April 2012

Cook Force 3 Invades D.C. (4/21/2012)

Saturday, April 21, 2012, was a personally historic day for us.  Our little 2-man father-son team has officially grown by one.

Up until this day, Kellan had been to 10 games, but I had only brought Kellan along with us if Colleen was also joining us.  But, at a few months shy of his second birthday, I have officially deemed Kellan to be old enough join me and Tim at the ballpark without additional assistance.  So Colleen got the day off and treated herself to a fun solo Saturday (shopping, eating out, haircut, etc.).

Meanwhile, the Cook Boys jumped in the car at 8:00 a.m. and headed south to the nation’s capital.

On the drive down south, Tim and I discussed the Marlins new logo, of which I am not a fan.  Tim launched into a hilarious explanation of how the new Marlins logo is a Marlin jumping in the water at night with the various colors reflecting off of the water, etc., etc.  Then he wrapped up with, “so, now you understand why you should like the new Marlins logo, right?”

Maybe you had to be there.  But it was pretty hilarious how he explained his thoughts on the Marlins logo.

Watch out, there were some little Cook boys at the ballpark who were gloved and ready for some action!

Let’s hit the stands!

Now, a ton of Saturday games across MLB are scheduled as day games this season (for the record, I’m not a fan of it), and this was one of them.  I was pretty sure that would mean no BP before this game.  And when we entered the ballpark at approximately 10:30 a.m., the field was empty with no signs of BP to come.

We hit the restroom and then milled around a bit in LF.  Eventually, Mark Buehrle (did I mention we would be seeing the Miami Marlins vs. the Washington Nationals?) walked out to LF along with Marlins bullpen catcher Jeff Urgelles and bullpen coach Reid Cornelius.  Buehrle and Urgelles played catch for a while in LF…

…and then all three headed into the bullpen so Buehrle could throw from the mound.  We were right behind the bullpen.  Cornelius and Buehrle headed over to the mound and Urgelles set up shop at home plate, just below us.  As Buehrle and Cornelius were in the middle of a discussion, Urgelles was just standing around waiting.  I could see several baseballs inside his open equipment bag right behind him.  I figured, “What the heck?”

Todd – “Hey, Jeff!”

Urgelles – (looking up with a sort of surprised and happy look on his face) “Yeah!?”

Todd – “Anyway you could toss one of those baseballs up to my boy?”

Urgelles – (Enthusiastically)  “Yeah, no problem.”

(Urgelles goes over and grabs a baseball from his bag and looks back up at us.)

Urgelles – (to Tim) “But, you have to catch it!  And you only gets one chance!”

Todd & Tim – “Okay”

He tossed the baseball up in such a way that it would fall back into the bullpen if Tim missed it:

Heck no!  Tim gloved that sucker!  And guess what –

It was a Marlins Park commemorative baseball!

SCORE!

Check out Kellan in that last picture, “Gimme that baseball!”  (Actually, he just said, “Ball!  Ball!  Ball!”

We all went crazy!  And we rained down the “Thank Yous!” on Urgelles, who seemed very happy for Tim.  We chatted briefly, joking about Kellan wanting to throw the ball back down to Urgelles – which I have no doubt he would have done had I let him – and discussing our Mariners gear – Urgelles seemed to agree it was cool to show our team loyalty and at least we weren’t wearing Nationals or another N.L. team’s gear (no threat from the A.L.).

Urgelles’s smile told the story:  the dude is definitely a cool guy.  Very nice.  Very happy to have made Tim’s day by challenging him and then watching him succeed.  We talked about meeting up later during BP to get a picture with Urgelles, but it just didn’t work out.  But I’m definitely going to try to reconnect with him later this year to try to get a picture of him and Tim together.

Thanks, Jeff!

Oh, yeah, at some point Tim yelled down to Urgelles, “I like your new logo!” ha, ha…funny guy.

With our fancy new Marlins Park baseball in hand, we bounced up the stairs…

…and headed off to the play area.

There were ZERO other kids out there.  Normally, you get three hacks at the whiffle ball air tee.  Tim took about 15-20 hacks…

…before turning over the bat to his little brother.  After 2-3 swings, Kellan turned around and tried to hit balls into the open concourse area.  Luckily, no one was around.

You need proof?  Here is proof that no one was around:

In the top left, that’s the lady running the kids’ play area climbing up the slide while holding Kellan like a sack of potatoes (not a good plan).  Kellan flew down the slide and loved it.  Then Tim and the lady running the play area did some crazy slides, including (as shown) head first belly sliding and backwards sliding.

This lady loved playing with Tim and Kellan and, if it was up to her, we would have just stayed there all day.  We came back several times over the course of the day and she did more crazy sliding with Tim (despite there then being about 200 crazy kids running all around).

Unfortunately, Kellan is too young for most of the play area.  You have to be 3-8 years old to go up in the play area *thingy*.  So Kellan and I hung out in the little *net* room under the *thingy*.

Anyway, we headed back to the field after a sufficient amount of playing.

When we got back to LF, they were just finishing setting up the cage and screens for BP.  That was a nice surprise.  We headed down into section 106:

We chatted a little bit with a Phillies fan who decided to go “neutral” and wear an Oakland A’s hat.  He offered to take our picture:

We hung out in LF until they opened the rest of the stadium at 11:30.  Then we headed into foul territory and hung out behind a big protective net (don’t need my boys getting tagged by a batted ball).

Urgelles was over there for a bit, but we missed our chance to get a picture.  As I said, we’ll keep trying.

It was getting pretty warm in the sun.  So we decided to walk all the way around home plate and out to RF, which was nice and shady.  I guess it would have been a shorter walk to head up to the concourse and circle the outfield.  But had we done that, Ozzie Guillen would not have had the chance to go grab this baseball…

…and then toss it to us.

