney back spasms.JPG

I was totally unprepared.  (That notice was actually posted in the 5th or 6th inning).

Tim was sitting on my shoulders.  We were at a food stand behind the grandstand behind the seats by the 1B dugout.  I had just ordered a sausage with onions and peppers (for me), a hot dog (for Tim), a diet coke, and a bag of peanuts.  There was no counter at the cash registered so I had to hold everything in one hand while finding my money and paying the cashier with the other hand (while still balancing Tim on my shoulders with no hands).

In the midst of all of this, I hear the following over the stadium P.A. system:

“Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, JUNIOR!”

Instantly, my thought was, “The Red Sox don’t have a Junior!  AHHHHH!!!”

I jammed my wallet and change into my pocket, gathered up everything as best as I could and ran toward the field as fast as I could.

This picture shows our starting point and our route to the field:

4 - oh my griffs up.JPG

When we ran into the back of the grandstand, I believe we were in Section 13 or 14.

I yelled up to Tim, “I THINK GRIFF IS UP!”

Right as we got in view of the field, we saw Lester start his wind up and deliver a pitch to Griffey.  What happened next was possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever seen at a major league stadium:  Griff drilled the pitch off of the Green Monster!

According to my DVR, it looked something like this:

5 - Griff Hits the Monster.JPG

I think that to everyone else in the stadium, it was just a random lead off hit in the top of the fourth inning.  But to me, it was possibly the greatest baseball moment ever.  For the first time in over ten years, I witnessed Ken Griffey, Jr. — my boyhood hero and favorite baseball player of all-time — get a hit for my Seattle Mariners and I witnessed it with my son sitting on my shoulders sharing the moment with me.  And the fact that he hit the ball off the Green Monster, the most famous outfield wall in baseball, made it even more exciting.

This simple hit is easily the highlight of my season so far, and I plan to think and talk about it with Tim for years and years to come.  I hope Tim and I get another chance to see Griffey play — this season and next.  But, if that is not possible, this hit will keep me satisfied.

(By way of background and to clarify, *I* have seen Griffey get tons of hits, hit numerous homeruns, multiple grand slams, makes dozens of circus catches (including the one when he broke his arm in half) — but I’d never shared any of those moments with Tim.  That’s what made this hit so special).

By the time I could get to a spot where I could put our food down and get to my camera, Franklin Gutierrez had advanced Griff to second with a single.  Here is Griff leading off of second:

 

6 - griffs on second.JPGGriff would have two more plate appearances on the day, both walks.  He went 1-1 on the day.  Amazingly, I got zero pictures of Griff at the plate during this game.

Okay, now lets back track to the beginning of the game.

We entered the stadium again through the CF gate on Lansdowne Street.  It was a 1:35 start, but the teams still took BP.  We arrived as the first group of Mariners were hitting, including Griffey and Ichiro.

We started out in the CF bleachers.  Griffey was blasting bombs into the RF bleachers.  I wanted to go over there, but there is no way I am going to try to catch a HR ball with Tim on my shoulders.  Shortly after we arrived, Griff hit a ground rule double to straight away CF that bounced up into the stands and directly into my Dad’s glove.

My Dad has had great luck with Griffey this year.  In addition to this BP ground rule double, on the first day of spring training, my Dad got Griff’s second BP homerun in his second tour of duty with the Mariners.

I decided to go up onto the Green Monster and see if Tim and I could get into the seating area.  There is a staircase in the CF concourse that takes you up to the Green Monster.  You can walk out to the edge of the seating area, but they won’t let you out into the seats without a Monster ticket.   So Tim and I just stood around up there for a few minutes taking in the view before heading back down to the field level seats.

I had a thought in the back of my head that it would be neat to get a ball thrown up to us on the Green Monster.  Tim and I stood in the closest spot to the seats that you can get to without a Monster ticket:

8 - phillips from monster.JPG We stood in the spot under the red arrow where the guy in the red shirt is standing.  I noticed Jason Vargas and Jason Phillips standing together below in LCF.   (In the picture to the right, that is Jason Phillips after the two Jasons split up).

After a few minutes, someone hit a ball to Vargas.  I yelled down from the Mondster, “Hey, Vargas!!!!”  He heard me!  He looked up!  He turned around and he fired the ball to me. Unfortunately, it was too low and it clanked off a light and some bricks just below us — out of reach.

Jason Phillips stood and watched Vargas’s failed attempt.  And just then, someone hit him a ball.  “Hey, Jason!”  Phillips looked back up at me.  He turned around and he fired the ball to me.  A perfect strike.  It would have hit me directly in the chest.  It was a very impressive throw, and much appreciated.

“Thanks, Jason!”

Here is a picture that illustrates the flight of the ball:

At the time Phillips threw the ball, he was even a little bit — maybe 10-15 feet — closer toward LF.  He didn’t lob the ball up to me.  He fired it on a line, just like the arrow in this picture.  As I said, a very impressive throw.

Tim and I then went down to the CF bleachers and met up with my mom who was standing right where my Dad caught Griff’s ground rule double about 10 minutes earlier.

Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard were standing below us.  Felix runs all over the place trying to make high light reel catches during BP.  At one point, he caught one near us.  He looked up and made I contact with me (and Tim).  There was a lady from Seattle shouting at him standing directly next to me to my left.  Felix fired the ball up to us.  He threw it to our right side so the shouting lady wouldn’t interfere.  I could have caught it without moving at all — I just had to reach across my body and back hand it.  However, as I started to go for the backhand, I realize there was a 8’ish year old boy wearning a Red Sox jersey and a glove standing next to me.  If I didn’t catch the ball, he’d get it.  I decided to let me have it since we already had the ball from Jason Phillips and we got Felix’s warm up ball the day before.

Soon thereafter, someone hit a ball into the OF corner by the end of the Red Sox bullpen.  Here was the scene:

9 - bedard ball.JPG

We were standing in the red circle.  Erik Bedard was standing at the red “X”.  There was a rope running along the warning track.  (I think it was to keep people involved in the pre-game ceremonies off of the grass).  The rope went down the warning track and around a big door in the outfield wall.  The ball went in the corner behind the rope as shown above.

