June 2011

In Philadelphia With The Folks (6/10/2011)

In mid-June, my folks came to Pennsylvania for a quick visit.  My mom had never been to Citizens Bank Park.  So on June 10, 2011, we headed down to Philadelphia to see the Cubs vs. the Phillies.

My folks love Philadelphia, so before going to the game, we took a quick walk around the Rittenhouse Square area:

Then it was down to the stadium for us.  On the way into the ballpark, Tim wanted to get his picture with this statute of Joe Brown…

…which he has been photographed multiple times in the past.  My dad’s picture of me taking Tim’s picture actually came out looking much better than the picture I took.

A little further down the sidewalk, I gathered my folks together with Tim for this photo outside of the LF gate:

When we entered the ballpark, the Phillies were taking BP and LF was still the only part of the stadium that was open to the public.  My dad hung out a few rows back in section 141 (the first section in homerun territory in left field), while Tim, my mom and I headed to the first row in section 140 (which is in foul territory and was in the shade).

A few minutes later, a ball was hit right down the line and it came to rest in foul territory.  Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick was in LF and he slowly walked over to grab the ball.  When he walked below us, he looked up at me and…

Kendrick:  “Hey, is that a Mariners hat!?”

Todd:  “Yeah!”

Kendrick:  “And that’s a Mariners shirt!?”

Todd:  “Yep.”

(FYI, it was a t-shirt with an intentionally sorta faded original Mariners logo.  Also, at some point during this exchange, Kendrick tossed us the baseball he had just grabbed off of the warning track.  Thanks, Kyle!)

Kendrick:  “Are you from Washington?”

Todd:  “I live there for about 22 years, but live here now.”

Mom:  “I live in Seattle!”

Kendrick:  “I’m from Mount Vernon!”

Todd:  “Cool.  I used to play a lot of baseball in there when I played American Legion ball.”

Todd:  “So, are you a Mariners fan!?”

Kendrick:  (makes a wishy-washing, non-confirming/non-denying gesture)

Todd:  “Well, were you a Mariners fan growing up?”

Kendrick:  “Oh, definitely!”

My, Oh, My!  Great to learn there is a Washingtonian and Mariners fan (I know he’s still a Mariners fan!) on the Phillies.  I now have a newfound appreciation for Mr. Kendrick.

Here is a combination of the Kendrick hanging out in LF and the baseball that he tossed up to us:

After chatting with Kendrick, I headed out to CF to look around.  My mom and Tim stayed put and my dad got this shot of Grandma reading to Tim the give-away book (Phillie Phanatic: The Philadelphia Story) that he received upon entry into the stadium:

On my way back to LF, I stopped in the front row just in front of my dad.  Right then, someone hit a homerun directly in line with me.  But it sailed over my head.  I turned around sure that my dad would catch it.  But he didn’t even see the ball coming and another guy caught the ball about one foot to my dad’s right.

I left the front row and met up with Tim and my mom again to watch the Cubs pitchers warm up along the LF line…

…and then my mom move over to section 141 and joined my dad in the front row.

Not much was going on, so Tim spent some quality time touching the foul pole:

When the Cubs pitchers’ finished throwing, a coach (who I think was Dave Keller)…

…tossed Tim a baseball.

Thanks, Dave!

When the rest of the stadium opened, we headed over to the “pizza slice” in RCF:

Kerry Wood (34) and Jeff “Fighting Irish” Samardzija (29) were both shagging balls in CF…

…I was thinking it would be nice if one of them tossed us a baseball, but James Russell (40) beat them to it.  Russell tossed us a baseball from about 100 feet out into the grass.  I was in the “pizza slice” where you cannot scoot back.  I grabbed the railing and reached up as high as I could and just barely got it before it sailed over me into the bullpen.

Thanks, James!

Meanwhile, my dad was down 2-3 sections toward CF:

A Cub launched a homerun a couple rows back and he scampered up a couple rows and snagged the ball off of the stairs.  My mom took this shot of my dad with is first baseball from Citizen Bank Park:

After BP, three generations of Cook boys tested their canons at the speed pitch…

…and there was no actual speed present.  Actually, it should be noted that Tim heated it up to “28 miles for hour,” an improvement of 2 miles since his last effort.

Next, it was time for a brief play stop in the kids’ play area.  Then, we headed up the ramp…

… for a little tour of the upper deck.

We entered the upper deck at section 312…

…and we thought it was a nice background for a group shot:

Next, Tim wanted to climb up to the very top row.  So we headed to the section right behind home plate and climbed to the top.  After taking in the scenery, we decided to go down a little lower to find an usher to take our picture.  But a fan overheard us and offered to take our picture.  Here is her camera handiwork:

And, what the heck, how about one more group shot from the bottom of the upper deck:

Tim decided to do a statue pose in that last shot.

It was game time.  We reported to our seats in section 138 right as Roy Halladay was delivering the first pitch of the game.

I didn’t take this until late in the game, but here is a panorama from section 138, row 10, seat 8:

The Philadelphia International Airport is southwest of Citizens Bank Park and there is always a steady diet of airplanes traveling from right field toward home plate on their descent toward the airport.  But all of a sudden at the beginning of this game, the airplanes all reversed course…

…Tim had a lot of fun watching airplanes traveling from home plate toward right field on their ascent from the airport.

We also had a lot of fun watching the Phanatic and his friends and family entertain people around the ballpark.  Here is the Phanatic hanging out in the crowd down the third base line:

Note:  it seems like the Phanatic always makes his first appearance during each game right around this same area down the 3B line.

We had never sat so close to a Phillies ballgirl.  Between innings, Tim headed down and got this picture with Maureen:

Before getting Maureen’s autograph and photo, Tim reported to me that every ballgirl whose autograph he’d gotten in the past had signed her name with a little heart.  He was sure that Maureen would adorn her baseball card with a heart too.  But Maureen switched it up and signed her name with a little drawing of a baseball.

Those “friends and family” of the Phanatic included “Lady PhaPha”…

…who did a little dance with the second base umpire, Alan Porter.

Of course, in addition to the non-baseball entertainment, there was a game being played too.  The Phillies took the lead early and led the whole way.

In the first inning, the Phillies scored a single run on a Ryan Howard groundout that scored Shane Victorino.   In the second inning, they added two more on a two run homerun by Dominic Brown.  I believe that this homerun makes Brown the first person whom Tim and I have seen hit a homerun in the minor and Major leagues.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, former-Mariner Raul Ibanez…

…hit a double down the right field line.  But he was stranded on base and the score remained 3-0 Phillies.

Halladay was, as they say, dealing:

Yep, its official, he’s good.

By the way, here was our view of Raul out in left field:

It was official, we were having a good time and the ballpark and Tim highly approved of it:

Although the lead seemed insurmountable given Halladay’s dominance, the Phillies played a little tack-on in the bottom of the seventh…and it is a good thing that they did.  After loading up the bases, Placido Polanco unloaded them with one swing:

Our new friend, James Russell, had to come in to finish off the seventh inning for starter Victor Zambrano:

And that put the Phillies up 7-0.