Sure, Ozzie is a controversial figure, but I like him.

Muchas gracias, Ozzie!

We hung out in RF foul territory for a bit.  I took the opportunity to take off Kellan’s long sleeve undershirt.  And then Steve Cishek tossed us a baseball:

Thanks, Steve!

RF was nice, but Kellan kept trying to climb down to the lower rows between the railing and the end-seat – despite Tim playing blocker.

I decided it would be easier for us out in RF homerun territory.  You see, there is this funny little corner spot that would act as a natural *Kellan blocker*.  We grabbed some seats by the corner spot…

…and the boys broke out our bag of snacks (or as Kellan says, “Nack! Nack! Nack!”).

If you scanned the ground after we left this spot, you’d have to seriously question if more snacks were consumed or more were dropped on the ground.  Kellan was dropping “nacks” like it was going out of style.

We hung out for a while in this spot — nothing all that special to say about this picture, I just thought it was funny:

Shortly after this picture, Kellan dropped this big bottle of water…

…down into the Nationalbullpen – probably 20 feet below. Luckily, as’  bullpen attendant ran over and tossed it back up to us.

While chatting with a guy who works for Boeing in the Seattle area, Tim was excited to get a toss-up from a fellow number 55, all-star Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson:

We decided that we’d had our fill of BP and it was time to do some walking.  We walked a TON during this game.  In all, we circled the entire stadium 3+ times.

For some reason, we walked toward home plate (passing a group of Mariners fans!) and we kept walking and walking.  I think we were on our way to get nachos in the LF corner.  I thought the boys looked terribly cute walking through the concourse together:

We decided we needed to get some more play-time in before nachos.  So we headed back to the kids’ play area.  Tim went up top and did some more crazy sliding.  Kellan and I went in the little net room and threw our cloth baseball off of the walls:

Then, we finally grabbed some nachos.   Actually, first, we walked all the way around the ballpark AGAIN.  I figured there would be nachos in the concourse down the RF line…but no.  So we kept walking and walking (actually, I carried Kellan much of the time), and made it all the way back to the nacho place in LF.

Success!  Nachos!

Then we walked – with me holding Kellan and a whole bunch of nachos — to our seats in RF foul territory.  Guess what?  It was bring your dog to the ballpark day.  As we passed by, I notied that the Nats had set up some grass in the CF concourse…

…so the dogs to relieve themselves during the game.  Very thoughtful of you, Nats.

We reached our seats moments after the first pitch, and it was on!  Yeah, the game was on too, but I mean “it” (nacho time!) was on:

It is official:  The Cook Family Loves Nachos.

And rightly so.  They are the world’s perfect food.  And the Nationals offer some great chili cheese nachos down the LF line.

Anyway, the game was “on” too.  This was our view from Section 137:

Our actual seats were in Row EE, between the “Bohvechkin” guy with his arm in the air (above) and the guy standing and shouting in the other red shirt.  But we were hanging back a few rows so we could stay in the very refreshing shade.

This sort of famous young pitcher was on the hill for the Nationals:

Stephen Strasburg, have you heard of him?  On that pitch above, he induced a ground out by Emilio Bonafacio.

Hanley Ramirez struck out (but not on this pitch)…

…to end the first inning.  It was the first of six K’s Strasburg recorded on the day.

Sometimes a baseball game makes more sense when you watch it on TV instead of in person because there are no commentators in the ballpark.  In the top of the second inning, Logan Morrison led off with a single to CF.  And then *something* happened, but I have no clue *what* had happened.  It looked like this:

First, it appeared that the ball got fouled off of the home plate umpire, or it just hit him on the live pitch.  I’m not sure.  Whatever happened, the umpire was somewhat hurt and needed attention from the training staff.

On the play, Logan Morrison took second.  As you can see in the top left picture, the first base coach is standing on first, but Morrison is gone.  The trainer talked to the umpire for a while.  Strasburg threw some pitches to keep warm while this was happening.

Finally, the umpire was ready to go again.  And then he called Morrison back to first.  In the bottom left picture, you can see him standing on the bag (the middle head of the three pictured).  That caused Ozzie Guillen and another Marlins coach to come out and argue with the umpires for a long time.  In the end, LoMo was back of first.

On TV, I’m sure it all made complete sense what was going on.  But in the ballpark, I had no clue…neither did Tim or Kellan, especially Kellan.

Speaking of Kellan, he copies just about everything he seeing me or Tim do.  You might have noticed that I wear my glove on my head a lot during games.  Well, at one point, Kellan put his glove on his head.  So Tim followed suit and we got a picture (during which Kellan’s glove started to fall off his head) of the three glove-heads:

This was Kellan’s eleventh  MLB game overall, and his second Marlins/Nationals game.  Last season, we saw the *Florida* Marlins in DC and Kellan had a cool little exchange with Anibal Sanchez.  At this game, Anibal was facing off against Strasburg:

And he was looking sharp, too.

Anibal retired the first four batters.  The fifth batter was Jayson Werth…and Anibal retired him too:

Tim kept asking if we could go blow bubbles, which prompted Kellan to chime in “Bubbles!  Bubbles!  Bubbles!”  I had no clue what Tim was talking about.  But Tim led us right to the spot…

…and he blew a bunch of bubbles at an Autism Awareness booth in the LCF concourse behind the Red Porch.  And then it was time to grab some ice cre…wait, Tim switched things up, it was time for Dipping Dots!  So we walked almost all the way around the stadium looking for the dipping dots.  During the walk, Tim climbed up into the Gecko’s arms (above) and acted like he was being captured.

