October 2009

Tim’s Second Season, Stadium, & League (6/30/07)

So it was June 2007 by the time Tim’s second MLB game rolled around.  Tim was about a year and a half old by this point and he was running around on his own and ready to have some fun at the game.

Unfortunately, Tim’s second game wouldn’t feature the Mariners.  Instead, I introduced Tim to the National League and two teams competing for the N.L. East crown, the Phillies and the Mets.  Tim’s second game would take place at his second MLB stadium, Citizens Bank Park.

At about 70 miles, Citizens Bank Park is the closest MLB stadium to our home in Berks County, Pennsyvlania.  Philadelphia is the closest “big city” to our home.  But in a year and a half of life, Tim had not yet visited the city where his parents met back in 1999.  So, I decided to take him down early to see a tiny bit of the city before the game.

I had bigger plans, but time was running short before the game.  So all we did was visit Rittenhouse Square:


1 - Rittenhouse Tim.jpgI lived about 5 blocks from Rittenhouse Square when my wife and I met, and I’d walk through the Park everyday on my way here or there.  Tim loved running around the Park for a short while.  And then we were off to South Philadelphia.

We attended this game with a group of people from my office.  Tim was a lucky little guy.  His second game was also his second game in a suite!  We arrived as the game was beginning, said our hellos, and started doing what you do in suites — we started eating tasty food:


2 - suite eater.jpgThat table behind us had 3-4 tasty hot dishes in which we over-indulged…well, at least I did.

Here is a look at the suite:


3 - suite views.jpgTo the left, that’s a look from the entry way through the suite.  To my left as I took that picture is a kitchenette area featuring various drinks, chips, crackers, dips, cheese trays, etc.  And against the wall to the left (off camera) is a large flat screen for those who want to watch the game on TV rather than turning 90 degrees to their right and watching it live.

In the picture to the left, do you see the blue sky and clouds painted on the ceiling?    The middle section of the ceiling looks like a nice sunny day and it has a picture of the Philly Phanatic skydiving into the suite.  The middle picture is Tim pointing up at the Phanatic.  He thought it was really cool.

Above to the right is a view of the field from the suite.  When I took that picture, I was still standing in the main “suite” part of the suite.  In front of me is a standing counter (actually, it also has tall chairs) and on the other side of the counter are three rows of stadium seating for the folks in the suite.

Here is a panaramic view of the field from the bottom of our three rows of stadium seating (featuring Tim in the bottom right corner):


4 - citz suite view panarama.jpgFYI, I made that panaramic view from screen shots of a video clip I took of the field, so its not normal photo quality.  But I think it does the job.

Tim ran around the suite like crazy and provided comic relief for my colleagues.  But after a while, he wanted to explore outside the suite.  The main level of suites at Citizens Bank Park has its own concourse (just above the main concourse).  Its just a big elevated walkway with access to all of the suites, but no concession stands, etc.

Tim and I exited our suite and he started running down the walkway toward home plate and then around toward LF.  I took a video of him running and took the following screen shots from the video clip:


5 - suite concourse shots.jpgTo the left is a view of the suite level concourse.  This picture is just foul of third base.  The suites and the field are to our right.  The banners hanging to the left are hanging above the main concourse and are just inside what I consider to be the stadium’s main entrance (between home and 3B).

Above to the right is a view of the main entrance taken right around that hanging Jimmy Rollins banner shown in the picture to the left.  Just to the left of the main entrance is McFadden’s Restaurant & Saloon.  Across the street to the right of the picture you can see the Spectrum, which Pearl Jam is closing down this weekend.  Click here for a peak inside the Spectrum and see how Pearl Jam tied the World Series and Seattle-connection, Raul Ibanez, into their recent concert.

Back to the game.  We reached the end of the suite level concourse and I found someone to take our picture with All-Time Mariners Career Wins Leader, Jamie Moyer:


6 - TJCs and Citz Moyer banner.jpgIn 2006, I’d been hoping all season that Moyer would pitch for the Mariners during Tim’s first game, but sadly he was traded before the trade deadline…and before Tim’s big day at the park.  If he had to be traded I was happy he went to Philadelphia where Tim and I would still be able to see him pitch.

After a little roaming around, we returned to the suite and it was time for an important “first” — Tim’s first ice cream at the ballpark (in fact, I think this was also his first ice cream of his life):


7 - Tim's first MLB ice cream.jpgAs you can see, it wasn’t Tim’s first ice cream helmet (not quite yet).  But it started a grand tradition — ice cream at the ballpark — it is a tradition that would just be made better with the introduction of the ice cream helmet on a later date.

Of course, soon after the last picture, I captured another (related) “first”…


8 - Tim's first MLB ice cream face.jpg…Tim’s first ballpark “ice cream face.”

And then there was nothing left to do but get our picture with the field…


9 - TJCs and citz suite view.jpg…and watch some National League baseball.

The game didn’t go so well for the Phils.  They lost 8-3.  The star of the game was Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran who went 4-5 with 2 HR, 3 RBI and 3 runs scored.  Paul LoDuca and David Wright also hit homeruns for the Mets.

Not much good happened on the Phils’ side of the box score.  Ryan Howard was 2-4 with a homerun and 2 runs scored.  Carlos Ruiz was also 2-4.  But J.A. Happ earned the loss in his major league debut, and his only major league action in 2007.

Tim’s MLB Debut (9/12/06)

Welcome to my first “turn-back-the-clock” game entry.  When I took Tim to his first game back in 2006, I didn’t even know MLBlogs existed.  Tim and I went to about 20 games or so between 2006-2008 and I plan to tell those stories this off-season.  This is the first.

When I found out toward the end of the 2005 baseball season that our first (and so far only) child due to be born in early 2006 was going to be a boy, I got really excited about the idea of having a little baseball partner.   I was looking forward to playing catch in the yard and teaching my son how to hit.  And I was really excited to have a little partner with whom to go to MLB games and, hopefully, to love the Mariners as much as I do.

Tim was born in January 2006.  I decided I wanted his first game to be a Mariners home game and I wanted it to be late in the season so he would be at least six months old…so he could at least somewhat “experience” the experience, not just “be there.”  I picked Tuesday, September 12, 2006 as the big day.  The opponent would be the Blue Jays.

Now, I’m a guy who likes to make an event out of things.  I’m not against creating my own holidays.  And I didn’t want this day to be just any other day…because it wasn’t.  September 12th would be Tim’s FIRST BASEBALL GAME and, better yet, his FIRST MARINERS GAME!  This was big.  So I fully intended to do it right.  And with help from some important people, most notably my awesome parents, it was done right!

I started out by simply emailing the closest people in my life sort of a “save the date” and open invitation.  I definitely wanted my parents and my best friend (and co-best Mariners fan) Paul to be there.  I was hoping also that Colleen’s folks (from Virginia) and her sister’s family (including my nephew, Gill, who (much to my dismay) I have still failed to get to a MLB game!) to join us.

Following my email, my mom had an amazing idea.  I have two cousins who both live in Western Washington and both have daughters 2 months older than Tim.  Plus, my parents have season tickets with their best friends, Lynn and Steve, and they have a grandson who is also two months older than Tim.  So my parents offered to get a suite so all four kids plus TWENTY-FIVE friends and family members could join together for this (personally) historic event.

YES!!!!!

Big, huge, enormous thanks to my folks!

So, we weren’t messing around.  This was going to be seriously awesome.

I decided I couldn’t go in there empty-handed.  In a possibly unprecedented move, I made a set of three custom baseball cards to commemorate Tim’s first game, complete with fake 1-game 2006 seasons stats (fyi, Tim had some great stats).  Here is what they looked like: 


1 - rookie cards.jpgThey were the size of regular baseball cards and I gave one to each person who attended the game with us — except the grandparents got a full set of three cards.

Before we knew it, it was September and our trip to Seattle was upon us.  The big day started with a run around Green Lake with my father-in-law, Kevin, and then some painting in my folks’ garage…


2 - painting sign.jpg…more on the painting later.

It was a 7:05 start and the weather was gloriously sunny.  Beautiful.  Our suite was down the 1B line just foul of rightfield.  In the picture below to the left, the red arrow is pointing to our suite…


3 - stadium views.JPG…and the picture to the right shows our view of home plate from the suite.

When we arrived at the stadium, I already had Tim’s first game ticket encased in an inch-thick screw down jumbo baseball card holder — where it will be locked down for all time.  The guy at the Suites entrance thought it was pretty unusual, but his scanner had no problem scanning the ticket through the glass.

Plus, it gave me the opportunity to explain to the ticket guy that four little kids would be celebrating their first game ever in suite number 5, which resulted in unexpected but much welcome extra-special treatment.

