May 2012

2012 Cook GFS Game 2 – Cubs vs. Cardinals (5/14/12)

So, we had a great first day of the Roadtrip in Minneapolis.   But when we woke up May 13, 2012, it was time to start the “road” phase of the trip.  This trip featured less driving days than some past trips, but the drives were generally longer.  On May 13th, we drove all the way from Minneapolis to Saint Louis.  It was about 550 miles total, cutting across Iowa and into Missouri.

Here are a couple photo highlights from the big drive:

Top Left: We grabbed some free breakfast at the hotel and hopped in the car to eat on the road.

Top Right:  Somewhere in Iowa, we passed this statue-thingy of three fighter jets.  Pretty cool.

Bottom Left: My Dad logged more miles behind the wheel than I did, but I spelled him for a good chunk of driving during the middle of the drive, at which point he did some reading.

Bottom Right: There wasn’t much to see in Iowa.  This big fish in a gas station parking lot was one of the highlights.

There was a surprise waiting for us in the St. Louis area.  My dad had booked the “Kozy Kaboose” for us at the St. Louis West KOA campground:

That caboose behind Tim was our hotel room!  It had a queen sized bed and a couch with a pull-out bed (which looked incredibly uncomfortable, but it was actually just fine).  Tim absolutely loved the caboose surprise.

Good work, Pa!

So, all we did on May 13 was drive, play at the caboose and play area right behind it, and go out to dinner at the local Applebees.

But we had a REALLY BIG day lined up for us on May 14, 2012.

I decided this would be the perfect day for us to wear the Roadtrip t-shirts I had made for us.  They were plain white t-shirts with the following photo on the chest:

I made that picture from 13 different photos.  It includes elements representing each of the four stadiums we would visit on the trip:  Rocky Mountains (Colorado Rockies), the “twins” shaking hands over the river (Minnesota Twins), the St. Louis Gateway Arch with a humungous cardinal sitting on top (St. Louis Cardinals), and a lion (king of the jungle) wearing Sluggerrrrr the mascot’s crown (Kansas City Royals).  It also features a Mariners compass logo that I drew on my computer using a real baseball, and with a Cook & Son Baseball Bats logo overlaid on the Mariners logo.  Finally, it features a picture of me (from the 9/27/11 Mariners game in Seattle) holding Kellan (from the 5/12/11 Mariners game in Baltimore) standing with my Dad (from the 8/13/11 Marlins/Giants game at Sun Life Stadium), and Tim (from the 9/27/11 Mariners game).  Oh, yeah, and the Rocky Mountains are rising up behind the outfield wall at Safeco Field (from the Safeco tour we took in 2009).

I made the shirts just for fun and, if I do say so myself, they were a big hit on the trip.  People in St. Louis loved them and complimented us a lot throughout the day.  So, if you were otherwise going to wonder what was on our shirts in the following photos, there is your explanation.

We started off in the morning by grabbing some food in the car and driving into St. Louis to visit the famous Gateway Arch.  I had heard you could take an “elevator” to the top and I was very curious about how that works.

We parked in a cool little area of the city (if you are standing under the Arch and facing the city, we parked in the section just to the right of the arch)…

…and we walked over to hop a ride up the arch.  The middle and right picture above show us in our tiny little “pod.”  When you get inside the arch, it looks like there are 8 tiny elevator doors descending down some steps (with the high point toward the outside of the arch and the low point (elevator no. 8) toward the middle side of the arch).  The door opens and you climb into a tiny pod with five seats.  It is essentially like a ferris wheel car.  You can feel that you are dangling from a connection at the top of the pod.  Instead of going straight up, you start by going sideways toward the outside of the arch, then the 8 pods lift up like a dangling string of pearls.  The pods have a glass door so you can see the inside of the arch as you ascend toward the top.  And it is a crazy mess of stairways and sheet metal.  When the pods reaches the top, pod 1 is then at the highest point toward the middle of the arch and pod 8 is at the lowest point toward the outside of the arch.  We were in pod 7 on the way up.  Hopefully that all makes sense.

Here’s a photo that hopefully gives you a sense of things:

In that picture to the left, Kellan and I are climbing the stairs at the top of the arch – going up from pod 7 to the observation deck.  The picture to the right is a screen that is at the top of the stairs and shows the status of the pods on the two sides of the arch – we went up the “south tram” (which was the only tram in use while we were there).