Bedard turned around and walked over and grabbed the ball.  A whole bunch of people including a bunch of 10’ish year old kids, were standing by the bullpen directly above the ball.  I figured Bedard would grab it and flip it up to them.  While those people all yelled at Bedard for the ball, Erik picked it up and looked at them.  He then walked as slowly as humanly possible back over to the yellow “X” in the picture above.  Then he looked up and made eye contact with me (and Tim), and fired the ball to us.  I had the feeling that Bedard had watched Felix throw us the ball when I let the kid catch it and he was trying to finish what Felix had started.  The yelling lady was still next to me.  Like Felix, Bedard threw the ball to my right so she wouldn’t get it.

 Next, it was time to walk around.  We checked out the RF corner and the Pesky Pole:

9a - pesky pole.JPG

As RF corners go, this is one of the most interesting in baseball.  Not very “corner-ish.”  More like a RF curve.

We walked up through the old wooden grandstand seats:

 
10 - grandstand seats 1B line.JPG

We headed out to Yawkey Way and watched Tom Caron from NESN interview comedian Mike O’Malley:

11 - nesn tom caron and mike omalley.JPG

Sean Casey was walking around the NESN set.  I walked over to get a picture of him (or possibly with him), but he vanished into thin air.

It was getting close to game time, so we walked back into the stadium and went through the busy concourse behind home plate:

12 - concourse home to third.JPG

When we were down here, we got Tim a chocolate ice cream helmet and headed toward our seats in the grandstand behind home plate:

16 - overflowing ice cream helmet.JPG

The seats were great.  Here was our view:

13 - fenway 22-15-18 panramic.jpg

The red arrow points to where Tim and I were standing when Griffey hit his single off of the Green Monster.

We watched te pre-game festivities such as the reading of the Fenway Park Code of Conduct…

14 - fenway code of conduct.JPG

…the carrying of the pink backpack to the Mariners bullpen by Christ Jakubauskas…

15 - Jak-n-backpack.JPG

…the third ceremonial first pitch by Marky Mark Wahlberg (and his re-do third ceremonial first pitch due to his first third ceremonial first pitch sailing high over the catcher to the backstop):

17 - Marky Mark Pitches the Funky Stuff.JPG

Finally, it was game time.  As always, future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki led off for the Mariners:

18 - lester-to-ichi with floating ball and pedroia.JPG

I like this picture for two reasons — (i) the ball is captured right above the plate (but low, it was called a ball) and (ii) Dustin Pedroia is, for some reason, floating in the air at second base (click on the picture to see it larger, Pedroia is totally off of the ground).

I got some more Red Sox pictures:

19 - youk-n-papi.JPG

I wanted to get a shot of Big Papi clapping his hands before stepping into the box but I missed it.  He hit the next pitch into the RF bleachers, the second Red Sox home run in the first inning.

By the time Griff was up for a second time, we were touring around in the grandstand out beyond the Pesky Pole.  He walked.  Here he is leading off first base:

20 - griffs on first.JPG

We went out to the concourse in the RF corner and took this picture showing the Red Sox World Series and other banners:

25 - fenway banners panaramic.jpg

FYI, see the guy wearing the red shirt above the blue 1967 banner in the middle of the picture?  He is standing in the walkway behind the grandstand seats where Tim and I spent a lot of time over the course of the weekend.

The red arrow in that last picture is pointing to this:

 
26 - the Green Monster.JPG

I’m guessing this guy is called the “Green Monster.”  We saw the real one of this guy running around on the field before each game, but we never saw him in the crowd.  This was the best we could do with respect to getting a mascot picture.

See the red arrow in that last picture?  It is pointing to a staircase that leads to the “Players Club.”  I’m not sure what the Players Club is all about.  It looked like it was for special events or people with special tickets.  But we headed in to check it out and no one seemed to mind.  Here is what it looked like:

21 - players club.jpg

…more players club…

22 - players club.jpg

…and we found something cool in the Players Club:

23 - 2004 2007 WS trophies.JPG

(From Left:  2004 World Series Trophy, Todd & Tim, 2007 World Series Trophy)

We walked out of the players club just in time to see this…

24 - Ellsbury homer.JPG

Through the break in the grandstand and bleachers, that is Jacoby Ellsbury hitting a home run to bring the score to 4-3 Mariners.

We met up with my folks and watched the game on a TV while we ate some food at the tables in the RF corner.  From our table, you could see the Players Club above the food stands:

27 - players club outside.JPG

While we sat here, the Mariners brought in Miguel Batista.  It was not Miguel’s day.  He gave up a bunch of runs and the Mariners eventually lost the game 8-4.

 Tim and I watched the last inning from our familiar RF corner by the Mariners bullpen.  We were hoping Griff would get one more at bat, but it wasn’t in the cards.  We settled for one more picture with the field before heading out:

28 - one last look.JPG

This game, we switched things up and exited the stadium from the RF exit so I could get a picture of this:

29 - ted williams.JPG
When my Dad was a kid, there was no baseball team in the state of Washington.  Ted Williams was his baseball hero.  This is what the plaque below Ted says:

9

Ted Williams

Boston Red Sox

The greatest hitter who ever lived, an American patriot, and a pioneer in the development of the Jimmy Fund.   Ted Williams will forever be one of the great heroes in the history of baseball, Boston and America.  He amassed 521 home runs despite sacrificing five years in his prime to serve his country during World War II and the Korean War.  He was a relentless champion of children, such as this child to whom he is offering his cap, in their battle against cancer, and helped make the Jimmy Fund at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute the world renowned center of research and care that it is today.

The memory of Ted Williams will forever be a point of pride for the Boston Red Sox, the people of Boston, New England, and the United States of America.

We took one more picture outside:

30 - goodbye fenway.JPG
“Good bye, Fenway!”

With that, we started our walk back to the hotel…
 

31 - hit the road.JPG
…so we could start our drive back home.

For so many reasons, it was such an awesome weekend shared with Tim and my folks.

32 - weekend recap.JPG
 

Season Fan Stats:


fenway ticket.jpg18 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
7 Stadiums
(Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park)
13 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Nationals,
Braves and Padres, Dodgers — and sort of the Giants)
14 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (3), Mets, Nationals (2), Red Sox (3) and Yankees)
17 Baseballs (12 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire) 
4 Divisions Closed Out (So far in Tim’s Life — AL West, AL East, NL West, NL East)
 
3 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ryan Perry) 
2 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
 
5 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose (2), Orioles Bird (2), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)

Fourth of July at Fenway – Mariners Win!

