Closing Out The NL at Miller Park (8-16-09)
August 16, 2009 – Road Trip Day 3:
On the third day of the road trip, we awoke in Hixton, Wisconsin and headed east for the big city, Milkaukee, and a date with the Astros and Brewers at Miller Park. With this game, Tim would close out the National League. In fact, after this game, Tim would have seen every MLB team play live expect for the Kansas City Royals.
Now, if you’re looking for Miller Park, you have to drive down a long road – I-94 – passed Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet, Tim and Tom’s Cheese Shop, the Mousehouse Cheesehaus, Jim’s Cheese Pantry, the Wisonsin Cheeseman Outlet Store, and many, many, many other Cheese-Mega-Outlets. But don’t worry, you’ll find it. It is just past the place with the cheese. Its on the right. You can’t miss it. (Just follow the guy with the three-foot cheese disk strapped to the hood of his car).
In fact, it looks like this:
You also shouldn’t have too much trouble finding it because there will be about 20,000 people tailgating in acres of parking lots all around the Park. About 20,000 people hoisting Miller High Lifes and BBQ’ing brats while playing various object-tossing games and sitting in large circles of fold-up lawn chairs.
Once we found Miller Park, we hopped a ride on a stretch golf cart that took us to the Friday’s restaurant enterance to the Park. When it opened, he headed inside to find the field set up for batting practice (keep in mind this was a sunday day game) and two Astros playing catch in left field wearing shorts and micro-fibre t-shirts.
Since there was no other action going on at field level, we strolled up behind the guy who was closer to the stands. I didn’t recognize him. However, the back of his t-shirt had “31″ hand written on a little white square of fabric and his shorts had “20″ written on a similar little white square of fabric. Utilizing my crack research skills, after the game I looked up the roster on ESPN.com and MLB.com. One of them listed no one as number 20 and a gentleman named Bud Norris as number 31. The other, listed no one as number 31 and the same Bud Norris as number 20. And one of them provided a picture, in which I could easily recognize the t-shirt and shorts wearing ball player as none other than Bud Norris.
Tim was on my shoulders as my dad, Tim and I pulled up behind Mr. Norris. He glanced over at us and I asked, “You guys hitting today.” “No,” was his reply. “Hmmm…, any chance we can get that ball after your finished playing catch?” No answer.
We watched Bud and his colleague play catch for a bit. When they finished, they were only a short distance a part and the other guy ended up with the ball. He started to walk away and Bud went over to him and grabbed the ball. He turned around, made eye contact with me and fired a strike into my waiting glove.
“Thanks, Bud.” Hands down, the best “Bud” to ever walk the field at Miller Park.
A minute later, we started walking toward home plate, just checking out our surroundings. This was the view:
After watching a couple other Astos play catch and work on some mechanics by the 3B dugout, we made our way behind home plate and got this group shot:
And I took another panaramic view:
By the way, at this point, it was a little after 11:00, and it was hotter and muggier in Miller Park than any facility has any business being at 11:00 in the morning. The roof was closed, but the OF wall was open. It already felt disgusting. It would only get worse.
Note to the Brewers: air conditioning and fans. Look into ‘em.
Next, we headed out to RF where the Brewers pitchers were starting to warm up. And my dad dropped a stack of receipts onto the RF foul territory warning track. Luckily, Brewers bullpen coach Marcus “Helping” Hanel was there to lend a helping hand.
With a shiny new baseball in hand before the Brewers even started taking BP, Tim decided he had no interest in BP. Instead, he would dedicate his pre-game time to playing catch with his dad. We found a nice spot in the RF concourse where no one cared if a father and son had a catch (for half an hour or so):
Note: in the middle picture, Tim is inspecting the ball after it acquired a stray piece of Miller Park lint. I had to help him remove it. It was a stubborn piece of Miller Park lint. After playing catch, we decided to walk around the park a bit. We headed to LF.
Now, I did not acquately document this with photos, but there is NO field visability in CF at Miller Park. They have really tried their best to hide the field from anyone who might be walking between RF and LF. There is a walkway behind the batters eye and scoreboard, but all you can see back there is a lovely view of Milwaukee out the windows and a big black canvas wall hiding the field.