I thought the observation deck would have a flat floor – nope.  It is an arch and there is nothing flat about it, as you can see in the top left photo below:

As shown in the top right and bottom left photos above, there are a bunch of tiny windows that you can look out of for some amazing views of the city.  Or, as shown in the bottom right, you can look straight down 630 feet!

The arch and the observation deck are triangular in shape.  To look out the windows, you have to lean out over (or lay down on) the slanted outer wall.  It is well worth it.  Check out this view:

When we had our fill of the observation deck, we hopped into pod no. 8 and made our way back down to earth.  We walked far enough away to get some fun pictures of the arch.  Like these:

And this great one of Tim holding up the arch:

Way to sell it, Tim!

With plenty of time (hours and hours) until gates opened for the evening’s game, it was time to head to another activity.  We had no other plans when we woke up, but on the drive to the arch, my wife texted me and said we should go to the “City Museum.”  I asked the lady in the Arch gift shop about it and she said we would LOVE it.

She was right!

The City Museum is a huge museum of stuff for kids.  It is a like a huge playground.  Everything in the museum was found in the city of St. Louis and it was all built into the museum by a group of artisans who created the museum.

It was too crazy and huge to even photograph properly, so I’ll just show you this photo of Kellan climbing some stairs several stories above the ground:

All that I can say is, if you’re in St. Louis and you have kids GO TO THE CITY MUSEUM!

Oh, what the heck, let’s show you some more City Museum pictures:

We got tired and sweaty at the City Museum.  Luckily, we still had time to go back to the caboose and nap a bit before the game.

Around 3:00 p.m., we drove back into the city (it was about a half hour drive for us) for the game.  We are some not all that beautiful city pictures as we approached the stadium:

We parked in a lot beyond CF and then jumped in line at the CF gate (Gate 5):

Right as the gates were supposed to open, a worker arrived inside the gate and told everyone in our line that Gate 5 wouldn’t open for another hour.  So we all had to find another gate. We picked Gate 4, which is in the LF corner.

That was probably better anyway, because I planned to head into foul territory anyway.

We were going to be sitting in section 168, which is right in the LF foul corner.  Gate 4 lets you into the stadium just around the corner from section 168.  So it was easy access to where we wanted to go.

Upon entering the stadium, Tim and my dad headed out to LF and Kellan and I went down the LF foul line, right to the corner spot.  Very soon after arriving there, a ball was hit foul, kicked off of the stands well in from us and came to rest in shallow LF.  There were no players even remotely near the ball.

And then something ridiculous happened.  I looked on my phone to find that number 48 on the Cubs was Rafael Dolis.  He was in LF pretty close to the warning track and a LONG way from that baseball.  Fully expecting nothing to come from it, I called out, “Hey, Rafael!”  Dolis looked at us and I turned and pointed to the ball in shallow LF and gave him a “hey, why not go grab that and toss it to us?” shrug.

That was the first ridiculous part.   The second ridiculous part was that it worked.

Dolis started a long slow, incredibly slow, walk toward the baseball:

That is Dolis both coming and going on the left side of that picture.  He walked all the way over to the ball and was immediately met by chorus calls from fans closer to the infield shouting for the baseball.  He turned to them and pointed at us, “Its for them!”  And then he tossed it to us.

Holy cow!  Thanks, Rafael!

I was truly shocked he walked all that way just to hook us up with that baseball.  It was very much appreciated.

With a Busch Stadium baseball in hand, Kellan and I retreated to the shady seats behind the Cubs (3B) dugout…

…while Tim and my dad stayed in sunny L (that is them in the first row at the bottom of the stairway).

Here was our view of Busch Stadium from behind the 3B dugout:

Tim and my dad headed out to CF.  Nothing was hit their way and eventually an usher decided that Tim deserved a baseball.

Eventually, we decided to brave the sun again and we headed to the RF foul corner.  Tim and my dad came and met up with us and we watched BP for a few more minutes.  But it was pretty hot and we were thinking of just heading back to the shade behind 3B.

Just before doing so, a Cubs lefty sliced (or would it be hooked?) a foul ball down the RF line.  We were on the wall in RF, which was probably 7 rows back in the seating configuration.  All of the people in the first row or two (by the corner spot) were totally oblivious to their surroundings.  I truly thought this ball was going to nail someone in the side of the head.