So, we woke up to a lazy Saturday morning in Boston…

1 - july 4th.JPG…it was Independence Day, better head over to Fenway.

Wait, first, we better hit some baseballs in Copley Square:

2 - copley ball.JPGI’m not sure why, but some tourist actually took pictures of Tim hitting in Copley Square.

Soon, it was time to hit the road for our already familiar walk down Boylston Street to Ipswich Street and over to Lansdowne — ah, Fenway Park:

3 - walking to fenway.jpg

 Tim and I entered the park through Gate C on Lansdowne and headed up the CF stairs to the Green Monster.  I was sad to learn that they were already checking tickets, so we couldn’t get all the way out onto the Monster, but I took pictures for this panaramic:

4 - fenway CF green monster panaramic.jpg

My folks entered from Gate A on Yawkey Way and went into the field seats behind the Mariners dugout where someone snapped this shot:

4a - folks in fenway.JPG

Tim and I came over and met up with my folks and we spotted our buddy from the streets of Boston, Mariners GM Jack Zdureincik:

5 - Jack Z in dugout.JPG

While we were standing here, there was almost nothing going on on the field.  Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard were playing catch down the LF line by the Green Monster.  But the field was otherwise empty.  Maybe some grounds crew people were watering the infield.  Tim and I were just sitting in the front row drinking some cold water to cool off.

A couple minutes after taking that picture of Jack Z. above, Tim, my mom and I moved down the 3B line a bit and stood where the red arrow is pointing in the picture of Jack.  Immediately, upon our arrive (literally within a few seconds), Erik Bedard and Jason Phillips walked by:

6 - bedard and phillips.JPG

Bedard spotted Tim and I and chucked his and Felix’s warm up ball to us — Sweet!

“Thanks, Erik!”

Jason Phillips looks over at us and give us a big smile and a point, “You again!”  We returned the favor with a smile and a point.  If you haven’t read the last two entries, Phillips, Tim and I had shared a couple exchanges the previous day and two days earlier in New York.

In case you aren’t familiar with Mr. Phillips and want to look him up on Baseball-Reference.com, you’ll notice there are two Jason Phillips in major league history.  This one is Jason Lloyd Phillips.  He is now the Mariners bullpen catcher.  But he previously played for the Mets, Dodgers, and Blue Jays.  His best season was 2003 when he hit .298 with 120 hits, 11 HRs and 56 RBI for the Mets.  Hopefully he’ll get another shot to make a big league club.  If not, I’m happy to have him in the Mariners bullpen and organization.

Back to the game at hand.  We noticed that Mariners ALL-STAR pitcher Felix Hernandez was signing autographs down the 3B line.  I’m not a big autograph guy, but I figured what the heck, let’s give it a shot.  I didn’t have a pen, but I thought it would be cool to have Felix sign the ball he’d just used to play catch with Bedard.

Much more than autographs, I prefer getting our picture with players.  So when Felix grabbed his warm up ball back from me I asked him if we could get our picture with him.  Felix signed the ball with a borrowed sharpie and responded, “Sure.”

I took the first one myself and then looked at it and it wasn’t very good.  Felix just stood and watched me waiting for me to give him the “okay” on the picture.  Very cool.  A nice Bostonian said, “Let me take it.”  So I handed her my camera and Felix posed for another picture with us — much better:

“Thanks, Felix.”

“Thanks, lady.”

Here we go:

7 - felix warm up ball autograph and photo.jpg

When I gave King Felix the ball, I was wondering if he thought it was odd that I’d ask him to sign such a dirty ball.  He didn’t give me the ball, so he didn’t know it was his warm up ball.

My dad buys a team ball at each stadium he visits.  He got Felix to sign a Red Sox / Fenway Park Fourth of July Ball.

Here we are in the 3B side concourse showing off the Bedard-Hernandez ball:

8 - championship wall and felix ball.JPG

Although you can’t see it, that wall has signs for all of the Red Sox World Series Championships.  FYI, you can see in this picture that I brought my new Rawlings Trap-Eze infielders glove.  I saw it at the Rawlings outlet and loved the white lacing.  I have no actual need for an infielders glove (I play LF for a beer league softball team), but I had to get it.  I love it.

Next, we checked out Yawkey Way:

9 - Yawkey Way.JPGThis is the main street along the 3B side of the park.  FYI, Fenway Park’s address is 4 Yawkey Way.  This street and all of the people shown in the picture are actually *inside* the stadium.

That band was playing on Yawkey Way and they were rockin’ it hard.  I really enjoyed them.  To their right, you can see “Big League Brian” — the dude on stilts.  He has a soft baseball that he throws back and forth with fans in the crowd.  Tim wanted to go down to see him and the band, but when we finally made our way down there the band was packing up and BLB was nowhere to be found.

Next, my folks headed to our seats in the CF bleachers — section 37, row 21.  Tim didn’t want to go out into the sun.  So we hung out in the shady standing room area at the back of the grandstand behind third base.

And we took some pictuers.

Here is the Mariners bullpen crew walking to the bullpen — Chris Jakubauskas is sporting the pink backpack (Q:  Is my A-Rod ball in there???  We’ll have to wait and see…):

10 - bullpen to bullpen.JPG

Griff and his colleagues stood for the National Anthem:

11 - National Anthem.JPG

Ichi and Griff in the on-deck circle:

12 - Ichi and Griff.JPG

Ichiro led off the game.  Its no secret, but I’ll go on the record — this guy is decent, extremely decent:

13 - Ichiro.JPG

He was followed shortly by The Kid:

14- Griff Hitting.JPG

In the bottom picture, you can see the ball going foul.  He hit it directly above me and Tim.

By the way, I must note that the people at Fenway (pretty much everyone, fans, attendants, cops, everyone…) are so cool.  Many of the standing room areas under the grandstand have painted lines on the ground that are clearly marked “STANDING ROOM.”  In those areas, they have attendants that will come ask you to stand in the lines if you are milling about outside of the lines.