LF isn’t much better. There is a Friday’s restaurant that has a porch. If you’re not in the restaurant, you can stand in the walkway behind it (I have a pitcher of this below), but a bunch of diners will be sitting between you and the field. Then there is the “inside” portion of the restaurant that completely blocks a big section of LF from the view of passers-by in the concourse.
So, we headed to the LF loge (second deck), where we could see the field! And Tim posed for this picture:
This was the view (not too shabby):
Next, we headed back to the field level and returned to home plate. Former Mariner (and a guy who is still loved by the Mariners fans) Mike Cameron was taking his turns in the cage. I snapped this picture of him because I thought it was even cooler than when Harold Reynolds used to carry his hat in his back pocket during at-bats:
Next, we headed out to RF foul territory where there are a bunch of attractions for the kids. Like this big baseball…
…which doubles as a photo booth in which you can make your own Brewers baseball cards. We did it twice, as shown above. For $2 you get two cards (of a single picture — i.e., we got two Tim Cook cards and two Tim, Todd and Jim cards).
Next to the photo ball, there are replicas of the racing sausages and a game where kids can race the sausages down a 40 foot track by peddling:
There is also a big baseball glove in which you can sit for a picture:
They have a fake dugout where you can stand with a fake Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun…
…and they also have a smaller version of Bernie’s home run slide, a contraption where kids can race a fake Cory Hart (I think that is his name), and some clowns painting faces (which I am against) and making balloon animals (which I am for).
As I mentioned, the heat…or better yet the humidity in the Park was staggering. So, we found a nice corner of the Park by the RF enterance where it was nice and cool. While we were over there, I noticed some plaques on the wall, one congratulated the people of Milwaukee for setting a new MLB attendance record in 1953. Then I found something a little more interesting…
…its a giant picture on the wall of Prince Fielder giving Nick “The Happy Youngster” Yohanek a high five after the Brewers won the wild card last season. For those of you who don’t know him (and if you follow my blog, you most likely do), Nick is “Brew Town’s Ballhawk.” The dude is ridiculous when it comes to catching Major League home runs. He currently has 51 to his credit. You can see some of his work by clicking here. (While I am promoting Youtube video clips, you might as well click here too).
Tim and I met Nick back in June at Camden Yards. He is a top-notch guy.
Anyway, how cool is that picture? That would be too cool to be featured in a huge piece of art work at your home field. Congrats, Nick. You deserve it.
Next, we decided to grab some lunch and eat it in this nice cool corner of Miller Park. Since we were in Milwaukee, I decided to act like a local:
Brat, Miller High Life, Cheese Fries helmet.
Hands down, that was the best brat I have ever tasted. Amazing.
While I do not know for certain, I am going to tell myself the cheese on my fries came straight from the Cheese Chalet. It tasted like some classy cheese. And how about a cheese fry HELMET!!!? What a great idea. I am an advocate for more foods in helmets.
Tim enjoyed his hot dog…
After we ate, my dad went to the team store to buy a Miller Park baseball — something he does at every stadium he visits — and Tim and I went to the upper deck to take some stadium pictures. Here is what we found:
Right field loge:
…right field upper deck:
…first base upper deck:
…behind the plate upper deck:
…Hey, do you see what I see? Out in RCF? In the exclusive “Tundra Territory” section? A little speck of yellow? Could it be? The Happy Youngster? We’ll have to wait and see…
…left field upper deck:
While taking our tour of the upper deck, Tim and I missed the first pitch of the game. So, here is the second pitch…
…and as an added bonus, below the second pitch I have included a picture of Lance “The Big Puma” Berkman fouling off a pitch.
Next, we headed back toward our seats in RF. As we passed behind the view blocking batters eye, we heard the crowd go crazy, so we ran into this little blocked off eye sore in RCF just in time to watch Ryan Braun circle the bases following a homerun:
Just to the left of this little eye sore was the yellow speck I’d spotted from the upper deck behind home plate. But I didn’t know how to get in there to check to see if it was Happy. That section is gated off and guarded by an attendant during the entire game.