But then Uncle Charlie decided to that his relievers needed to get some work in.  So Halladay’s day was done with a line of 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K.

The relief corps did not fare as well.  Between Jose Contreras (4 runs) and J.C. Romero (1 run), the Phillies gave back 5 runs in the top of the 8th, and all of a sudden we had a ball game again.  And the “boooooos” were raining down in Citizen Bank Park.

Late in the game, the Phanatic (1B dugout) enlisted the help of his mother (3B dugout) to get the crowd going again:

This has nothing to do with baseball, but I was quite happy with the zoom job my camera did on the moon:

At the end of the game, the Phanatic got some help from this guy in the green shirt and plaid shorts:

He was sitting just across the aisle from us and after a lot of hard work he got the wave going pretty good around the ballpark:

It must have worked because Michael Stutes got a hold and Antonio Bastardo got the save, which of course resulted in a win for both the Phillies and their ace, Roy Halladay.

2011 C&S Fan Stats
12/1 Games (Tim/Kellan)
13/2 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals and Cubs; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles]
7 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2))
38 Baseballs (4 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 3 Orioles, 2 Umpire, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 5 Phillies, 1 Mets, 1 Rays, 2 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 1 Easter Egg, 1 Glove
Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs)
5/1 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington; Kellan – Camden Yards]
11/7 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix Hernandez, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
4 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino)
1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)
3/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
1/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L. West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in Arlington); Kellan – N/A]
1 Line-up Card (Royals vs. Rangers)
*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.

Deep In The Heart Of Texas (5/29/11)

On May 29, 2011, Tim and I were back for a second helping of baseball at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  After the blistering weather for the previous night’s game, I was fearing this 2:10 p.m. afternoon start.  Fortunately, the weather decided to have a little bit of mercy on us.  It was hot, but not unbearably hot like the day before.

We reported to the ballpark about two hours early.  As we approached the third base gate, I snapped this picture of Tim:

It is definitely a nice looking ballpark, inside and out.

When we entered the seating around in foul territory down the LF line, we found an almost empty field and no batting practice.  It was not a shock, but it was a little sad.

The only players on the field were a bunch of Rangers pitchers playing catch down the RF line.  The first 2-3 rows were packed all the way down the RF line behind the pitchers.  There was no reason for us to join the crowd.

So, we wandered down to the first row along the LF line.  There were no Royals warming up, but there was…

…four baseballs and a little cone (like a training cone to run around or something like that) laying on the ground.  We had about two hours to explore the ballpark, so we figured we had a little time to relax.  So we just grabbed some railing and looked out upon the field.

Our patience paid off, within a couple minutes a couple Royals pitchers and coaches exited the visitors bullpen and headed toward the 3B dugout.  One of the coaches (strength and conditioning coach Tyrone Hill) veered off to his right, doubled back about 30-40 feet, grabbed one of the baseballs, walked over and handed it to Tim (as represented by the red arrow in the last picture).

Thanks, Ty!

Meanwhile, new Royals pitcher Felipe Paulino started signing autographs down the line near third base.  Tim and I walked over and Felipe signed Tim’s new baseball for him.

While we were waiting for Paulino, a lady (probably about 40-45 years old) ran up with a Rangers program.  She was all giddy.  Then, she cursed at herself for forgetting her pen.  She asked if anyone had a pen, and I told her she could use ours.  She was very thankful.  Then, when I noticed she was going to get her program signed, I told her to hold on and I’d get her
a sharpie out of my backpack.

She was very excited.  When she handed her program and my pen to Paulino, the following exchange ensued—

Lady:  “I love to watch you pitch!”

Todd (thinking):  “Whoa, why does this lady like a Royals pitcher so much!?”

Lady (accompanied by various giddy-squealing noises):  “I LOVE MY RANGERS!!!”

Paulino (with a huge “ROYALS” emblazoned across his chest):  “Thanks.”

It was hilarious.

Enough with that lady, it was time to explore this ballpark.  First, we headed over to the 3B dugout and got this excellent picture of Tim:

It was a day for panoramas.  And this was our first, from half way up the seats looking out at Rangers Ballpark from Section 26:

A lady was sitting nearby, and she kindly agreed to take this photo of us:

Next, we headed to the outfield and got this shot of the visitors bullpen:

The Rangers bullpen is situated parallel to the outfield wall in RCF, and is almost always in the shade (or at least the chairs along the back wall of the Rangers bullpen are shaded).  In contrast, the visitors’ bullpen is situated perpendicular to the outfield wall and is almost always in the direct sun.

And lest the visiting relieves might forget who they are facing, the Rangers threw a big Texas “T” logo between the mound and home plate of the visitors’ bullpen.

We walked behind the bullpen and circled around toward the seats in section 54.  Just behind the seats, I got this fairly unique looking panorama from the concourse:

As that last picture shows, there is a shady bench in the visitors’ bullpen.  So, sure, the visiting relievers can sit in the shade…of course, from that bench they won’t be able to see the game.

We headed down into the seats and got this panorama of Rangers Ballpark from the first row of section 54:

While we were down there, we noticed several stray baseballs lying on and around the bullpen mound (a couple of them can be seen in the picture above from the back of the bullpen).  I figured those baseballs would eventually become souvenirs, but no one was around at this point.  So we continued on our tour.

Here is a view from the concourse behind section 47 in RF:

And then we went way up high and got this panorama from section 345:

From the concourse above the first base gate, we could see the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium out in the not-so-distant distance:

And this was the view from above the home plate gate:

Before heading to the top of the upper deck, we found an usher who was happy to take this shot of us in the upper deck behind home plate:

And from the back row Section 326, Rangers Ballpark looks a lot like this:

The inner workings of Rangers Ballpark are pretty interest too.  Check out this weird little landing at the middle of a stairway down  from the upper deck:

The usher who took this next photo back in the field level…

…, was quite nervous that I would trip and send Tim crashing to the ground.  But she still took the photo and did not ask me to take Tim down.

We decided to head back to center field.  There was a parade of dogs going on around the warning track and Tim loved watching it:

NOTE:  In the bottom right picture above, the guy who is holding the big snow shovel (not full of snow on this day) is the same guy  who pitched to Tim in Rangers (whiffleball) Park the day before.

When a couple Royals moseyed on out to the visitors’ bullpen, Tim and I walked over to the railing at the bottom of the section.  Royals’ bullpen catcher Bill Duplissea walked over and tossed Tim one of the baseballs that we’d previously seen sitting on the bullpen mound.

Normally, players toss baseballs to me (because Tim usually is not wearing his glove) or they had them to Tim.  But Duplissea just grabbed the ball and tossed it directly to Tim (unsolicited) and Tim reached up and made the barehanded grab – his first barehanded grab ever at the ballpark.

Thanks, Bill!

As Duplissea walked away, I got this shot of Tim and his new prize:

He was very excited about making the barehanded catch and demonstrated his technique for me numerous times – i.e., his technique was to put his hands together like a bowl.

In that last picture, you can see the official line-up card taped to the wall of the bullpen.  Tim and I watched a coach (Foster) tape it up there few minutes before Duplissea tossed Tim the baseball.  I’ve heard it is somewhat easy to get line-up cards from the Rangers Ballpark visitors’ bullpen, so I asked Tim if he wanted to come back after the game to see if we could get it.  He did.

