March 2011

Target Field Tour

I just spend a week in Minneapolis.  I wanted to tour Target Field, but I was incredibly busy all week and the chances didn’t look good.  One evening, just before my trip through the Metrodome, I headed over to Target Field just to check it out in daylight.

It was looking good:

1 - Target Field exterior 1B side.JPG
See those windows below the Target Field sign in that picture above to the right?  Remember those windows for a minute.

I peaked through Gate 29 and I could see workers taking a plastic cover off of the field:

a2 - Target Field from Gate 29 removing winter cover panorama.jpgI definitely wanted to get in there to see what Target Field is all about.

I finally got my chance just before leaving Minneapolis.  When I arrived at the box office to purchase a tour ticket, there were two guys and a dog sitting in chairs next to their tent:

2 - Twins Single Game Tickets Line 2011.JPGThey were first in line for single game tickets, which were going on sale the next day.

See that lady in the red jacket above?  She was on my tour.  We chatted a bit.  She was very nice and she gave me a run for my money for the title of most pictures taken on the tour…but I still think I got her on it.

My tour ticket looked like a game ticket and was beautiful:

2a - Target Field tour ticket.jpgForty people met up outside of Gate 29.  Two tour guides divided us into groups of 20 and then the groups headed off in different directions.  Our tour guide was named Dick, and he was awesome.

The first thing we did was hop in an elevator right next to Gate 29 and the team store.  We went up a couple floors and headed to our first stop — the Metropolitan Club:

3 - Metropolitan Club.JPGRemember all of those windows in the picture above?  Well, the Metropolitan Club (as show here) is inside those windows.  The Metropolitan Club is a special club for season ticket holders and their guests.  There is a bar and a big buffet is served before each game.

Target Field is chock full of history.  Everywhere you go, there are pictures, paintings and display cases showcasing the Twins and Minnesota’s baseball history.  And almost everything is named after a Twin, a Minnesotan, or a Minnesotan lankmark.

Inside the Metropolitan Club, the Twins have a series of photographs of all-time baseball greats, like the picture of Babe Ruth above playing in Minnesota on the old “barnstormer” tours.  The sign next to the picture says, “Babe Ruth made an appearance at Nicollet Park during an exhibition game in September 1935.”  The picture above to the left is of old Metropolitan Stadium and it covers the entire wall behind the host’s station at the Metropolitan Club entrance.

Here is a panorama of Target Field through the Metropolitan Club windows:

a3 - Target Field metropolitan club panorama.jpg

For $5 extra, season ticket holders can watch the game from the two rows of seats outside of the Metropolitan Club.

Next, we exited the Metropolitan Club walked down a hallway with pictures of all 30 current MLB stadiums, and our next stop was the Johnny Blanchard party suite:

4 - Target Field Johnny Blanchard suite.JPGThere are about 7 of these suites on this level.  I think that Dick said they cost about $100 per person (assuming you fill the suite to capacity, which I think was something like 30 people).  This picture is not very good.  The suite was big, modern and very nice.  It has a really big kitchen area with a full-sized refrigerator.

Each of the party suites is named after a current/former MLB player who was born in Minnesota.  I cannot remember all of them, but Roger Maris and Paul Molitor were two of them.

Here is a panorama of Target Field from inside the Johnny Blanchard suite:

b - Target Field Johnny Blanchard suite panorama.jpgWorkers were actively preparing Target Field for opening day.  There were a couple visible signs of it being winter in Minnesota.  Most notably, the dugouts were enclosed within wood walls:

5 - Target Field visitors dugout covered in wood.JPGIn the LF foul corner, the Twins have each of their retired numbers in red or blue circles:

6 - Target Field retired numbers.JPG42 is Jackie Robinson, 34 is Kirby Puckett, 14 is Kent Hrbek, 6 is Tony Oliva, 29 is Rod Carew, and 3 is Harmon Killebrew.  Dick informed us that 28 will soon be added to the list for Hall of Famer-elect Bert Blyleven.

Here are some shots of the Twins big screens:

7 - Target Field big screens.JPGThe big one over the upper deck seats in left field is huge.  Dick said that if you placed the Timberwolves basketball court in the middle of the big screen, you would have three feet of extra screen space on all four sides of the court.  It looks pretty nice.

Last season, the big scoreboard was the only big screen at Target Field.  Apparently, people in LF complained because they couldn’t see it (particularly from the lower deck), so they just recently put up a smaller big screen above the upper deck seats in RF.  Dick said the RF screen is 1/4 the size of the main scoreboard screen.

After we left the Johnny Blanchard suite, we entered a hallway leading to the Legends Club.  The hallway was full of memorabilia and informative pictures, diagrams, etc., about Target Field.  One wall told all about the construction of Target Field with tons of pictures of the entire process.  For example, there are pictures of the 41 miles of heating tubes below the field at Target Field.  The tubes are set to a temperature during the winter that allows the grass to go dormant, but prevents a hard freeze from setting in.

There was also a display case all about the first game at Target Field.  It had all of the bases, the pitching rubber, pictures of the umpires, important baseballs, scorecards, etc.  My favorite thing in the display case was this:

8 - Target Field First Homerun Catcher.JPGIt is the first homerun ball ever hit at Target Field along with a picture of A.J. Nitzschke, the lucky Twins fan who caught the Jason Kubel homerun.  Behind the picture of A.J. is a short letter A.J. wrote describing the big day.  This seems like a great touch to me.  The Twins clearly understand that the fans are what allows professional baseball to exist, and therefore they made space to celebrate an important fan experience from opening day right along with the on field stuff.

In an interesting side note, Dick mentioned that the Twins offered A.J. an autographed game-used Jason Kubel bat in exchange for the first Target Field homerun baseball.  However, A.J. is apparently a big Joe Mauer fan so he requested an autographed Mauer bat.  Mauer and the Twins were happy to make A.J.’s request happen.  Not only did he get the autographed Mauer bat, he got to meet both Mauer and Kubel.  (Maybe the Marlins should take some notes from the Twins).

Just behind the opening night display case is the architect’s model of Target Field:

9 - Target Field replica.JPGThe model is really cool becuase, in additional to all of the components of the field itself, it shows how all of the roadways/trains pass under Target Field.

Next, we headed into the Legends Club.  I took this picture of the front desk at the Legends Club because I loved the huge picture behind the desk:

11 - Target Field big bat knobs picture.JPGThe Legends Club wraps from the 1B side to the 3B side.  Here is the 1B side of the Legends Club all set up for some event (there are 22 spaces that companies/individuals can rent out for functions at Target Field):

10 - Target Field Legends Club 3B side.JPGBy the way, that is our tour guide Dick in that last picture.

