Hope springs eternal in the month of April. And entereing April 2008, I was hopeful that the Mariners were about to embark on a successful campaign in the AL West. And I was happy to be there at the beginning of it all. For the first weekend of the 2008 season, the Mariners were in Baltimore and that is where we met up with them on April 6, 2008.
As we approached the field for the first time of the season…
Soon after we arrived, the Camden Yards grounds crew removed the tarp from the field…
With no batting practice taking place, we took the opportunity to get a family picture by the LF foul pole:
Then we headed over to our seats in centerfield:
And even better, Felix Hernandez was dealing like crazy on the mound. In his second start of the season, he pitched 8 scoreless innings, gave up only 5 hits, struck out 6 and maintained his flawless 0.00 ERA.
To go along with King Felix’s mastery, Raul Ibanez put together a 3-4 day at the plate including his first homerun of the season to help lead the Mariners offense.
Everything was looking great, and Tim (and I) was having a blast…
…yep, I caught me a knucklehead.
As the innings ticked by and the Mariners marched toward an apparent win, the kids were excited to see the Orioles Bird visit the outfield seats:
But then things turned dark.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Mariners had a 2-0 lead. King Felix had dominated from his 1st pitch to his 97th pitch. But for some reason, soon-to-be-fired Mariners manager, John McLaren pulled Felix and went to the bullpen.
It took Eric O’Flaherty only three batters to get the first two outs, and give up the first Orioles run of the day. O’Flaherty’s fourth-and-final batter-faced, Luke Scott, hit a single. That was all she wrote for O’Flaherty.
With two outs, a runner on first, and a 1-run lead, Mark Lowe entered the game. Another bad decision by McLaren. Lowe’s first batter hit a single sending pinch-runner Adam Jones to third. Lowe then threw a wild pitch and Adam Jones came in to tie the game at 2-2…
We started praying for extra-innings. But one batter later, Luis Hernandez hit another single bringing in the losing run.
Aye, aye, aye…a great day with friends at the ballpark ended in misery…it was a gut-wrenching Mariners loss. Unfortunately, it would be a sign of things to come for the 2008 Mariners.
Before getting into our 12 game reports for 2008, I thought I’d get to a topic I meant to cover at the end of the 2009 season.
Tim and I would like to officially induct Jason Phillips into the C&S Hall Of Fame:
As the plaque notes, Phillips gave us baseballs at six different stadiums in 2009. That includes (in order) Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Progressive Field, Safeco Field and Rogers Centre.
Prior to 2009, I did not know much about Phillips. Really, all I knew is that he played first base and catcher for the Mets in 2003 when I saw him hit a home run off of Ryan Franklin in the Mariners first game ever at Shea Stadium. 2003 was the best of Phillips’s seven seasons (2001-2007) in the Major Leagues.
Well, in 2009, the Mariners invited Phillips to Spring Training. When he didn’t make the club, they brought him on to work with the Mariners relievers in the bullpen. And, that is where Tim and I crossed paths with Phillips in 2009.
It all started in Baltimore on June 10, 2009.
It was our first road-Mariners game of the season. Before the game, Tim and I were minding our own business standing next to the Mariners bullpen watching Felix Hernandez warm up for the game…
Here is the baseball from Baltimore…
…shown here with Tim because Camden Yards doesn’t offer Ice Cream Helmets.
Next, we met up with Phillips in the Bronx on July 2, 2009.
It was a great game, the Mariners first win at the new Yankee Stadium. In the ninth inning, Tim and I were sitting right above the Mariners bullpen in section 238 of the bleachers. Phillips and Chris Jakubauskas had a good back-and-forth going with the crowd. Eventually, Phillips grabbed three baseballs and started to toss them all into the crowd. He was looking the other direction when I yelled down his name. He immediately turned and fired a baseball our way.
I then decided I should give Phillips an A-Rod baseball I had with me and wanted to get rid of…
…for the whole story click here. When I motioned down to Phillips to toss him the baseball, he thought I was tossing him a ball for an autograph. He yelled up, “hold on!” He then went and autographed a different baseball and threw it up to me after yelling, “its already signed!” I thanked him for the second ball within about 10 minutes and then tossed him the A-Rod baseball, which gave him a big smile. In retrospect, the A-Rod ball probably was the factor that made Phillips remember us for the rest of the season — so I’m definitely glad I tossed it to him.
Here are our two Phillips balls from the Bronx:
On July 3rd, we walked into Fenway Park with my folks, and saw Phillips standing in RF by the Mariners bullpen. I yelled out his name, he turned and fired a baseball into my glove.
About 10-15 minutes later, Tim and I got down to the first row in the RF corner and called Jason over. He came over and gave me a high five. We chatted about the A-Rod ball from the night before. He told me he put the A-Rod ball in the Pink Back Pack. The next day, we spoke with Chris Jakubauskas, the keeper of the Pink Back Pack, and he confirmed that he had found the A-Rod ball in there.
On July 4th, we didn’t get a baseball from Phillips. But he was walking by us when Erik Bedard tossed us a ball. Phillips pointed us out and laughed at us, as if to say, “you again!” I wondered if he’d cut us off after seeing us get 4 balls in just a couple days.
The answer: No.