And then we continued on our tour.

Here is a shot of Rangers Ballpark from section 42 as Alexi Ogando (I just made up that spelling, hopefully its correct) warmed up in RF:

And another view from Section 36:

We’d seen enough of the ballpark, so we decided to go grab out seats out in CF.  On our way, we stopped by a little make-shift ice cream stand just inside the first base gate.  Walking by earlier, I had seen that they had novelty ice creams for only $1.00.  So Tim and I plunked two $2.00 and each enjoyed one of these:

As the umpires met prior to first pitch, we noticed the Rangers mascot (whose name I do not know) standing behind home plate with a little girl:

That’s a good looking mascot.  But I’m sure the Mariner Moose could take him in a battle of overall entertainment value.

Before we knew it, it was game time.

With two outs in the top of the first, Eric Hosmer strode to the plate.  I don’t follow the Royals closely, but it seemed like Hosmer is supposed to be some hot shot rookie or something, so I
figured I ought to take his photo.

Although my camera didn’t focus properly, I captured a very blurry shot of Hosmer right after he snapped his bat off at the handle in the course of flying out:

From our seats, I continued our stadium tour.  These windows, from what I understand, are the Rangers Diamond Club:

And just above the windows, are the Rangers retired numbers:

Note: both the Rangers and the Astros have retired Nolan Ryan’s “34.”

Early in the game, we dined on nachos and…

…placed a call to Colleen/mommy to check in.  In the picture of Tim on the phone, he is in the process of asking Colleen the same question over-and-over-and-over-and-over.  He was getting a little frustrated that she wasn’t answering him.  Noticing his frustration, I grabbed that phone and saw that he has unknowingly hung up on his mother.  No wonder she wasn’t answering his question!

This picture…

…shows the inning-by-inning scoreboard behind home plate.  Most stadiums don’t have a scoreboard like that behind home plate, but they should.  It was very convenient.

One of my main observations about Rangers Ballpark at this game is that its construction seems  to create a swirling wind in the centerfield grass.  It must blow right out of the stands and into center.  The result:

Massive amounts of garbage on the field.  That is actually right fielder Nelson Cruz with and at least four pieces of garbage in his area.

Almost every half inning, a bunch of guys in blue shirts would run out into the outfield and collect the newly deposited garbage:

So, anywhere, in addition to our stadium observations, food and cellphone calls, there was a game going on too.

As shown above, it was 2-2 in the top of the fourth.  The Rangers scored one run in the second on a Mike Napoli double that plated  Michael Young.  In the third, they went up 2-0 on a Ian Kinsler solo homerun.  But the Royals wouldn’t settle for just two runs in the fourth.  Instead, they scored five on back-to-back doubles by Wilson Betemit and Mitch Maier, which was promptly followed by a homerun by Brayan Pena.

The Rangers got back one run in the bottom of the fifth on a Napoli homerun.  But Ian Kinsler struck out to end the frame, and was then tossed out of the game:

Another somewhat unique feature of Rangers Ballpark is that the right fielders warm up between innings with the 1B line ball girl:

They do that same thing in Milwaukee – or at least they did when we visited Miller Park in 2009.

I got a cool action shot in the top of the sixth inning as Billy Butler grounded out to second base:

As should be evident from the angle of all of the above game photos, we were once again sitting in section 50 in centerfield.  In fact, we were sitting in the exact same seats as the day before.  Here is a shot of Tim as he stood and watched the action below in the bullpen:

To Tim’s left in that picture the chain link fence ends at a point where the bullpen wall bends.  At the end of the fence, there is a little open space where stuff can drop down inside the wall.  Someone had crammed a plastic cup down into the open space and it was filled it all sorts of nasty looking junk.  We figured we should join in on the fun, so Tim and I both contributed a few sunflower seed shells to the cup full of nasty junk.  In that last picture, Tim has his left hand up to his mouth while he is working on cracking a seed open — he’s still a seed-eating-rookie and needs to use his hand.

Just for kicks, I got this shot of Josh Hamilton at the plate — before he grounded into a double play:

Despite the pre-game dollar novelty ice cream, Tim still had plenty of room for a mint chocolate chip ice cream helmet:

At some point, former-Mariner Mark Lowe warmed up in the bullpen…

…, but he never came into the game.

In the eighth inning, we relocated to some aisle seats that had opened up along Greene’s Hill.  I as hoping for a chance to run out into the grass in chase of a homerun.  This is what it looked like out there:

But no homeruns came our way.  One did, however, land in the gap in right field:

It sailed into the gap around where the white shoe is sticking out over the gap in the above picture.  It was a two run shot off the bat of Michael Young that tied the game at 5-5 heading into the ninth.

Everyone was excited about the new life the Young homerun brough to the Rangers.  These gals (Rangers employees) showed their excitement in the form of in-unison flag waving on Greene’s Hill:

I would guess that Rangers Ballpark has more Texas state flags that any other ballpark has of its respective state flag.

While we were out by Greene’s Hill, Tim was making funny faces at this little kid…

…and it was cracking the kid up.  In fact, Tim was exciting the kid so much that his dad handed him off to his mom — “you deal with this honey.”  I felt a little bad about it.  But what was I supposed to do, tell Tim not to have fun and make other kids have fun at the ballpark?  Nah, the ballpark is about having fun.  So I let it continue.

The Royals quickly dampened the Rangers mood once again.  In the top of the ninth, they scored an unearned run off of Rangers closer Neftali Feliz.  The inning started off with Chris Getz hitting a double to RF.  He got to third when Nelson Cruz bobbled the ball.  Cruz’s error is the reason Getz’s run was unearned when he scored on a Alcides Escobar’s sacrifice fly.

While everyone else in the stadium was upset with the situation, I was quite happy.  A Rangers loss would be good for the Mariners.  But the Rangers still had other plans.  And they started with the would-be goat, Nelson Cruz.  Fresh off of his costly error, Nelson led off the bottom of the ninth by blasting a homerun into the gap in LF.  Tie game.

Tim and I decided to run over there to see if we could see the ball at the bottom of the gap.  But the lady who jumped to the side to avoid being hit by Cruz’s homerun ball told us that a guy (Rangers employee) had walked through the bottom of the gap and retrieved the ball.

Anyway, we ended the game with this view from section 6:

I would like to report that the Royals stormed back to take the lead again and win the game.  But they did not.  Instead, they lost the game on a ridiculous play.  After the Cruz homer, the non-fleet-of-foot Mike Napoli hit a single.  Joakim Soria (who blew the save when he gave up the Cruz homer) struck out Mitch Moreland and David Murphy.

That brought Elvis Andrus, who had replaced the booted Ian Kinsler, to the plate.