As Griffey was at bat, I was standing right behind the seats and 15 feets or so outside of the designated “STANDING ROOM.”  Tim was on my shoulders and I was focused on taking shots of Griff.  A bunch of other fans were standing all around me, also outside of the designated “STANDING ROOM.”  I could hear an attendant approaching and telling people they needed to stand in the marketd areas.  Then amazingly, he went to every single person in my area EXCEPT ME.  He tapped each person on the shoulder and politely explained that they needed to stand in the painted “STANDING ROOM” areas.  But he just let me stand in the middle of the aisle and take pictures of Junior.  How cool is that?  He understood that it was important to me to get some shots of my guy, and he just let me stay there and do my thing.

“Thanks, dude!”

 After Griff’s at bat, Tim was ready for a chocolate ice cream helmet, and we were lucky enough to walk by a standing room counter space right as a guy left it — so I watched the game from here (leaning around the pole) as Tim ate his ice cream:

14a - ice cream standing room.jpg

FYI, if you want oreos, M&M’s or other toppings on your ice cream helmet at Fenway, I believe you have to go to the ice cream place behind the RF bleachers.  They had no toppings at the ice cream stand at the back of the grandstand.

Here is a shot of the grandstand seating down the 1B line:

15 - Grandstand.JPGIn

In my post for the July 3rd game, I mentioned that Tim and enjoyed standing in the walkway behind the grandstand seats down the 1B line.  The red arrow in the last picture shows where we stood for several innings during this game.  Here is what it looks like up close:

16 - walkway.JPG

Tim is sitting on the step in this picture.  He is checking out some beads that a Red Sox fan gave him on our walk to this spot.  The guy was all dressed and painted up in red, white and blue for the Fourth of July.  He saw Tim on my shoulders and gave him a set of red and blue beads.  For the rest of the weekend, Tim had me wear one set while he wore the other.

Here is our view of the field from where Tim was sitting (FYI, the view is much better from the standing position — I really liked it in this spot):

17 - view from section 5 walkway.JPG

Tim loved it in the aisle way.  He was all smiles, that is until he grabbed his glove and started playing catcher:

18 - fun in the walkway.JPG

Note, Tim is not wearing his shoes.  He felt right at home at Fenway.  He was in his socks probably 50% of the time while we were at Fenway during the weekend.

From the aisle, we watched the Mariners bullpen stand in a line:

19 - Mariners bullpen lineup.JPG

(From left:  Coach John Wetteland, Mark Lowe, Sean Kelley, David Aardsma (bald), Roy Corcoran (hat behind Aardsma), Sean White (looking down), Chris Jakubauskas, Not-Sure-Probably-Jason-Phillips, Not-Sure-Probably-Miguel-Batista — through the crack, pink backpack).

I’m not sure why the Mariners bullpen does this, but (as you’ll see) they do it a lot.  They are standing in a line facing away from the scoreboard and toward the doorway from the bullpen to the field.  I meant to try to ask someone in the bullpen what it was all about, but I forgot.  My mom’s theory is that they are seeing off a bullpen-mate who is entering the game.  I’m not sure.  I don’t think a reliever came in at this point.  Anyone have any ideas?

Finally, we had avoided the sun long enough, we decided to join my parents in our seats in CF.  Here was our view:

20 - fenway section 37 row 21 panaramic.jpg

[NOTE:  While uploading that picture, Franklin Gutierrez hit a 3-run bomb against the Rangers to put the Mariners up 3-1 in the bottom of the 8th.  Can we finally beat the Rangers?  Yes!  Go Mariners!]

Before sitting down, Tim showed my folks his shoulder-top power stroke:

21 - swinging in 37.JPG

My mom and the Fenway faithful taught Tim how to do his first “wave”:

22 - first wave.JPG

The Mariners changed pitchers and the outfielders converged to do some stretching:

23 - to stretch or not stretch.JPG

Soon, I decided to go down behind the Mariners bullpen, just in case Griffey, Ichi or Branyan decided to hit a HR there.  Tim stayed with my folks for a bit, but then he requested to come down to me — by this point, the boy was bare footed (so I made him stay on my shoulders):

24 - behind bullpen.JPG

Can you spot us in that picture?  We’re standing next to a police officer at the back upper corner of the bullpen.  Notice anything else in that picture?  Yep, the guys were back at it again:

28 - bullpen lineup.JPG

I know there is some meaning to this, but what is it?

We watched Miguel Batista play catch with Ichiro between innings:

26 - miguel batista.JPG

All of a sudden, Tim tells me, “Take a picture of those guys!”

Todd:  “Who?”

Tim:  “Those guys” (pointing, but I couldn’t see it because he was behind my head)

Todd:  “Who?  I can’t see where you’re pointing.”

Tim:  “THOSE GUYS!”

Todd:  “Buddy, I can’t see where you’re pointing.  Who do you want me to take a picture of?”

Unknown Voice:  “He’s pointing at me.”

Todd:  “Oh, okay.”

Here are “those guys”:

25 - cop usher and shiny glasses.JPG

“Those guys” didn’t care at all that Tim and I stood right here in the middle of the aisle for the last three innings of the game.  Very cool.  Thanks, those guys.

The police office asked Tim, “Hey, little guy, are you a Red Sox fan?”

I told him that we were Red Sox fans to the extent that we can’t stand the Yankees (sorry, Yankees fans).  The officer responded, “That’s fine by me.  We can accept that.”  He was a nice guy.

Soon we saw this guy stretching out and warming up:

27 - Aardsma.JPG

David Aardsma = Mariners Win.

The Happy Totals to prove it:

32 - more happy totals.JPG

If you couldn’t tell, our seats were under the “great” in the “make something great” sign.

How awesome, three games into our weekend road trip, the Mariners are 3-0.

The bullpen guys marched back to the dugout to greet the rest of their teammates — Jakubauskas totes the pink backpack…hmmm…and my A-Rod ball?):

30 - bullpen to dugout.JPG

Then I watched a couple guys fix the Mariners bullpen mound.  This closet is at the CF end of the Red Sox bullpen:

29 - bullpen fixer.JPG

The bullpen fixer guys, like everyone else, were really nice too.  One of them congratulated Tim on his team winning the game.