Shortly after arriving, we met up with my cousin, Janet, her husband, Destry (who runs ridiculously fast (i.e., sub-2.5 hour) marathons, and their daughter and Tim’s co-guest of honor, Julie.  Here we are hanging out in the three rows of seats in our suite: 


4 - TJCs with Johnsons.jpg…note the Ted Williams jersey on the wall behind us.  Each of the suites at Safeco Field is named after a Hall of Famer.  My guess is that the best suite will some day be called the “Ken Griffey, Jr. Suite.”

After watching lots of Mariners games on TV with me throughout the season, Tim was excited to finally be making his MLB debut…


5 - fun.jpg…Julie was just taking it all in — while wearing her sweet Mariners cheerleader outfit!

We got a “BP Group” picture of the folks who were there early:


6 - group in the suite pre-game.jpgLeft to Right:  (Totally cut off is my uncle Ray, Julie’s grandpa), my dad Jim, Colleen, Me and Tim, Destry, Janet and Julie, and my aunt Carol (Julie’s grandma).

After the group shot, it was time to hit field level.  This is literally the second picture ever taken of Tim in the field level of a MLB ballpark and the first with MLB ball players shown in the background…


7 - TJCs with Jason Phillips in background.jpg…any guesses who wore number “47” for the Blue Jays in 2006?  Well, wouldn’t you know, it is none other than current Mariners bullpen catcher and Chief-Cook-and-Son-Baseball-Giver, Jason Phillips.  If the first picture had to feature non-Mariners, I think its pretty darn cool that it was Phillips.

Once we were down on the field level, we took a peak back up at our suite, where Uncle Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy, was doing his best Tricky Dick Nixon above my painting project:


8 - sign.jpgYes, the “First Gamers Club!”  I spent a lot of time debating if the sign should say this or “The September Call-Ups”  I think both are great.  But in the end this seemed better for the paper I used for the sign, plus it is more easily understood by non-baseball people.  FYI, they showed our sign on the jumbo screen during the game!

By the way, Laura is my cousin’s Daniel’s daughter and Kasey is Lynn and Steve’s grandson.  They weren’t there for BP, but you’ll see them soon.

After that picture above behind the 1B dugout, we spotted my dad down the 1B line.  He was seeing if he could catch a ball.  So, we went down and joined him.  Immediately upon meeting up with my dad (and about 1 minute after the picture behind the dugout), Colleen took this picture of three generations of Cook boys enjoying an evening at the ballpark: 


9 - first BP action.jpgAnd, immediately after Colleen took that picture, the BP batter hit a ball to that guy pictured above with the big red arrow pointing at him.

Until recently, I had no clue who he was.  But as he fielded the ball, I yelled, “ITS MY SON’S FIRST GAME CAN WE GET THAT BALL!?!?!?”

Without pause, he immediately turned around, walked over to us, and set Tim’s first MLB ball ever into my glove!


10 - tim's first ball ever.jpgI didn’t get my first baseball at a game until I was probably 12 or 13.  So I was SUPER-EXCITED to have a ball from Tim’s first game ever.

After we got that ball and posed for a bunch of pictures with it, I decided we’d accomplished all we needed to during BP.  It was time to walk Tim around his new baseball home.  Time to get acquainted with Safeco Field.

We started by heading up to the field level concourse and walking out to centerfield.

Now, about this time, you might be wondering why there were two guys with red arrows pointing at them in at picture above.  Well, when we reached CF, I heard someone yelling from the field.  Still standing in the concourse, I looked down and I saw that guy in the picture above with the smaller red arrow pointing at him.  He had a baseball in his hand, and he fired it up to us (still in the OF concourse) for Tim’s second ball of his life!  WOW!!!

A few minutes later, we met up with Janet and Julie in LF foul territory and we gave Tim’s second baseball to Julie so she too would have a keepsake from her first MLB game:


11 - ten minutes two baseballs.jpgWhat can I say.  The game hadn’t even started yet.  And we were already have a great time:


12 - exciting.jpgAfter our brief tour around the field, we headed back up to the suite where we found that more of our suite-mates had arrived.

Colleen’s mom and sister (and her family) couldn’t make the trip, but Colleen’s dad, Kevin, and his uncle Bob and aunt Ann did.  Here I am hanging out with Kevin and Bob before the game:


13 - gamerailing.JPGKevin is a Yankees fan (he has an excuse, he grew up in Jersey City) and Bob is a Red Sox fan, but they like each other nonetheless.

The game had not started yet so Tim grabbed a bite to eat — the old standard (bottle of milk) and a new treat (his first dog at the ballpark, he finished about 2-3 bites of the dog):


13 - first ballpark dog.jpgSoon all of the First Gamers Club kids had arrived and they were up for some playtime in the suite:


14 - playtime.jpgIn the picture above to the left, that is Laura, Julie, Tim and Kasey (left-to-right, obviously).  To the right, Tim and Kasey had a push-ups contest.  I think Tim did about 200.

And then the big moment arrived, and my dad was thoughtful enough to capture history for us — Tim’s first MLB pitch ever:


Tim's First MLB Pitch.jpgGil Meche to Frank Catalanotto — STRIKE 1!  
Things would only get better from there.

Tim and Kasey spent some time enjoying the game from the front row of the suite:


15 - tim and casey.jpgWe took about a billion pictures of everyone:


16 - people posing for pictures2.jpgTop left, Tim and my dad.  Top right, Lynn, Tim and me.

Bottom left, my sister-in-law (brother’s wife, not Colleen’s sister), Alison with Tim and my dad.  Bottom right, my mom, Tim and me.

Remember how I said I originally did not know who gave us Tim’s first baseball?  Well, I figured it out earlier this season (2009).  First, I noticed he was a left hander from the picture of him walking back out to his spot in the OF in the picture above.  So I looked up every lefty who played for the Blue Jays that season.  I then took the 3-4 possible mystery men and put them into Google Images.  I wasn’t positive, but my front runner was a September call-up named Davis Romero (who has never made it back to the bigs and is still playing Triple-A ball for the Blue Jays).

Then one day I was combing through old game pictures and I found the following picture from Tim’s first game:


17 - davis romero warms in bullpen.jpgIts an odd picture, don’t you think?  But odd’ness aside, do you notice anything?

At the top right, there is a TV screen mounted on the ceiling of our suite where (if you click to enlarge the picture) you can see that Davis Romero is warming up in the Blue Jays’ bullpen.  More importantly, its not too difficult to tell that Davis Romero, indeed, is the mystery man who gave us Tim’s first ever MLB ball.

So, at long last, “THANK YOU, DAVIS ROMERO!”

Anyway, we kept snapping away at the pictures, here are Tim and Colleen in the suite:


18 - tim and mommy.jpgRemember how I mentioned we got special treatment after I told the ticket taker about the First Gamers Club?  Here is part of it — free Mariners lunch boxes!


19 - lunchbox.jpgThat’s a great lunch box.  Although he didn’t give it a lot of thought at the time, Tim loves it now.

Here is a shot of my mom with two of her sisters Margaret (left) and Carol and, of course, Julie too:


20 - sisters.jpgAlthough he’s a Yankees fan, “Poppy” got into Tim’s big first game too…


21 - poppygame2.JPG…as did Bob and Ann (pictured to the right).

And as the Mariners led the Blue Jays, we just kept snapping away at the photos and having a grand old time in suite number 5:


22 - people posing for pictures.jpgTop left, me and Tim with Lynn and Kasey and Laura and her mom, Noelle (my cousin Daniel’s wife).  Top right, me with my dad and brother, Jason.

Bottom left, Alison, my dad and Steve.  Bottom right, half of my dad with Tim, Destry, Julie, Kasey and Lynn.

But then, the tiredness kicked in.  Tim had a tiredness-inducing double whammy going here.  First, it was late at night for the boy (9’ish o’clock).  Second, we were on the West coast just two days removed from our home in Pennsylvania and he was still on east coast time — so it was really three hours later for Tim.

So, Tim spent some time chilling out under a blanket strapped to either me or Colleen in a baby bjorn:


23 - tired tim.jpgSoon, it was time for more special treatment — the Mariner Moose showed up to greet us in the suite:


24 - the moose visits.jpg…as you can see, Uncle Ray really enjoyed the Moose’s visit.

In between photo sessions, we actually watched the game:


25 - fans in seats.jpg…and look who was with us, my best buddy Paul!


26 - with paulie.jpgIt was great to have “Pauliewog” there for Tim’s first game because I’m gonna rely on Paul a lot in life to re-enforce for Tim the finer points of Mariners-fandome and provide him a shining example of a positive Mariners attitude.

And before we knew it, the Mariners WON!  The first in-person Mariners win of Tim’s life — I couldn’t have scripted it better:


28 - mariners win.jpgAfter the game, Tim and I got one more picture with the field in the background before heading out:


29 - infrontend.jpgI think this game was the start of something beautiful. 
Welcome to a new era, the Tim-and-Todd-traveling-baseball-fans era.