However, as we passed by, we saw a lady trying to take a picture of her husband standing in front of the field by the gate. The guard offered to take their picture, and to take it on the other side of the gate, from the super exclusive Tundra Territory walk way. After he took their picture, I asked him, “Could you take our picture up there as well?” He said, “no problem”:
While up there for the picture, I peaked around the corner and spotted that speck, that yellow speck from the upper deck:
Nick and I chatted for a bit and he thew Tim some baseballs. Although he wasn’t wearing his pajama pants, Nick also endorsed Tim’s decision to wear pajama pants to the ball park.
After a bit, Nick and I parted ways, and confirmed that we would most likely see each other the following day in the south side of Chicago.
Finally, we made it to our seats and this was our view:
It was time for ice cream helmets…
Our seats were right behind Astros RF Hunter Pence:
Around the 4th or 5th inning, Pence hit what was originally called a home run. However, after reviewing the hit on instant replay, the umpires reversed the call. As far as I can recall, it was our first time ever seeing an instant reply review. Later in the game (different at bat), Pence would hit a home run that would count.
By the way, one interesting thing about Miller Park is that the ball girl down the 1B line plays catch with the right fielders (for both teams) between innings. I have never seen that before.
Roy Oswalt pitched for the Astros:
Toward the 6th or 7th inning, we decided to wander around and watch the game from standing room spots around the ball park. Here is my dad watching the game from the aisle way behind the Friday’s porch seating:
And here is the Brewers bullpen just on the other side of the Friday’s porch:
As we made our way of the the 3B side of the field, the Brewers bullpen started to implode;
I figured I should get some shots of the Brewers’ big guns — like Ryan Braun (pulling back a bunt attempt in this photo):
Although Prince hit a home run in this game, this was neither the swing nor the at bat.
This game was a Kids Run The Bases game. My dad asked an attendant where and when the line started to form for running the bases. We were pleased to learn that runners get to line up inside the stadium (so we could still watch the game while in line).
On the way to the line, my dad took our picture with four of the five sunning sausages:
Tim definitely liked these sausages.
Next, it was off to the line. It was disgustingly hot, humid and sweaty in Miller Park by this time. As we watched the bottom of the ninth inning from very near the front of the huge run the bases line, I found myself rooting against the Brewers. I didn’t want them to tie up the game and send it to extra innings. If that happened, I feared we would have to leave to escape the humidity in Miller Park before running the bases.
Luckily, with two outs, Prince Field (the tying run) hit a bat to the base of the RF wall, but Hunter Pence hunted it down and snared it in his glove on a leaping play.
And just like that, Tim and seen every team in the National League play live!
Now, it was time to run the bases. I saw a couple other parents running with small children. I decided I’d try to get on the field with Tim. I asked the lady standing by first base if I could guide Tim around the bases. She said I could if I held his hand as we ran.
So I did.
But, as you can see, my grip wasn’t quite tight enough and Tim blazed out ahead of me on the base paths:
Somehow, between me and my dad, we couldn’t manage to get a single clear picture of Tim running the bases. Oh, well.
We then finished off our Miller Park experience by getting our traditional post-base running dugout picture…
…a three generations of Cooks on field picture…
…and a picture with a “trophy” of the greatest ball player ever to strap a Milwaukee jersey to his chest:
And then we walked to the car, and drove back to Chicago for the final day of our baseball road trip.
Despite the oppressive heat inside Miller Park, the third day of our trip was a smashing success.
Season Fan Stats:
24 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
10 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, HHH Metrodome, and Miller Park)
22 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals Marlins, Pirates, Astros and Brewers — and sort of the Giants)
20 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (5), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3), Yankees, Twins, Cubs, and Brewers (and 1 Brewers Cheese Fries Helmet))
21 Baseballs (12 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, and 1 Astros)
5 Divisions Closed Out (So far in Tim’s Life — AL West, AL East, and the National League)
4 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Perry)
2 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
9 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose, Orioles Bird, 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats), 4 Running Sausages (Brewers) – Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)