And here is a panoramic view of Target Field from the 1B side of the Legends Club:

c - Target Field legends club 1b side panorama.jpgJust past the Legends Club seating area (two pictures above) is the Kirby Puckett Lounge.  The lounge has several display cases full of Kirby memorabilia.  Its amazing stuff, including his 1991 World Series ring and his Hall of Fame ring:

12 - Kirby Puckett Lounge.JPGPictured above to the right is a bar with Kirby’s signature on the base of the bar and his image burned/etched (not sure which) into the wooden wall behind the bar.  By the way, in addition to his rings, the Kirby Puckett Lounge features several game jerseys, cleats, bats, a gold glove award, pictures, magazine covers, etc., etc., etc.  Much of the stuff is on loan to the Twins from the Puckett family.

Next, we headed to the press box (print media):


13 - Target Field Press Box.JPGHere is a panoramic view of Target Field from the press box:

d - Target Field press box panorama.jpgAnd next door, I got this panoramic view of Target Field from the TV box:

e - Target Field TV booth panorama.jpgHere is a view into the 3B-side of the Legends Club:

14 - Target Field Legends Club 3B side.JPGBehind home plate (and the press boxes), there is a “Call Wall” with famous TV/radio calls from Twins history:

f - Target Field call wall panorama.jpgThe Call Wall looks across the hallway toward the “573″ Lounge:

15 - Targe Field 573 Lounge.JPGThis lounge is named in recognition of Harmon Killebrew’s 573 career homeruns and it featuers a Killebrew-based display case including the bat he used for his final career homerun and the baseball (also with a notation of who caught it — I think it was caught be a reliever in the bullpen).  Interestingly, Killebrew hit his final homerun as a Kansas City Royal playing against the Twins in Minnesota.

Next, we headed up the stairs in the 573 Lounge and entered the private suite level.  At the top of the stairs was a cool panoramic painting of Target Field:


g - Target Field painting panorama.jpgHere is a view down the private suite hallway toward the 1B side:

16 - Target Field suite level hallway.JPGEach of the private suites is named after a lake in Minnesota — here is a look at the “Norway Lake Suite”:

17 - Target Field private suites.JPGAs you can see, the suites are really nice and clean looking.  Here is a panoramic view of Target Field from the Norway Lake suite:

h - Target Field Norway Lake Suite panorama.jpgFrom the suite level hallway, we could see down into the Legends Club Rod Carew Lounge:

18 - Rod Carew Lounge.JPGThe suite level hallway is lined with paintings and pictures.  In one section of the hallway, there were pictures of each of the Twins to have won batting titles.  Further down the hallway toward LF, there are painting of each person who has served as the Twins manager over the years — a surprisingly small group of people.  Here are the paintings of the last two managers — Tom “T.K.” Kelley and Ron Gardenhire:

19 - Target Field Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire paintings.JPGWe went into suite 54 (not sure what its “lake” name was) almost directly across the hall from the Gardenhire painting.  Here was the view of Target Field from suite 54:

i - Target Field Suite 54 panorama.jpgAnd here is a closer look at the Twins “Minnie and Paul” logo out in center field:

20 - Target Field Minnie and Paul Sign.JPGA little further down the hallway there was a big painting on the wall of a wobbly-looking Target Field:

22 - Target Field funky painting.JPGAcross the hallway from that wobbly painting, there are two huge party suites.  Here is one of them:

23 - Target Field jumbo party suites.JPGThe suites have big cushy seats and come complete with overhead heaters:

21 - Target Field suite seating and heaters.JPGHere is a panorama of Target Field from the huge party suites:

j - Target Field jumbo suite panorama.jpgI like the yellow-orange rock they used throughout the field.  Behind home plate, there is a very nice looking “Welcome to Target Field” on the yellow-orange rock:

24 - Welcome to Target Field sign.JPGWe didn’t venture out into the outfield during the tour, so this is the best look I got of the bullpens:

25 - Target Field bullpens.JPGNext, we visited the “Skyline Deck,” which (true to its name) has an excellent view of the Minneapolis skyline.  Here is a panoramic view of Target Field from the concourse directly behind Section T of the Skyline Deck:

k - Target Field Skyline Deck concourse panorama.jpgWe took a tour of Chase Field when we were in Arizona for Spring Training and our guide hyperventilated if you walked 3 feet away from the tour group, and we were never allowed down into the actual rows of seats.  So, not wanting to ruffle Dick’s feathers, I asked politely if I could run down to the first row to take some pictures.  He was absolutely fine with it.  He just told me to catch up with the tour and he led the rest of the people away (toward the LF foul pole) as I ran down to the first row.

So, thanks to Dick, here is a panorama of Target Field from the first row of Section T of the Skyline Deck:

l - Target Field Skyline Deck front row panorama.jpgAfter a few minutes down in the first row, I ran over to the foul pole to catch up with the group.  Before hopping onto an elevator with the group, I got this panorama of Target Field from the concourse in the LF foul corner:

m- Target Field Left Field corner panorama.jpgMoments later, I was high above the field on the Budweiser Roof Deck.  As shown in this panorama, we were literally *above* the foul pole:



n - Target Field bud party deck panorama.jpgThat last panorama cut off a lot of the field.  Its hard to get a good panorama when you are shooting from up high and trying to wrap around a corner.  So I ran around the roof deck looking for the best spot to capture a good picture of the view from up there.  My second attempt was from the top of a couple standing room risers:

o - Target Field bud party deck risers panorama.jpgMy final attempt was probably the best view (although it cuts off the LF seats).  Here is a panorama from the *foulest* front corner of the roof deck:

p - Target Field bud party deck LF foul corner panorama.jpgWhile in that *foulest* corner, I turned around and good a shot of the lighting tucked into the wing-looking upper deck “roof”:

26 - Target Field lighting.JPGIt would probably make more sense if it was game time and everything was set up, but here is a shot of the bar area on the roof deck:

27 - Target Field Bud party deck.JPGBy the way, the roof deck is totally separated from everything else.  To get to any other level or seating section, you have to take an elevator down from the roof deck.  Also, you can only get up to the roof deck if you have special roof deck tickets.

From high atop the roof deck, we took the elevator all the way down to the bowels of target field.  We walked around from LF toward the visitors’ clubhouse on the 3B side.

En route to the clubhouse, we stopped to take a look at “Keg Room No. 5.”  Check it out:

28 - Target Field Keg Room No. 5.JPGApparently Twins personnel were always carting around kegs through the Metrodome concourses, which wasn’t ideal for fans walking the concourse.  So, at Target Field, they now have (I think) 8 “keg rooms.”  See the yellow arrow above the keg room?  Instead of taking kegs to each of the beer stands, all of the kegs are in the keg rooms and there are 14.8 miles of “beer pipes” twisting their way through Target Field delivering crisp, cold beer straight from the keg rooms to your plastic beer cup.