By the way, Ichiro went 1-5, Raul Ibanez (1st inning) and Adrian Belte hit homeruns, and Gil Meche got the win.  You coudn’t have scripted a better first game experience.

Balls and Helmets

Tim and I have had all of our baseballs from 2009 laying around unorganized and our ice cream helmets in a similarly disheveled state.  So, I decided to get organized.

The four most important baseballs of the season are in Tim’s room on his dresser with his 30-MLB team milestone trophy, his Mariners Mr. Potatohead, and his miniature Ken Griffey, Jr. glove:

top 2009 baseballs.jpg

Those baseballs include:

  1. Willie Bloomquist/Royals ball (U.S. Cellular Field) – from Tim’s 30th MLB team milestone game (8/17/09).
  2. Felix Hernandez/Erik Bedard (Fenway Park) warm up ball signed by Felix Hernandez (7/4/09).
  3. Jason Phillips autographed ball (Yankee Stadium) – trade for A-Rod photoball for M’s pink backpack (7/2/09).
  4. Ryan Rowland-Smith’s autographed warm-up ball (Rogers Centre) — Tim’s first ball he caught himself (9/26/09).

NOTE:  Honorable Mention Most Important Baseballs Awards go to the HHH Metrodome ball that we caught at the Metrodome (8/15/09) and the ball Jason Phillips threw to us on top of the Green Monster at Fenway (7/5/09).

The rest of our 2009 baseballs are now all in baseball cubes displayed on a bookshelf on which they fit perfectly:

balls and helmets displayed.jpgAs you can see, on the bottom shelf we have our ice cream helmet collection.  Most piles are all the same team (e.g., the big Mariners and Phillies piles).  But a couple teams are hidden beneath other teams (e.g., the Pirates and the other New York team).  Eventually, I’ll need to figure out a better way to display our helmets.

FYI, the balls on the helmet shelf are mostly from my youth.  I lost track of how many balls I caught growing up in the Kingdome.  Eventually, I ended up playing home run derby with most of them (something me and my friends played constantly during the summers) and lost them in the woods beyond the outfield fence at Madrona Elementary School (which is a great place to play home run derby).  Anyway, the end balls in the back row are from last season, the other nine are my only remaining Kingdome balls.  You can see on one of them I wrote “Julio Franco” in red in really poor, youthful handwriting.  It was back when he played for the Rangers, probably from 1989 or 1990.  The ball to the right of the Franco ball was from Kirby Puckett.

While I’m at it, I might as well share one more picture:

tim's shelf.jpg

These are balls from 2006-08.  On the top shelf:

1.  Tim’s first ball ever – from Davis Romero (Blue Jays) at his first game ever, and first game (obviously) at Safeco Field (9/12/06).

3.  Tim’s third ball ever – from Brandon Morrow at his third game ever, second Mariners game, and first game at Camden Yards (8/9/07)

4.  Tim’s fourth ball ever – from Glenallen Hill at Tim’s 1st MLB Anniversary, our only ball ever at Citizens Bank Park (9/12/07)

FYI, we gave Tim’s second baseball to my cousin’s daughter who shared her first game ever with Tim (as we will see in a forthcoming entry – ETA next week).

The rest of the baseballs are spring training balls from 2008.  The top left ball is autographed by Adam Moore and the top right ball is autographed by Jose Vidro – both during spring training 2008.

Interstingly, this post now shows every baseball Tim and I have ever caught together except one, which we got during our first baseball roadtrip in 2008 and got autographed by some Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers.  What the heck, lets show it too:


PNC Ball.jpg

This ball is autographed by T.J. Beam, Tyler Yates, and Sean Burnett of the 2008 Pirates.

So, there you go, our entire Major League baseball collection and Major League ice cream helmet collections in one blog entry.

Halloween Switcheroo

Although he has never seen him on TV, in movies or books, Tim was all set to be Spiderman for Halloween:

spidey.jpg
As you can see, he was pretty excited about it.

But this afternoon, Colleen went out to run a few errands while Tim and I stayed home and played sports in the garage due to a rain storm outside.  When Colleen arrived home, she came bearing gifts.  Target was having a sale on baseball stuff.  For about 2 bucks, she’s picked Tim up some grey youth extra-small baseball pants and some baseball socks (with old fashioned stirrups printed on them).  Instantly, Spidey was scrapped.

Tim would be a Mariner for Halloween.

We headed back to target to get a 1-dollar clearance baseball belt (Colleen hadn’t realized that baseball players wear belts so she didn’t get him one).  Tim was already suited up in his baseball gear:

mariner at target.jpg

That’s one of Colleen’s belts that he’s wearing in that picture.

Next, it was off to the Rawlings store to look at some batting gloves and run the bases painted on the floor in the back of the store:

mariner at rawlings store.jpg

Finally, we headed home.  It was still raining (and it was dark).  So, we headed back to the garage.  Tim hadn’t batted in a couple weeks because we’ve been all over the place on the weekends and it has been getting dark so early (i.e., by the time I get home from work at night).  But Tim was crushing the ball in the garage, and looking like a legit Mariner in the process:

mariner in the garage.jpg

Thanks, Target and Rawlings store!  Sorry, Spiderman.

2009: It Was The Best Of Times…

Simply put, 2009 was outstanding.  Tim and I had more fun than than should be allowed.  We saw a lot of amazing baseball (33 games) including:

  • Tim’s first time seeing Ken Griffey, Jr. hit a homerun (and as a Mariner!)
  • Ichiro getting lots of hits en route to a record breaking 9th season with 200+ hits
  • Felix Hernandez dominating the AL
  • Jamie Moyer being Jamie Moyer
  • A walk-off homerun by Raul Ibanez
  • A walk-off single by Ichiro in the bottom of the 14th inning
  • Two games with walk-off singles by Jose Lopez
  • baseball in 13 stadiums including, most notably in my book, our first game at the Metrodome (also, Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field, Miller Park, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Rogers Centre and Progressive Field)
  • Seeing a the Cubs score 10 runs in one inning
  • Tim finishing off seeing all 30 MLB teams play live.
  • A winning season by the Mariners!  (85-77)

We also made great memories interacting with some ball players including:

  • Tim asking Mariners reliever Chris Jakabauskas in the lobby of our hotel if he wants to come “see our room.”
  • Meeting Mariners G.M. Jack Z. on the streets of Boston.
  • Getting a picture with Felix Hernandez.
  • Getting a picture with Ryan Rowland-Smith and having him throw a baseball to Tim:
  • Giving Jason Phillips an A-Rod baseball to put in the Mariners bullpen’s pink backpack and then confirming the next day (in the hotel lobby) with Jakabaukas that the ball was indeed in the backpack.
  • Getting 8 baseballs from Jason Phillips, including a pre-autographed ball, and baseballs at 6 stadiums.

The season — my first on MLBlogs — has provided so many great moments that I’ve recorded in game entries.  Some of my favorite entires have included:

Finally, we took tons of great pictures to document our adventures this season. 

Here are some of my favorites (at least one from each game):

We started the season off on a chilly day in Baltimore — the world was our oyster, we had our whole season before us:

cheesin.jpg

In week 2, we cheered on as former Mariner Raul Ibanez hit this pitch for a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the ninth inning:

ibombez.jpg

In week 3, Tim raced down the foul territory warning track on his way to his first Kids Run the Bases of the season following our first game ever at Citi Field.

citi RF foul track.jpgIn week 4, Tim couldn’t adjust to the West Coast time change and was a little out-of-sorts when Jarrod Washburn threw us our first ball of the season from the Mariners dugout during the 9th inning of an exciting Mariners win:

sad boy with a ball.JPGWith this pitch on May 2, 2009, Tim had finally officially seen Ken Griffey, Jr. play for the Mariners (YES!!!):

Griff at Bat.jpgOn May 3, 2009, we took in an excellent Mariners game with some of my high school friends and their kids.  Awesome times.  And the Mariners won in 15 innings:

joyners huge gloves and tim.jpgOn May 4, 2009, Tim and I got our picture with Red a/k/a “Beltre Guy” — who is fast becoming a Safeco Field Legend due to his passionate following of Adrian Beltre.  Will Red be back in 2010?  We will see: 

beltre guy.jpgOn May 5, 2009, we snagged a bag of hot roasted peanuts from a long-time Mariners legend, Rick “The Peanutman” Kaminski:

peanut man.jpgBack in Philadelphia later that same week, Tim put the smack down on this ice cream helmet — this boy really knows how to put an ice cream helmet in its place:

ice cream helmet devoured.jpgIn mid-May, we went to Philadelphia to see the Dodgers, but the best part of the night was seeing my favorite pitcher, Jamie Moyer.  With Colleen’s new camera and a little computer magic, I was able to create one of my favorite pictures of the season:

moyermotion.jpgThe very next week, we took in our first game ever at Nationals Park, Tim ran the bases (twice) following the game, and we got a sweet picture with Theordore “Teddy” Roosevelt:

TJCs and Teddy R.jpgNext up, we were back in Baltimore to see the Tigers with a couple Tigers-fan-friends.  And Tim and his buddy, Brady, put on a dance show in the shady upper deck:

dancing.jpgOn June 3, 2009, Tim and I returned to Nationals Park hoping to witness Randy Johnson’s 300th career win.  Instead, we watched hours of rain turn the field into a lake (we also met Zack Hample for the first time and spent several hours chatting with him while watching the rain fall):

11 Lake NatsPark.jpgOn June 10, 2009, Tim got to see Griffey bat play for the first time ever in a Mariners uniform (he wore a Seattle Rainiers uniform on May 2nd, and was sick the rest of that week):

16 power stroke foul.jpgAfter the game, Mariners trainer Rick Griffin gave us a close up look at Griff’s bat — sweet:

31 swingman.jpgOn June 28, 2009, we stopped by Camden Yards on our way home from an OBX vacation and witnessed a monster Adam Dunn bomb and Tim ran the bases at our favorite park outside of Seattle, Washington:

25 - on field family picture.JPGTim and I had tons of fun watching the guys in the M’s bullpen this season.  In this July 2, 2009 picture, Chris Jakabauskas is shown sitting in the bullpen at new Yankee Stadium with one of three big metal warrior helmets the Mariners bullpen displayed during games until Bug Selig put the kybosh on the M’s fun:

31b - jak and helmet.JPGThe next day, my mom, dad, Tim and I were in Boston to watch our Mariners (and Jakabauskas) beat the Red Sox:

20 - ready to play ball.JPGWe started out watching the July 3, 2009 game from these seats with a young Red Sox fan named Tyler who told us to stay sitting there until people with tickets showed up.  The fans in Boston were awesome all weekend:

18 - seats by tyler.JPGThe next day, Eric Bedard gave us his and Felix Hernandez dirty warm-up ball, a few minutes later, we got our picture with Felix and he signed the ball:

7 - felix warm up ball autograph and photo.jpgTim and I spent a good portion of the Independence Day game standing (or crouching) in this walkway SRO area — where the local fans continued to be extremely nice to us:

18 - fun in the walkway.JPGLater in the game, my mom taught Tim how to do the wave:

22 - first wave.JPGDuring our third and final game at Fenway, Tim and I stumbled across the 2004 and 2007 world series trophies — although I wasn’t able to get a picture of it, this game was extra special because Tim saw Griff get a hit (a single off of the Green Monster) for the first time ever):

23 - 2004 2007 WS trophies.JPGIn mid-July, Tim and I headed back to Nationals Park for our rain-out make-up game and Tim tried unsuccessfully to get someone to hit him a homerun:

17 - hit it here.jpgIn late July, we were back in Philadelphia to see the Cardinals, during one of many rain delays we sat through this season, Tim begged and pleaded for an ice cream helmet:

12 - ice cream pleeeeeease.JPGDuring the rain delay, Tim and I toured around Citizens Bank Park trying to find a place where Tim could eat his ice cream in peace — it took us to three different locations:

13 - 1st ice cream spot.JPGIn early August, we were back in Philadelphia to see Moyer pitch against the Marlins:

7a - moyer warm up motion.jpgHopefully this won’t be the last time we ever see Moyer pitch — but, sadly, it could be:

8 - moyer bullpen motion.jpgOn August 5, 2009, Tim and I headed out to a sold-out FirstEnergy Stadium to watch future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez pitch for our local Reading Phillies:

12 - pedro motion.jpgA week or so later, Tim and I meet up with my dad in Chicago for The Great (Second Annual) Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Road Trip of 2009 where we witnessed the Cubs hang a 10-spot on the Pirates in the second inning:

22 - ten spot.JPGBefore the game, my dad toted Tim around as we toured Wrigley Field:

14 - holding tim upper RF.jpgTim and I had a blast touring around the upper deck at the Metrodome — as the title of this picture indicates (we loved the Metrodome!):

16 - we love this place.jpgThis is one of my favorite pictures from our trip to the Metrodome (other favorites include looking behind the canvas curtains in RF-CF):

14 - big screen close up.jpgOn the third day of the baseball road trip, we visited the House that Happy Built — and we got this picture with Nick “The Happy Youngster” who we had first met on June 10th in Baltimore):

27 - happy.jpgTim wore his pajama pants to Miller Park (his choice, not mine), and he also ran the bases following the game (and I ran them with him!) after which we got a picture with my dad:

40 - 3 cooks at miller park.JPGThe next day, we finished off the baseball road trip and Tim finished off seeing all 30 MLB teams when we saw the Kansas City Royals play for the first time (and we got a ball from Willie “Ballgame” Bloomquist):

13 - willie ballgame.jpgAfter the game, I presented Tim with a trophy memorializing his 30-team accomplishmen (thanks to Curious George, Tim loves trophies) — after the game, the nice folks did a cool little article about Tim’s milestone:

30 - trophy.jpgI took this picture for Tim’s 30-Team milestone entry — I like it:

helmets and balls.JPGJason Phillips, shown here with me and Tim in Cleveland in late-August, was by far the coolest guy we ran into this season.  Jason gave us 8 baseballs this season including at least 1 baseball at each stadium at which we saw the Mariners play this season (Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Progressive Field, Safeco Field, and Rogers Centre) — plus, we took time out to chat (and be photographed) with us several times throughout the season:

17 - jason phillips.jpgDuring that same game, Tim got his picture with Slider:

23 - slider tim.jpgThe following day, Tim and I achieved our No. 1 goal of the season — we saw Griffey hit a homerun as a Mariner — No. 624 of his career:

8 - griff about to score on HR624.jpgWhen we arrived home late that night, I watched the highlight and realized that Tim and I (the blue and white blur) could be seen in the highlight of Griff’s homerun:

9 - KGJ HR 624.jpgOn Tim’s third MLB anniversary (Sept. 12, 2009), we went to see the Orioles beat the Yankees in the Bronx and we had a blast.

 

1 - magic floating tim and yankee stadium.jpgDuring the fun-filled day, Tim played catch with an usher in the LF bleachers concourse:

25 - catch with usher.jpg…and the usher temporarily lost Tim’s baseball when it rolled through a hole in the stadium’s wall — the usher retrieved the ball, but also rewarded us with an Orioles BP homerun ball:

26 - the ball incident.jpgTim also caused a scene in CF going all medieval on a pile of Moe’s Billy Barou Nachos — a mere 1,410 calories:

15 - CF nacho madness.jpgBack in Seattle the following week, we saw Adam Moore make his MLB debut and Tim showed us a new way of wearing a baseball glove:

18 - new catching technique.jpgAt our final game of the season at Safeco Field, Colleen and I minute to pose for a picture while Tim played in the kids’ play area:

10 - with colleen in playarea.jpgThe next weekend, we attended our first game in Toronto and got a picture with and a ball and autograph from Ryan Rowland-Smith:

14 - TJCs with RRS.jpgThe ball from Rowland-Smith was the first ball Tim has ever caught thrown by a major leaguer — which is featured in another mygameballs.com article:

15 - fun with RRS.jpgOn the final Saturday of the regular season, we were back at Citi Field where we spent time with new friends and MLBloggers Alex K. and Joe F who were supercool to Tim:

5 - tim's guys.jpgWe closed out the season on the final Sunday back at Camden Yards — where it all began just six months earlier.  This time, Tim enjoyed the only ice cream helmet (a Mariners helmet) served at Camden Yards in 2009:

20 - Camden Yards BYOICH.jpg

Although my wife can, I officially “can’t wait” for the 2010 baseball season to begin.  I’m already planning it out and we have some exciting baseball trips in the future.

I’ve certainly enjoyed sharing our stories from the ballpark this season.  The reason I created this blog was the record our baseball adventures so Tim could look back on them later in life.  This season has been thoroughly documented and I’m quite happy with the results.  Now, entering the off-season, I’m thinking about the games we went to before this season.  I have them all recorded in Tim’s Baseball Log.  But I’m thinking that I might find time during the off-season to put them in story form here on my blog.  Therefore, if you’re interested in hearing about and seeing some pictures from the games Tim went to between 2006-2008 (about 22 games total), check back from time-to-time during the offseason.  Otherwise, see you in 2010.

Camden Yards B.Y.O.I.C.H. (10-4-09)

Now, I realize that the title of this entry looks a little risque.  But I assure you it it not.  Read on and eventually you’ll see what its all about. 

On October 4 – the final day of the regular season (for everyone except the Twins and Tigers), Tim and I headed down to Camden Yards for our final game of what has been an outstanding 2009 season.

It was sad to think it was all coming to an end, already.  As we drove south, there was evidence of the end of baseball.  The “This Is Birdland” billboard off of Route 83 in York, PA — gone.  It has been there all season.  Worse yet, the Birdland billboards in Baltimore itself were also gone.  Finally, all season every street in downtown Baltimore had been adorned with numerous Orioles lamp-top signs.  All gone.  Sad.