Elvis slapped a single by the first baseman and into right field.  It was a nice little hit that should have advanced Napoli to third (and no more than third).  But for some unknown reason, Napoli just kept running toward home plate.  Right fielder Mitch Maier relayed the ball to first baseman Eric Hosmer.  Hosmer turned and fired a strike to catcher Brayan Pena.  Napoli was dead to rights.  Napoli had not even made it to the dirt around home plate.  He was a good five strides and a slide away from home plate!  But instead of coming out in front of the plate to meet Napoli, Pena STEPPED BACK and opened up the plate for Napoli to slide in safe while Pena tagged him on the shoulder.  It was, perhaps, the worst bit of *catchering* that I have ever witnessed.

And it led to this unwelcome sight:

Another Rangers win.

Oh, well.  (The silver lining is that former-Mariner Arthur Rhodes got the win).

Anyway, there was still plenty of fun to be had at the ballpark.

Our post-game fun started off with a visit back to the visitors’ bullpen.  He went down to about the third row of section 54 and waved at a Rangers employee who was working in the bullpen.  As she walked over to see what we wanted, I asked if we could get the line-up card that was still taped to the wall.  As she went to retrieve it, I heard a voice from our right say, “Hey, I read your blog!  You’re Todd and Tim, right?”

Indeed, we were, I confirmed as I said hello to Frank.  Although we’d never met, I recognized him from a cameo Frank had made the previous month on Zack Hample’s blog.  Tim and I have only been *recognized* a handful of times and it is always a funny experience.  It was great to briefly meet Frank, and he very kindly offered to take this photo of us with our first ever line-up card:

Two show our appreciation (for the picture and for reading about our adventures), I *rewarded* Frank with two free taco certificates Tim and I had *won* at the previous nights game when someone-did-something (got a hit or an RBI or a homerun or something).

Hope them tacos were tasty, Frank!

After parting ways with Frank, it was time to go get in line for *FANS* run the bases day.  Yes, FANS run the bases.  Kids of all ages were invited to circle the bases, and I was quite happy about it.

As we walked toward the line circling up the ramps in the first base concourse, I turned back and got this shot of the RF concourse:

There are definitely a lot of interesting views of all types inside Rangers Ballpark.  And here is another of them:

It’s an extra-wide tunnel into the RF foul seats.  And I got this shot of the stars in the steel framing up high above the walkway along the outer part of the 1B side concourse:

When we entered the seating area again, the game had been cover for a while.  The CF trash collectors were off duty, but the wind was still working hard.  This was the result:

Unluckily, the infield was trash free, and that was where we were running:

A couple more bonus Fans Run The Bases pictures:

It is always great to run Major League bases.  I believe this is the 10th set of Major League bases that Tim has run, including (in no particular order) Progressive Field, Miller Park, Rogers Centre, PNC Park, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citi Field, Petco Park, Citizens Bank Park.

As we always do, we got the traditional post-run shot of the third base dugout…

…and the father-son on field shot:

Finally, it was time to leave Ranger Ballpark.  It had been a lot of fun.  On our way out, we got this shot (actually two shots put together) of the third base entrance and a big Rangers logo on the ground outside the entrance:

And just like in Houston, we ended it all with a fire hydrant shot, this time a nice shiny silver hydrant outside of the third base entrance:

2011 C&S Fan Stats
11/1 Games (Tim/Kellan)
12/2 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros and Royals; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles]
6 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies, Rangers (2))
35 Baseballs (4 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 3 Orioles, 2 Umpire, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 4 Phillies, 1 Mets, 1 Rays, 2 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 1 Easter Egg, 1 Glove
Trick, 2 Royals)
5/1 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington; Kellan – Camden Yards]
11/7 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix Hernandez, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
4 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino)
1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)
3/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
1/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L. West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in Arlington); Kellan – N/A]
1 Line-up Card (Royals vs. Rangers)
*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.

Rangers Last In The A.L. West (5/28/2011)

At the ripe old age of *little five*, Tim has finally closed out the A.L. West stadiums.  When we entered Rangers Ballpark in Arlington over Memorial Day weekend, it was our fourth and final A.L. West Stadium to check off of our list.  Safeco Field (2006-10), Oakland Coliseum (2010), Angel Stadium of Anaheim (2010), and Rangers Ballpark of Arlington (2011).

It is the first MLB division that we have closed out.  By the end of the season, two more (N.L. East and A.L. East) will join the A.L. West on the closed-out list.

This is the story of how we finally closed out the A.L. West.

On the morning of May 28, 2011, Tim and I woke up at my buddy Jason’s house (Thanks, Jason , Erin and Ainsley!  Welcome to the world, Isla, thanks for loaning us your brand new room!), Tim played around a bit with Jason’s daughter Ainsley, and then we hit the road north to Arlington, Texas.

The drive is long (4.5 hours), flat and straight.  Here were the highlights:

Top Left  – A big Sam Houston statue…Really big;

Top Right – Day and night speed limits;

Bottom Left – Tim did lots of napping after a long and fun-filled day in Houston; and

Bottom Right – It was flat and hot out there…our dashboard thermometer said it got up to about 96 degrees during our drive

We stayed at a hotel about one mile from Rangers Ballpark, which just happens to be right across the street from Six Flags.  About half an hour before the gates opened for season ticket holders, Tim and I hopped into the car, drove less than a mile, paid $10 to park, and walked about a quarter mile to the home plate entrance at Rangers Ballpark.

We did not have season tickets, but we had plans to meet MLBlogs and myGameBalls.com friend Brian Powell, who is a season ticket holder.  Brian got us in early and the fun began.

As I mentioned, upon entering Rangers Ballpark, Tim and I reached a milestone.  We finished off visiting each A.L. West stadium (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angels Stadium, and Rangers Ballpark).  It felt good to finally close out a division.

Now, I did a fairly shabby job of covering theaction during batting practice.  Itotally failed to photograph the empty bleachers during BP.  So here is a picture from later in the game
that sort of shows the set-up of things:

That really shabby looking panoramic view is looking out at Rangers Ballpark from the back of section 52.  The outfield is split into three sections.  Brian led us into the seating
around in the left field corner in section 54.  We walked across the elevated LF sections and said “hello” to myGameBalls.com member and Brian’s buddy, Dirk Elliott.  Then we kept on our way toward CF.

We finally stopped in section 52.  It was me, Tim, Brian, and one other guy in the whole section.  That guy’s wife and son showed up from time-to-time, but mostly it was just the four of us in the three left centerfield sections (section 52-54).

Here’s the best photo I managed to take that shows the set-up:

In that picture, Tim and Brian are hanging out in section 53 and in the background (with the red arrow) is Dirk in section 4.

Two seconds after taking off my back pack, Josh Hamilton blasted a BP homer about 7 rows over our heads.  I ran up a couple rows and picked it up for our first baseball ever at Rangers Ballpark.  It was very cool to get a baseball from Hamilton.

A few minutes later, Brian and Tim were further down toward section 52 (where I took that last picture), when another Ranger blasted a homerun into section 53.  I ran for it, but I ricocheted off of the seats in the second or third row and back onto the field.  Neftali Feliz saw me run for the ball, gloved it off of the ricochet and immediately tossed it back up to me.

Thanks, Neftali!