I screamed, “HEADS UP!”  Everyone looked around frantically and the ball smashed down on the warning track and bounced high over about 10-15 people.

I was holding Kellan and *we* immediately broke down the row of seats.  I made it just far enough to make a fully-extended backhanded catch of the one-hopper, all while Kellan clung to my body wrapped by my throwing arm.

Here is where we were when we caught it:

A female usher came down and congratulated me on catching the baseball and added, “Thank you for not dropping your son!”  “Hey, no problem, “ I responded.

Almost as soon as we reached the shade behind 3B, BP was finished.  We decided to walk further down the LF line until we found an usher who (loved our Roadtrip shirts and) was kind enough to take our picture for the photo scavenger hunt – Busch Stadium bonus picture!

That tiny little “Busch Stadium” sign was the best we could find in the ballpark for the bonus shot.  It turns out it would get harder and harder to find a stadium sign inside the stadiums as this trip progressed.  Interestingly, there are “Busch Stadium” logos on all of the garbage cans and in the upper deck concourse, but this was the best we could do by the field.

After getting our picture, we visited our seats.  They were great!

But we didn’t stay long because there was a parade of kids going around the warning track and we wanted to get close because it was being led by…


That was as close-up we would get to him at this game.

Before the game, the four of us took a big lap around the entire field level concourse looking for a play area.

Along the way, we found cool looking hand operated (by apparently inaccurate) out-of-town scoreboards in the concourse down the 1B line:

The AL board said the Mariners were tied 3-3 with Oakland, but they were actually playing the Red Sox later that day, and they had just arrived in Boston from a series in New York.  So I have no clue when these scores were last updated.  That *old* Busch Stadium sign was attached to the NL out-of-town scoreboard.

We found a little kids play area (not for Tim) in CF, which was nice and shady.  But it was for little kids only so we kept walking.  Just behind the play area, we found this muscle car on a pitchers mound:

For some reason, Tim has been excited to point out muscle cars everywhere we go lately.  So he wanted a picture pitching with the muscle car…and Kellan likes to copy everything his big brother does.

Once we finished out loop around the field level, Tim decided he was starving and he declared he wanted pizza for a second game in a row!  We hadn’t even been paying attention to the food as we walked, so we started our second loop around and made it all the way to home plate before we found pizza.

We reported to our seats…

…and Tim artistically ate his pizza while Kellan slammed a tray of nachos (with my assistance):

The game was entertaining.  Jake Westbrook was on the hill for the Cardinals…

…and he hung zeros on the board through the first four innings (until the Cubs put up a 4-spot in the top of the fifth inning).  By the way, that is David DeJesus batting in the picture above to the right.

Tim decided he wanted the Cardinals to win.  Personally, I was hoping the Cardinals would get destroyed so all of the fans would go home early and the stadium wouldn’t be as crowded.  For the record, I hope that at all games except Mariners home games and Yankee road games.

For some reason, I don’t really care for Cardinals leftfielder (and big time slugger) Matt Holliday.  I just don’t like how he carries himself.  Maybe I’m completely wrong.  But he just seems a bit smug to me.

So, I was amused when he botched an incredibly easy fly ball to LF:

Hey, the guy can mash.  But his glove leaves much to be desired.

Each MLB stadium has its own policy regarding at what age (or height) a kid needs his own ticket.  I am all for no buying Kellan a ticket whenever possible.  Luckily, the Cardinals allow all kids THREE and under into the ballpark for free.  That’s great!

But the stadium is so packed, that you actually do have to keep the little ones on your lap – like this:

…or standing in front of you – like this:

But it worked out just fine for us at this packed rivalry game, as you can see from these pictures…

…of Kellan enjoying some fruit snacks…

…while Tim punches out an all-star ballot (not actually voting) and looks around his thirty-first Major League Baseball stadium.

The Cubs sent practical joker, Ryan Dempster, to the hill…

…and he hung zeros on the board for the first five innings (until the Cardinals put up a 4-spot of their own in the sixth inning to knot it at 4-4).  By the way, that is David Freese taking his cuts above to the right.

After eating, I needed to go tour the ballpark and take pictures.  Tim decided to join me while Kellan (apparently against his wishes) stayed behind with Grandpa.  Kellan loves spending time with his Grandpa, but his is a MAJOR daddy’s boy (and I love it!).  He always wants to be with me.  It’s really awesome. In fact, if I am walking down the street with him and a bunch of other people, he gets upset if anyone but me pushes his stroller.  What can I say, I have the magic touch with that boy.