On July 5th, we got probably our most memorable baseball from Phillips. As the following diagram shows…
Here are our two Phillips balls from Fenway Park:
Next, we met up with Phillips on August 22, 2009 in Cleveland.
It had been almost two months since we saw him in Boston. I wasn’t sure if he’d remember us. But we saw him before the game and he certainly did remember us. We chatted a bit before he played catch with Felix Hernandez (who was going to pitch the following day).
I prefer catching a ball. But, after he finished playing catch with Felix, I was happy to have Phillips hand-place a ball into my glove just before posing for a picture with me and Tim:
Next, it was back to Seattle, where we met up with Phillips at Safeco Field on September 17, 2009.
We chatted with Phillips a little bit at the beginning of this game. Then, late in the game, he tossed a baseball up to us in section 186 between warming up a slough of Mariners relievers (the M’s ultimately won the game on an Ichiro walk-off single in the 14th inning).
Here is our Phillips baseball from Safeco Field:
Finally, we met up with Phillips for the final time of the season in Toronto on September 26, 2009.
This would be our final Mariners game of the season, and the sixth different stadium at which we’d see the Mariners play in 2009. So I was hoping we could go 6-for-6 in stadiums with Phillips in 2009.
Phillips didn’t disappoint. There was no BP for this weekend day game. But Phillips spotted us when he came out to the field to play catch with a Mariner reliever. He immediately set down his equipment bag and headed over to chat with me. We chatted for a few minutes before he had to go do his job.
We didn’t get a ball from Phillips during pre-game warm-ups, but we did get baseballs from three other Mariners (including a special ball from Ryan Rowland-Smith). That tied our all-time single-game record of 3 baseballs. So, we knew that we’d set a new record if Phillips did end up throwing us a baseball, and after the great season interacting with Phillips, I was delighted with the prospect of him helping us break our 3-ball record.
Ultimately, he did. The game actually ended before it happened. After the game, the Mariners bullpen packed up and started heading to the clubhouse. I yelled down at Phillips. He looked up and saw that the bullpen baseball bag was already gone. So, he ran out into RF and tracked down the baseball bag, which was being carried by David Aardsma. He grabbed a ball out of the bag and threw a long strike right to my chest.
Here is our Phillips baseball from Toronto:
For the season, a big “THANK YOU!” to Jason Phillips. He really made the 2009 season extra special. For going above and beyond the call of duty and being extra cool to me and Tim, we hereby induct Jason Phillips into the C&S Hall of Fame.
My parents are two of the luckiest people around. During the regular season, they live at my boyhood home about 15 miles from Safeco Field. During Spring Training, they live at their winter home about 3 miles from the Mariners spring training home — the Peoria Sports Complex.
Before the 2008 season began, Colleen, Tim and I headed to Peoria to meet up with my folks and my Mariners for some Spring Training.
Courtesy of Google Maps, here is an aerial view of the Peoria Sports Complex:
At the top center is the stadium where the Mariners and Padres play their home spring training games. The Mariners spring training fields are below to the left. The two fields to the far left are the Mariners Single-A training fields. The next two fields to the right are the Mariners Double-A and Triple-A fields. Next, is the Mariners secondary Major League field. Above that field is the Mariners administrative building and parking lot. Next to the administrative building to the right is the Mariners primary Major League field. Below the primary field, is a partial field where they do infield drills.
Then on the right side, the Padres have a mirror image of the Mariners training fields.
Spring training is incredibly cool and relaxing. One thing I love is all of the open grass between the training fields. It is a perfect set up that allowed us to watch the Mariners run drills and take BP while my dad and I played a lot of catch:
Those pictures are all taken in the grass between the Mariners Major League fields and the administrative building, which also has a big bullpen set up and indoor batting cages lining the big open grass area. In fact, you can see the bullpens behind my dad and Tim in the top two of the last four-picture set.
In the first day or two of our trip, we just watched the Mariners training. Here is Ichiro watching Raul Ibanez taking BP on the main field:
On our first day there, we ran into Mariners catching prospect Adam Moore who was working out one-on-one with a coach on the secondary Major League field…
…after he finished up, we got his autograph on one of the baseballs Tim had collected earlier in the day and got Tim’s first picture with a professional ballplayer. Finally, at the end of 2009, Moore made the Mariners major league roster. Hopefully we will see a lot of him in 2010.
I really enjoyed watching the Minor Leaguers…
Ah, remember how I mentioned it is relaxing at Spring Training…
…this is an ideal way to spend a morning, relaxing with your family and playing catch with your dad while watching the Mariners prepare for the regular season.
Yep, and then we got more baseballs…
Spring Training is also good for normal bats too…
…that’s a bat that my dad got from a Mariners minor leaguer. No cracks or anything. Just a nice fully-intact bat. Tim and I got two bats from minor leaguers as well, both with small cracks.
Here’s another cool part of Spring Training…
While my dad and I would play catch, Tim would run around with his grandma…
Soon, it was time for some games, so we would head to the main stadium in the afternoons:
Here is a view of the main stadium:
Here is a view of where we sat at most of the games:
When we arrived at Spring Training, they’d already played a bunch of games. And Ichiro was batting .000 (zero hits so far). He was something like 0-20.