Tim went for banana split dipping dots…

…while I picked mint chocolate chip for me and Kellan to share.

We grabbed some ice cream seats in the handicapped seating down the first base line and watched Strasburg deal it…

…while Kellan and Tim chowed down on their dots to reviews of *two thumbs up*:

Tim figured out the dots fit perfectly into the drink holder and he could eat his dots with his feet up on the railing.  Ah…the good life.

I kept trying to get a good action shot of Strasburg, and I was finally satisfied with this one:

In the top of the sixth inning, Jose Reyes came to the plate with one out.  All of a sudden, I decided I should get a shot of Reyes, but he knocked a base hit down the RF line right as I pulled my camera out of my cargo pocket.  But I got him rounding first and then sliding in safe at second:

Reyes was FLYING!  That guy has some wheels.

Two batters later, Hanley Ramirez stepped to the plate again.  And on this pitch, he chucked his bat 4-5 rows deep into the stands and nailed the guy in the blue shirt in the elbow:

As the boys kept munching their dots, I decided to get a shot of Reyes scoring from second – all I needed was Logan Morrison to get a 2-out hit.  But as Reyes started to turn on his afterburners, Morrison grounded the ball up the middle (you can see the ball directly behind Reyes’ left heal)…

…for an inning ending 6-3 ground out.

The score was still 0-0.  Both pitchers were looking really strong.  We decided to make one final trip to the kids’ play area:

While we were in there, Ian Desmond hit a solo homerun to put the Nationals up 1-0.

Kellan met up with another little guy who must have been right around 1-year-old.  He was walking, but he was teeny tiny.  Kellan walked up and hugged him (“oh, look at the cute baby”) and Kellan looked like Andre The Giant hugging this little guy.  He then started crawling around after the little guy:

Before we left the play area, Jayson Werth hit another solo homerun for the Nationals.  That made it 2-0 Nationals.

We left the play area and headed up to the second deck in CF.  There is a standing room party-type area in CF – when you look at the seating map on the Nationals website, it doesn’t even show this area.  So there is no “section” number.  But here is the view from that area:

And here is a look at the busy SRO area with the packed Red Porch in the background:

Ozzie Guillen made a major gaffe when he put the line-up together – he gave Giancarlo “Mike” Stanton the day off.  It was unfortunate for the Marlins because Stanton hits a monster bomb or two almost every time we ever see the Marlins.

Well, Giancarlo pinch hit for Anibal Sanchez.  On the first pitch, Giancarlo seemed to get a hit:

But Ian Desmond made a diving stop on the ball and was able to just barely throw out Chris Coghlan at second base.  Had Coghlan not been on base, Stanton probably would have been safe at first.

Anyway, we walked around the back of the Red Porch, which looked like this…

…and then we headed over to the upper deck in LF foul territory.

Since it was our first game of just the three guys, I wanted a good picture of the three of us and I didn’t think our first group shot was very good.  Unfortunately, the pictures didn’t get much better in the upper deck.

Well, this one from section 306 turned out pretty good:

And this picture turned out okay…

…but for some reason, the usher who took it managed not to get any of the field in the background.

After that guy failed to get the field behind us, I took a test self-portrait, and Kellan gave me a no games, super-serious look:

He smiles and laughs constantly when he is not being photographed, but for 85% of all pictures and videos he goes ultra-serious.

Another usher did a much better job framing the shot, but Tim wasn’t looking in the picture:

Oh, well.  We’ll get a better group shot next time…or the time after that, or after that, or after that.

The ninth inning crept right up on us.  The Nationals were still winning 2-0, and Strasburg (who pitched six innings) was in line for the win.  We headed down to the field level with the idea of trying to get in place for an umpire ball attempt.

We grabbed some seats about 20 rows back, just above the home plate end of the dugout.

Brad Lidge came in to close it down for the Nationals.

Oops…sorry, Strasburg, but Lidge walked Hanley Ramirez to start the inning and then Logan Morrison crushed a homerun into the second deck above the Nationals bullpen:

No win for Strasburg and, eventually, we were heading into extra innings!

Kellan fell asleep hugging me tight:

And then someone hit a foul ball that literally landed within five feet of us!  It landed right across the aisle and one row below us.  But I couldn’t even make an attempt on it because the little guy was sawing some serious logs.  The ball came right to another dad and his son.  Both had gloves ready on their hands.  The ball smacked into the palm of the dad’s glove and then bounced out, skipped off the steps and bounced into the gut of an older guy running up the stairs.

Chances are that will be our one chance to catch a game foul this year.  Oh, well.  It was great having the little guy take a nap on my chest while Tim and I watched the game.

Actually, Tim wasn’t just watching the game, he was documenting it.  After he took the picture of me and Kellan, he asked if he could take some pictures.  I agreed and he started snapping away.  As I watched him, it seemed like he was zoomed WAY in on everything and wasn’t getting anything he wanted to get.

But as our family watched a slide show of our game pictures later that night (which we do as a family on our TV after each game), I discovered that Tim took amazingly awesome pictures!  I was shocked and so very proud of my little baseball photographer in training.

Check out Tim’s handiwork.

Donnie Murphy (pinch running for Greg Dobbs) leading off first base in the top of the ninth inning:

Joey Espada, who tossed us a baseball at Sun Life Stadium last season, coaching third base:

The Marlins relievers (Heath Bell and Edward Mujica) and Nationals reliever (Tom Gorzelanny, accompanied by Jim Lett) warming up in the bullpens:

Both teams’ bat boys in action:

Omar Infante getting ready for the next pitch as Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos fires the baseball back to Brad Lidge:

Ozzie Guillen encouraging Infante to get hit (while accompanied by Greg Dobbs and Marlins batting coach Eduardo Perez):

Here’s my favorite of Tim’s photos: a dejected Chris Coghlan walking off the field after Infante failed to deliver the go-ahead RBI hit:

Great job, Timsky!