Next up, the visitors’ clubhouse.  Here are three pictures:

29 - Target Field visitors clubhouse and batting cage.JPGIn the top picture, that is the main clubhouse area with the player lockers and couches in the middle.  As photographed in that picture, the field is to the right of the clubhouse.  Directly to the right of where I was standing when I took the top picture, is the little kitchen area shown above to the left.  Finally, just down the hallway from the clubhouse (on the way to the dugout) is the single batting cage shown above to the right.

They took us into the visitors dugout, which (as mentioned above) was encased in a wood cover:

30 - Target Field enclosed visitors bullpen.JPGLet me explain the yellow and green arrows.  First, the bottom left picture is the view from the 3B side of the dugout (where the players enter the dugout) toward the homeplate side.  There are little spaces between the wood cover and the railings in the dugout.  The picture above to the right is looking toward home plate through the front-homeplate side space in the dugout cover.  Essentially, I just stuck my camera through the hole in the dugout and snapped a picture without knowing what it would look like.

I did the same thing on the 3B-side of the dugout (at the green arrow in the top right picture above), but I took a couple totally blind photos that I was able to piece together to make this half-way decent panorama:
q - Target Field visitors dugout panorama.jpgNext, we headed to the Champion’s Club, directly behind home plate under the fancy seats.  Here are a couple photos of what it looked like in there:

31 - Target Field Champions Club.JPGIn that middle photo, that is a sports radio broadcast that was taking place from a studio in the back corner of the Champion’s Club.

The Champion’s Club essentially goes from dugout-to-dugout and it has several entrances to the super-luxury seats behind home plate.  On the far 1B-side of the Champion’s Club, there is a window where people can watch the Twins take hacks in their two batting cages:

32 - Target Field Champions Club view of Twins batting cages.JPGI’m not sure if Dick was going to take us out into the seats (which were still partially covered in snow), but I didn’t wait around to ask.  I tested the door and when it was unlocked, I bolted for the seats.  (By the way, Dick later brought just a handful of people out into the seats.  He absolutely didn’t care that I was already out there taking pictures).

Here is a panorama of Target Field from (approximately) row B of Section 7 of the Champion’s Club:

r - Target Field Champions Club section 7 panorama2.jpgI took a couple photos of myself on the tour so I’d have proof that I was actually at Target Field.  Here is the least terrible of my self-photos:

33 - TJC at Target Field.JPGHere is another Champion’s Club panorama, this one from row A of Section 10 (with my arm and camera wrapped around the protective screen so we don’t have to look through the net):

u - Target Field Champions Club section 10 panorama2.jpgBefore heading back into the Champion’s Club, I ran up to the walkway behind the Champion’s Club seating and took this panorama of Target Field from behind Row M of Section 9:

v - Target Field Champions Club section 9 back row panorama.jpgOur tour was winding down.  It was a great tour that lasted almost two hours.  On our way out of the Champion’s Club, we stopped to look at the 1987 and 1991 World Series trophies.  They are in the entrance way to the Champion’s Club, which had really odd lighting that made my pictures look terrible.  But it was cool to see the trophies, along with three world series rings.

Dick took us back up an elevator on the 1B side and we ended up right where we began the tour.  Before heading out, I ran over to the seats and took a couple more panoramas.

Here is a panorama of Target Field from the concourse directly behind section 103:

w - Target Field section 103 concourse panorama.jpgI ran down to the RF corner and took this panorama of Target Field from the top of a pile of snow behind section 141:

x - Target Field section 141 concourse panorama.jpgFinally, my tour was complete after I took this final Target Field panorama from the concourse behind section 101:

y - Target Field section 101 concourse panorama.jpgBottom line:  Target Field is beautiful.  The Twins did a great job designing the stadium and filling it with loads of Minnesota baseball history.  If you’re in Minnesota and the Twins are playing, definitely stop by Target Field for a game.  If they are not in town, stop by anyway and grab a tour.  You’ll love it.

m

Spring Training VI: Practice Pictures

After a brief detour through the Metrodome, its back to Spring Training.  We still have a few more reports to go from the desert.  This one has no real *story* per se, its just a bunch of pictures.  It does, however, have a theme:  practice.  We took a bunch of nice pictures of Mariners doing the hard work of preparing for the 2011 season and its time to share them.

Each morning, the entire Mariners major league camp would report to practice field M3 for a big stretching routine:

1 - pitcher stretching.JPGYou can always expect to see the guys playing a lot of catch at Spring Training:

2 - Ichiro throwing.JPGAbove, Ichiro is playing catch with…hmm…probably Milton Bradley on practice field M1.

The Mariners coaching staff hits hours of fungo to the Mariners infielders during Spring Training.  Here, Justin Smoak gloves a grounder on the first day of full team workouts on M2:

3 - Justin Smoak grounder.JPGJosh Wilson got into the action right next to Smoak:

4 - Josh Wilson grounder.JPGAcross the diamond, Chone Figgins — back at his native third base — got hand cuffed by this grounder, but made the play:

5 - Chone Figgins handcuffed by grounder.JPGBetween fields M1 and M2, there is a little half field (infield only).  Here, Dustin Ackley practices taking grounders at second base on the short field:

6 - Dustin Ackley grounder.JPGThe pitchers spend a lot of time re-learning how to field their position during Spring Training.  Here, big Michael Pineda practices his pick off move as a bunch of his colleagues watch:

7 - Pineda drills.JPGThis next picture is hilarious to me.  This was the first day of full squad workouts and the coach (cannot remember which one) said, “First grounder of the season!” and then hit this ball to King Felix Hernandez a/k/a Larry Bernandez:

8 - Felix first grounder of 2011.JPGThe look on Felix’s face is priceless.  FYI, despite his surprised look, he did catch the ball.

Cook & Son Hall of Famer Jason Phillips was working the fungo a bunch the week we were in Peoria.  Here is an action fungo shot of Jason on M4:

9 - Jason Phillips fungo.JPGErik Bedard has been a pleasant surprise this Spring.  He is flat out pitching like a stud and finally looking like he might live up to the original hype.  Here he is getting in his work in the mega-bullpen between M3 and M4:

10 - Erik Bedard bullpen.JPGThree or four mounds over from Bedard, King Felix was strutting his Cy Young-stuff:

11 - Felix Hernandez bullpen.JPGIn a little strip of random grass between M2 and M7 (the half field), Ichiro, Dustin Ackley and a couple other guys played a little pepper:

12 - Ichiro and Ackley pepper.JPGSomeone peppered a hot one Ichiro’s way and Ichi had to make an acrobatic catch at close range:

13 - catching pepper.JPGWhat makes this next picture cool was unintentional and hard to decipher.  However, if you click on the picture to enlarge it, you will see that I captured two balls in the air — Figgy gunned a ball to Justin Smoak that appears in the upper lefthand corner of the photo and Brendan Ryan his underhanding a second baseball to 2B:

14 - smoak and two balls in air.JPGAs I said, lots of pitcher fielding practice.  Here, Jason Vargas, Luke French and Brandon League handle hot shots back up the box:

15 - vargas french league.JPGAnd here is another hilarious picture of King Felix fielding his position — he did not catch this one:

16 - Larry Bernandez.JPGBut Ichiro caught this one (during outfielder practice on M5):

17 - Ichiro catch.JPGYou can get so close to your favorite players during Spring Training that its almost ridiculous.  Here, Tim played in the warning track dirt just behind Ichiro waiting his turn at the plate:

18 - Ichiro stretch pre-batting.JPGOne day, the guys all came out to practice and the outfielders reported to M6.  Ichiro was all set to play catch with Milton Bradley when he realized he’d forgot his glove in the clubhouse.  Ichiro’s interpreter, Anthony Suzuki, bolted off to the clubhouse and came cruising back with Ichiro’s glove:

19 - Anthony Suzuki glove retriever.JPGMichael Saunders tracks this ball in the birght Arizona sun during outfielders practice on M6:

20 - Saunders ranging.JPGMore pitcher fielding practice — Erik Bedard doesn’t show the best form while snaring this grounder from the short stop position:

21 - Bedard grounders by short.JPGOne last group of photos, all of Ichiro.  I took the picture of Ichiro in the top left (below)…

22 - Ichiro up close.JPG

…Tim took the other three from close range.

So there you go, a look behind the scenes at Spring Training practice.   For my money, practice is where the fun is at Spring Training.

(Mad Max) Beyond Metrodome

As a result of growing up at the Kingdome, I’m a big fan of domes.  Sure, I’d rather play ball at Safeco Field.  I recognize it is objectively better than every domed stadium out there.  But a domed stadium gives me a great sense of nostaglia for my long lost Kingdome.

In my book, the H.H.H. Metrodome was a first class domed baseball stadium.  As you entered Minneapolis from some-or-other direction, the Metrodome’s bubbly white roof welcomed you to the city:

1 - Welcome to Metrodomeapolis.JPGWalking in downtown Minneapolis, the Metrodome’s roof loomed large from blocks away; like an alien mothership in a movie hovering over a defenseless city below:

2 - mound of marshmellow roof.JPGWhen the Twins celebrated their final season at the Metrodome, the multipurpose venue was the inspiration for my favorite commemorative baseball:

26 - Twins at Metrodome.JPG[By the way, what's up with there being no equally beautiful (or even an ugly) 1977-1999 Kingdome commemorative baseball?]

My dad, Tim and I visited the Metrodome on the Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip of 2009.  Tim and I trudged all over that place and it was awesome.

Last November, I visited Minneapolis and enjoyed an outstanding view of the Metrodome (now displaying the name “Mall of America Field”):

3 - glorious from the air.JPG

Then on December 12, 2010, a massive snow strom resulted in the Metrodome roof collapsing and snow crashing down to the football field below:

The Twins were already relocated to Targe Field for the 2010 season, but the Vikings still called the Metrodome home at the time of the roof collapse.  The collapse took the dome out of commission for the rest of the football season.

Last week, I found myself in Minneapolis once again.  The once mighty dome was no longer visible from across town like it had been last November.  So, I decided to walk over to the dome and see what it looked like.

I found that it looks drastically different these days:

4 - deflated metrodome.jpgI walked all the way around the outside and peered through the glass doors.  The entry ways include two sets of glass doors.  Across the concourse floor, a third set of glass doors closes off the concourse from the seating area.

As my camera and I peered through the layers of glass, the view was terrible but I could clearly see the roof hanging down into the middle of the dome:

5 - peering through three glass doors.JPGThat white stuff is the roof, and you can see two orange streamers hanging from the roof.

Oddly, I could also hear music inside the dome.  I figured there must be workers in there working on the roof.  And then, all of a sudden, a shadowy figure streaked across the windows inside the concourse

What the what-what?

The shadowy figure was clearly a person…on rollerblades…skating in the field level concourse.

I was thoroughly confused.

I was about half way around the dome at this point and I decided to keep walking and see if I could find an entry point into the dome.  When I was two-thirds the way around, I found it.  One of the doors at Gate D was open, and there was a big sign on either side of the door that simply said “Rollerblade.”

I walked through the open door and through the revolving inside door.  I was now *inside* the collapsed Metrodome.  I saw a little kid down the concourse to the right playing around by what looked like a concession stand.  To the left, there was a makeshift barrier keeping me from entering the main area of the concourse and there was a table further blocking my access.  I could see a guy standing about 150 feet down the concourse to my left, far behind the table blocking my way.  He had to notice me, but he didn’t look my way at all.

I decided to squeaze past the table blocking my way and walk down to the guy.  When I reached him, there were several younger guys (20s’ish) sitting around with him.

Todd: “What’s going on here?”

Younger guy:  “Rollerdome!  Rollerblading!”

Todd:  “So anyone can rollerblade?”

Younger guy:  “Yep.”

Todd:  “Do you have rollerblades for rent?”

Younger guy:  “Yep.”

Todd:  “Well, I’m in if it will get me in to look at the dome.”

Older guy:  “It will but you can’t stop at the windows to look down into the stadium because that’s a high speed area.  You can stop on the opposite side of the concourse and look across.”

I was told Rollerdome doesn’t start until 5:00 p.m (check out their website).  I had about half-an-hour to wait.  I really just wanted to see into the dome.  So I asked if I could go look in the window into the stadium now.  The younger guy said sure.   After I peered into the first window, he asked me if I wanted to see something really cool.  Of course, I said “yes.”  Eventually, he took me all the way around the field level concourse so I could take pictures looking into the field area.

Before sharing those pictures, let’s look at a couple pictures for context:

Metrodome concessions.JPGThis is a map I got of the Metrodome concession stands when we visited the dome in 2009.  I approached the dome from Seventh Street.  Essentially, it leads right into Gate G. I then circled the dome clockwise.  The picture above looking through the windows is at Gate A.  I saw the first rollerblader through the windows at Gate C and then I entered through Gate D.

At our game in 2009, we sat in Section 100 in left field.  On our self-guided tour around the stadium, I took this picture from section 224; high above and behind home plate:


6 - Metrodome Behind Home Top.JPGI took this picture at the top of the upper deck.  Note a couple things that I have circled (from top to bottom) — (i) a huge speaker hanging directly behind home plate high above the second deck, (ii) a large American flag hanging above the second deck and the scoreboard above sections 100 and 200 in left field, and (iii) our seats in section 100 in left field.