His luck would change as soon as we arrived. Actually, he didn’t play in our first game. But in his very first at-bat that Tim and I saw him have in the spring, he got his first hit of the spring…
During one of the games, I took “The Ruthian” challenge:
On this trip, I also was able to achieve a life long dream…
…my first ever Mariners game (or any professional baseball game) on my birthday. I always wished growing up that I could have rounded up a bunch of my friends and gone to a Mariners game on my birthday. But its hard to do when you weren’t born during the baseball season. So this was a real special treat for me. And, as a special gift, Ichiro and Adrian Beltre both hit a homerun for me, and the Mariners got me the win.
For our final spring training game, we sat on the outfield berm…
But we still managed to get a picture that I absolutely love:
BUT WAIT…our pre-season baseball wasn’t finished yet.
Several of my colleagues are big Phillies fans and share the “weekend” ticket package…or maybe its just the “Sunday” ticket package. Whatever. The Phillies had two more pre-season games after breaking camp in Florida. They call it the “On Deck” series. And one of my colleagues gave us their tickets because no one in the group was going to use them.
So, a day or two before opening day, Tim and I headed down to Philadelphia for a freezing cold game against the Blue Jays.
This was our view from our seats in Section 130:
Okay, he wasn’t really saying that. But I LOVE that picture. Hilarious.
It was so cold that we gave up our excellent seats and headed over to the sunny seats in the leftfield porch:
I was fine leaving early. So we made a deal that we’d leave after spending one inning behind the Phils dugout watching Moyer up close. We made our way over there in time to see Pat Burrell step to the plate…
We got a great close-up view of Moyer on the mound:
And with that, we called it a day, and a pre-season, and we went home and waited for our favorite holiday, Mariners opening day.
I am officially excited for 2010! I love that Griffey is coming back. I can’t wait for Tim and I to get more opportunities to see him play. And I’m excited about how Jack Zduriencik is shaking things up to help the Mariners improve again in 2010.
So its officially time to start thinking of 2010. I’ve been scouring team schedules and planning out a great 2010 for me and Tim.
The first order of business: planning The Third Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip of 2010. Last night and today, my dad and I have exchanged a lot of emails on the subject and here is the tentative plan:
6/10 – Angels at A’s
6/11 – Angels at Dodgers
M’s at Padres
M’s at Padres
6/14 – Brewers at Angels
6/15 – Orioles at Giants
The two things I am most excited about here: (1) getting in two Mariners games on the roadtrip and (2) Dodgers Stadium. I am excited about all of the stadiums. But for some reason, I am most excited to get to Dodger Stadium, which I was at for one game in 1994, but have almost no memory of it.
But I have one concern. We only have one game planned for Dodger Stadium, but I want to roam around and see the entire stadium. Is that possible? If we get infield tickets, can we get out to the outfield at all? If we get outfield tickets, can we get into the infield at all? It seems like I’ve read on a number of blogs that there are limitation on what portions of the stadium you can access with different tickets. Any advice about how best to do Dodger Stadium (or any of these five ballparks) would be greatly appreciated!
Last week, I met two of the best baseball players of all time: Pete Rose and Steve Carlton. If you have a short attention span, this entry might not be for you. But if you’re up for it, here is the scoop:
Pete Rose (Friday, December 4, 2009)
I’d been looking forward to this luncheon for a couple months. Last year, I went to the first edition of this same luncheon and saw (and for about 30 seconds spoke to) Mike Schmidt. Its always fun to see one of the all-time greats up-close and personal and hear one of them give a speech. Pete Rose did not dissappoint.
Actually, I had a crazy day at work that day and missed most of the luncheon. When I arrived, Pete was already at the podium and had concluded his speech. But he continued to field questions from the audience for about 1/2 an hour. The guy was absolutely hilarious. He had every person in the place in fits of laughter.
I’ve been to a lot of charity breakfast, lunch and dinner banquets and heard a lot of featured speakers: Pete Rose was hands down the best, most entertaining and most intriguing I have ever seen. And, oddly, despite his world wide fame (or infamy), he was also the most accessible.
Last year, I approached Mike Schmidt before his speech. I was happy to get to say hello, shake his hand, and thank him for visiting our town. But it was obvious that Schmidt wasn’t totally confortable just hanging out and chatting with the public.
Rose, on the other hand, was the epitome of comfortable. After he concluded his Q&A session, he hung around and signed anything and everything that anyone asked him to sign…
While he was signing, Pete was still “on.” The guy is completely (COMPLETELY) at ease talking with ANYONE. Any question anyone had for him: he had an answer. Most people, however, just wanted his autograph. So, I just hung out next to him at the front of the autograph line and chatted with him while he signed. Eventually, the guy next to Pete in the picture above showed up to interview him (for this article) so I arranged for someone I know at the Bar Association to take my picture with Pete (thanks!) and I headed out.
I thought I’d share some of what Pete had to say, both during his Q&A session and during our post-presentation discussions…unfortunately, there were too many hilarious moments to remember them all (or even 1/2 of them), but I’ll do my best.
1. I was going to try to ask a question during the Q&A, but it ended before Pete got to me. So, the first question I asked Pete after the presentation:
“I heard a lot of TV this season that, if Jeter plays until he’s 43 or so, he might be able to break your hit record. What do you think?”