Before leaving Fenway, we got a family picture:

31 - cooks at fenway.JPG

Tim shows off his Felix Hernandez ball.

It was the Fourth of July, so that night, we headed to the park along the river and watched some fireworks:

33 - fireworks.JPG

After fireworks, we returned to our hotel and who did we run into by the elevators?  Mariners reliever and keeper of the pink backpack, Chris Jakubauskas.  As he walked by, I called out, “Hey, Chris!?”  He spun around, “Hey, man.”

He walked over and chatted with me and my folks for a couple minutes – probably about 3 minutes or so.  Here is paraphrased excerpt of part of our conversation:

Todd:  “So you got an A-Rod ball in your pink backpack?”

Chris:  “Huh, what?  Oh, yeah.  Where’d that come from?”

Todd:  “Its mine.”

Chris:  “I was going through the backpack because I have to make sure we have certain things in there and I pull out this A-Rod ball.  I’m like, ‘What the h— is this A-Rod ball?’  I took it around to everyone, ‘Did you put this A-Rod ball in there?’ No one knew about it.”

Todd:  “I gave it to Jason Phillips the other night in New York”

Chris:  “I’m gonna have to ask Phillips about that one.”

Todd:  “I’ve had it sitting around for a couple years and couldn’t stand it, so I thought it would be happier in the pink backpack.”

Tim (to Chris):  Do you want to come see my room?”

Chris:  “What, little guy?”

Tim:  “Do you want to come see my room?”

I told Tim that Chris has his own room and was on his way somewhere so he couldn’t come see our room.  Before parting ways, I asked Chris if he’d watched the fireworks from his room in the hotel.  He explained that David Aardsma (a former Red Sox player) got them out onto the Green Monster to watch the fireworks.  Hmmm…its nice to be a major league ball player and to have connections!

It was very cool chatting with Jakubauskas.  He was extremely nice and was glad to chat with some Mariners fans in the elevator bank.  Many props to Jak.  He’s got some fans in the Cook household.

After chatting with Jak, we called it a night and looked forward to our final game of the weekend the next day…

Season Fan Stats:

17 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
7 Stadiums
(Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park)
13 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Nationals,
Braves and Padres, Dodgers — and sort of the Giants)
13 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (3), Mets, Nationals (2), Red Sox (2) and Yankees)
15 Baseballs (10 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire) 
4 Divisions Closed Out (So far in Tim’s Life — AL West, AL East, NL West, NL East)
 
3 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ryan Perry) 
2 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
 
5 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose (2), Orioles Bird (2), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats))

Meeting Fenway (7/3/09)

The morning after watching the Mariners beat the Yankees in the Bronx, we woke up and ever so slowly drove to Boston.  It was time for Tim to meet Fenway Park…

2 - gate c.JPG…and for the Mariners to battle the Boston Red Sox — the final team Tim needed to see to close out the A.L. East.  As we walked down Lansdowne Street toward Gate C, the air was full of BBQ smoke and humidity:

1 - Lansdowne.JPGAs we entered the gate behind the CF bleachers, we were met with a maze of support beams, concession stands, and signs:

3 - fenway cf concourse panaramic.jpg

(Remember, you can click on any of these pictures to see a bigger view).

We entered the bleachers and found ourselves behind the Mariners bullpen:

4 - behind bullpen.JPGHere was our view:

5 - fenway RF bullpen panaramic.jpgBatting practice was finished by the time we arrived.  The catchers were stretching by the bullpens and the starting pitchers — Felix Hernandez (8-3) and Tim Wakefield (10-3) were about to arrive at the bullpens to warm up.

Hey, who is that standing in RF in front of the Mariners bullpen?  Why its bullpen catchers extraordinaire Jason Phillips, “Hey, Jason!”

6 - thanks again mr. phillips.JPG“Thanks, Jason!”

That is ball number 4 from Jason Phillips on the season, number 3 from Jason Phillips on the weekend, and Fenway is the third stadium with a ball from Jason Phillips this season.

You’re the man, Mr. Phillips!

My parents were excited to be back to Fenway for the first time since 2003, and for their first time ever to see the Mariners at Fenway.

 
6a - parents at fenway.JPGWe watched King Felix warm up:

7 - the king.JPGWhen Felix was sufficiently warmed up he handed off his warmup ball to Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair, and Adair passed it on to this gentleman:

8 - the kings warm up ball.JPGMy pa’s first ball ever at Fenway.

I decided to go down to the first row in section 1:

10 - talking to phillips.JPG

In this picture, I had just gotten Jason Phillips’s attention.  He walked over to the fence to chat with me.  If you saw my entry from the night before, you may recall that I’d thrown an A-Rod Mariners photo ball to Phillips the night before at Yankee Stadium.  I asked Phillips what he had done with my A-Rod ball.

Phillips: “I put it in the pink backpack!”

Todd:  “Sweet!  Thanks, man!”

We exchanged a celebratory high-five.  He explained, however, that he couldn’t guarantee what would happen to it because he isn’t in charge of the pink backpack.  So it might not last in there.  That’s a-okay with me.  I’m just happy it got in there at all.  Either way, it is an honor if (i) the Mariners bullpen travels around with my A-Rod ball in the pink backpack or (ii) discards the A-Rod ball in a manner they deem appropriate.

Fenway is full of interesting views, and here are two of them I captured after chatting with Phillips:

9 - 380 sign.JPGIf you enlarge that picture, you can see my dad waving to me through the fencing. 

Next, it was time to tour around Fenway and get to know the park:

12 - TJCs on the move.JPGI wanted to capture this beautiful piece of history from every angle.  And here is the first from our walking tour:

13 - fenway 1B field panaramic.jpgAnd here is another:

14 - fenway Home-1B field panaramic.jpgCheck out these tiny aisles — that’s what is called *old school*:

15 - tiny aisles.JPGWe checked out the Mariners dugout — its always nice to see our boys up close:

17 - watching tinsley.JPGYou see first base coach Lee Tinsley standing next to Brandon Morrow in that picture to the left?  A few seconds before this picture, he walked in front of where we were standing.  I said, “Hi, Lee” and I flashed him my glove as if he had a ball — clearly, he did not.  He nodded at us and walked into the tunnel to the M’s clubhouse.  A few seconds later, he came back and stood right where he is standing in this picture.  Tim and I were just standing around and taking in the scene and taking some pictures of the Mariners running in the outfield.  Tinsley stood there for about 2 minutes and then, all of a sudden, he turned around and threw us a ball.  He must have grabbed it when he went into the tunnel inside the dugout.