The other guy in the section was focused on running onto Greene’s Hill to try to catch BP homeruns.  I wanted to give it a shot too.  So Tim and I hung out by the edge of the grass for a while in section 52.  While we were standing around waiting for a homerun to be hit into the grassy batters eye, Tim pipes up –

Tim: “There’s a baseball!”

Todd:  “What?”

Tim: “There’s a baseball in that thing!”

Todd: “What?  Where?”

Check this out:

I asked the other guy in the section if it was cool for me to run down into the camera well to grab the baseball.   It was.  Moments later, we had this ball in hand.

Tim has told numerous people the story about finding this ball.  And at the end of the story, he always concludes (as if it is a punchline to a great joke), “Then daddy showed him the baseball, and Brian laughed!”

Good stuff.

By the way, this baseball was unlike any other ball we acquired in Texas.  It had a Rawlings-printed “Practice” stamp below the MLB logo, but it did not say “Training Ball” like the Nationals baseballs.  It makes me curious to know how long the ball had been in this little box.  But, we’ll never know.

After a while, Dirk came over to join us in LCF.  We had read about Dirk’s fishing pole ball retriever device on myGameBalls.com and he knew that Tim was really hoping to get a chance to try it out.  Dirk asked Tim if he wanted to give it a shot, and Tim responded enthusiastically in the affirmative.

There were no baseballs in the gap, so Dirk just tossed one of his own baseballs down there.  And then he took Tim under his wing to teach him about baseball fishing:

It was the first time either Tim or I had ever used a ball retrieving device, and Tim loved it.  He was even more excited two minutes later when Brian and Dirk pulled a surprise gift for Tim out of one of their back packs; they had made him his very own Mariners baseball fishing pole:

We were blown away!  Tim absolutely loves his Mariners fishing pole.

Thanks, Brian and Dirk!  You guys are awesome!

It was crazy hot at Rangers Ballpark.  So we relocated over to the Rangers bullpen area in right centerfield.  Tim used the shady spot above the bullpen to practice casting with his baseball  pole:

I noticed former-Mariners Mark Low and Arthur Rhodes…

…standing in RF in front of the Rangers bullpen.  It is great to see former-Mariners sticking together.  I was wearing a Mariners t-shirt, but not my jersey because it was so hot.  But standing behind two former-M’s, I figured I better put on the jersey.  Mere minutes later, Arthur gave us a wave and then he hooked us up with our fourth baseball of the day.

Thanks, Arthur!

Soon, a BP homerun found its way into the Rangers bullpen.  It was way out there.  The pole is really meant for baseballs below you in a gap, but we figured that I should try casting for it.

Brian got some pictures from behind me as I cast Tim’s contraption out into the Rangers bullpen from the first row in center field:

I needed to knock the ball close, but it was a no go.  I was getting nowhere with it.

We relocated to the seats behind the bullpen where Tim has been practicing casting his pole.  As I failed over-and-over again, I got an ear full from an (apparent) Rangers regular.  An older lady who sat in the first row at the CF corner of the bullpen both Saturday and Sunday.  She was mocking the Mariners patch on Tim’s baseball pole.

Here we are chatting with her and an usher who came down to watch us:

I was having absolutely no luck knocking the ball closer to the back of the bullpen.  At one point, I told the usher, “I think I’ll try to hook that chair (in the bullpen), knock it over, and use it to pull the ball closer to me.”

A great idea, I thought.

I hooked the chair pretty easily:

But the chair was WAY to heavy and it wouldn’t budge.

Yer gonna break your line!,” hollered the older Rangers fan.

I turned to her with a smile, “I’m not really a fisherman.”

You don’t say!?,” she replied with a sarcastic Texas accent.

At this point, the usher intervened.  There was no way I was going to unhook the chair without snapping my line and losing the ball retriever on the end of Tim’s pole.  So the usher hopped down into the bullpen and grabbed the baseball (he can be seen in that last picture walking toward the baseball).

He walked over to hand the ball up to Tim.  I asked if he could just put the ball on the ground below us so we could fish it out.  “I think you’ve tried enough,” he responded as he handed the baseball up to Tim.

So, our first retriever effort was a failure.  But Tim has the baseball to go along with the story:

Okay.  BP was finished.  It was time to walk around a little bit.  But just a little bit, because it was so incredibly hot.

We headed over to section 44 to get a panorama of Rangers Ballpark from the extra wide stairway:

There are a bunch of kids’ games behind the batters eye, and Brian had given us a bunch of tokens to play some of the games.  (Side note, it is pretty weak that the Rangers sell tokens so kids can play games after paying to go to the game).  Anyway, Tim really wanted to play the games, but the lines were huge.

So it was time to check out the upper deck.  We headed to section 303.  There was a great view of the Rangers bullpen from up there:

It was so high and steep that Tim was scared to be up there.  But he put his fears aside for this picture:

Finally, I got this panoramic view of Rangers Ballpark from section 303:

Whenever we hit a new stadium, we’re all about seeing the whole thing.  Normally, we would have walked all the way around the upper deck at this point.  But it was crazy hot (I might have mentioned that already) and Tim was not digging being up so high.   So we called it quits on the tour.  Yep, we were way off of our new-stadium-game.

So we headed back down to the field level.

On the way down, I got this picture of the concourse from high above:

There was still a huge line for all of the kids’ games.   So we just passed through and got Tim’s picture with Nolan Ryan:

We must have looked like we were going to melt because an usher came up and told us that we could head into the Rangers Hall of Fame if we needed some air conditioning.

Great idea.  Here is a little peak into the Rangers Hall of Fame:

I love Tim’s look of disapproval in the top left picture.  Yeah, we’re Mariners fans, Rangers.  We’re just in here for the air conditioning!

Nah, despite wanting the Rangers to lose every game they play, it was nice to see their Hall of Fame.

The game was about to start so we headed to the concession stand for some nachos.  On the way to grab the nachos, we spotted this Rangers fan sporting a mean part of antlers:

Nachos in hand, we reported to our seats.  Well, actually, our seats were in the sun, so we sat section 50, row 9, seats 1-2.  We actually sat in these same exact seats both Saturday and Sunday.  They’re awesome:  (i) nice and shady, (ii) great view, and (iii) easy access to the Rangers bullpen and the concourse.

Tim grabbed my glove to pose for a photo with our view of the ballpark:

After former-Mariner Adrian Beltre put the Rangers up 2-0 with a double in the bottom of the first inning, Tim and I headed to the kids’ play area.  It was time for Tim to take some hacks at Rangers Park:

After cycling through the outfield shagging balls, Tim got his turn at bat.  He got about 5 or 6 pitches and he hit them all.  Like this one:

And this one:

Finally, on his last pitch, Tim hit a homerun directly to me.  It was my first clean catch of a homerun ball all season!

While Tim was waiting in line to hit in Rangers Park, Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli and Endy Chavez hit back-to-back-to-back homeruns.  We couldn’t see the homers at all.  We just saw the fireworks and saw “homerun” flashing across the LCD boards along the 3B line.

Next up, it was time to hit in this little batting tee thingy:

This time while we were in line, Adrian Beltre hit an unseen homerun.  We were missing a lot of action.  The Rangers were leading 6-0.