Anyway, unbeknownst to me (because I didn’t noticed my dad calling my cellphone), after a few minutes of being fine, Kellan had a melt down and cried uncontrollably (he’s good at that) until he and grandpa met up with me and Tim again.

Sadly, that took a while because Tim and I were having a great time touring around.

First, we headed to the second deck where we found some baseball team-themed Saint Louis Arches and Tim did his “Yesssss! I just won”…

…and “jumping for joy” poses!

He did more jumping for joy…

…and more winning poses as we found more Arches and Cardinals wall art in this odd little concourse area tucked behind the fancy clubs on the second level.

As we walked by, we saw this World Series trophy through the window of one of those fancy clubs:

I couldn’t tell what year it was from.

In both LF and RF, the concourses jut out a bit past the last section of seats on each of the upper levels.  This provides a nice standing-room only opportunity for the fans.  We took this panorama from the concourse extension on the second deck in LF:

And then we turned and I got these pictures of Tim and the real Arch…

…and Tim and the outfield.

Then we headed up to the third deck and got another end-of-concourse panorama:

If you know Busch Stadium from TV, this is right next to the section with the “Big Mac Land” sign.

After taking the panorama, a fan asked if we wanted a picture.  Of course, we did:

And 30 seconds later, look who we found patrolling the concourse behind Big Mac Land:

Tim meekly told Ronald, “I went to McDonald’s today and ate a happy meal.”  Ronald thought that was just *great*!

From the third deck in LF, you can walk down to the third deck seats or up to the four deck seats.  We headed up to the very top of the upper deck in the LF corner for this panoramic view of Busch Stadium:

Then we continued on toward home plate.  As you get closer to 3B, there is an escalator up to a higher concourse – once you go up the escalator, you then can walk *down* into what LF left would be the third deck, but in the infield is the second deck (hopefully that makes sense – the point is that the *second* deck in LF does not extend into the infield seating – it is replaced by suites.

Anyway, once you get up the escalator, you have officially reached the *highest* concourse in the stadium.  Around 3B there is nothing above it, but once you get closer to the home plate, a *new* upper-deck rises above this *highest* concourse – this all seems very confusing.  Just click on and look at the full-sized versions of some of our panoramas and it will make sense.

Anyway, at the back of the concourse around 3B, you can pose with the giant “St. Louis Cardinals” sign that is facing out of the stadium…

…and you can look down on a statue and big autographed baseball of Stan Musial on the ground outside the stadium.

Here is a panorama as we neared 3B:

Then we took this panorama closer to home plate, where the upper-upper-upper deck begins:

[Recall, all this while, Kellan is crying and pitching a major fit for grandpa while Tim and I are having a lovely time getting to know the ins-and-outs of Busch Stadium – poor Grandpa and Kellan!]

Anyway, we headed up to the very top of the *upper-est* deck in the stadium (behind home plate) for this panorama:

Is that a great looking ballpark or what?  I love the arch in the background and the arch mowed into the outfield grass.

We continued walking around the stadium toward RF.  This is what the concourse looks like behind the upper-deck:

As we approached the RF corner, I pulled and my phone and noticed that my dad and called and texted.  His message was simple, “come help with Kellan.”  My response was probably too ambiguous, “We’re coming from RF upper deck.”  I meant, “Hold on!  We’ll be there ASAP, but we have a long way to walk.”

We snapped one more, sun obscured, panorama from RF before heading down the elevator:

We ended up meeting in the LF concourse.  Kellan was still letting loose with the water works, but he was instantly completely fine the second he saw me.  The second my Dad passed him over to me, he was happy and ready for some ice cream – we met up at the ice cream stand.  This was the real deal – Ben & Jerry’s.  We decided on some delicious mint chocolate chunk:

Tim decided he wanted some blue cotton candy instead of ice cream.  This was fine by me because it meant we could get this “blue tongued” shot for the photo scavenger hunt:

However, by the end of the game, I had officially declared:  NO MORE COTTON CANDY!

It made Tim way too hyper…something his father suffered from as a boy, too.