So, here we were in Baltimore, closing out our in-person baseball season on the final Sunday of the season in the same place we had opened our in-person baseball season back in April on the first Sunday of the 2009 season.

Tim and I have seen a lot of great things and created a lot of great memories this season.  I was ready for one more day of it, but wishing there would be more.

Our first peak down Eutaw Street revealed some stadium attendants readying this beautiful baseball venue for one more hoorah before the off-season:


1 - readying for final game of 2009.jpgWe arrived early for batting practice.  But when we arrived I figured out that I had mistakenly thought it was a 1:05 start.  In fact, it was a 1:35 start and the stadium wasn’t even open yet.  So we had some time to kill before the gates opened at 11:35.

No problem.  Every time we’d visited Baltimore this season, I’d wanted to get a picture of Tim with the Babe Ruth statue.  Now, we finally  had some free time to do so:


2 - bambino and tim.jpgNext, Tim raced around a lot before deciding to pose with some of the retired Orioles numbers:


3 - o's numbers and tim trophy.jpgNotice how there is no “8” in the bottom right picture?  About a month or two ago, four teenagers decided it would be a great idea to steal Ripken’s “8.”  It was all caught on camera and they were caught red-handed a short time after taking the “8.”  I was surprised it still had not beeen restored to its normal spot.

In my pictures this season, I’ve shown a lot of views of the warehouse from the field area.  It looks like a long brick building from there.  But you can’t tell how deep of a building it is.  So, I took this picture from outside the CF gate that shows the warehouse isn’t very wide:


4 - end of warehouse.jpgWhen they finally let us into the stadium, we found there was no BP.  I guess it wasn’t a huge shock.   It was a Sunday day game and the last game of the season and both teams were long since eliminated.  But, still, I thought they might hit just because it would make the fans happy.  No dice.

Despite no BP, they still had the stadium closed off except for season ticket holders who were free to go into the stadium to not watch BP:


5 - season ticket holders no BP entrance.jpgSo, we headed to our seats in section 90, straight away CF.  On the way, I took a panaramic view from a couple sections over from our seats:


6 - camden CF section 94 panaramica.jpgAnd I took this view from our seats.  Section 90, Row A, Seats 1-2 — very nice:


7 - camden CF section 90 row A seat 1 panaramic.jpgFinally, they opened the rest of the stadium. Tim hopped up on my shoulders and we walked the main field level aisle to take in the scenes of Camden Yards.  Here is our view as we approached home plate:


8 - camden plate 1B foul field panaramic.jpgAnd just for kicks, another view from about 50 feet away from the last view:


9 - camden plate 1B foul field pre-game panarama.jpgSome Blue Jays pitchers congregated down the 3B line to play catch…


10 - league accardo.jpg…the guy closest to us in the picture above to the left is Brandon Leauge.  Tim and I walked up to the railing and Tim yelled, “HI, ICHIRO!  Can I have that baseball?”  I explained that League wasn’t Ichiro.  Tim asked where Ichiro was.  Not here, unfortunately.

A few minutes later, Jeremy Accardo (pictured above to the right) walked by on his way to the dugout.  He walked up to us and pulled a ball out of his back pocket and handed it to Tim.

“Thanks, Jeremy!”

Then he proceeded down the baseline and started signing autographs by the end of the Jays’ bullpen.  With ball still in hand, Tim followed Accardo all the way down the line.  I followed along and grabbed a sharpie out of my backpack.  I told Tim to get up to the front of the group and ask Accardo to sign the ball he’d just given Tim.  Tim got up to the front and set the ball and sharpie on the top of the fence and then he uttered one of his funniest lines of the season:

“Excuse me, can you scribble on my ball?”

Accardo and the entire group of autograph seekers broke into laugher.  Accardo scribbled on Tim’s ball.

Then we headed to the kids’ play area.  First, Tim heated up the gun on the kids’ speed pitch:


11 - give em the heater rickey.jpgNext, he hit the bouncy house…


12 - final bouncy housing of 2009.jpg…usually the bouncy house is packed.  But it was only Tim and that little girl for a while. No one was in line so they got to bounce for a long time.  Eventually, the girl grabbed onto Tim’s leg and took him down like a freestyle wrestler.  Tim fell to the ground and complained to his tormentor:

“Don’t play with me.  I’m not a toy!”

As game time approached, we headed back to the field and watched the grounds crew chalk the batters box:


13 - readying the field.jpgThen we headed out to the team store.  On the way out there, I took this picture:


14 - smile for the team store.jpgFinally, it was game time and we headed to our seats.  We were right on the railing by the batters eye.  Check out all of the grass they’ve transplanted from the batters eye area to fix grass on the field:


15 - field patch grass.jpgTo took the picture below to the left showing the field and the railing separating the crowd from the batters eye…


16 - camden vines.jpg…Tim took a close up of the ivy vines on the railing.

Wow — somehow I put this picture totally out of place.  But check out how wide open and empty the concourse was behind 3B…


17 - big open and empty 3B concourse.jpg…the only bad thing about Camden Yards is that you cannot see the field from the concourse.

Back to our seats in CF, I took this action shot of Ricky Romero striking out (I think) Brian Roberts:


18 - romero to roberts.jpg…see the red arrow?  It is pointing to the seat I’d be sitting in to end our in-person baseball season.  See the guy in the seat in front of the red arrowed-seat?  After each pitch, he presses a button that flashes up on a little screen a description of the pitch (i.e., 92 M.P.H. fastball).

For the second weekend in a row, we were sitting behind Vernon Wells… 


19 - vernon wells.jpg…this game was much more relaxing for Vernon because no one was yelling at him that he hasn’t earned his multi-million dollar contract.

If you’ve been following this blog this season, you know that Camden Yards is the only stadium we’ve ever visited that doesn’t have ice cream helmets.  Since early June I’d had an idea and I finally implimented it at this game…


20 - Camden Yards BYOICH.jpg…Camden Yards:  Bring Your Own Ice Cream Helmet.

I wanted to do this in late June when we saw the Nationals in Baltimore, but I forgot the helmet at home somehow.

It was pretty cool to be scraffing down a Seattle Mariners ice cream helmet in Baltimore.  And, I’m pretty sure that Tim is the only person to have an ice cream helmet in Baltimore this season.  That’s pretty cool to say.  But, I hope that thousands of people get the joy of eating an ice cream helmet at this classic ballpark next season.

By the way, this was an excellent ice cream helmet.  Real strawberry ice cream with chunks of strawberries and sprinkles.  Delicious.

After his ice cream helmet, Tim asked to go to his favorite spot, the flag pavillion.  On the way, he posed for this picture at the top of section 90:


21 - catching the game from CF.jpg…please excuse the strawberry ice cream reminants on Tim’s Ichiro shirt.

Tim loves the flag pavillion…


22 - tim in flags.jpg…it is great for running around and playing fake baseball games.

This was our view from over the RF wall…


23 - camden RF flag panarama.jpg…we were out toward the CF side because the wall is lower on that side.  Down by the RF foul pole, the fence is about a foot taller, it seems, and you have to stand right at the fence to see over it.  In CF, you can stand back a little bit and still see the action.

Tim decided that the big diamond shaped pattern on the ground was a baseball field, and the dark corners were bases…


24 - fake game in flag pavillion.jpg…we played a lot of fake baseball there.

In the picture to the top left, Tim is sitting in the “dugout.”  After a few seconds, he yelled “Now batting, Roehner” (fyi, Roehner is Tim’s imaginary pro-baseball player friend).   Then he jumped up (top right) and ran toward the home plate corner of the pattern and said, “Yay, I’m up.”  It was pretty cute.

I’ve taken a lot of pictures of this awesome park, but I realized I’d never taken a panaramic view of the Eutaw Street warehouse.  Well, here you go:


25 - camden warehouse panaramic.jpgAnd here is a view from Eutaw Street looking into the flag pavillion:


26 - camden flag pavillion panarama.jpgWhile out on Eutaw Street, we looked for all of the Mariners home run markers.  There were only two:


27 - griffey bomb.jpgOh, yeah, my man Ken Griffey, Jr. can hit some BOMBS!  The one on the left is the only ball to ever hit the warehouse on the fly.  (Yes, I’ve included a picture of this before, but who cares, its worth a second, third, or fifteenth picture, so don’t count on this being the last).

Late in the game, we headed behind home plate and hung out in prime foul ball territory — above the main cross aisle.  This was our view:


28 - camden plate above aisle big shadow panarama.jpgAs I sat in the back row watching the game, Tim took about 100 pictures.

In this picture, Tim is looking down into the main aisle taking rapid fire pictures of people walking by:


29 - rapid fire fan cam.jpg…it was pretty cool to watch a slide show of Tim’s cross aisle pictures (but I won’t bore you with them).