But the worst part about standing in line for this batting tee thingy was that (as Tim reports it), that boy in the red shirt said, “you can do it little kid!  Hey, I’m not *little* kid!”

So we missed a whole bunch of homeruns.

When we were back in our seats, the action looked more like this:

That’s an awkward Adrian Beltre foul ball.

With our long trip to the kids play area, this game was flying by.  At some point, Tim asked where Brian was.  He wanted to go see him.  After exchanging a few text messages with Brian, we were on our way up to section 232 to meet up with Brian, his daughter Sarah, and his mom and aunt.

On our way up a long and tall escalator in the 1B side concourse, I got this cool picture that shows the various levels of the inner-stadium:

At the top of that picture is the suite level, next is a thin slice of the playing field, then it’s the back of the field level seats with a little elevated concourse area (or maybe it’s a party area) behind the seats, and (finally) at the bottom is the actual field level concourse.

Brian’s seats for the game were pretty sweet.  And we grabbed couple seats right next to his.  It looked like this:

Between innings, Tim and I got a picture with Brian (who is sporting his Happy Youngster t-shirt):

The Rangers also had a running of the mascots race – like the presidents in D.C., the sausages in Milwaukee or the Pierogies in Pittsburgh:

Nolan Ryan won this race.

While we were up there, it was also a prime opportunity to get Tim’s picture with the “Rangers Ballpark in Arlington” sign behind home plate:

Brian’s seats were perfect for taking pictures of batters.  Like this one of Josh Hamilton:

When Hamilton hit a double, Elvis Andrus…

…scored eighth Rangers run of the night.  Hamilton and Nelson Cruz scored the 9th and 10th Rangers runs of the night…on the fifth Rangers homerun of the night:

That was it for Brian and his crew.  They had to leave a little early.  So we too left section 232.  We headed back toward CF via the scenic route.

First, we got this panoramic view of Rangers Ballpark from section 242:

Next, we headed to the all-you-can-eat second deck in RF, where a stadium attendant took this shot of us from the concourse in deep RCF:

Then I got this panoramic view from the front of sections 251/252:

This is what it looks like up in the all-you-can-eat seats:

Finally, we headed back down to the field level and the CF bleachers.  On our way, we stopped to grab Tim a chocolate ice cream helmet.  We’d definitely been *watching* the game, but for some reason I didn’t realize what inning it was.  When we closed on the deal and took possession of Tim’s first Rangers ice cream helmet, there was one out in the top of the ninth…and the home team was winning big!

Uh, oh.  Tim was going to have to eat this huge mint chocolate chip ice cream helmet fast.

We decided to sit in the first row behind the Rangers bullpen to finish off the game.  Just as we settled in, Tim realized there was something fishy with is ice cream utensil:

What the spork!?  Yep, it was Tim’s very first spork of his life.  25 stadiums and 1 spork.

I quickly realized that no one was warming up in the bullpen, but there was a stray baseball laying on the ground by the bullpen home plates.

I started to take a panorama from the first row of section 48 and…

…the game ended.  Rangers win.  Darn.

The Rangers relievers high-tailed it out of there.   I mean they were gone in a flash.  And when it was all said and done, I realized they had left the stray baseball sitting on the ground by the
bullpen home plates.

I picked up Tim and we headed over to the first row of section 52.

Now, I had never used the “glove trick” before, never even attempted it, but I had rigged a glove up for it and brought it on this trip because I knew Rangers Ballpark was glove-trick-friendly and we needed a picture using a ball retrieving device for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt.  We’d already got the picture of Tim fishing for a baseball with Dirk, but now we had a prime opportunity to try out the glove trick.

It took me a minute or two to swing the glove out and knock the ball closer to me.  It was probably 8-10 feet out.  One my second or third attempt, I successfully got the ball up to chest level.  I went to grab it from the glove, and accidentally knocked it out.  But instead of falling into the bullpen, it fell into the 10 (or so) foot deep gap.

So, I repositioned myself and tried again.  With a small crowd watching me, the pressure was on.  I quickly got the baseball half way up from the ground before I jerked my string and the ball fell to the ground again.

At this point, an usher came down to the first row.  I pleaded to him, “I’ve never done this before.  Can I just try to get this baseball?”  “I’m gonna watch you do it,” he responded.  Cool!

On my next attempt, I nailed it.  As I slowly raised the glove from the ground, the usher counseled me, “easy now, easy now!”  And easy did it.  I got the ball to chest level and *carefully* reached out and secured it with my hand.

The small crowd let out a little roar.  And I held the ball aloft in victory!  Our first ever glove trick!

Tim posed with the baseball and his still almost-full ice cream hemlet:

In that picture, the guy in the white shirt and red hat is the usher who watched us get the baseball.  The little kid in the red also watched with amazement as we retrieved our sixth and final ball of the day.

Ah, Rangers Ballpark of Arlington, you are a good one.  In fact, as I rank the A.L. West Stadiums, you are second:

1.  Safeco Field

2.  Rangers Ballpark of Arlington

3.  Angels Stadium of Anaheim

4.  Oakland Coliseum (a distant last place)

2011 C&S Fan Stats
10/1 Games (Tim/Kellan)
12/2 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros and Royals; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles]
5 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies, Rangers)
33 Baseballs (4 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 3 Orioles, 2 Umpire, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 4 Phillies, 1 Mets, 1 Rays, 2 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 1 Easter Egg, 1 Glove Trick)
5/1 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington; Kellan – Camden Yards]
11/7 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix Hernandez, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
3 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe)
1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)
3/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
1/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L. West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in Arlington); Kellan – N/A]
*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.

Minute Maid Makes 24* (5/27/2011)

* [Note: The number 24 has a special signficance to me.  It is Ken Griffey, Jr.’s number.  And it has been retired on this blog — I dare you to try to find a player wearing the number 24 on this blog.  This is the story of Tim’s 24th MLB stadium.]

I’ve wanted to get to Texas for some time now.  More specifically, we just had to get to Minute Maid Park and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  And that’s just where we were heading for Memorial Day weekend this year.

We started off in Houston.   My buddy, Jason, from high school lives in Houston and used his connections to get us ridiculously awesome tickets in the Diamond Club at Minute Maid Park.  Jason and his daughter were going to join me and Tim for the game, but Jason had to  leave unexpectedly.  So Tim and I were on our own.  Luckily, we know what to do when
we find ourselves in a new stadium.

After hitting up the awesome Children’s Museum of Houston, we found ourselves outside of Minute Maid Park…

…about half an hour before gates opened.  We walked around the stadium to get a lay of the land.  And, boy, was Texas hot…I don’t advise walking anywhere, for any distance, in the heat of Texas.

Behind left field, we found a cool little park where Tim took some fake hacks and ran some bases…

…but, beware, there is no third base in this park.  Third base would be in the middle of the street.  This wasn’t a satisfying explanation for Tim; he’s not accustomed to stopping at second base.

A little background before we head into the game.   I knew that Willie Bloomquist played for the Diamondback and I have a Willie Bloomquist Mariners t-shirt jersey.   So I decided to wear it just in case Willie might take notice.