Tim snapped Donnie Murphy warming up his arm before the bottom of the ninth inning:

And Marlins relief pitcher Edward Mujica:

Oh…time out, I took this one of Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez…

…who appear to peacefully co-exist on the left side of the Marlins in field.

In the top of the tenth, Tim asked to get the camera back because he had not got a shot he wanted:  a Marlin running.  He did a great job getting this picture of Hanley Ramirez running out a deep fly out to RF (I actually thought it had a chance to fly out of the park):

After catching the baseball from Jeff Urgelles, Tim really wanted the Marlins to win.  He was a bit upset when the Nationals regrouped in the bottom of the tenth and won the game 3-2 on a sacrifice fly to CF by Ian Desmond.  By this point, Kellan was awake again.  On the crack of the bat, I could tell it was a game winner, so Tim and I (Kellan in my arms) hustled down the stairs to the third or fourth row.  We slid into the row and were in the perfect spot when home plate umpire Greg Gibson walked by and handed us our final baseball of the day.

Thanks, blue!

We tried to track down Jeff Urgelles on his walk in from the bullpen, but the crowd behind the dugout was tough to squeeze through and we got to 3B right as Urgelles passed by and entered the dugout.  We’ll track him down later this season!

So, we called it a day and walked to the car.  Tim entertained himself in the car by taking more pictures…

…while Kellan ate some “nacks” and relaxed.

It was a big day for the little guy.  He was fast asleep about half an hour before we got home…

…and Tim capped off the drive watching some “Octonauts” on youtube on my cellphone.

Hey, it was a good day.  Let’s do it again next weekend…

Okay, yeah, you got a deal.  Let’s do it!  We’ll see you soon, Camden Yards!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

2/1 Games (Tim/Kellan)
4/2 Teams – Tim –   Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Nationals; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals
1 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1
12 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets   4, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 2
1 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park
2/1 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens   Bank Park, Nationals Park; Kellan – Nationals Park
1/0 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky   Bones; Kellan – N/A

 

Tim’s Opening Day With Liberty Youth Baseball (4/14-15/2012)

It’s time for a different type of game entry:  Tim’s first organized baseball (t-ball) action!

This year, Tim is participating in the t-ball program of the brand spanking new, Liberty Youth Baseball (LYB) Little League.  Last weekend, Liberty celebrated its Opening Day on Saturday and Tim had his first “game” action on Sunday.  It was an absolute blast!  Let’s take a look.

It all started at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday with a photo session for the t-ball league.  Liberty has approximately 350 kids in its first season.  The older kids make up 30+ teams, but the sixty 5-6 year old t-ballers are all just one big group.  They’re learning baseball as a group and will split into make-shift “pick up” teams on game days.  It seems like a good plan so far.  But it made it interesting for the “team photo” — it was the whole t-ball league.  They started by lining up in height order:

Looking back at the photos, it looks like Tim was the 8th tallest kid.  That’s him above sporting “55″ on his back.

Here is the group:

If you click on that picture and find Tim (4th row, 4th from the left), you’ll notice he is making a hilarious face.  That boy is too funny.

If one thing can be said about Tim’s personality (well, many things can actually be said about it), it is that Tim is not a follower.  Every t-baller (and I imagine every kid in the league) did this standard pose for their individual pictures:

But Tim wasn’t satisfied.  He also wanted a “glove” picture.  So, as far as I can tell, he was the only kid to get a second picture in his own unique pose:

So look for that basebal card when you’re opening your packs of Topps cards this season.

After pictures, there were games and general clowning around for a while:

And then we all lined up in the parking lot for a little Opening Day Parade.  Tim was excited:

We marched through the local streets (can you spot Tim?)…

…around a couple blocks, and then back into the field area through center field:

The Reading Phillies mascot, Screwball, was present and was slapping a whole lotta “fives” in the outfield.  Of course, Tim went in for a hug instead of a high five:

The t-ballers were last in line during the parade and when we marched into the infield the rest of the teams were already lined up in dramatic, semi-circular fashion.  We joined the group — can you spot us (hint: I am visible, but Tim is not in the following picture)?

They had a nice ceremony on the field, including the presentation of our official Liberty Youth Baseball banner:

Tim has seen a lot of Major League pregames — 116 to be exact as of the time of this Opening Day Ceremony — so he knows what to do during the national anthem and other moments of silence:

After the ceremony, Tim pitched a little “bullpen” to me (with a big rubber bouncy ball that he won at one of the Opening Day carnival games)…

…and Kellan worked on  his footwork on the pitching rubber.

Tim’s good buddy, Austin, is also in the t-ball league and they showed off their new digits:

I was proud of Tim for blazing his own trail.  I was 99% certain he would pick number 51 for his jersey because Ichiro is his favorite player.  But he wanted to do his own thing (maybe he was realizing “51″ will be retired by the time he reaches the Mariners!).  Five is Tim’s favorite number.  He’s always asking to sit in seat number “5″ at games.  He also likes Tim Lincecum…although, all he knows about Lincecum is (1) his name is Tim, (2) he is from Seattle, and (3) we saw him during BP on his birthday in SF.  Anyway, Tim is number 55 and I picked up my own “55″ Liberty t-shirt jersey to show my support for my new favorite baseball player.

Tim and I took off after the Opening Ceremony and headed to the Mets at Phillies game (note that we both wore our Liberty shirts at various times during that game).  Two more Liberty notes regarding that Phillies/Mets game:  (1) we saw another Liberty baseball player at the LF gate before BP and (2) Phillies starting pitcher Vance Worley sponsors one  of the teams in the Liberty league.