Here is another picture from our trip in 2009:

7 - view of left field with explanatory circles.JPGAgain, this picture shows our seats and the American flag above sections 100 and 200.  The other yellow circles show the entrance ways to the seating area.  Those entrance ways lead to the field level concourse.  I took all of the following pictures (well, the following post-collapse pictures) through these field level entrance ways.

Another pre-collapse picture:

7b - view toward home pre-collapse.JPGAgain, that is the same speaker circled up top.  I’ve also circled the Twins dugout on the 3B line and more field level entrance ways to the field.  The fifth (counting from either direction) circled entrance way is section 122, just to the left of 122 is section 121.

Finally, (last pre-collapse picture for now), here is a look toward the baggy:

7c - view toward baggy pre-collapse.JPGThose circles (once again) are field level entrance ways (which were locked so you didn’t fall to the field).  The big square is a party suite or something like that.

Okay, let’s get to the present day photos.   The first photo is looking into the stadium through section 121:

8 - from collapsed section 121.JPGIn the foreground, you’ll see the “really cool” thing my guide offered to show me; the home plate area had been emptied out and it is a big pool of water.  The roof is so low that you can hardly see any of the upper deck.  Finally, note how far the big American flag has dropped; its now below the upper deck hanging just above section 100 (again, our seats from 2009 are circled).

Here is a view from section 122, more directly behind home plate:

9 - from collapsed section 122.JPGAgain, home plate is a big pool of water.  In this picture, I’ve circled the spot out in CF where a Twins pitcher tossed a baseball to Tim and me in 2009 (the commemorative baseball pictured above to be exact).  I didn’t circle it in that last picture, but just above the folded sections of seats, check out the lights hanging below the upper deck.

Here is a shot looking in through section 125:

10 - from section 125.JPGHanging down right in the middle of that picture is the speaker that is circled in the two pre-collapse pictures above.  The two orange signs way out across the field is the big party suite that I enclosed in a yellow box in the pre-collapse picture above.

Here is a shot from a little further toward 3B:

11 - 3b side post-collapse.JPGIn case you cannot tell, those cement highway dividers are connected to roof by big metal lines.  I guess the purpose is to keep the roof from blowing up and down in the wind.  Check out how low that speaker is hanging.

Even further down the 3B line (into the outfield foul territory), you can see a big circle roped off on the playing field:

12 - foul LF collapse splash zone.JPGMy guide told me that circle is where the big splash of snow came crashing down onto the field in the famous collapse video (above).  Above the circle, you can see some torn parts of the roof hanging down, along with some yellow ropes (or something).

In the LF foul corner, I took this shot looking down at the top of a speaker that used to hang high above the surface of the playing field:

13 - looking down on speaker.JPGYou cannot really tell in that last picture, but the speakers were really dusty.

Here is another picture from the LF foul corner where you can see the big party suite above the baggy (or where the baggy used to be):

14- LF foul corner post-collapse.JPGIn that last picture, check out all of the sunlight streaming through the ripped roof and lighting up the outfield seats.

More LF corner — right along the foul line, still in foul territory:

15 - LF corner.JPGIn the next picture, we are behind section 100 and you can see the big American flag hanging down above section 100, a lot of rips hanging down above the snow splash zone, some lights dangling below the upper deck, and tons of stacks of something-or-other across the field by the 1B dugout:

16 - from collapsed section 100.JPGHere we are in LCF:

17 - LCF post-collapse.JPGHere is the view from CF, in the last section before the stands stop and the RF seats are folded up behind the baggy:

18 - CF post-collapse.JPGHere is a side-by-side comparison shot looking into the same window in 2009 and 2011:

19 - RF pre-post-collapse comparison.JPGAlthough the picture to the right is zoomed in further than the picture on the left, its a good comparision to show how far down the roof is hanging.  Note that the entire upper deck is hidden behind the sagging roof in the picture to the right.  Also, check out how the lights are at the very top of the picture to the left, high above the second deck, but they are hanging below the second deck in the picture to the right.

Here’s a look in through the RF corner in foul territory…

20 - RF post-collapse.JPG…with the Twins dugout in the distance.

Here’s a close up looking into the Twins dugout with more speakers hanging down:

21 - view of Twins dugout.JPGMore of the same:

22 - from RF foul corner post-collapse.JPGThe last two pictures look out toward left field…

23 - view toward LF.JPG…and show a mess of roof rips, danglings streamers, speakers and lights, and the big American flag hanging low above section 100:

24 - more toward LF.JPGFinally, a view from above shows a much different picture than what I saw from above in November 2010:

26 - inverse dome from above.JPGI did not catch his name, but a big huge THANK YOU to the guy from Rollerdome who so kindly led me around the Metrodome.  It was a one-of-a-kind experience that I will never forget.  If you’re in Minneapolis, go check out Rollerdome.

Spring Training V: Family Photos

In the fifth installment of our series of Spring Training updates, we’ve assembled our favorite family photos from Spring Training.  These are photos taken while the Mariners were practicing, but they focus on one or more members of our family (mostly Tim) and show a different perspective on the Spring Training experience.

Here is one of our first pictures from Spring Training 2011:

 

1 - welcome to Mariners Spring Training.JPGI asked Tim to point at the sign and his expression is priceless.  I think this face means, “Hurry up, I want to run in there and see the Mariners!”

By the way, here is a closer look at the map of the Peoria Sports Complex:

1a - practice fields map.jpgIn the picture of Tim pointing at the sign, he is standing at the “M” (inside a diamond) just below and to the left of practice field M3.  If you follow the walkway from that “M” straight up the map, you will reach a circle with a blue box inside it (between M3, M6 and M2).  That circle/blue box is a concession stand and restrooms.  The lines running left and right from the concession stand/restrooms are cement walkways that run down the middle of large strips of grass.  The grass and walkways run all the way from a fence that connects M1 and M7 (right around the infield dirt of both fields) to another fence that connects M3 and M4 (also right around the infield dirt of both fields).  All of that grass area is open to the public during Mariners workouts.

Pretty much the first thing we’d do each day (assuming the Mariners weren’t out on the fields already) was head to the grass between the player parking lot at M2.

The grass areas are perfect for playing catch with you father or your son (or both).  As everyone else waited down by the player entrance, this is where we set up for some catch:
2 - catch on grass.JPGFYI, that building down there on the left is the indoor batting cages.

Tim has got a lot better at catching and throwing over the last 6 months.  His catching improved dramatically when we got him a smaller glove that he can actually close!  Here, he fields a grounder:

3 - grounders.JPGIn this picture, my mom captured both of us right as Tim catches the ball:

4 - father-son Spring Training catch.JPGI can’t believe how big this guy is now-a-days:.

5 - Tim ready to catch.JPGHe looks like a real ballplayer, eh?