When the ballpark opened, we headed into the Diamond Club, through the restaurant, down the tunnel, through the seats, down to the first row, and right out onto the warning track behind home plate:

For some reason, a doorway onto the field was open and a bunch of people were out there, so we just walked out there.  We weren’t actually supposed to be out there unless we had special passes (which we didn’t) so a few seconds later, we were back in the seating area.  But when we were out on the warning track, we noticed that Willie Bloomquist (under the yellow arrow above) was standing around getting ready to play catch.

I called out, “Hey, Willie” and when he looked over at us, I showed him the “Bloomquist” / “16” on my back.  He gave me a big thumbs-up.

We looked around and quickly realized that the Diamond Club was the most pointless place in the world to be in during batting practice.  So we headed back through the
Diamond Club and out toward left field.
Nothing was doing down the LF line.
So we headed back to the dugout to watch Willie Bloomquist hit.

After he finished hitting, he and his group of
hitters hung out on the dugout steps and signed autographs for a while.  While Willie was signing, someone overthrew a
baseball to Matt Williams (who was hitting fungo to the right side of the
infield) and the baseball came to rest just behind Willie.  I called out, “Hey, Willie!” and he looked at
me like “what do you want me to sign?”  I
asked, “Hey, could we get that baseball right behind you?”  He laughed, looked away and kept signing
autographs.  About a minute later, he
walked out of the dugout, grabbed the baseball, autographed it and tossed it up
to me and Tim.

Thanks,
Willie!  You da man!

With our shiny new Willie Bloomquist baseball in
hand, Tim and I posed for a picture before heading off to see the stadium:

Ah, I love checking out a new stadium.  And this was a beautiful one.  My only regret (well, semi-regret) was that
the roof was closed.  It’s a great
looking stadium when it is opened.  But,
it was closed due to the stifling heat…and I have to admit I was happy to have
the air conditioning running on full blast.

Before heading on our way, we paused another second
to get our first panorama of Minute Maid Park…from section 116:

One screwy thing about having the roof closed was
that it made the lighting really crazy.
It looked fine to human eyes, but the sun streaming in through the
windows in LF really overpowered my camera on some shots…like the last one.

We walked toward CF via the 1B line and RF.  We got this panorama of Minute Maid Park as
we passed through section 120:

When we reached the RF corner, I finally noticed the
train in LF.  When I pointed it out to
Tim (he loves trains), we stopped to get his picture with the train in the
background:

Here are panoramic views of Minute Maid Park from
section 134…

…section 152…

…and finally section 156:

The reason we were heading toward CF was so Tim
could check out the hill a/k/a “Tal’s Hill”).
Section 156 is the closest seating section to hill, but the Astros’
bullpen completely blocks your view of the hill.

The area right behind the CF wall (and the Hill) is
a restaurant and bar.  I didn’t know what
the story was with the restaurant.  There
was a hostess out front so I asked her if Tim and I could go down into the
restaurant seating area so we could check out the Hill.  She initially thought I meant that I wanted
to take a picture of Tim standing out on the hill.  “No, no, no…we just want to go down into the
seating area so we can take some pictures of the hill.”  No problem.

So, here we go – Tim and Tal’s Hill:

FYI, that flag pole is in play.  The hostess wasn’t paying attention to
us.   So we just hung out down there for
a few minutes.  Tim grabbed some railing
and took a big gander at Minute Maid Park:

I was hoping one of the batters would launch a ball
out toward the hill.  Eventually, someone
did.  And the only player who was wearing
a jersey with his name on the back, Zach Duke, ran over to grab it.

“Hey, Zach!”

And that’s all it took; Mr. Duke hooked us up with
our second Minute Maid Park baseball.

Thanks,
Zach!

Next, we continued on our way around the
stadium.  The concourse down the LF side
of the stadium is just a narrow walkway…

..along the right side of the walkway was the glass
outside wall of the stadium, and to the left was a bunch of Astros history:

In an arch in deep LCF, there is an overhang where
fans can stand high above the warning track.
For some reason, there is a huge gas pump inside the arch:

From the overhang, I took our Minute Maid Park bonus
picture for the mygameballs.com photo scavenger hunt:

And I got this shot of Tim with the field behind him:

And finally, a panoramic view of Minute Maid Park
from the overhang:

The overhang is way above the field level.  And our man, Willie Bloomquist, was down
below shagging fly balls.

A little further down the LF walkway, we wandered
into the “Crawford boxes” and got this panoramic view of the ballpark:

It was time to go up top.  We took an escalator to the upper deck.  From the upper deck concourse, fans can
access the 300 level (below) and the 400 level (above).  Here is a picture of Tim from the walkway
just behind the 300 level:

And then we got this panoramic view from the cross
aisle behind section 307:

While we were walking toward home plate, I got this
shot of the big screen at Minute Maid Park:

That is one HUGE screen – it is three sections
wide!  And its picture is crystal clear.

Finally, we got this panoramic view from behind
section 318…

…before heading downstairs and into the “Diamond
Club”:

Here is a hot of the main entrance Diamond Club:

Here is a look at the buffet area and bar:

All food and non-alcoholic drinks were free for us
in the Diamond Club!  And those people
served us about 10 little bottles of water.

My favorite part of the food area – the Nacho Bar:

In the photo two above, a big beam is shown right in
the middle of the bar.  Well, here is a
shot of the other side of the beam – more bar area and several big screen TVs!

We grabbed some honey biscuits (delicious), a huge
soft pretzel (crazy delicious), and a huge pile of beefy-and-cheesy nachos (oh,
yeah!), a couple bottles of water (I think we drank about 12 bottles of water
during this game), a big glass of lemonade (I drank about 5 during the game!),
and headed out to our seats in the Diamond Club.  Neither Tim nor I had ever sat in such big
and cushy seats for a game:

This panorama shows our ridiculously awesome view of
Minute Maid Park from Diamond Club section A, row 6, seats 1-2:

I was hoping that former President Bush (41, not 43)
would be in the house so we could ask him to autograph a baseball.  But the usher assigned to our section (shown
in red pants and khaki pants in the last picture) explained that George and
Barbara had just left for Maine for the summer.
Too bad.  A presidential autograph
would have been awesome.

Anyway, we headed to the first row right behind home
plate to get Tim’s picture:

Tim’s still got a bit of honey biscuits in his mouth
in that last picture.   There was too
much to eat for him to stop eating long enough to take that picture.

When the game started, I decided the main picture
goal was to capture Justin Upton hitting one of his monster bombs.  Unfortunately, Astros pitching and Upton’s
bat wouldn’t cooperate with my camera.
But here is one of my efforts from the first inning:

Sweet view, eh?
Yeah, we could get used to that.

Anyway, Upton was hit by a pitch in the top of the
first inning.  Other than the HBP, the
D-Backs had nothing going in the first.
But the Astros would get off to a fast start.  Lead-off man, Michael Bourn, led off the
bottom of the first with a single.

Bourn then scored with one out on a double…

…by Hunter Pence.
Pence then scored on a single by Carlos “El Caballo” Lee.

