Fenway Park – Part 3 of 3 (A Moment to Remember – 7/5/09)
For 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).
And 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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
We headed out to Yawkey Way and watched Tom Caron from NESN interview comedian Mike O’Malley:
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:
When we were down here, we got Tim a chocolate ice cream helmet and headed toward our seats in the grandstand behind home plate:
The seats were great. Here was our view:
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…
…the carrying of the pink backpack to the Mariners bullpen by Christ Jakubauskas…
…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):
Finally, it was game time. As always, future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki led off for the Mariners:
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:
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:
We went out to the concourse in the RF corner and took this picture showing the Red Sox World Series and other banners:
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:
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:
…more players club…
…and we found something cool in the Players Club:
(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…
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:
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:
This game, we switched things up and exited the stadium from the RF exit so I could get a picture of this:
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:
With that, we started our walk back to the hotel…
For so many reasons, it was such an awesome weekend shared with Tim and my folks.
Season Fan Stats:
18 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)