Sometimes Tim’s throws are perfect.  Other times, he throws like Rick Ankiel at the end of his pitching career.  Thus, I have to be ready for anything when he uncorks a hard throw:

6 - wild fastballs.JPGAs the Mariners head out to on in from M3-M6 before or after a work out, its an ideal time to get up and close for your favorite players.  Here, my mom got some shots of Mariners walking by and giving Tim “five” as they headed out to M3:

fiving players.jpgThe ideal place for fans to take some BP of their own at Mariners Spring Training is down the LF line of practice field M6, using the bullpen fence as a backstop:

7 - batting practice by M6.JPGThat is sort of a hard picture to understand.  Tim has already hit the ball and it is heading toward the SS side of second base.

M6 seems to get the least action…or at least the fewest spectators…so its a nice place to hit without having to worry about other fans getting in the way.

Here are two great pictures Colleen took of Kellan watching Tim pitch to my mom as I play the field:

7a - batting practice by M6.jpgKellan missed the first day of Spring Training workouts because the rain was threatening, the wind was gusting, and he was tired.  So he made his debut at Spring Training the next day, and this was his first picture “watching” the M’s prepare for the 2011 season:

8 - kellans first spring training picture.JPGThat’s pitcher fielding practice on M4, by the way.

There are a bunch of bushes and small trees between M4 and M5.  Here, Tim climbs in a tree (with M4 behind him):

8a - tree climbing.JPGColleen snapped a great shot of Kellan and me watching batting practice on M1:

9 - kellan watches with dad.JPGWIth seven practice fields and 60+ players running around from field-to-field plus getting to play catch and hit with your family members, there is a lot going on at Spring Training.  Tim couldn’t stay put in one place for too long.  He had to go, go, go:

10 - places to go.JPGMy mom got these funny shots of Tim and my dad monkeying around on the bleachers while watching fielding practice on M2:

11 - windy wrestling with grandpa.JPGHere is another funny shot of Tim pointing…this time at Ichiro (his arm is extended directly behind him so you can’t see it at all, but he is, indeed, pointing at Ichiro):

12 - theres ichiro.JPGHere’s another shot of Kellan and his Grandma — this time in the grass between M3 and M6:


DSC09401.JPGOne day, Tim took some BP between M4 and M5.  In this picture, Colleen catches Tim swinging through a pitch:

14 - swing and a whiff spring training style.JPGThe walkway from the parking lot to the practice fields (running behind the CF-to-RF wall of M3) is all rocks, gravel and plants.  Tim loved playing in the rocks and gravel:

15 - rocks and miguel olivo.JPGIn the picture above to the right, Miguel Olivo is trying to shake Tim’s hand, but Tim has a handful of rocks.   Instead of shaking Miguel’s hand, Tim opened his palm and showed Olivo the rocks he had collected beyond the M3 RF wall.

One day, Colleen fed Kellan a bottle while sitting on a little stone wall that circles the concession stand.  Tim took a break from his own BP and ran over to his mommy and spelled his name in the gravel:

16 - tim cook in dessert gravel.JPGHere is a nice picture Colleen snapped of Kellan and his grandma sitting in the bleachers at M6:

17 - grandma and kellan at spring training.JPGOn the day we got the Milton Bradley bat and Luke French autograph, Colleen snapped this shot of my mom with the boys:

18 - grandma and the boys.JPGThat day, Tim snapped a ton of pictures as we cylced through M3, M4, M5 and M6.  Here is a picture that one of us snapped of Tim snapping a picture of Luke French:

19 - number of christmas.JPGThe picture above to the right is the actual picture of Luke French that Tim is taking in the picture above to the left.  I thought that this was funny because right before taking this picture, Tim said to me, “Look, daddy, its the number of Christmas!”

Tim did most of the batting when we took BP beside M6.  But my mom and I took a few hacks too.  Here is a hilarious picture of Tim throwing at his grandma:

20 - back off my plate grandma.JPGShortly after the last picture, a bunch of Mariners outfielders started warming up down the M6 LF line just on the other side of the fence from out little BP site.  We took a break from BP to watch the guys play catch.  When Greg Halman caught the last ball thrown by his partner, I called out, “Hey, Greg!”  He turned around and I pointed down to Tim.  About 5-10 seconds later, I took this picture of Tim:

21 - thanks greg halman ST.JPGThanks, Greg!

While Tim was pitching to my mom, I took a long range photo across the grassy area of Colleen and Kellan watching some pitchers warm up:

22 - mommy and kellan watch ST.JPGA little bit later, I took one of my favorite photos of Spring Training:

23 - colleen kellan tim chillin on the grass at spring training.JPGAn 8″ x10″ of this photo now hangs in my office at work.

One last fun family photo for this entry:

24 - Tim and Kellan on Mariners ball.JPGTim loves trying to push these big baseballs — click here for proof.  As for Kellan, he might have had a little help (hidden mostly behind the baseball) sitting up on top of that big baseball for this picture.

As I think these pictures show, the lazy days hanging around the Mariners Spring Training workouts at Spring Training are great.

Spring Training IV: Player Pictures

A great thing about Spring Training is that its much easier to meet, chat and get your photo with players on your favorite team.  We love to get pictures with Mariners, and that was a major goal during our recent trip to Peoria.  So, let’s take a look at what we got.

At Mariners Spring Training the best spot for getting your picture with a Mariner is in the long strip of grass leading from the batting cages behind the Mariners administrative office to practice field M3.  There is a roped off strip down the length of the grassy area where the players walk out to the practice fields.  That is where we got most of the following pictures.

First up, we ran into Adam Moore:


1 - Adam Moore ST2011.JPGAt Tim’s first Spring Training in 2008, Adam Moore was the first professional baseball player with whom Tim ever got his picture.  So it was cool to have a little “reunion” picture in 2011.

Moments later, it was Garrett Olson’s turn to pose with Tim:

2 - Garrett Olson ST2011.JPGGarrett is a good guy.

The Mariners have two superstars — Ichiro and Felix Hernandez.  We’ve wanted to get a picture with Ichiro for a long time.  But its almost impossible.  Felix, however, is another story.  We got our picture with him in 2009 at Fenway Park.  Tim was happy to meet up with Felix again in Peoria:

3 - Felix Hernandez ST2011.JPGBy the way, this is as close as we got to a “picture with Ichiro”:

ichisan ST2011.jpgBefore this trip, neither Tim nor I had ever got our picture with a major league manager.  Well, new Mariners manager Eric Wedge was all over the place at Spring Training.  And he was happy to lean in real close and smile big for this picture with Tim:

4 - Eric Wedge ST2011.JPGNote:  In that picture, Tim is looking at me (taking this same picture on my camera) and Wedge is looking at my mom.  This was a common problem during Spring Training.  We got a bunch of pictures where one person is looking at one camera and the other is looking at another camera.  Oh, well.