Here are a few of my favorite shots Tim took toward the end of the game:


30 - tims picts.jpgTop left, Tim’s view from his perch on my shoulders (you can see he is looking over my shoulders).  Top right, Tim took a shot of some writers in the press box.  Bottom right, this cute little fan waved up to Tim as he was taking his rapid fire fan shots (it was hilarious when this picture came up in the sequence of his fan shots).  Bottom left, I’m filling up Tim’s travel water cup (actually a baby’s sippy cup) at the water fountain out beyond RF.

Back to our foul ball spot behind the plate, here is a panaramic view:


31 - good shot by tim.jpgAnd here is a shot Tim took of me sitting in the back row (see how the press box is right behind me):


32 - daddy watching on.jpgThen Tim and I took pictures of each other taking pictures of each other:


33 - picture-in-picture.jpg…Tim’s camera is my old camera.  It has problems in bright light (it gets blury), but its perfect for Tim.  He loves it.

As the ninth inning approached, I asked Tim if he wanted to go down behind home plate and see if the umpire would give us a ball at the end of the game.  Of course, he did.  So, we found some great seats in the 8th row off of the umpires’ tunnel.  Here was the view:


34 - camden plate 8th row panaramic.jpgOur season was almost over, so I was getting picture happy, and I took one of us fooling around in the seats:


34a - another picture why not.jpgAnd I took a picture of the Blue Jays dugout:


35 - jays dugout.jpgAnd, as the game went into extra innings (free bonus baseball!), I took some action shots of pitches approaching home plate:


36 - action behind plate.jpgAnd I got one of Luke Scott hitting a ground ball…


37 - lukes not hit.jpg…and getting thrown out at 1B.

The game went into the bottom of the 11th inning still tied 3-3.  The Blue Jays brought in Brandon League to try to shut down the O’s for one more inning.  Big mistake.  The first batter got a solid base hit.  The second batter laid down a nice sacrifice bunt.  League fielded it near 1B and *shot put* over the head of the first basemen for an E-1.  With runners on first and second and no one out, the third batter laid down another sacrifice bunt.  Again, League fielded it.  Again, League threw it away.  This time he spiked it into the dirt in front of 1B.  It went by whoever was covering 1B and squibbed into shallow RF.  The lead off batter scored easily from 2B.  And that was it.  Season over for the O’s and Jays.

And it was “go time” as far as trying to get our final umpire ball (and final ball period) of the 2009 season.  One piece of background here.  During the 9th or 10th inning, Tim yelled “Umpire can I have a ball?” during a break between half-innings.  The umpire looked up at Tim, but had no expression on his face.  Still, I thought he had heard Tim.

Now, back to the end of the game.  We were in the 8th row on the 1B side of the umpire tunnel.  We couldn’t get any lower because there were people in every other row — mostly adults, but a few kids at the very bottom.  But right when the third out was recorded about 10,000 kids flooded the first row.  I figured there was no chance for us to get an umpire ball in the 8th row.

Triple-A call-up umpire Todd Tichenor walked through the gate and emptied his baseball bags into his umpire’s mask.  He had about 6 balls, it seemed.  He stopped in the first row and gave them all out to screaming little kids.  I figured the deal was done.  No umpire ball.

Then Tichenor started walking into the tunnel.  He walked directly below us.  Tim and I were peering over the brick wall and I said, “Hey, do you have one more ball for my son?”  Without looking up, Tichenor stopped directly in front of us.  His right hand reached into the bag attached to his right hip and pulled out *the final umpire ball of Camden Yards 2009 season* and lofted it directly up to us.

“THANK YOU, BLUE!”

 Tim got all excited when he looked at the baseball and saw the MLB batter logo on the ball.  “Daddy, there is a Mariner on my ball!”  A few minutes later he would add, “When I was a baby, I didn’t realize there were Mariners on the baseballs.”  That gave me a chuckle.

Sadly, we started to make out way out of the stadium for the final time in 2009.  Just then, we saw the Oriole’s Bird signing autographs down the 1B line.  We made our way to the front of the line and got a high five and a very serious looking picture with the Bird:


38 - tim and bird.jpgThen Tim posed with his 37th and final ball of the season…


39 - final game final ball of 2009.jpg…and we made out way out to Eutaw Street to walk to our car.

As we approached CF, we looked back toward the field.  The gates to the OF seats were locked up, and we could see the Bird heading into the umpire’s tunnel for the final time of the 2009 season…

 


the bird is out of here.jpg…the end of the season had officially arrived in Baltimore.

We took one last picture on our way out of Camden Yards:


40 - final picture - goodbye 2009.jpgAnd then it was over.

But wait, when we arrived home, I watched the Mariners beat the Rangers for finish with 85 wins and a grand celebration on the field after the game.  It was an awesome end to the Mariners season.

Bring on 2010!

Season Fan Stats:

 

32 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
1 Ken Griffey, Jr. Homerun
(Career Homerun No. 624, August 23, 2009 in Cleveland)

13 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, HHH Metrodome, Miller Park, U.S. Cellular, “Jacobs” Field, and Rogers Centre)
25 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Royals, White Sox, Blue Jays, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals, Marlins, Pirates, Astros, and Brewers — and sort of the Giants)
27 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (5), Phillies (5), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3), Yankees (2), Twins, Cubs, Brewers, White Sox, Indians, and Blue Jays (and 1 Brewers Cheese Fries Helmet))
37 Baseballs (20 Mariners, 3 Umpire, 3 Astros, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, 1 Royals, 1 Indians, Yankees/Orioles 1, 1 Blue Jays)
MLB Closed Out (NL Closed out on 8/16/09, AL Closed out on 8/17/09) 
6 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jason Phillips, Ronny Cedeno, Aaron Hill, Jeremy Guthrie, Ryan Perry, Jeremy Accardo) 
5 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jason Phillips, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry) 
10 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose, Orioles Bird, Slider (Indians), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats), 4 Running Sausages (Brewers) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)

 

Up Next:  Cook & Son’s 2009 Season-In-Review Wrap Up

Fun Times in Queens (10-3-09)


For a while, I’d been wanting to go back to Citi Field for a second game.  We’d gone in April when the Stadium was just two weeks old.  I wasn’t a huge fan of it then.  It was too crowded and I felt like we couldn’t get anywhere near the field.


Well, a few weeks ago, I found a pair of $25/ticket upper deck tickets on Stub Hub for $3 each.  We couldn’t pass it up.


I was excited to see Citi Field again, not only because I knew it would be far less crowded due to the Mets poor performance but, because it would be our first game ever in the month of October.  Plus, I was hoping we’d get a ball — our first ever in Queens.


We started out early by driving to New York (or as Tim says “You Nork”) and, as the picture below shows…


1 - getting there.jpg…we headed through the Lincoln Tunnel, parked in the Upper West side, hopped on the C-Train at 81st Street, transferred to the 7-Train at 42nd, watched all of the graffiti go by in the rooftops of Queens, and arrived at Citi Field at about 11:40 a.m.

We entered the stadium through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda and headed up the escalator toward LF to see if there would be BP taking place.  After getting denied access to the field section behind the 3B dugout, we headed down the line and grabbed a spot on the railing by LF.  The Astros were hitting and this was our view: 
2 - citi lf foul field panarama.jpgThere were two Astos pitchers shagging balls down in the LF corner and Tim was watching them like a hawk:
 


3 - jose cruz samuel gervacio wilton lopez and tim.jpgIn the picture above to the left, the middle guy is Samuel Gervacio and the guy on the right is Wilton Lopez.  Lopez was having a grand old time toying with the crowd.  On every ball he caught, he faked like he was going to toss into the stands and then he’d turn around with an ear-to-ear smile and throw it in toward the bucket.  Eventually, former Astro and current Astros coach Jose Cruz (above to the far left) walked out to LF with his fungo bat.

As by strolled by, I asked him, “Hey, coach, can you fungo a ball up here for my son?”  He nodded “yes” and pointed at Tim as if to say, “Is that him?”  I nodded, “Yes.”

Meanwhile, Lopez was taunting the crowd with yet another ball.  Quitely but very authoritatively, Cruz called out to Lopez and motioned for the ball.  Lopez’s face instantly turned from playful-kid to serious-and-respectful.  He toss the ball to Cruz without hesitation.

Cruz turned around and tossed me this:


4 - 1st career ball in queens.jpgCook & Son’s first ball ever in Queens!  And our first ball with the patented Houston Astros “H” magic markered onto the sweet spot.

“Thanks, Mr. Cruz!”

Tim was a little upset that he did’t catch it himself.  He got bit by the catching bug, I guess, after meeting up with Ryan Rowland-Smith in Toronto the previous weekend.