Anyway, we were right back at it the next day.  Sundays are game days and this was Tim’s first.

The kids all stretched and did some drills (disguised as a game of “simon says”) and then we broke into 6 teams.  First, each team practiced some hitting and fielding.  Each kid cycled through the tee while the rest of his team practiced doing the “alligator chomp” to catch the resulting grounders.  A bunch of us dad’s help out with coaching duties.  I was pulling double duty, coaching (keep in that atheletic position kids!  alligator chomp!) and Tim’s personal baseball documentarian.  Tim was the second to last hitter on his team.  On his first swing…

…he blasted a line drive over the other 7 kids and into the bushes down the RF line.  He then blasted a bunch of grounders that all found holes in the “defense.”  I caught most of them behind the line of fielders, and a couple of them resulted in a big chase:

After the final batter took his hacks, we faced off against another team for two extended innings in Tim’s first “game.”  The rules were drastically modified.  This was all about getting the kids playing the game and figuring out what they’re supposed to be doing.  The rules:  all nine batters hit each inning.  If you got a runner out at first (or another base), who cares.  They just stayed on base so they could get some experience running bases.  Everyone just took one base per at bat, except the last batter each inning who just got to run until the cows came home…or until they got the ball to homeplate to stop him from scoring.

Guess who was the first last batter?  You guessed it:  Tim.

His number worked to his advantage because we had them bat in numerical order and his “55″ ranked him as the highest number:

So, the cards were stacked in his favor…the plan was to just keep running, but Tim hit a *legit* t-ball grand slam — his hard grounder zipped past all of the fielders and into deep RCF.  I took a video of his at bat.  Here are some screen shots….

….BOOM!

…and the follow through:

Tim has practiced running a homerun about 80,000 times in our backyard.  I had to yell, “Don’t pass him!  Don’t pass him!” as Tim motored toward home on the heals of his teammate:

In true Tim fashion, with the ball just being relayed to second base, Tim slid into home, touching the plate about a quarter of a second after his teammate.

I don’t know much about t-ball.  I certainly didn’t realize where all the balls would be hit.  But it ended up that Tim picked the prime positions.  In the bottom of the first inning, he played pitcher and fielded probably 4-5 of the 9 batted balls:

I must admit, it was incredibly exciting when Tim and the first basemen combined to successfully throw at least one runner out at first — a lot has to go right for that to happen in your first inning of organized t-ball!

In his second at bat, Tim put a nice swing on the ball…

…and made it safely to first.

Tim steadfastly denies this (although he has no alternate explanation), but it sure looks like he was calling himself “save” a step before hitting first base…

…with the right fielders still en route to retrieve the baseball.  Just for kicks, Tim kept sliding into every base, completely unnecessarily:

By the way, Kellan was “coaching” with me in the outfield during the second inning…

…and at just shy of 2-years-old, he was roughly the same height as one of Tim’s teammates.  Kellan’s a big boy!

In the second inning, Tim played second base and, again, ended up fielding 4-5 of the other teams’ 9 batted balls:

In our back yard, Tim has always loves hitting, hitting and more hitting.  He hardly wants to play catch.  But, man oh man, was he having a great time playing defense at his game – which I really loved to see.  Between plays when he would catch (or smother and pick up) a grounder, he would do an exaggerated celebratory dance.

As the second baseman, Tim actually showed good baseball instincts.  We were telling everyone to simply throw the ball to first, but he kept wanting to throw to second base (which is hard because the short stop didn’t realize what was going on and was never covering the bag — and no one except Tim was expecting him to do so.

The defensive highlight of the day was a bouncing ball hit toward second base.  Tim ran to his right and cut off the ball.  It bounced almost head level and Tim snared it out of the air, and ran down the runner heading to second base.  Actually, the two of them ran right by the base…

…and Tim tagged him coming and going.  It was a pretty cool play to watch.

After the game, Tim asked, “Who won?”  He wasn’t very satisfied with the answer that we didn’t keep score.  But, as they say, it was the “having fun” part that counted, and Tim definitely had a lot of fun, and so did I.

And that is the story of Tim’s first Opening Day and t-ball game.

Bonus picture:

That is a Ken Griffey, Jr. whiffle bat that looks just like Griff’s real bat.  If you were to visit our house, chances are that Kellan would unintentionally swing that sucker into your shins.  That boy swings bats and walks around with his glove on his hand constantly.  Yep, he’s my boy too.

Father-Son Baseball? Yes, Please! (4/14/2012)

It has been a long and busy off-season.  On Saturday, April 14, 2012, Tim and I kicked off our 2012 baseball season with a game between the Mets and Phillies in Philadelphia.  I had been looking forward to this game like crazy.

I had originally planned to take both boys to Baltimore on Saturday, April 7th, but I didn’t realize it was Easter weekend and we had a house full of family.  So we had to wait a whole week to get our first taste of major league baseball for the season.

I’ve been extremely busy at work this off-season.  And our house has been crazy.  Having two boys is awesome.  But it is way harder than having one boy.  Tim and Kellan get along great most of the time.  But they also create non-stop action, tons of brotherly competition, a healthy dose of yelling and chaos, and they require a lot of discipline…or at least a lot of correcting.  Don’t do this, that, or the other thing.  Stop doing this, that, or whatever.

Baseball season provides something that the rest of the year generally does not.  Something I really needed.  Extended periods of father-son time in an environment that Tim and I just really enjoy.  No chaos.  Tim and I have gotten so good at attending games.  We’re an amazing team.  Hardly any discipline is needed.  It is just fun and relaxing days connecting with my boy and sharing our mutual love of baseball.  So let’s get to it.