“Thanks, Lee!”

Here is what our view looked like at the dugout:

16 - fenway 3B dugout panaramic.jpg

Next, we went out to the LF seats to watch the Mariners position players run and stretch.  When we got there, it was time for the National Anthem:

19 - singing anthem.JPG

I was excited — Griffey was playing!

While in this spot in the first row, Tim and I found ourselves sitting by a young boy named Tyler.  I’d say he was about 8-9 years old.  Tyler’s uncle has seats in the second row.  He’s a nice guy, and a good Red Sox fan so I listened to him when he said Tim and I should just stay in the first row seats until some one came for them.  If you say so, Tyler!

Here was our view as the M’s got ready for the game to start:

20 - ready to play ball.JPG

Here is a picture of us taken by one of Tyler’s seat-mates:

18 - seats by tyler.JPG

We sat in these seats for the first half of an inning — until Griff batted — and we chatted with Tyler the whole time, and a little with his family.  We talked about two lopsided trades between the Mariners and Red Sox back in the 1990s — Jamie Moyer for Daren Bragg (advantage Mariners) and Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb (advantage Red Sox).  At the end of the day, I think we’re the biggest winners — because Moyer became our all-time winningest pitcher in franchise history.

Anyway, back to the game, here was Tim’s view:

21- tim's view.JPG

And here are some non-Mariners worth taking pictures of:

23 - the knuckleballist.JPG

Here is some classic Ichiro leading off the game:

24 - classic ichi.JPG

We got a great close-up look at my all-time favorite player — Mr. Ken Griffey, Jr.:

25 - griffs first fenway at bat.jpg

After Griffey’s at bat, we headed on for more of our walking tour of Fenway Park.  Here is the concourse behind the seats in the LF corner:

26 - 3B corner consourse.JPG

Out in the concourse, we spotted a sign pointing to the staircase to the Green Monster seats.  The gal checking tickets at the top of the Monster said I couldn’t get out there for a picture, but I could come back after the game.  A lady who had tickets out there said she’d take a picture for me.  Then she suggested that Tim and I should be in it.  So she guilted the ticket checker into letting us go out about 10 feet onto the Monster for this picture:

27 - left monster.JPG

Next, we walked the perimeter of the field level in the aisle that runs all the way from the Green Monster to the RF corner passed the Pesky Pole.  Here is a panaramic view from behind home plate on the 3B side:

28 - fenway Home-3B back field panaramic.jpg

…and another from the 1B side:

29 - fenway 1B foul field back panaramic.jpg

Just to the right of this picture, there is a very cool looking ramp that leads to the rest of walkway around the 1B side of the grandstand and into RF:

30 - cross aisle to back.JPG

It is truly amazing how small this park is compared to today’s standards.  There is a concourse below the infield grandstand, but this little walkway is it as far as navigating behind the field level seats.  On the other side of the aisle opposite the back of the seats there is just a 4 foot wall that overlooks the street outside of the park.

Along the wall is a step where people sit or stand to watch the game.  It makes the aisle pretty small.  But Tim and I loved it and, as you’ll see in our next entry, we spent a lot of time in this walkway over the course of the weekend.

On with the tour, the RF corner behind the Pesky Pole:

31 - fenway 1B foul corner panaramic.jpg

The grandstand seats are separated from the bleacher seats by an aisle that runs from the concourse out to the bullpen.  Here is an interesting picture where you can see the back row of the grandstand (Section 1), the side row of the last section of the bleachers (Section 43), the break between the grandstand and bleachers, the concourse under the bleachers and a portion of the field:

33 - interesting view.JPG

With that picture, our ball park tour was finished for the day.  It was time to grab some pizza and meet up with my folks to watch the rest of the game from the very back row of Section 42 of the bleachers:

34 - pizza time.JPG

We actually really enjoyed sitting in the back row.  There is literally nothing behind you but a 1-2 foot thick concrete wall.  We were able to stand up as much as we want without interfering with anyone’s view, and we sat next to a very nice group of recent grads from U.C.-Davis who were on a post-graduation tour of the United States in an R.V.  Here was our view:

32 - fenway RF Bleachers panaramic.jpg

After pizza, we stood in the world’s longest ice cream line and picked up a $5.00 Red Sox ice cream helmet with crushed oreos topping:

35 - ice cream time.JPG

After eating his ice cream, Tim spent some quality time in the bleachers with his grandparents:

35a - playing with grandfolks.JPG

Tim and I spent some time during the late innings standing in the exit ailses behind the Mariners bullpen where we had a good view of Jason Phillips, Chris Jakubauskas and the bullpen warrior helmets.  I also noticed a little break in the side wall of the bullpen and took the bottom right picture through it:

36 - phillips and jak.JPG

I’m not sure who it was, but someone blew Felix Hernandez’s win.  The game went into extra innings.  Jakubauskas ended up coming in and pitching two strong innings for the win.  Mark Lowe got the save despite a continuous stream of heckling while he warmed up and a career first homerun by George Kottaras in the bottom of the 11th that landed within 10 feet of me and Tim.

As Mariners announcer Rick Rizzs would say, here are the Happy Totals:

38 - happy totals.JPG

One note, when Ronny Cedeno came to the plate earlier in the game, the stadium announcer said, “Now batting, Randy…I mean, Ronny Cedeno.”  Cedeno answered with a bomb to CF.  As this picture shows, it was Randy’s…I mean, Ronny’s 4th bomb of the season.

After the game, I wanted to get a picture with the red seat in the RF bleachers.  But first, we had to wait for the stands to clear out.  While waiting, someone from the Red Sox bullpen walked over and handed us a ball.

“Thanks, unknown Red Sox bullpen dude.”

Here is the picture with the red seat:

39 - ted williams seat.JPG

According to Lauren, whose job is to be paid to watch all Red Sox home games while standing in the tunnel into the RF bleachers in Section 42, the red seat marks the spot where Ted Williams hit the longest homerun ever to land *inside* Fenway Park (i.e., maybe some longer home run has landed out on Lansdowne Street).  She said it was 502 feet.