Our first baseball of spring training came from Mariners reliever, Chris Seddon.  Moments later, Chris was posing for a picture with me and Tim:

5 - Chris Seddon ST2011.JPGIt was actually quite funny.  We took a first picture with Chris and me standing up straight behind Tim.  Then Chris suggested that we get down on Tim’s level, which resulted in the picture above.  Personally, I get a chuckle out of it each time I look at Seddon leaning with his hands on his knees and smiling for the camera.  Seddon also took time out to say hello to the King of Camden Yards, Avi Miller:

Thanks, Chris!

Moments later, David “The D.A.” Aardsma rolled by on his flatbed golf cart and posed for a picture with Tim:

6 - David Aardsma ST2011.JPGD.A. had surgery recently and was on crutched at the beginning of our trip.  However, by the end of our trip he was off the crutches and hobbling around under his own power.  At the end of the trip, we also got DA to sign a baseball for us:

 

ST6 - Jason Phillips (David Aardsma auto).JPG

Thanks, DA!

I was quite excited to get this picture of Tim with Mariners phenom, Michael Pineda:

7 - Michael Pineda ST2011.JPGBefore this trip, I’d never seen Pineda in person.  Let me tell you, you cannot miss him.  He is HUGE!  If he wasn’t crouched down with Tim in this picture, his knees would probably be at Tim’s head level!  (Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but he is huge).  Pineda also signed this baseball for us:

STFAN1 - Michael Pineda auto.jpgThanks, Michael!

Former and new Mariner Miguel Olivo was extremely nice to Tim:

8 - Miguel Olivo ST2011.JPGAfter signing a baseball for us, Miguel crouched down and started chatting with Tim.  He tried to shake Tim’s hand, but Tim was holding a fist full of authentic Arizona rocks.  Instead of a handshake, Miguel was treated to a look at the rocks Tim had collected during catcher’s BP.  Here is a look at the baseball Miguel signed for us:

ST1 - Chris Seddon (Miguel Olivo autograph).JPGFor our first foray into the 2011 MyGameBalls.com Photo Scavenger Hunt competition, Tim got this picture with Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik:

9 - Jack Zduriencik ST2011.JPGJack is great.  He’s extremely nice and accessible.

He always gets excited when I mention we live in Pennsylvania, where he was raised.  The first time (of many) we saw Jack on this trip, it was just barely drizzling.  Jack was passing by us when he asked me “did you bring this [the rain] with you?”  This is a common question that anyone from Seattle gets asked whenever they are in another state and it starts raining.  I personally have had to answer this question about 40,000 times in my life.  I responded, “Not me, we just flew in from Pennsylvania.”  Jack was already past me (driving a golf cart) when he heard this and he immediately stopped and came back to ask me where we live in Pennsylvania.

Another top Mariners executive (and minority owner) was usually hanging around the fields during our trip.  It was Howard Lincoln, Mariners Chairman, CEO, minority owner, and representative of the Mariners corporate majority owner, Nintendo.  This picture of Tim and Howard Lincoln is another MyGameBalls.com Photo Scavenger Hunt picture:

10a - Howard Lincoln ST2011.JPGNote:  In this picture, Tim is standing on the back of a golf cart.  If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see a tag hanging over the steering wheel that says, “Jack Z.”  Yep, that was the golf cart Jack was driving when he asked if we brought the rain with us.

As already shown in our recent entry, we had a great interaction and got several pictures with…

10 - Milton Bradley ST2011.JPG…Milton Bradley.

The day we got the Milton Bradley bat was crazy.  Its the same day we got the Luke French autograph (featured in our last entry).  It was the same day as the Howard Lincoln picture.  And it was the same day as the next six player pictures.

First up at the end of the daily workout session, Franklin Gutierrez a/k/a “Death to Flying Things”:

11 - Franklin Gutierrez ST2011.jpgA day or two later, Franklin flew back to Seattle to see a doctor about some mysterious stomach issues he has had since last season.  Franklin also signed a baseball for us:

STFAN2 - Franklin Gutierrez auto.JPGThanks, Franklin!

Next up, Mainers firstbaseman, Justin Smoak:

12 - Justin Smoak ST2011.JPGIf Smoak lives up to his potential, the Cliff Lee trade will end up being a great deal for the Mariners.  So, we’re really pulling for Smoak to find his stroke at the major league level.

This was as good as we could do with respect to getting our picture with top Mariners prospect Dustin Ackley:

13 - Dustin Ackley ST2011.JPGAckley signed this baseball for us but then had to run:

ST4 - easter egg (Dustin Ackley auto).JPGThanks, Dustin!

We also didn’t get a traditional, posed picture with Mariners outfield prospect, Greg Halman:

14 - Greg Halman ST2011.JPGHalman was great.  He really liked Kellan.  He called him “cutie.”  It was pretty funny.  By the way, that ball Halman is signing was thrown to us by Halman earlier in the day.

Thanks, Greg!

We had a nice chat with local Seattle product and all around good guy, Matt Tuisasosopo:

15 - Matt Tuiasosopo ST2011.JPGTui was extremely outgoing and fan friendly all week.  He even chatted up Tim from third base one day during infield drills.

Tim was right with us during these last five pictures, but he didn’t want to get in any of the pictures.  I was bummed about it because we’d still never had a picture with both Tim and Kellan and a player — every picture has either been one or the other.

That all changed when Ryan Langerhans passed by us.  Tim asked Ryan to sign our Greg Halman baseball and then all of us posed for this picture:

16 - Ryan Langerhans ST2011.JPGHere is a look at that baseball:

ST3 - Greg Halman (Halman, Tuiasosopo, Langerhans and Smoak autos).jpgUpper right:  Greg Halman 56, Matt Tuiasosopo 27

Lower left:  Justin Smoak 17

Lower right:  Ryan Langerhans

Thanks, guys!

At Mariners/Padres Fan Fest at the Peoria Sports Complex’s main stadium, Tim got this picture with Greg Zaun:

17 - Greg Zaun ST2011.JPGIt’s Tim’s first picture with a Padre.  See that baseball Zaun is holding?  The first 400 kids at Fan Fest got a little back pack with Mariners and Padres baseball cards, a baseball, a sharpie and some other stuff in it.  The baseball wasn’t a ROMLB.  It was some random brand with an advertisement for a baseball card shop on it.  It wasn’t a great baseball for autographs, but Tim ended up having a bunch of people sign it.  Actually, its unfortunate he didn’t use our spare ball that a fan gave Tim a couple days earlier for all of those autographs.  Oh, well, Tim was quite happy to collect a bunch of autographs on his door prize baseball.

As shown in our last entry, Kellan got his picture taken with his first pitcher, Luke French:
18 - Luke French ST2011.JPGLuke also signed Tim’s door prize baseball.