At this point, Tim was just wearing his socks and his shoes were in my backpack.  I told him to put on his shoes so we could head out to the OF and poke around.  He wasn’t too interested in his shoes.  So, I popped him up on my shoulders and we walked to the LF seats.  On our way, I heard, “Hey, Todd!”  I looked up and it was Alex K. from “Riveravenue.”  We’d met Alex in Chicago at Tim’s 30th MLB team milestone game.  We’d exchanged some emails and knew we might run into each other at this game.

As we went over and started chatting with Alex, I heard another voice call out, “Hi Todd and Tim.”  It was Joe from “Baseballexperiences.”  I’d never met Joe before, but I’d read about him on Zack Hample’s Blog and, through Zack, on his own blog.

Joe introduced himself and said he reads our blog.  Its always cool to meet people from MLBlogs.  And these guys would turn out to be extremely cool and fun to roam around the stadium with at several points during the day.  They were absolutely great with Tim and he couldn’t get enough of them.

We started by chatting and then a picture:


5 - tim's guys.jpgJoe is on the left and Alex is holding Tim on his lap as he reclines on the back of a seat in LF.  Note that Tim is holding his shoe.  We pulled the old Billy Madison “everyone my age __________, its the coolest!” trick on Tim (we filled in the blank with “wears shoes”), and it worked like a charm.  Tim was happy to wear his shoes after seeing that Joe and Alex were also wearing shoes.

Tim then showed off his first Citi Field ball to his new “guys”:


6 - showing off jose cruz ball.jpgAfter a few minutes, one of the guys asked if Tim and I wanted to go over to the dugout.  I said we couldn’t because we had upper-deck tickets.  They both assured us it was no problem.  Joe had an extra ticket on him — maybe it was his dad’s, I’m not sure.  Anyway, we were up for checking out the restricted area so we followed Joe:


7 - to the dugout.jpgThe guy standing a couple sections in front of Joe in the green jacket asked “do you guys have tickets over here?”  Joe flashed his ticket and the guy responded, “Yep, you do, head on in, guys.”  I think he automatically assumed we all had the right tickets.  He didn’t seem too concerned about checking the rest of our tickets, but I showed our loaner ticket anyway.

And that easily, we were behind the dugout where there was hardly anyone in the stands.  This was our view:


8 - citi 3B dugout panarama.jpgAlex snapped a picture of Tim and I as Joe watched BP wrap up:


9 - TJCs at visitors dugout.jpgThen Joe and Alex gave Tim and I advice about which Astro might want to throw us a second ball…
 


10 - dugout ball from strech suba.jpg…and it worked.  Alex and Joe both called out, “Hey, Stech,” to Astros bullpen coach Strech Suba (I think he’s the bullpen coach, at least).  I think Suba threw three balls over.  Tim and I got one.  Joe got one.  And, I think (but am not positive) that Alex got one as well.  A big time assist and thank you to Alex and Joe for that ball.

Tim was looking the other way when Suba threw us the ball.  As I caught it, he turned his head to look toward Suba.  My glove was above his head and I instantly transferred the ball from my glove to my bare hand and from my bare hand to Tim’s glove.  I then erupted with, “Tim, you just caught that ball!”  Joe and Alex followed suit with a lot of enthusiasm.  Tim was fooled, and was happy to have “caught” another ball himself.

All of a sudden Astros pitcher LaTroy Hawkins was standing right by us (and was photographed by Tim):



11 - latroy hawkings.jpgJoe and Alex, along with some other people, went over to see if he was autographing.  But he announced to everyone in the section that he wasn’t signing. He was chatting with his friends who he doesn’t get to see much because (he said) he doesn’t get to NYC much.  He stood there and chatted with some people for a long time.

BP ended and Alex and Joe suggested we head out to the kids’ play area — they were always thinking about what would make the day more fun for Tim.

When we got there, Tim and Alex posed by the fence showing off the auto-repair slums across the street from Citi Field…


12 - queens beautiful queens.jpg…after a few minutes, the ice cream man came driving down the slummish auto-row.  Not suprisingly, there were no little kids chasing him through the auto-slums.

We waited through the line for the whiffle ball field.  Before hitting, Tim cycled through the OF: 


13 - whiffle fielding.jpgTo the left, check out Tim tracking a home run ball.  To the right, Tim is in his athletic stance — ready to get an early jump on the ball.  (Click on the picture to make it larger!)

By the way, the auto-slums are just to the left of the 3B line of the whiffle ball field.

Next, Tim had his chance at bat.  You only get a couple hits before you round the bases.  But Tim loved it: 


14 - whiffle batting.jpgIn the top left, we see Tim taking a hack on the whiffle ball field’s jumbo screen.  Top right, two fielders make an effort for the ball but Tim shots it between them for a liner off of the LF wall.  Then it was time to round the bases.

Tim loved the whiffle ball field.

Next, we parted ways with Alex and Joe.  They went to watch the Astros play catch down the RF line.  Tim and I went into the second deck to look down at the field and the home run apple:


15 - mariner apple.jpgThe apple was in the “up” position during BP and Tim told me that is said “Mariners” on it.  He also thought the little leaf at the top of the apple was great.

Then it was time to grab an ice cream helmet and some seats in section 122 (I still had the ticket Joe gave me — he told me to keep it):


16 - section 122 ice cream helmet.jpgTo the left, you see our view of the plate.  To the right, Alex took a shot of us as Tim scarfed down his chocolate ice cream with sprinkles.  By the way, I just mentioned Alex again.  He and Joe saw us in our seats and came and sat by us in the first inning.

This was our field view:


17 - citi section 122 panarama.jpgNice.

Remember how I said we got $3 tickets because people were disenchanted with the Mets by this point in the season?  Well, check out the empty seats to our left and right:


18 - to left-to right.jpgThere was no one in our row!

I took my only action shots in the first inning.  Miggie Tejada laced this pitch up the middle for a line single to CF:


19a - tejada gets a hit up the middle.jpg. You can’t see the ball yet in the picture below to the left, but Lance “The Big Puma” Berkman blooped that pitch down the RF line for a single.  Tejada advanced to third where we would be stranded:


19b - puma bloops a single.jpgCarlos “El Caballo” Lee then popped up this pitch for an out.


20 - caballo pops out.jpgIn the bottom of the first, the third out was made at first.  The Astros first basemen (who is that, Berkman?), ran over to the dugout and a cluster of kids gathered in the first row to ask for the third out ball.  Alex said, “hold on, I have to run down there.”

As he left our row, Berkman launched the ball over all of the kids.  It was like it was in slow motion.  Alex left us at the perfect time.  It was like he was a wide receiver being led by a deep bomb.  He and the ball converged just as it reached head level.  And then he ran back up showing off the third out ball:


21 - alex gets third out ball.jpg…it was pretty funny.  He was gone from our row (literally) for about 7 seconds.

After the second inning, Tim was getting restless.  I asked him if he wanted to go see the Pepsi Porch in RF (second deck)…where I told him he could see the train passing back-and-forth.  He did.

On the way, we stopped by the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to get pictures with the big 42 (Tim took the picture of me and the 42):


22 - rotunda time.jpgThen we headed up to the Pepsi Porch.  Check out something really cool that I didn’t notice last time we were at Citi Field — a second jumbo screen in the RF foul corner:
 


23 - RF foul jumbo screen.jpg…that’s very cool.  Every stadium has a bunch of seats that can’t see the jumbo screen.  But with this second screen, maybe Citi Field does not have any seats in a jumbo screen blind spot.

Here is a panaramic view from the bridge leading out to the Pepsi Porch:


24 - citi walk to pepsi porch panaramic.jpgTim ran into the porch (he was in a huge running mood at this point) and ran down to the first row in the right CF side of the porch.   I followed him and took this panaramic view:


25 - citi pepsi porch 2 panramic.jpgCheck out what I found just to the right of the view of the jumbo screen/scoreboard…


26 - pepsi porch weeds.jpg…a huge “weed bed.”  Beautiful.

Here is a panaramic view from the foul side of the Pepsi Porch:
27 - citi pepsi porch 3 panaramic.jpgAnd here is a view showing the entire Pepsi Porch from the second deck of the LF foul seats:
 


28 - pepsi porch porch.jpgFrom the spot of that last photo, we turned around and headed up the stairs to the top of the stadium in RF foul territory — another area we’d never visited before at Citi Field.

Here was the view from the top:


29 - citi RF foul upper panaramic.jpgWe continued touring around the upper deck.  I decided to head back to the home plate area of the upper deck.  On the way, I took a panaramic view into the stadium from the back side of the upper deck concourse:


30 - citi rf foul upper concourse panarama.jpgSee all of the glass on the second deck across the stadium — behind the LF foul pole?   That’s a restaurant.  I asked Alex and Joe if they’d ever gone there.   One of their dad’s had been and wasn’t impressed.  There is a deck at the bottom of the restaurant (outside the glass), but apparently they won’t let people out on the deck because they made the railing too short and fear that people will fall into the field level.