With that picture in hand, we hit the streets for a leisurely walk back to our hotel.  Along our way, we ran into a familar face:

40 - jack z.JPGIn case you don’t recognize him, that is Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik (zur-en-chick).  Jack doesn’t shy away from the public.  He too was walking back to the team’s hotel from Fenway along with thousands of others.  It just so happened that my mom had booked us at the same hotel as the team, so we were walking to the same place.  Jack came up to my folks and asked, “You folks from Seattle?”  My mom yelled, “Jack!!!”  And she complimented the fine job he is doing with the team.

Jack and his colleague — whose named I never heard, but he is apparently in charge of scouting for the Mariners — walked with us for a couple blocks.   Tim was on my shoulders so he was at a perfect height to talk to Jack.  They had the following conversation:

Jack:  “Do you play baseball?”

Tim:  “Yes!”

Jack:  “What do you play?”

Tim:  “Baseball!”

Jack said something to the effect that he’d come scout Tim some day.  I like that plan.

With that, we called it a day.

Season Fan Stats:

16 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
7 Stadiums
(Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park)
13 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Nationals,
Braves and Padres, Dodgers — and sort of the Giants)
12 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (3), Mets, Nationals (2), Red Sox and Yankees)
14 Baseballs (9 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire) 
4 Divisions Closed Out (So far in Tim’s Life — AL West, AL East, NL West, NL East)
 
2 Autographs (Ryan Perry, Jason Phillips)
1 Player Photograph (Ryan Perry)
 
5 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose (2), Orioles Bird (2), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats))

Start Spreading The News: Mariners Beat Yankees in the Bronx (7/2/09)

So I am behind in my entries because my folks, Tim and I are in the midst of an EXTREMELY AWESOME Fourth-of-July-Mariners-Rampage-on-the-A.L.-East-Leaders-Weekend Roadtrip.  Right now, Tim is crashed out from another super-sweet Mariners victory at Fenway Park.  So I guess it is time to use Tim’s pre-fireworks nap to begin my entry for our July 2, 2009 game at the new Yankee Stadium.

After the M’s schedule came out for this season, I noticed the M’s would be in Boston over the 4th of July weekend.  So I asked my recently retired parents, Jim and Marilyn, if they wanted to meet up with me and Tim for some road M’s games.  Then we realized that the day before the Boston series the M’s would be in the Bronx.  So we incorporated this game into our trip.

My good friend from college, Davlynn, used to live at 84th & Amsterdam, so I always park there whenever I go to NYC.  So that’s what we did.  And we took the B and the D train up to the Stadium.  The people on the subway were very nice.  We were going the wrong way and several people pointed us in the right direction when they noticed we were wearing Mariners gear but heading the wrong way.

Once we arrived at 161st Street, this is what we saw:

1- bronx outside panaramic.jpg

Tim was a bit disoriented from just waking up from a nap.  So he didn’t want his picture outside the stadium.  But we got some a shot of me and my dad, and one of my folks:

2a - outside with folks.JPG

Tim was pretty helpful, however, finding the tickets in my mom’s purse:

2 - finding tickets.JPG

Once found, we entered the stadium through Gate 6:

3 - into stadium.JPG

The “Great Hall” is pretty Great.  Its some pretty cool architecture.  But it doesn’t look like a baseball stadium.  More like a really cool train station — like 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.

Here is our first view of the field:

4- bronx 1st view panaramic.jpg

We went early for Mariners BP (and a few minutes of Yankees BP) so we had the *great honor* of visiting the exclusive field level of Yankee Stadium:

5 - field level.JPG

In the first picture, Tim is stuffing his face with a hot dog and pretzel.  It really hit the stop and made it so he could start enjoying his Bronx experience.  In the middle, my pa and I pose with the field before heading off to make our best efforts and snagging a BP homerun.  On the right, I wanted to show you my silly Washington Nationals string backpack.  I learned the hard way last season at the Yankees don’t allow real back packs.  So, luckily, at the May 17th Phillies/Nationals game in D.C., the Nationals gave Tim this string backpack that we used at this game.

While the Yankees were still hitting, I went behind home plate to take a panaramic:

 

9 - bronx field home panaramic.jpg

…and we saw Freddy Sez…who had a less than prophetic message on this sign:

 

8 - freddy sez.JPG

Later, we jinxed the Yankees by having Tim — a true blue Mariners fan — ding Freddy’s pan — TAKE THAT YANKEES!

I watched the M’s prepare for BP:

 

10 - Griff Felix BP.JPG

You can’t tell in this picture, but King Felix was swinging a bat behind the cage.  I noticed that it was Ronny Cedeno’s bat.  Griff, on the other hand, was swinging a Ken Griffey, Jr. bat.

Griff and Ichi were in the first group of M’s hitters and they practiced their bunting:

 

10a - ichi to griff.JPGA few minutes later, we were banished from the field level.  We made our way to the less exclusive bleachers where my dad became the first Cook to snag a ball at Yankee Stadium.  It was Mariners BP homerun.  It bounced into the field level seats and my pappy reached out and grabbed it before it could fall back down to the field level seats.  Here he is with his bounty:

6 - pa 1st bronx ball.jpg

Then my dad and Tim posed for a picture in the bleachers:

7 - tim and pa.JPG

Tim asked my mom if she’d take a picture of him with his water bottle on his head.  And she’s a grandma, so she said yes:

8 - waterhead.JPG

 Soon, BP was finished and it was time to explore the stadium.  We started by climbing the stairs in RF to the highest spot in RF where I took this picture:

11 - 4-train.JPG

That’s the number 4 train speeding by the outfield wall — which it did all night long.  Tim loves trains.  So it was cool to have one zooming by every couple of minutes.  Our seats were in the third to last row right on the aisle under the big ball on the AT&T sign — and they cost me only $5/ticket.