We got back to the seats in time to see the Cubs score their four runs in the top of the fifth innings, which was highlighted by a homerun by former Mariner Bryan LaHair:

LaHair is having himself quite the season so far.  This was his 9thhomer of the season.  Prior to this season, he only had 5 homeruns in his career.

Kellan was all chilled out now that I was back with him in the seats.  In fact, he was straight up lounging:

After a while, Kellan got restless.  So I took both boys back up to the upper deck by 3B.  The plan was to tire them out running up the switch-back ramp.  And it worked.  We got one more panorama up there:

Tim did some silly-sugar induced posing…

…and I got a shot of the upper deck rising above the upper-concourse.  And then we headed back to our seats to finish out the game with my dad.

As we approached our seats, I took a shot of Tim showing the little triangular area at the end of the field level cross-aisle that is right behind section 168:

It is nice for standing when you don’t want to sit.

While we were watching the rest of the game, Tim was quick to spot King Felix when we flashed on the scoreboard:

Kellan was primed and ready (with Grandpa’s glove) to catch a foul ball…

…but no one, not even David Freese…

…could find us in the stands

A think night panoramas look great, so I got another shot from section 168 late in the game.

After the Cardinals tied the score at 4-4 in the sixth, the Cubs came back with a run in the eighth on a single by Alphonso Soriano and an unearned run in the ninth on a throwing error by 2012 World Series hero David Freese.

After the game, we got another group shot…

…which would have turned out better had Tim not been so sad that the Cardinals (who he picked to win at the beginning of the game) had lost.  At the next game, he would devise a new strategy to avoid such post-game disappointment.

On the way out of the stadium, I took an almost-empty-stadium panorama from the cross-aisle behind section 167 (one section closer to home than section 168):

And finally, as my Dad ran all the way back to our seats to retrieve Kellan’s water sippy-cup (well, it is a little more advanced than a “sippy cup”), I took a final panorama of the night from the CF bleachers:

And that was all she wrote.  Forty-five minutes sitting through a horrific post-game traffic jam and we were on our way back to the caboose excited to come back within about 12 hours for more Cardinals-Cubs baseball.

2012 C&S Fan Stats

6/5 Games (Tim/Kellan)
11/10 Teams – Tim –   Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue   Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles,   Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals
7 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1,   Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 1
28 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets   8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 3, Orioles 1, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4,   Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 2, Cardinals 1
3 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2
6/5 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens   Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch   Stadium; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field,   Busch Stadium
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky   Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
3 Autographs – Willie   Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak


2012 Cook GFS Roadtrip – Cut4 Blurb

We are now home from the 2012 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip.  It was truly amazing.  We had an outstanding time visiting Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium and Coors Field.  It is going to take a long time for me to write up all the amazing games we attended.

In the meantime, I thought I would share something short that is related to the GFS Roadtrip.  On the final day of the trip, a reporter from’s Cut4 team interviewed me on a little video camera for about 5 minutes about our roadtrip.  I’m not sure if that actual video will ever surface or not — I am told it takes Cut4 a while to process videos — but the very next day, the following showed up on the main page at

Clicking that link would take you to the following page:

You can click that picture to make it bigger or you can read the article on by clicking here.

Hopefully someday soon (or ever) our video will show up on there as well.  But even if it never does, it is pretty cool to get a little bit of e-ink on

Okay.  That is it for now.  Next up, Game 2 of the 2012 Cook GFS Roadtrip.

2012 Cook GFS Game 1 – Blue Jays vs. Twins (5/12/12)

The 2012 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip is extra special for several reasons.  First, it is the Fifth Anniversary of the GFS Roadtrip.  Second, we have expanded the GFS roster to include Kellan. And, finally, by checking off Busch Stadium (Cardinals), Kauffman Stadium (Royals), and Coors Field (Rockies), Tim and I would finally have seen all 30 MLB teams play a home game – we had already seen all 30 teams play a road game.

I wanted the Mariners to be involved in the game when we saw our final team play a home game.  During the offseason, I decided it would happen in Colorado when the Mariners visited the Rockies in May.

The Roadtrip kicked off on May 12, 2012.  We started in Minnesota.  It is the first city we have visited on two separate roadtrips.  We went to the H.H.H. Metrodome during its final season in 2009.  And now we were back to check out Target Field.

But first, we had to get to Minnesota…

…and this will officially be Kellan’s final “infant on lap” trip.  He’s getting to be huge these days.  But we have a nice flight nonetheless and were greeted by my dad at the gate.  His flight had landed about half an hour before ours.