Pete was very diplomatic. I’m pretty sure that inside his head he was saying, “HELL NO!!!!” (Oh, by the way, Pete cursed at will during the Q&A session, which was just one more thing that made me think he is an authentic guy — Pete Rose doesn’t fake it). Anyway, Pete didn’t answer “HELL NO,” instead, he used some facts to lead me to the conclusion that there is no way Jeter is going to pass him. First, Jeter won’t get his 3,000th hit until he is 37 years old. That’s actually the same age Pete was when he got his 3,000th hit. Second, Pete remind me that he got 1,600 hits after he turned 35. (Actually, it looks like he got about 1,700 after turning 35 in 1976). By all accounts, Jeter would also need about 1,600 hits after turning 35. Third, those projections require Jeter to stay on his same pace until age 43, but it become a lot harder to play Major League baseball after age 41. I will have to take Pete’s word on that one. Anyway, Pete used those observations, body language and his tone of voice to indicate that he doesn’t think Jete is going to match his hit total.
I think Pete is right. Jeter has 2,747 hits right now at age 35. He needs 1,509 more hits to equal Rose. To do that by age 43, Jeter would have to average 188 hits per year between ages 36-43. Sure, Pete Rose didn’t get to 4,256 until age 45. But I ask you, do you see Jeter playing for the Yankees at age 45? And if not, do you see him playing for any team other than the Yankees? I don’t. And, I don’t. And I don’t think he’ll average 188 hits per season for 8 more years. But, hey, prove me wrong, Jeter. That would be pretty amazing.
2. During the Q&A session, Pete was talking about the 2009 World Series and he mentioned Ryan Howard’s poor performance, “I tell you what, Ray Charles could have struck out 13 times during the World Series. (Making batting motions) In fact, Ray Charles probably would have made a little contact. At least he could have heard the ball.”
World Series performance aside, Pete seemed to be generally down on Ryan Howard. He thinks the strike outs are unacceptable. He acknowledged that Ryan crushes fastballs, but he just can’t handle the off-speed stuff. He mentioned, “I’d fine my pitcher if he ever threw a fast ball to Ryan Howard. But for some reason, some managers still decide to do it about 50 times a season. They figure its early in the game, what the heck?”
3. Conversely, Pete was very impressed with Chase Utley, “The baseball was looking like a beach ball to him. Its really easy to hit a beach ball!”
4. After his presentation, someone asked Pete, “If you’d fine your pitcher for throwing a fast ball to Ryan Howard, would you fine Jimmy Rollins for hitting a home run?” Rose was perplexed: “What? No. Why would I? He’s going to hit his home runs.” It was suggested to Pete that J-Roll was struggling at the plate because he was trying to hit home runs. Pete disagreed. J-Roll isn’t trying to hit homeruns. He’s just not hitting for a high average. But even when you’re just trying to put good swings on the ball, a pro ball player like J-Roll is going to hit some home runs. So, no, Pete wouldn’t fine J-Roll.
But, this begged the question (and Pete asked it), “But just because you’re fast, does that mean you should be hitting lead-off?”
How about Alfonso Soriono someone asks? “I don’t know why in the world anyone would give him 18 million dollars.” So Pete wouldn’t hit Soriano lead off? “I’d bat him 7th. And you got to remember, he was a second basemen for the Yankees.”
5. This is when Pete made a statement that I just couldn’t endorse: “You know, the guy they love today is this ‘Ichiro’ (he pronounced it “itch-er-oh”). You know, anyone is going to get 200 hits in a season if they’re up 700 times. But, when you’re a lead-off hitter, you have one job and one job only — to get on base. Now, I had 4,200 hits, but I also walked 1,600 times [actually 1,566 times - 14th most of all-time]. He (‘itch-er-oh’) only gets about 30 walks.”
(By the way, all of these “quotes” are actually just paraphrases. Its not like I was recording the conversation.)
Okay. I stood there silent at this point. I didn’t have any need to argue with Pete Rose. He was being very cool and friendly to everyone. But, I think that Rose is off-base on his Ichiro assessment.
Yes, Rose averaged 71 walks per season compared to Ichiro’s 47 average walks per season – a difference of 24 on the positive side for Rose. But Ichiro has averaged 231 hits per season over the course of his career compared to 194 person season for Rose — a difference of 37 on the positive side for Ichiro. And, while I understand that Rose’s career numbers include his declining years toward the end, you have to realize that Ichiro’s MLB career number don’t include his numbers in Japan from age 20-26 when Ichiro was just flat out ridiculous at the plate:
As it stands today, Rose’s career on base percentage was .375 and Ichiro’s is a modestly better .378. But if you look at his years in Japan, Ichiro’s OBP increases (he was over .420 career in Japan).
One more thing, honestly, I can’t remember if Pete said “700 at-bats” or “700 plate appearances” per season. Pete never had 700 at bats in a season. Only a four people ever have (and one of them, Juan Samuel, did not get 200 hits that season). Ichiro has had 7000 at-bats exactly once in his career. Given those facts, I assume Pete meant plate appearances, not at-bats. If so, I’d note that Pete had over 700 plate appearances 6 times without collecting 200 hits.
So, while I have the utmost respect for the all-time hits king, Ichiro is the man. I wouldn’t want anyone else leading off for the Mariners. And I will reject all arguments or opinions to the contrary.
Sorry, I had to defend my Mariner. Now back to more good times with Pete Rose.