While up there, I zoomed in on the new Monument Park…

12 - monument park.jpg

…and this picture of Carsten Charles Sabbathia — who looked almost as big as Monument Park:

 

13 - sabbathia warms.jpgThen we headed to the highest point behind home plate where I took these pictures:

15 - bronx home upper panaramic.jpg

While Tim hung out with Grandpa, I got this picture with my mom:

16 - upper deck with mom.JPG

And then we got a family picture (except for me wife who is home watching the puppy and relaxing):

17 - folks and TJCs.JPG

Then we went to the highest spot in LF.  I took this picture showing the bleachers and the bullpens, etc.:

18 - bleachers from upper deck.JPG

Then we headed to our seats.  Here is Tim standing on the row in front of our seats.  Check it out, traditional “bleachers” with no seat backs:

19 - Tim in 238-22-2.JPG

By the way, for anyone interest in it, this picture was taking from Section 238, Row 22, Seat 2.  From that spot, we watched Jason Vargas warm-up for the game:

21 - vargas warms.jpg

From our seats, this is what you see if you look behind you over your right shoulder:

20 - retired numbers.JPG

Here is what they mean:  4 – Lou Gehrig; 3 – Babe Ruth; 5 – Joe DiMaggio, 7 – Mickey Mantle, 37 – Casey Stengel; 8 – Yogi Berra & Bill Dickey (retired together in 1972); 16 – Whitey Ford; 15 – Thurmon Munson; 32 – Elston Howard; 9 – Roger Maris; 10 – Phil Rizzuto; 1 – Billy Martin; 44 – Reggie Jackson; 23 – Don Mattingly; 49 – Ron Guidry; and 42 – Jackie Robinson (in Dodger Blue instead of Yankee blue).

 My main gripe with new Yankee Stadium is that it is sorta like a museum with tons of armed guards stationed everywhere to keep the museum safe from the riff-raff that trudge through it.  There were armed police officers all over the place.  Tons and tons of them.  And one of the main goals of the place seems to be to keep the low paying customers out of the way of the high paying customers.  However, I was very happy to learn that they don’t really care what you do in the concourse (other than carry your son on your shoulders).  Specifically, in the outfield concourse directly on the back side of the retired numbers no one cared if Tim and I played catch.  We didn’t just throw one or two balls.  We full-on played catched for several innings at a time twice.  Here we are having a lot of fun (and I could even see Ichiro score the first run of the game from here):

 
22 - playing catch.jpg

After our first catching session, Tim got an ice cream helmet for $6.50:

23 - bronx ice cream helmet.JPG

Hey, have you heard at all about some seats having an obstructed view in CF in Yankee Stadium?  The rumors are true — how in the world did they failed to plan around this?

24 - obstructed view.JPG
Don’t worry.  If you sit in these seats, its I’m sure nothing will happen in RF or 1B — and if it does, I’m sure you’ll be able to see all the action by looking at the side of those flat screen TVs.

Eventually, my dad wanted to see the team store so we went exploring.  Here is a panaramic from the second deck in LF foul territory:

26 - bronx LF foul concourse panaramic.jpg

Here is the main entrance to the Yankees front office:

27 - Yankees Offices.JPG

They do have standing room in the open air concourse behind the field level where anyone can stand and watch the action.  Here is a shot of Kenji Johima getting drilled by a pitch:

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Here is another shot of the Great Hall — this time at night with the readboards lit up in blut lights:

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When we got back to our seats, it seemed like some of the crowd had left.  We were able to get some seats down in the first row above the Mariners bullpen.

 

31d - watching the M's win.JPG

Notice the armed guard right next to us.

We watched David Aardsma warm up:

31 - david aardsma.JPG

The M’s bullpen is a colorful group of guys.  They have a bunch of traditions that help them build a sense of family in the pen.  One is a pink backpack that rookie reliever Chris Jakubauskas carries everywhere.  Another is a bunch of warrior helmets the releivers take with them:

31a - helmets.JPG

Here is 30-year-old rookie Jakubauskas sitting with one of the helmets:

31b - jak and helmet.JPG

Jak and M’s bullpen catcher, Jason Phillips — a heck of a good guy as I’ve come to learn — were having a great time in the bullpen.  A bunch of Yankees fans were playfully heckling them and they were playing right along.  Eventually, Jason Phillips rewarded me with a ball after I called out his name:

31c - TJCs first ball.JPG

After Phillips threw us the ball (the second ball he’s thrown us this season), I got an idea.  The M’s tote around all sorts of odd things in their pink backpack.  I thought I’d try to give them something to add to the mix.  I’ve had an A-Rod Mariners photo ball sitting around the house for years that I just can’t stand.  I thought it might find a happier home in the pink backpack.  So I wrote a message on it:

32 - A-Rod ball.JPG

After Aardsma shut the Yankees down for the Mariners win, I tried to get Phillips’ attention again.  I think I may be one of the only people who knows his name while at a Mariners game.  So he has responded well to me calling his name.  I yelled out again and showed him the ball and said I wanted to throw it to him.  He yelled something that looked agreeable, but then he walked out of sight.  He came back a minute or two later and waved a ball at me and yelled, “Its autographed already” and he threw it up to me.  I thanked him for it but yelled back, “Thanks.  But I want you to have *this ball*.”  I threw it down to him.  My mom yelled, “Read it!”

Phillips picked it up and read it.  He gave me a big smile and a thumbs up and walked out of sight.  By golly, I think it worked!  (Stay tuned for future entries to see if it really worked!)

Interestingly, the autographed ball made it two balls from Phillips in about 10 minutes.  Here they are with one of our tickets and Tim’s ice cream helmet:

35 - helmet balls and ticket.JPG

After the game, we posed for pictures.  Here are my folks:

33 - folks after m's win.JPG

Tim was too tired for our picture.  The game ended at 11 o’clock due in part to a 30 minute “rain delay” despite absolultely no rain and the field ever being covered.

Here is Tim a few minutes later in the subway:

34 - lights out on subway.JPG

Now, its off to Boston!

Season Fan Stats:

15 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
6 Stadiums
(Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field and Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium)
13 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Nationals,
Braves and Padres, Dodgers — and sort of the Giants)
11 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (3), Mets, Nationals (2), and Yankees)
11 Baseballs (7 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Umpire)
3 Divisions Closed Out (So far in Tim’s Life — AL West, NL East, NL West)
 
2 Autographs (Ryan Perry, Jason Phillips)
1 Player Photograph (Ryan Perry)
 
5 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose (2), Orioles Bird (2), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats))

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