Back to the tour.  Here is the view from the upper deck behind home plate:


31 - citi plate upper panaramic.jpgDue to the Sterling Club and suites that close-off the main concourse from the field behind home plate, and the railings and ushers that keep the commoners from getting into the seats behind home plate, this is the best view most people will ever get from behing home plate at Citi Field.

As you approach Citi Field from the subway, you will notice that the upper deck seating behind home plate is set way back from the front of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda entrance.  Well, in the upper deck there is a huge circular concourse area above the Rotunda and behind home plate.  The ground has a huge baseball design built into it, which I thought looked nice.  Along the outside of the concourse (the outer edge of the Rotunda roof), there are food stands, a team store (one of at least 3-4 at Citi Field).  In the middle, there are standing tables where you can stand, eat your food and watch the game on yet another jumbo screen — this one hanging from the back of the upper deck seats:


32 - citi upper deck plate concourse panaramic.jpgI gotta admit, that’s pretty cool.  They have a similar picnic area behind home plate and above the main enterance at Safeco Field, but people up there have no clue what is going on with the game.  Nice touch, Mets.  They have another one of these jumbo screens on the back of the CF scoreboard for the parents standing in the play area with their kids.

Speaking of CF, that was our next stop.  This is the view from the concourse in deep CF:


33 - citi CF 300 level panarama.jpgAnd here is a view that shows where the play area is in relation to the scoreboard and field:


34 - citi scoreboard kids area panarama.jpgWith that, our touring was concluded and Tim wanted to take some hacks in the soft toss cage.  There are two cages.  One for little kids with soft toss or a batting tee (depending on the kid’s choice).  The second has a slow pitching machine.  Here is Tim in the soft toss cage:


35 - soft toss cage.jpgThe lightest bat was really still too heavy for him.  But he had some decent hits.

Right after Tim hit in the cage, the rain started to pour down.  It was the end of the fifth inning (an official game), and the umps called for a rain delay.

Tim and I trudged around in our rain gear until we eventually found ourselves back in the Rotunda.  Tim saw some teenagers climb half-way up the “2” in Jackie Robinson’s big blue “42.”  Tim wanted to do it too, but (a) it was too high and (b) dad was having none of it.  By this time, it was about 2:30 or 3:00 pm, and Tim was ridiculously tired (no nap) and he lost it when he wasn’t allowed the scale the wet, slippery and tall 42.

As I tried to calm him down a bit, Alex and Joe found us.  They tried their best to cheer him up but he was whiney and crying up a storm.  Then, Alex asked him, “Tim do you want to go upstairs and play catch?”  Instantly, Tim’s crying stopped on a dime.  “Yes!!!,” he responded.  “Ahh, HA!,” I said to Alex and Joe, “you’ve witnessed some of Tim’s classic fake crying!”  One of them asked, “You were faking it, Tim?!”  Tim responded, “well, I was a little sad.”  Classic Tim, the actor!

We had time to kill.  So next, we went and looked at all of the “game used” stuff the Mets had for sale in the field level concourse.

After looking at that stuff for a bit, Alex and Joe asked if we want to go into the Sterling Club.  Now, the Sterling Club is the ultra-exclusive and pricey luxury club level area for all of the people with the big railed-off cushy seats behind home plate.   Alex’s dad had got tickets somehow.  After paying $3 per ticket, how could I pass up an opportunity for Tim and I to see the Sterling Club.

Joe and Alex entered the club.  Safely inside, Alex passed off his ticket to Joe and came and passed it off to me.  Joe then re-entered on his own.  Tim and I strolled around a minute in the Rotunda and then headed up the Sterling Club escalator and into the club.

The lighting in there wasn’t friendly to my camera, all of my pictures came out blurry somehow.  But he is some of what we saw:


36 - sterling stuff.jpgIn the top left, there is a ridiculously fancy looking restaurant, which looked out of place (and was totally empty) at a ballpark.  See the red arrow in top middle of the restaurant?  Its pointing to floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the visitors’ practice batting cage, which are pictured at the top right.  For perspective, the restaurant is to the left as you enter the Sterling Club and it is located roughly behind the 3B dugout.  As you view them in both of the top pictures, the field is to the left of the restuaurant and the visitors’ batting cage.

At the bottom left, there is a fancy bar (and Joe’s head).  For perspective, the restaurant is behind me as I took that picture and home plate is behind the left side of the bar.

In the bottom right, we are sitting in a little nook in the far opposite side of the Sterling Club next to a bunch of windows overlookign the Mets batting cages (they have two cages, the visitors have only one).  For perspective, the Mets (1B side) dugout is just behind and to the right of me as I took this picture.

At this end of the Sterling Club, there is another fancy bar.  This one is more of a lounge style bar.  The bar is across the back wall (opposite the field) and the rest of the room has scattered seating.

In that picture, we are drinking delicious FREE MILKSHAKES.  It was the best chocolate milk shake I’d had in a long time.

Here is the view from the cushy Sterling Club seating behind home plate:


37 - citi sterling club plate panarama.jpgIt was just misting at this point.  But no one was outside in the seats (except for Alex’s mom).  So we took the oppotunity to play catch in the expensive seats:


38 - sterling catch.jpgThis lasted about 10 minutes before an usher shut us down.

Next, we decided to go check out the old home run apple from Shea Stadium.  It is behind the bullpens in deep, deep, deep right CF.  On our walk out there, it started to rain hard again.  Here is a picture of Tim, Alex and a little girl staying dry under the top hat:


39 - shea apple.jpgAfter spending some time by the bullpens and in the RF concourse (where Tim clanked Cow Bell Man’s cowbell, Tim and Joe ran several races and Alex and Joe swung Tim around by his feet and hands), the rain stopped!

We headed toward the 3B dugout just in time to witness the removal of the tarp:


40 - end of the rain.jpgTim decided to take some pictures in the remaining down time before the game resumed, including this one of Alex and Joe:


41 - joe and alex.jpgAs the grounds crew prepared the field, the P.A. announcer invited the remaining fans to sit wherever they could find open seats in the field level (other than in the Sterling Club).

Tim and I decided to hang out in LF.  Almost everyone else decided to sit in the infield.  As a result, if anyone  was going to hit a homerun to LF, there would be great odds that we would collect our first ever home run ball.  Check out how empty the OF was (heck, check out the whole stadium!): 


42 - where is our homerun ball.jpgTim still had not napped and was still in desparate need of some rest.  But he had no interest.  What he did have interest in for “game part 2″ was “ice cream helmet part 2″:


43 - game part 2-ice cream part 2.jpgUnfortunately, no one hit a homerun for the rest of the game.

In the top of the 9th inning (with the Mets winning), we moved to the infield and sat by the tunnel where we knew the umpires would leave the field after the game.  Here was the excellent view:


44 - ninth inning view.jpgAlthough we’d already got two balls on the day (our first ever in Queens), I wanted to get a ball from the umpire because it would be a commemorative Citi Field inaugural season ball — this would be our last and best opportunity to get one of those balls.  Soon, Alex and Joe both turned up.  They had the same idea.

Tim was ready to catch a foul ball (below to left)… 


45 - one more ball.jpg…while no foul balls came our way, Tim did collect a commemorative ball from home plate umpire Damien Beal (above to right).

“Thanks, Blue!”

After chatting with Alex and Joe a little bit more, we said our good-byes (we’ll be keeping our eye out for those guys next season) and Tim and I headed to the 7-Train platform.

On the way out, I took the following night-time photo of Citi Field:


46 - good night citi field.jpg…that place always looks great in photos.

And that’s the story of our final national league game of the season.  After this game, I have a much better feeling about Citi Field.  I still don’t like the closed-off concourse behind home plate or the design of the standing room areas (no standing counters), but we had a great day in Queens.  The following day, we’d be in Baltimore for the final game of the season. 

Season Fan Stats:

32 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
1 Ken Griffey, Jr. Homerun
(Career Homerun No. 624, August 23, 2009 in Cleveland)

13 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, HHH Metrodome, Miller Park, U.S. Cellular, “Jacobs” Field, and Rogers Centre)
25 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Royals, White Sox, Blue Jays, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals, Marlins, Pirates, Astros, and Brewers — and sort of the Giants)
27 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (5), Phillies (5), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3), Yankees (2), Twins, Cubs, Brewers, White Sox, Indians, and Blue Jays (and 1 Brewers Cheese Fries Helmet))
35 Baseballs (20 Mariners, 3 Astros, 2 Rangers, 2 Umpire, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, 1 Royals, 1 Indians, Yankees/Orioles 1)
MLB Closed Out (NL Closed out on 8/16/09, AL Closed out on 8/17/09) 
6 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jason Phillips, Ronny Cedeno, Jeremy Guthrie, Ryan Perry) 
5 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jason Phillips, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry) 
10 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose, Orioles Bird, Slider (Indians), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats), 4 Running Sausages (Brewers) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)


47 - balls and mets helmets.jpg

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