5. Pete said some things during his Q&A session that really gave you a peak into the inner workings of Pete Rose’s brain. You know what is in there? Baseball. And Winning.
First, Pete shared an extremely interesting story about why he was “Charlie Hustle.” Pete Rose’s dad (Pete Rose) was a blue collar guy and a star athlete in Cincinnati, OH in his own right. Rose mentioned that “I’m not the most famous Pete Rose in Cincinnati.”
Pete’s dad would come to games to watch Pete play for the Reds. He didn’t make a big deal about it. He didn’t come into the club house or try to capitalize on his son’s success. He just came to watch his son. Pete usually wouldn’t even see his dad at the game. Now, Pete won the NL batting title in 1968 (.335 in “The Year of the Pitcher“) and 1969 (.348). So, in 1970, Pete was already clearly a star. Pete’s dad came to the ballpark one day — I think Pete said it was a doubleheader. Pete hit well. But grounded out to second late in the game.
When Pete left the clubhouse after the game, he found his dad leaning against his car. Pete said hi to his dad. His dad responded, “In the eighth inning, when you grounded out to second, did you run it out?” Pete reflected on the game and then responded, “No, I guess I didn’t. You know, it was a good pitch and I missed it. I was mad at myself because I should have got a base hit on that pitch so I guess I didn’t run.” Pete’s father responded:
“When you do that you make me look bad! Don’t embarrass me in this town! When you hit the ball, you run as hard as you can until they hell ‘safe’ or ‘out.’ “
Pete’s dad then turned and walked away.
Pete’s dad obviously put a lot of pressure on him to do things the right way. I got the feeling that it wasn’t always easy for Rose. But you could tell he really respected and was grateful to his father for teaching him to do things the right way (well, with the exception of the gambling stuff, I guess).
6. The second thing that Pete said that really struck a chord with me what that at the end of 162 games, he was mad that the season was over. He was upset he had to go home and couldn’t play ball until the next season. That is a feeling that I don’t get from a lot of today’s players. But I think its a feeling that a lot of MLBloggers can relate to. I know that I miss the season the moment the final out is recorded.
Pete mentioned that he was at the ballpark every off day. “It was where I lived.” He loved hitting in the cages. He loved taking ground balls at whatever position he was playing or working on at the time. He just flat out loved baseball and playing it for a living. I can respect that.
7. In a non-baseball moment, Pete mentioned that he and Alex Rodriguez have exchanged text messages on a regular basis for many years. But when A-Rod started dating Madonna, A-Rod suddenly stopped returning Pete’s texts. Pete remarked, “He dumped me for Madonna!” Once A-Rod and Madonna stopped seeing each other and A-Rod moved on to Kate Hudson, A-Rod resumed his text message exchange with Pete.
8. During the Q&A session, somone asked, “Who would win in a head-to-head match up, the 1980 Phillies or the 2008 Phillies. Pete instantly responded, “They’d win. We’re all in our damn 60s!” After discussing some of the strengths of each team, Pete then commented, “Well, if it was Steve Carlton versus Cliff Lee [for Pete's sake, we'll pretend Lee was actually on the 2008 Phillies team], no one would win. We’d probably go nothing-nothing all night. Now, if it was Cole Hamels pitching (a BIG grin comes across Pete’s face), well, I’d like our chances.”
9. Okay, we’ve made it to the Ninth. The last story I’ll share is the big obvious story. Someone asked something along the lines of “What’s going on with your reinstatement and when (if ever) will you be in the Hall of Fame?”
The bottom line is that Pete has no clue. He said he thinks he’s being teased. For example, Selig just announced he’ll retire in three years. It didn’t sound like Rose was buying that story. He theorized that Selig is trying to wait to reinstate Rose until after Rose is too old to manage. Or, he thinks Selig is waiting until Pete dies. “But the joke’s on Selig, I’m gonna outlive him!” But, as I mentioned, the bottom line is that Pete doesn’t know when or if he’ll get back into baseball and into the Hall of Fame.
10. Oh, wait…we’re heading into extra innings. Two more brief comments. First, someone asked Pete if he’d ever hurt a catcher playing so hard. Pete responded, “Are you a baseball fan!? Where were you in 1970?“ He then told the story or lighting up Ray Fosse in the 1970 all-star game. Pete talked about the purpose of the game (“The purpose of the game is to WIN. That’s the only purpose. You play to WIN!”) and how you play the game (clean but hard). He said that, if you paid for a ticket to come to see Rose and his team play, he was damn sure going to do everything in his power to make sure you saw a win. And that is how it should be. He talked about hard (but clean) slides at 2B and pitchers brushing batters back with a inside pitch. This is all part of the game and so is running over a catcher if he is blocking the plate. In sum, Rose turned back to the guy who asked the question, “So the answer to your question, you bet I did.”
Okay, one more bonus Rose comment. At the end of his Q&A, he said, “Does someone have one more question?” A guy stood up and asked something like, “what do you think about all the discussion about wood bats vs. metal bats, etc., etc.?” Pete scans the audience, “Does someone have one more GOOD question?“
And that was my run-in with Pete Rose. I left the event a much bigger fan of Pete Rose (aside from his silly thoughts on Ichiro). He is a great lover of baseball. He is a great people person. He isn’t smug. He isn’t aloof. He isn’t better than me or you or the next guy. He’s just a guy with a lot of baseball knowledge and experience and a desire to share it with anyone interested in hearing about it. If you have a chance to go to a similar event featuring Pete Rose, I highly recommend it.