The morning started with opening day of Tim’s first year of little league (which is the newest chapter of Tim’s life, extremely exciting, and will be up next on this blog).  After opening ceremonies, we hopped in the car, grabbed a happy meal from McD’s…

…and headed toward Philadelphia.  I was loving baseball season within the first fifteen minutes of our drive.  It was a completely unchanged experience despite the six month break.  Tim and I had great conversations the whole ride down, except of course for during the 15 minutes that we spent battling each other to see who could sing the best Gotye “Someone I Used To Know” (Tim’s favorite song).  Tim won!  As my wife will tell you, I’m a horrible singer.  By the way, Tim’s best comment during our drive was his description of what college is:  “college is where there are lots of boys and lots of girls and you find out who you are going to marry.”

We pulled into the stadium – paid our $15 to park.  Pulled on Tim’s new Ichiro jersey…

…and sized up our destination:  Citizens Bank Park!

Bring on the baseball.

We grabbed a spot second in line.  We started up a nice conversation with the guy behind us, another guy excited to be back at the ballpark for another year.  And within a few minutes, a young man approached and asked, “Are you Todd?”

It was a 12-year-old boy named Harrison who was at the ballpark with his father, Seth.  Another father-son having a great day with the sport they love.  Harrison reads our blog and leaves comments from time-to-time under the name “Philadelphia45.”  It was great to get to know Harrison and Seth a little bit.

Tim loves hanging with older kids, and Harrison was no exception.  Here they are hanging out at the gate – timed exactly when Tim blinked (oops):

When the gates opened, we went our separate ways, but we’d meet up again with Harrison and Seth.  Tim and I headed to left field.  We were among the very first people into the seats.  And within a few minutes, a Phillies batter lined a foul ball into the roped off seats down the 3B line.  An usher grabbed it and spotted Tim from a long way off.  He siliently (so Tim didn’t realize it) called us over to the “chain” and handed Tim his very first baseball of 2012:

Thank you, Sir!

We have somewhat of a routine for the BP at Citizens Bank Park.  First, we set up shop right down the line, in the very small piece of foul territory that is open at the beginning of BP.  Here was our view:

There was a Mets player…I think he was a player, although he was wearing shorts and no jersey…hanging out below us.  And I notice something very odd…

…he had a glove with “Todd Helton” embroidered on the thumb.  I asked him why he had a Todd Helton glove and he responded, “Because he gave it to me.”  “Oh, that’s really cool,” I responded.

Soon (as pictured above), Johan Santana showed up and started running from the foul line to CF.  At one point, he was approaching the foul line when a Phillies batter hit a long grounder right to him.  I called out, “Hey, Johan!”  When he looked up, I pointed at Tim and he started to motion like he was going to throw it to Tim.  But Tim was holding his glove in his throwing hand for some reason.  So, Johan pointed…or maybe he nodded…at Tim and then threw the baseball to me.  I handed it over to Tim and we both called out a loud and excited:

Thank you, Johan!!!

Wow, Johan Santana.  That’s a great toss-up.  Very exciting for our first toss-up of the season.  But in retrospect, our next toss-up would be about ten times more exciting.

We hung out in the same spot until they opened the rest of the stadium.  We watched Cliff Lee do some running…

…and we chatted with Harrison and Seth who had joined us shortly after the toss-up from Santana.  They had also caught two baseballs already – one from Michael Stutes who I really want to connect with some day on a toss-up because he once heckled my softball team while he played for the Reading Phillies.

Normally, when the rest of the stadium opens, Tim and I head out to the “pizza wedge” in RCF.  But the Mets have a commemorative baseball this season that I was really hoping we could get from one of the Mets pitchers warming up down the line.  So we relocated (along with Harrison and Seth) to the corner spot down the LF line:

We ended up standing right behind Tim Byrdak.  I was excited.  I have wanted Tim to get a baseball from another “Tim” ever since we got one from umpire Todd Tichnor.  Maybe this would be the day!?

When Mets coach Ricky Bones (I love that name!) walked by, Harrison asked for a picture.  Bones told Harrison to hold on and when he returned about 10 minutes later, Tim was a co-beneficiary of Harrison’s request:

Thanks, Mr. Bones!

And then things got REALLY exciting!  Tim Byrdak and his partner finished up playing catch.  A Mets batter had hit a grounder that rolled to a stop about five feet from Byrdak’s feet.  As he grabbed the ball to throw it in, while pointing at Tim, I shouted out, “Hey, Tim, how about throwing a ball to another Tim!?”

It worked.  Byrdak turned around and tossed the ball at Tim.  Tim has made amazing progress with his catching skills over the last two months, but I was nervous and anxious and excited all at the same time as the ball sailed toward Tim.  What would happen?

Without hesitating, Tim reached out and made a nice one handed grab with his glove.  A clean catch with zero assistance from his dad:

When the ball stuck in Tim’s glove I was ecstatic.  I literally jumped in the air and shouted, “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!”  I was so happy and proud of my no-longer-so-little guy.  All offseason, we’ve been talking about how he’s going to catch a baseball (or baseballs!) on his own this season, and we’ve been talking about trying to get a baseball from a Major League “Tim” for years, and it all came together in one moment and sheer awesomeness.

It was truly perfect and completely made my day.

Some of our hugest “thank yous” ever to Mr. Timothy Christopher Byrdak!

We’ve been fortunate enough to get a nice collection of baseballs at MLB games, but this one definitely ranks right up there at the tippy top of the list as one of the best.

On the natural high of the toss-up from Mr. Byrdak, Tim and I decided to report to the pizza wedge.