Thanks again, Luke!

Our final picture with a Mariner was this group shot with the Mariner Moose, also at Fan Fest:

19 - The Moose ST2011.JPGAs you can see, Spring Training was excellent in terms of getting pictures with Mariners.  We didn’t get our picture with Ichiro, but we knew that was a long shot, even at Spring Training.  Other than Ichiro, the only player who I really wanted to get a picture with, but failed to do so, was Mariners pitcher, Jason Vargas.  But maybe we can track him down during the regular season.  We will see.

Spring Training III: Luke French

Last October 1st, we took Kellan to his first game.  The Mariners took on the Athletics and I snapped this photo…

20 - Kellan's first MLB pitch.JPG…of Luke French delivering the first pitch of Kellan’s MLB life to Rajai Davis.  It was a strike.

Last season, Tim and I tracked down his “first batter,” Frank Catalanotto, and got him to sign Tim’s “first pitch” picture:

6 - first pitch with catalanotto.jpgWe’ve still never tracked down Tim’s first pitcher, the recently retired Gil Meche.  But I was hoping that we would be able to get both Luke French and Rajai Davis to sign Kellan’s first pitch picture during Spring Training.  Unfortunately, Davis was traded to Toronto and is in Florida for Spring Training.

Therefore, our number one goal for Spring Training was to get an autograph from and photo with Luke French.

We kept an eye on Luke from the first day of our Spring Training trip…

1 - luke french warm ups.JPG…but Kellan was at my parents’ place napping so we didn’t try to meet up with French that day.

Still, we kept an eye on Kellan’s first pitcher that day as he threw a session in the Mariners huge bullpen (its about 10 pitchers mounds wide):

2 - french in megabullpen.JPGI feel bad for this, but French made a hilarious face as he delivered this pitch:

3 - award winning pitching funny face.JPGA couple days later (the same day Milton Bradley gave Kellan his bat), we were still looking to connect with French.  In fact, tracking down and getting a picture/autograph with French was the sole goal of the day before we planned on leaving the Peoria Sports Complex early to go on a tour of Chase Field.

As the Mariners made their way out of the clubhouse, they were all business.  I didn’t see French as he made his way out to the practice fields.  But it didn’t matter because all of the players were telling fans they couldn’t sign autographs until after practice.

Once we headed out of the field, Luke was there…

4 - french behind hand shakers.JPG…and he was preparing to warm up with his fellow pitchers just like every other day:

5 - french ready to play catch.JPGBy the way, Colleen took the last two pictures, and the next one.  She found Luke getting his work in on one of the fields instead of in the bullpen:

6 - french getting work in.JPGAs Tim and I shifted around from field-to-field, I let Tim take control of my camera.  He took a ton of interesting pictures, including the next two pictures.

As I mentioned in the Milton Bradley entry, my mom, Colleen and Kellan hung out watching live BP on the main field during most of this practice session.  After getting in his work, French grabbed a bucket and sat down (about 25 feet in front of my mom, Colleen and Kellan) to watch live BP on the M3 practice field:

7 - french on bucket.JPGRight after (or maybe just before) taking this picture, Tim yelled, “Hey, look, its the number of Christmas!”  That gave me a chuckle.

After a while, French hopped up from his perch and milled around a little bit behind home plate.  As Tim snapped this picture, Luke was exuding a strong “I’m about the leave” vibe:

8 - french outta here.JPGA few seconds after Tim took that picture, I watched as French started walking behind home plate and around to the first base side.  I looked at my mom…

9 - oh no kellan is sleeping.JPG…who was holding a sound asleep Kellan, and said, “Where’s French going?  Is he going in?”

There was no time to wait for her thoughts, I grabbed Kellan’s picture (which I had in a protective portfolio folder) and scurried around home plate and toward the other end of the complex.

This aerial photo shows my path in yellow and French’s path in red:

9b - there goes french.jpgI was trailing behind French and he must have heard footsteps because he turned around and stopped in his tracks and waited for me to catch up.  I asked Luke if he could sign something for me, and he said “no problem.”

I felt a little weird with the portfolio in hand because Spring Training is chalk full of sports memorabilia dealers who carry big notebooks full of baseball cards and glossy photos and collect autographs to take back to their shops to sell.  I showed Luke the picture and explained that it was the first pitch of my son’s first game.  And I flipped through the portfolio to show him that it was empty except for this picture — i.e., I was not just a random dealer looking to make a buck.  It seemed like he appreciated that.

Luke happily signed the picture for me.  I thanked him profusely and explained that I was sad that Kellan was asleep in the bleachers because I had wanted to get his picture with Luke.  I told him we would try to catch up with him again by the end of the week.  He said okay and we parted ways.

I ran back over to M3 and “showed” Kellan his newly improved “first pitch” picture:

10 - first pitcher autograph.JPGHe was quite literally speechless.

By the end of the week, we’d still never run into French again.  It was Saturday, and the Mariners/Padres fan fest was our last opportunity to track down French during Spring Training.

Fan Fest, which will get its own entry soon enough, featured a bunch of games for kids in the concourses of the Peoria Sports Complex main stadium and a work out by both teams on the field.  The Padres went first.

Around 11:00 a.m., we knew the Mariners would show up soon so my mom, dad, Colleen, Tim, Kellan and I gathered together down the 1B line in hopes of getting a picture with Ichiro (a still as of yet unfulfilled goal) as he entered the stadium through the players entrance in the rightfield corner.

Eventually, the Mariners arrived en mass.  While I didn’t see Ichiro anywhere (at least at first), I saw Luke French front and center:

11 - french and company arrive at fan fest.JPGHe’s the player closest to the camera with his glove on his left hip in that last picture.  The guys were down the line about 20 feet from the end of the seats in foul territory.  Several of the Mariners ventured on the field to chat with some of the Padres.

None of the fans around us made any attempt to chat with or lure any of the Mariners over toward the stands.  I thought, “what the heck,” and I called out, “Hey, Luke!”  I figured that with a crowd of his teammates all around, French would probably appreciate it if someone singled him out.  He did.

He turned and looked at me like, “Huh, what’s up?”  I gave him a big “hey, come over here” wave.  Three seconds later, Kellan’s first pitcher was standing next to us along the foul line.

I asked if he’d pose for a picture with my son and, when he said yes, I handed Kellan over to him.  I explained that we’d met earlier in the week and he’d delivered the first pitch of Kellan’s MLB career.  Luke remembered our first encounter and he was happy to meet Kellan and pose for pictures:
12 - Kellan and Luke.JPGHe must have thought the paparazzi were descending on him because my mom and Colleen both pulled out their cameras and we attacked the photo opportunity from three angles:

13 - french and cook.JPGMission Accomplished!

Thanks, Luke!  And best of luck in 2011!

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