Another fun part of our Diamond Club experience was
that we were sitting about 20 feet from three MLB Authenticators:

They are the three guys sitting behind the little
yellow ramp (two bald guys in blue shirts and a bigger guy in dark grey).  On the first pitch of the bottom of the first
inning, Michael Bourn broke his bat.
After grabbing the broken bat, the bat boy ran it over to wall by the
yellow ramp and one of these guys jumped up and grabbed it.  The bigger guy with the dark grey shirt then
filled in a bunch of information on a form on his clipboard.  This went on all game with balls fouled
straight back off of the screen and broken bats (I think there was only one
other broken bat).

A fourth MLB (or more likely Astros) employee would
come out of the tunnel (the Diamond Club tunnel) every once-in-a-while and
would take the newly authenticated items from the Authenticators.  When he was standing around with the Bourn
bat between innings, we got this picture:

[Note: the Astros guy has a wicked Rollie Fingers
‘stache].

Between innings at one point early in the game, the
ball that made the final out of the inning ended up on the ground on the 1B
side of home plate.  We home plate umpire
Ted Barrett moseyed over and grabbed it, Tim and I ran down to that little yellow
ramp and yelled, “Hey, Ted!”  He was about
15 feet away, but completely ignored us.
He tossed the ball to the ball boy instead.  After Barrett tossed the ball into the
dugout, the authenticator sitting closest to the dugout got out attention and
declared, “if you hold tight, we’ll make sure you get one later in the
game.”  Sounded good to us.

During the game, we noticed there was an engineer
standing in the train out in deep LCF:

Although they look more like pumpkins, I think the

train’s coal car is full of oversized (Minute Maid) oranges.

In the top of the fourth inning, I took another
panorama from out seats to show our view in “game” conditions:

The most action we got on any of our Justin Upton
homerun attempts was catching this foul in mid-air before it slammed into the
net in front of our section:

In the middle innings, and with the Astros leading
6-2, Tim said he wanted to go explore the stadium a little.  So we headed toward the kids play area.  On the way, we grabbed some ice cream products
(chipwich for Tim and Snickers ice cream bar for me) from a freezer full of
free goodies in the Diamond Club hallway and then we got this panoramic view
from the concourse just behind section 122:

The Kids Play Area at Minute Maid Park was amazing:

We have seen a lot of Kids Play Areas at MLB
stadiums (this was Tim’s 24thstadium) and I think this one probably
ranks first on the list.  It was
huge.  And Tim had a blast.   The Astros also were thoughtful enough to
put a large flat screen TV in the kids area (you hear that, Nationals) so
parents could still watch the game.

After Tim burned off about 500 calories running
around like a maniac in the play area, we headed to the second deck in RF (just
below the big screen).  From the handicap
accessible seating area behind section 255, this was the view of Minute Maid
Park:

Next, we headed back toward the Diamond Club and got
this panorama from the big cross aisle behind Section 119:

Next, we headed back into the Diamond Club and got
some more waters.  Just for kicks, we got
another picture of Tim behind home plate.
This time, Tim couldn’t find the time to put down (or swallow) his water before this
picture:

When we got back from exploring, we found that the
Diamondbacks had taken the lead 7-6!
How’d that happen?  Well,
baseball-reference.com explains that part of it happened via a pinch hit and
run scored by Willie Bloomquist.  Nice
job, Willie.

Let’s check out a couple random features of Minute
Maid Park:

Left: The out of
town scoreboard is a full 9-inning hand operated scoreboard.  That must make for a lot of work for the
operators throughout the course of the game.

Right: I was
perplexed for a while because I couldn’t find the visitors’ bullpen.  The Astros bullpen is in deep RCF (as
pictured above).  But where were the
Diamondbacks’ relievers?  The answer:  behind these bizarre garage-like doors.  Odd.

Late in the game, a Diamondback broke his bat and
their batboy took the bat back to their dugout on the 3B side.  I thought that was odd because he’d picked it
up pretty close to the MLB Authenticators’ seats.  I wondered if they only authenticated bats
from the home team or something.  But
between innings, the middle authenticator walked out a half step onto the
warning track and called the bat boy over with the broken bat:

By the way, it was late in the game now and we still
had not gotten a ball from the MLB Authenticators.  When the bat boy brought them a foul ball in
the 8th inning, the guy who had told us he’d get us a ball pointed us out to
the middle guy (the guy pictured above), but that guy gave the ball to a little
girl who can relocated to the front row when those seats were vacated.

Former-Mariner J.J. Putz came in and closed out the
game for the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth:

Good job in this game, former-Mariners!  The Diamondbacks won by the final score of
7-6.

Immediately after the game, Tim and I were standing
around down by the on deck circle, just watching the post-game action.  The ball boy ran out of the Astros dugout and
brought two more baseballs to the MLB Authenticators.  The middle guy (pictured above) waved me down
and tossed one to us.  Here is Tim with
his baseball from the MLB Authenticators:

A minute or two later, we went over and thanked him
for the baseball and asked if it had been a foul ball in the game.  Yep, it was a foul ball in the ninth
inning…although the bat boy did not tell him who hit it – possibly because they
knew it was going to Tim.  I should have
asked him to authenticate it first!

Thanks,
MLB Authenticators!

Soon, the Minute Maid Park roof started opening in
preparation for post-game fireworks:

Before they turned off the lights for fireworks, an
usher took this picture of us (with Tim celebrating a great day at Minute Maid
Park and me looking seriously because the guy didn’t seem to understand how to
use my camera):

The fireworks weren’t on par with the shows the
Indians put on at Progressive Field, but it was a good show and Tim really
enjoyed it:

A cool touch was that the Astros let about 15-20
players’ kids down onto the field for fireworks.  They all lined up laying on their bellies in
foul territory down the 1B line.  Their
mothers sat about 10 feet behind the group of kids, and during the fireworks
show 2-3 Astros came out to watch the fireworks with their families.  After the fireworks, the players’ kids all
ran the bases.

It was time to head out.  Before we could head to the car, Tim needed
to stop to get his picture with this cool…

…blue and green fire hydrant that he’d noticed
before the game.  It is just outside of
the third base gate in case you want to get your picture with this amazing fire
hydrant.

So, the first day of our trip was awesome.  Tim woke up at 6:00 a.m. eastern time, and
was wide awake until after 11:00 p.m. central time…after a drive to the
airpoint, 4 hour flight, 2.5 hours at the kids museum, and a great evening at
the ballpark.  Tim is a trooper.

2011
C&S Fan Stats
9/1 Games (Tim/Kellan)
11/2 Teams [Tim – Mariners,
Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves,
Diamondbacks and Astros; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles]
4 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2),
Nationals, Phillies)
27 Baseballs (4 Mariners, 3
Rangers, 3 Orioles, 2 Umpire, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 4 Phillies, 1 Mets, 1
Rays, 2 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator)
4/1 Stadiums [Tim – Camden
Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park; Kellan – Camden
Yards]
11/7 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix
Hernandez, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael
Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders;
Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt
Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard
Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
3 Autograph(s) (Michael
Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe)
1 Bat* (Milton
Bradley)
3/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim –
Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s
Bird]
*includes
Spring Training
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