Steve Carlton (Saturday, December 5, 2009)
My Steve Carlton experience was much shorter and more ordinary, but it was cool nonetheless. Tim and I met “Lefty” at an autograph signing event at the Majestic Tent Sale at the VF Outlets in Reading, PA.
Every couple months, Majestic puts on an amazing tent sale at the VF Outlets and it is standard to have a free autograph signing event featuring a player or two from the Phillies or the Eagles. This is the second Hall of Famer I’ve run into at the Majestic Tent Sale. Last year, Michael Jack Schmidt followed his luncheon experience by signing at the Majestic Tent Sale the next day.
I learned that some people lined up to get free tickets for the Carlton signing at 1:30 a.m. the night (morning) before (of). I, on the other hand, had a connection and I landed two tickets without waiting in the cold dark and long ticket line in the morning…
…still we got to stand in the actual autograph line.
Eventually we made our way up to Lefty…
…and like Rose, he too was very nice. He’d have little 2 minute discussions with each person (assuming the person engaged him in conversation). He was extremely nice and cordial, and he went out of his way to connect with Tim.
Tim, however, was tired as could be after waiting through the autograph line. Luckily, he found some activities to keep him occupied…
Or laying his head on his mother’s shoulder.
Oh, yeah, and Carlton mentioned that he had a nice dinner the night before with Pete Rose at a local country club. That would have been an interesting dinner discussion.
In middle school and high school, I played first base and left field. When I was stationed at first, I used a Rawlings RFM14 (Wally Joyner signature model). I Iiked it. It was a good glove. In fact, it helped me set a school record for consecutive put outs without an error in 8th grade at old College Place Middle School.
Here, in the only known picture of me during one of my high school baseball games…
Back in 1991, I went to Spring Training. For the final spring training game of the year, the Mariners let me be their bat boy for the day — a Mariners win over the Cubs behind the pitching of Randy Johnson and hitting of Ken Griffey, Jr. That day, the much-loved Harold Reynolds actually used my RFM14 to warm up before the game. So, it was definitely a good glove with a rich history.
Then came 1994 and my playing days were finished. But for some of my lucky friends, there was more organized baseball to be played. A contingent of my best friends went on to play at junior colleges and a couple four-year universities. One of those guys was my good friend since Sherwood Elementary School, Brian “The Amazing Speed” O’Neal. “The Amazing Speed” was a joke nickname in 5th grade. Later on, one of the guys would bestow upon Brian the nickname “Butch,” and for me it has stuck.
Anyway, Butch went on to play college ball in Oregon. He was a pitcher, and later a first basemen. With my playing days behind me, it made sense for me to loan my trusty RFM14 to Butch. And so, I did.
Fast forward 15 years to Monday, December 7, 2009. Butch and I have exchange thed occassional email and we spoke briefly on the phone once this past season. But for the most part, we’ve been out of contact for probably 12-13 years. But on Monday my wife called me at work to inform me, “You received a package in the mail today…from Brian O’Neal!”
Alarms instantly went off in my head. “Oh, my god,” I thought, “ITS MY GLOVE!”
Although I have never made any effort to retreive my glove or ever really been concerned about getting it back, I’ve never forgot about that glove. It has crossed my mind from time-to-time as the years have passed.
Could this really be the day? I didn’t know why else Butch would be sending me a package.
Colleen asked if she could open the package.
“No way,” I responded! “How big is it?”
“Like a package from Amazon.com,” she replies.
“Hmm…” Now, I’m not so sure.
On the drive home after work, I continue thinking. Brian and I made a bunch of home “movies” — most notably, “The Hound Of The Edmondsville” — when we were…hmm…sophomores, I’d guess. Maybe this Amazon.com sized box was a VHS copy of the “‘Brian & Todd: Come Jam With Us” video we shot at the little kid hoops at Sherwood? That seemed more the size of an Amazon.com box.
Finally, I walk into the house and see the box. “Hey, that seems glove sized,” I though. I shook the box like it was a birthday or Christmas gift. “Hmmm…that doesn’t seem very glove’ish. And it does sort of have a video cassette’ish sound to it.”
Colleen walked in and I declared to her that “I have two ideas of what this is…otherwise, I have no clue.”
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH:
And, Butch included a note:
That’s just too funny…and thoughtful. I’m sure he figured I had given up on any thought of ever seeing the glove again. So it was very cool of him to take the time (and postage) to send it across the country to me.
Anyway, I was pretty excited to see my old friend again. I did some inspecting and found that the years hadn’t been kind…so, after typing out a quick “thank you” email to Butch, Tim and I headed to “The Baseball Store,” our local Rawlings outlet. I decided the glove could use some new laces, and I figured that it would be fun to do them in dark green, which is the primary color of our high school baseball team.
Here are some photos from the last twenty four hours.
As you can see in the upper left, the sewn connection at the top of the webbing tore off. Hopefully Butch didn’t take a hard liner to the eye due to that. I had to fix that and, as you can see at the bottom right, it now looks much better.
Here are some comparison shots of the back of the glove…
Although Brian’s “fix” was creative, I think mine will hold up a little bit better.