Here’s a tip.  When relocating to another section of the ballpark, walk through the seats, not through the concourse.  That’s what we did and…

…Mike Pelfrey rewarded us with a baseball in deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep center field.

Before hitting up the pizza wedge, we visited the Phillies hall of fame area so Tim could grab the different metal baseballs that have finger grips for different types of pitches, and then spit some seeds down…

…into the bushes in the batters’ eye.  And then Tim called Richie Ashburn “saaafe!” in our first MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt picture of the season.

The pizza wedge was dominated by a family a four with two 13-14 year old’ish girls who got some love from the players (as did “mom”), before Mets coach (and former player for numerous MLB teams) Tom Goodwin hooked Tim up with our first pizza wedge ball of the season:

Note: the balls from Pelfey and Goodwin followed the more traditional, point at Tim and throw to Dad method…although, Tim made an attempt at the Pelfrey ball, but it was too high and sailed over his glove and into mine.

There was still more BP, but we were done.  Tim wanted to play some games.  The speed pitch, for some reason, wasn’t open.  But we played the trivia game and the running in place game…

…in the deep LCF concourse.  This season, instead of handing out slips of paper that say you played one of these games, you collect stamps in the little booklet that Tim is holding in the above picture.  I’m not sure what you get when you fill it up with stamps.  We’ll see later in the season.

After some game time, we headed up the steps toward the upper deck.  We got this picture of Tim on the second deck with a view of the bullpens and Ashburn Alley behind/below him:

And then we headed to the back row of section 302 for what we determined must be the farthest seat from home plate:

Yep, make that two pictures checked off the 2012 Photo Scavenger Hunt list!

While up there, of course, I got a panorama from section 302:

And then we headed back down to the second deck for our first father-son picture of the season:

Thank you to a nice usher who snapped the photo.  As my Little Grandma would say, “Jiminy, Tim is gotten huge!”  Remember when he used to look like this?  It is fun looking back at game photos and seeing him grow up before my eyes.

Actually, he’s done some much growing that I was concerned he would be too tall for the kids’ play area.  But fear not…

…plenty of growing still to do before he is shut out of the play area.

Tim was excited after posing for that picture, he told me “I can even come back and play when I am seven!”

The game started while we were at the play area.  Soon, we grabbed some nachos…

…and our seats in section 104:

The Mets were already winning 1-0 on a David Wright homerun to LF.

We spent a lot of the game (we’re mobile so not all of the game) sitting behind this dude…

…named “Duda,” Lucas Duda, and this other dude named….

…Hunter “Ugliest Mechanics In Baseball But Monster Power” Pence.

After nachos, it was time for Tim’s first ice cream helmet of the season.  We took the scenic route to our favorite ice cream lady at Citizens Bank Park…

…that’s the view from Section 242¸by the way.

Most of the teams in Tim’s little league are sponsored by local businesses, but one is sponsored by today’s Phillies starter, Vance Worley (who used to play for the Reading Phillies):

Big thanks to Vance for supporting our league, but this, unfortunately, was not his day.

On this pitch, Vance got Jason Bay to ground into a double play…

…but a run scored making it 2-0 Mets.  Duda was up next and he clubbed a 2-run homer to make it 4-0 Mets.

How about a random shot of British Columbian-born, Gonzaga University-alum Jason Bay:

Guess what?  Tim still likes ice cream hemlets…

…and our lady still makes a huge helmet.

The Phillies have not started strong this season.  And I noticed something…the fans do not seem to believe in them as much as in the last couple years, at least at this point with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both on the DL.  Check out the patch of empty seats with the Phils losing 4-0 in the top of the sixth inning:

I never saw that last season at Citizens Bank Park.

Tim wanted to visit the team store.  On our walk around the stadium, we noticed this nice mosaic art piece in the concourse:

While Tim and I were talking about the little Phanatic in the mosaic, the real Phanatic’s mom showed up on the scene.  I pulled our my camera and it refused to fire when the Phanatic’s mom patted Tim on the head.  Instead, the flash delayed the shutter and it didn’t take a picture until the Phanatic’s mom stuck her hand in my face with an exaggerated “Hi, Dad” wave:

So I got a rare close up of the Phanatic’s mom’s hand!

Shortly thereafter, Tim became the owner of a new stuffed Phanatic:

We stopped by the play area on our way back to RF, but it was just closing down.  Sad news.  So we headed back to the now hardly half-full RF seats.  Between innings, an usher took this shot of me and Tim:

By the way, Tim’s eyes were starting to look puffy because he was battling serious hay fever, which has been a daily battle for the last couple weeks.

The Phillies really did nothing offensively in this game.  Well, next to nothing.  They did get a single on this pitch to Juan Pierre:

If you look closely, you can see the baseball heading toward RF in that picture.

It is almost impossible to get an umpire baseball in Philadelphia (it would be easier if you had seats in the Diamond Club), but it was our first game of the season so, heck, we were up for the challenge.

We relocated to the concourse behind section 130.  For a while, we stood behind the camera man…

…where we saw Ruben Tejada drive in pinch runner Mike Baxter…

…off of Michael Stutes:

And then we watched David Wright…

…and Ike Davis…

…make outs for the Mets.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Tim and I slid into nearly ideal seats for making the umpire ball attempt:

The umpire Alfonso Marquez (shown in the background) would enter a tunnel at the home plate end of the dugout, just to the right of the guy in the light blue Phillies t-shirt in that last picture.

We had a great view of Jimmy Rollins, as he grounded out:

And a great view of Hunter Pence, while he struck out:

There were tons of empty seats in RF as Jon Rauch pitched to the day’s final batter John Mayberry:

Mayberry ended the game in the ideal umpire attempt manner – a high pop up that allowed us to get into position while the umpire had to stay at home plate.