Finally, you can see that my old friend was a little tired and flat from his 15 year journey…
Its good to have my old friend home again.
Heading into the final week of the 2007 season, I checked the Pittsburgh Pirates schedule and noticed that the Cardinals were coming to town for the final weekend of the season. For reasons discussed further below, I was excited to see the Cardinals and their monster first baseman Albert Pujols. So I told my wife to have a nice weekend at home because TIM AND I WERE ROADTRIPPING!!
We had lots of “firsts” on this trip — some “baseball firsts” and some “life firsts.” First, it was our first baseball roadtrip “camping” in a KOA camping cabin. Pittsburgh is about 4 or so hours away. So I figured it was a little too far to drive back home after a night game. I also figured staying at a KOA would be more fun for Tim than staying at a hotel. So we booked a cabin at the Washington, PA KOA.
We left in the morning and arrived in Washington, PA in the early afternoon. Tim loved roaming all around the camp ground:
With the assistance of our KOA hosts Rick and Sharon Leclair, our second “first” was a trip to West Virginia:
I’d noticed that West Virginia was really close to Washington, PA on the map. So I asked Sharon about it while checking in at the KOA. She advised that there was a place in West Virginia just about 17 miles down the road that might interest Tim. So, with lots of time to spare before the game, Tim and I hopped in the car, drove to West Virginia for the first time in either of our lives, and arrived a Cabela’s in Wheeling, WVa:
It was time for Tim’s third “first” of the trip — Pittsburgh, PA. We left West Virginia and headed into Pittsburgh for the game. I’ve been to Pittsburgh several times and each tiem the sole purpose was to attend a baseball game at PNC Park. I know next to nothing about the city other than PNC Park. But I can tell you its a neat looking place.
As you can see on the map below…
…downtown Pittsburgh is nestled between the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahea Rivers. The red arrow points to PNC Park, which is across the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh. Downtown and the ballpark are connected by a bunch of yellow bridges including:
The RCB is an automobile bridge most of the time, but before Pirates games (or at least this one) it is closed down and made into a pedestrian bridge. Although the bridges look a little weathered up close, they look beautiful from PNC Park with Pittsburgh’s unique-looking skyscrapers behind them.
Here’s a view of PNC Park from the Roberto Clemente Bridge…
Finally, it was time for Tim’s fourth “first” of the day — PNC Park. On our way into the park, we stopped so Tim could get his picture…
…with Hall of Famer Josh Gibson.
Soon, we were inside the stadium…
We were there in time to watch BP. But Tim was still too young for us to go out into the bleachers and test our luck at catching a BP homerun.
Instead, we grabbed some food and watched the Red Birds take BP. Going to games back then was a lot more difficult than going to games in 2009. As you can see, we had Tim’s on-the-go stroller with us…
…so, along with a back pack full of stuff, there was a lot to lug around to a ball game (and it made it a lot more difficult to take pictures too). But it made for a convenient place for Tim to sit and enjoy eating his ballpark frank before the game.
Anyway, at this game, our seats were in the lower section of the upper deck behind 3B. After BP ended, we went to our seats. They provided an outstanding view of the field, river, bridges and city. It was like a postcard…of course, I didn’t take a picture of it. Sorry.
We were out of our seats before the game even started, and we never returned to them. Instead, we spent most of our time during the game standing (or in Tim’s case running around in circles) on the big spiral walk way from the LF field concourse up to the upper deck concourse. Here is a shot of Tim standing at the top watching the grounds crew readying the field:
Do you see that braclet on Tim’s right wrist? At some point, a Pirates employee gave it to me. Its like a luggage tag, but its for lost kids. You put your name, seat number, cellphone number on it. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t lose Tim at this (or any other) game.
While up on the upper deck concourse, Tim had his fifth “first” of the day — his first time drinking from a water fountain. Tim thought the drinking fountain was great. He went back to it literally about 25 times throughout the game. And, he still loves drinking fountains today.
During the game, I took a fairly odd self-portrait of the two of us at the top of the spiral walkway:
The game was a good one. My main goal was to see Albert Pujols hit a home run. While that did not happen, he had a strong day at the plate going 3-5 with a double, 1 RBI and 1 run scored. I was also interested in seeing Rick Ankiel because his pitching troubles were still fresh in my mind. I wanted to see how he’d do as an outfielder and batter. He too had a strong performance. He went 3-4 with a homerun, 3 RBI, and 1 run scored. Generally, the story of the game was the Cardinals hitting and the Pirates not.
In the 4th or 5th inning, Tim and I relocated to a standing room area in RF…
…see that red arrow above? Well, maybe you should click on that picture to see it larger. If you do, you’ll see a chain link fence above the out-of-town scoreboard and below the RF bleachers. The chain link fence is part of the RF wall. Behind the chain link fence is a tunnel beneath the RF bleachers. There is a single row of seating along the front of the tunnel in groups of 2-3 seats at a time. I think the purpose of those seats is to have room for wheelchair seating. In 2008, I tried to buy tickets in that row of seating, but couldn’t figure out if or how I could do that.
Anyway, its a great place from which to watch a game with a young active son. I could watch the game while Tim ran circles around me without really bothering any of the other fans. There is also a “family restroom” in that tunnel, which is also handy when you have a young active child with you.