We slid all the way into the second a row and stood at the little railing separating the really nice seats (dugout) from the ridiculously nice seats (Diamond Club).  Tim and I both called out “Alfonso” when he stopped on the grass just short of the warning track to wait for his colleagues.  He heard us call his name and fired an absolutely beautifully rubbed up baseball to us:

And then he left.

We lingered for a bit and then headed toward the LF corner on our way to the exit.  Tim was tossing the umpire ball into his glove over and over while we walked.  I noticed that there were two ballgirls down the LF line and I asked Tim if he wanted to get a picture. He said yes, and then yelled and started running.

I thought he was running to the ballgirls, but he had missed his glove and fired his new umpire ball under some seats and it disappeared.  We couldn’t find it anywhere, but fortunately, a nice fan pointed it out and we retrieved it from a tray of peanuts (or some type of food).

Fifteen seconds later and we would have missed getting this double ballgirl picture, which was taken mere feet from the spot where Tim caught the baseball from Byrdak about 4-and-a-half hours earlier:

A pose with his umpire ball and Citizens Bank Park sign…

…and with the Harry Kalas statute…

…and then we were “outta there!”

It was an incredibly awesome first day being back at the ballpark.  I can’t wait to fold Kellan into the mix for our first 3-guys game next weekend.

I know why Ernie Banks always wanted to *play two* — hip, hip Hooray for Baseball!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

1/0 Games (Tim/Kellan)
2/0 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets; Kellan – N/A
1 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1
6 Baseballs – Mets 4, Phillies 1, Umpires 1
1/0 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park; Kellan – N/A
1/0 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones; Kellan – N/A

First Baseball Action Of 2012

Since we live about 75 miles from the closest MLB stadium, every game we go to is sort of like a mini-roadtrip.  We like roadtrips!

With our first game still a couple weeks away, Tim and I took our first mini-roadtrip of the season this weekend.  We had tickets to the Phillies’ April 4th “On-Deck Series” game.  It is a pre-season exhibition game played at Citizens Bank Park.  We attended an On Deck Series game once before — in 2008 (at the end of that entry).  But this year it is on a Tuesday night and we can’t make it.  On stubhub, the tickets were selling for next to nothing.  So it was either exchange the tickets or waste them.  I called the Phillies and they said I could exchange the tickets for a later date, but there were two catches (1) it had to be done in person at Citizens Bank Park and (2) it had to happen at least 48 hours before the game (which meant we had to do it on Saturday).  I asked my wife if there were anything kid-friendly family events we could do on Saturday in Philadelphia, but she didn’t know of anything.

So Tim and I decided to make an afternoon of it.  No big plans.  Just drive to Philadelphia and exchange the tickets.  But we found ways to have some fun along the way and the 5+hour trip ended up being a great time.

I lived in Center City Philadelphia for three years while I was in school.  Instead of driving to Citizens Bank Park, we decided to drive to my old stomping ground.  We parked next to one of my old pizza places, Lazaro’s Pizza on South Street by the Graduate Hospital, and got some lunch:

You gotta love Lazaro’s!  We hit the pavement with our pizza in a box.  We headed down South Street toward Board.

If you’ve never been to Philadelphia, you might not know that it is the number one spot in the country (who knows, maybe the world) for murals.  They have thousands of really amazing murals all around town.  Instead of old broken down buildings covered in graffiti, they have cover their broken down buildings with amazing pieces of art.  Here is one building I used to walk by every day on my way to the subway — the Royal Theatre:

We passed the Royal and walked a couple more blocks to Broad Street where we hopped on the Broad Street subway line:

Tim loves trains and subways.  Broad Street runs north-south throught he middle of Center City.  I used to ride the Broad Street line north every day to my alma matre Temple University…

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…and at the very last stop to the South, which is now called AT&T Station and was formerly the just called the Pattison Avenue stop, is all of Philadelphia’s major sports facilities: Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field, and the Wells Fargo Center (formerly the CoreStates Center, First Union Center, and Wachovia Center).

Tim loved the ride down.  He sat in the very front seat and chowed down on his big and thin Lazaro’s pizza:

It is hard to tell from the pictures, but his seat had a window that looks out the front of the train:

Yep, he loved it.

When we exited the subway and walked up the stairs, we found ourselves just down the street from Citizens Bank Park:

There were lots of cars around because the Flyers were playing an afternoon game — at least that is what it seemed like.  We walked through the Phillies main parking lot and stopped to get Tim’s picture with Connie Mack:

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That statue has a bunch of information on it about the Philadelphia A’s.

Then Tim played catcher for Mike Schmidt:

And while I exchanged our “On Deck Series” tickets for some regular season tickets against the Rockies — hopefully, Jamie Moyer will pitch and get the win! — Tim inspected the Robin Roberts statue:

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We decided to walk all the way around the stadium.  In CF, we could see that Richie Ashburn was in mid-season form and looks excited to run right into the regular season:

Tim loves fire hydrants (for some reason), so he was excited to get a picture with this Citizens Bank Park fire hydrant:

In LF, the Phillies opening day line-up cards were telling a confusing story.  I’m not sure if this is the remnants of the last game from 2011 or a partial listing of opening day 2012…

…, but i certainly can’t imagine that Joe Blanton will be the opening day pitcher this season.

Tim did his best “Lefty” pose with the Steve Carlton statue outside of the LF gate:

And we generally passed time by playing catch on our walk around the stadium:

Before heading out, Tim posed with some football statues…

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…I have no clue who any of these football people are:

Then we grabbed the same front seat on the Broad Street line north…

…and we headed home.

Fun times.  Next time, we’ll be sure to see a game too.

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