For some reason, I thought Ankiel was playing RF so I took this picture…
In the 6th inning, So Taguchi hit a seeing-eye single up the middle. It looked like either future Mariner Jack Wilson would snare the grounder from short stop or Matt Kata would get it from the second base position. Instead, the ball snuck by them both and Wilson and Kata ran into each other. In the process, Wilson took a direct shot to the side of the head from Kata’s knee. He went down hard and stayed down a long time. Eventually, they put him on a little flatbed type golf cart and motored him out of the stadium through a tunnel right below us in the RF foul corner.
The day had been really long for young Tim. He crashed hard by the 7th or 8th inning. That was fine with me, I’d achieved what I’d come to achive. So we left. By the time we got to the south of the Robert Clemente Bridge, Tim was fast asleep…
We drove back to the KOA and spent the night. The next day, we heaeded home to tell Colleen all about our adventures.
Our 2007 season was complete.
Now, there was one more “first” I haven’t mentioned yet, the most important first of the day. Amazingly, at the age of 31, this was my first time EVER seeing the Cardinals play live, and with the game I finally completed my 30-MLB Milestone. Compared to Tim seeing all 30 teams at 3.5, I guess doing it in 31 years is pretty unimpressive. But, I have a good explanation.
I grew in Seattle, which at the time was 812 miles from the nearest National League Park, Candlestick Park. Plus, there was no inter-league play until 1997. In 1997 and 1998, I went to at least one of the interleague games featuring each NL team that visited Seattle. But, that was just the NL West. I didn’t see most of the other NL teams until I moved to Philadelphia in 1999.
It was 2000 or 2001, when I first sat down and tried to figure out if I’d seen every team play at least once live. I had seen every American League team (including the Brewers) multiple times at the Kingdome. But I wasn’t sure if I had completed the NL. At that point, I could pinpoint at least one specific game in which I had seen every team play except the Montreal Expos. Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals.
I checked the Expos and Astros off the list in relatively short order. But for years, I could never get to a Cardinals games. It seemed like they would visit Philadelphia for only one series per season and I could never get to that series. So, it came to late 2007 and I saw this game as my first and best chance of actually getting to a Cardinals game. I planned the trip without hesitation. So, there you have it, at age 31, I finally could say that I had seen all 30 MLB teams play live. (Notably, Tim and I have now seen the Cardinals play in Pittsburgh, Cinncinati and Philadelphia.)
I didn’t keep a Baseball Log growing up, so I couldn’t put together a full game list for myself like I did for Tim’s 30-MLB Team Milestone. But I wanted to do something to illustrate my milestone. So, I tried to compile a list of at least one specific game when I saw each MLB team. By way of reviewing old ticket stubs (which I used to keep for years in the inside flap of my baseball caps), reviewing calendars, doing lots of research on Baseball-Reference.com, and exchanging emails with friends with whom I attended games throughout my life, I was able to pinpoint at least one specific game for every team except the Astros and Dodgers. Here you go (with brief comments for notable games):
Athletics – June 24, 1997 – Randy Johnson K’s 19 & Mark McGwire hits epic homerun.
Rangers – June 3, 1989 – Nolan Ryan 1-hits the M’s. Harold’s lead off hit is M’s only hit.
Angels – June 18, 1999 – My first game at Yankee Stadium.
Indians – October 10, 1995 – Game 1 of ALCS. Mariners win!
Royals – August 31, 1990 – The first game with Ken Griffey Jr. & Sr. playing together.
Twins – May 15, 2000
Tigers – August 30, 1990 – My first foul ball caught during an actual MLB game.
White Sox – April 5, 1999 – Final opening day at the Kingdome.
Red Sox – April 25, 1994 – Randy Johson (CG) beats Roger Clemens & Griffey hits HR.
Orioles – May 26, 1994 – Ken Griffey, Jr. hits a homerun and breaks arm making catch.
Rays – May 20, 2000
Blue Jays – September 12, 2006 – Tim’s First Game.
Yankees – August 25, 1995 – Griffey’s walk-off HR starts M’s charge to AL West title.
Giants – June 19, 2004 – Barry Bonds hits his 689th homerun in Philadelphia.
Dodgers – I saw them at Dodger Stadium in June 1994 and in Seattle in 1997-98.
Padres – June 1, 1999 – My first game at Wrigley Field on “moving to Philadelphia” drive.
Rockies – September 12, 2007 – Tim’s First MLB Anniversary.
Diamondbacks – August 8, 1999
Cubs – June 1, 1999 – Same as above (First game at Wrigley)
Cardinals – September 29, 2007 – This game! Finally!
Pirates – June 19, 2004 – Mariners beat Pirates and Eddie Guardado throws me a ball.
Astros – Two games in Philadelphia between 2000-05, but I can’t pinpoint the games.
Reds – September 4, 1999
Brewers – September 2, 1993 – Brewers playing in the AL (where they belong).
Phillies – April 12, 1999 – 1999 Home Opener and my first game at the Vet.
Mets – June 8, 2003 – Mariners sweep double-header at Shea behind Moyer and Garcia.
Expos – September 4, 2002 – My only “Expos” game.
Nationals – June 10, 2005 – My first “Nationals” game.
Marlins – September 9, 2007 – Tim’s first game seeing Jamie Moyer pitch in person.
Braves – April 12, 1999 – same as above (Phillies Home Opener)