After a brief rest in our hotel room, we took to the streets of Minneapolis on foot – destination Target Field:

We arrived before the gates opened.  The crowd at the RF (Kirby Puckett) gate was getting big already.  We got some pictures with a couple statues (Kirby and Kent Hrbek)…

…and then headed around the stadium to the shaded Tony Oliva gate.

Our first inside view of Target Field was from the left field corner and the Twins were taking BP:

The Blue Jays were already stretching by the dugout.  Soon, they started to walk down the foul line to play catch.  Luis Perez…

…gave us a smile as he walked by so I asked if he’d pose for a picture with Tim and Kellan.  He said he would after he played catch.  I asked, “Ah, then, could we get your warm up ball when you’re done too!?”  He said yes and then headed off to play catch.

But then he must have decided he didn’t want to forget about us, because he walked back over to us a minute later and handed Kellan our first ever baseball at Target Field.

Thanks, Luis!

One of our big goals of this game was to get Rajai Davis to sign Kellan’s first MLB pitch picture.  We soon spotted him playing catch just behind third base.  Unfortunately, he was on the field side instead of the foul line side.  Anyway, Kellan and I went over there on the off chance we could hook up with Davis:

In the picture above to the left, Rajai is all the way out in CF playing long toss.  While we were watching Davis play long toss, the on-field security guard to the right grabbed a ball that had been hit against that protective screen and he walked over and handed it to Kellan.

Thanks, Security Guard!

That was it for BP as far as baseballs go.

And we never got any closer to Davis.  He drifted off into CF after finishing playing long toss.

Kellan and I headed back toward the corner spot where Tim and my dad were still waiting on Perez to finish playing catch and come back for a picture…

…, but it was too hot and sunny and Tim surrendered to the sun.  He was going to burst into flames if he waited any longer for Perez.  So, sadly, we did not get a picture with a Blue Jay.

Instead, we headed toward home plate.  We noticed that they let you down into the dugout seats (inside the Moat) during BP.  Here is a panorama from within the moat:

Next, we grabbed some water for the boys.  And then Tim and grandpa headed off to the team store and Kellan and I headed to the shady spot in RF.  On the way, he fell asleep:

Tim and grandpa met up with us and we hung out here for the rest of BP:

Once BP ended, we headed up to the upper deck in the outfield to check out the stadium.  An usher was kind enough to take a nice picture of us:

That picture was taken here:

Tim can be temperamental about getting his picture taken sometime…probably because he’s been photographed  about 100,000 times in six years.  Anyway, I wanted to get our Target Field bonus picture for the photo scavenger hunt, but for some reason Tim was adamant that he didn’t want to be in it – just Kellan.  So, this was “take 1” of the bonus picture:

Here is what it looks like from the front row of the section just below the CF Target Field sign:

While we were up there, we found a couple of the statues from past all-star games and Tim did funny poses with both:

As we continued to circle around to LF, Tim and I headed up to the tippy-top of the stadium.  Check out how steep the steps are in the LF upper deck seats:

Here is what it looks like from the back row up there:

Behind 2B, they had a softball homerun hitting contest set up.  Two fans faced off against the hardest hitting mascot ever:

The mascot blasted 6 bombs on 7 swings, including one that hit the back wall of the upper deck.

Then we found another all-star statue.  I think this one might be for this season:

After that picture, Tim declared he was extremely hungry.  Instead of nachos, he wanted pizza.  We walked and walked and walked before we found pizza, but finally found it.  And we also found the most awesome food item in the history of Major League Baseball…


For the record, our nacho lady only filled ours half way, which was plenty for me and Kellan, but every other  nacho helmet I saw all day was overflowing the top of the helmet.  We ate our nachos in our seats in the last row (row 10) of section 141:

I really liked these seats.  They were great.

Joe Mauer, P.J. Walters and (I’m guessing) the Twins pitching coach headed in from the bullpen for the game to start:

These three dudes were all set for the first pitch of the 2012 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip:

And this was it:

We were desperately needing a water refill, which required me and Kellan to walk all the way behind home plate to find a water fountain.  On the way, we saw Jose Baustita bat up close:

All game long, the concourses were absolutely packed:

For the first 3.5 innings, it was a scoreless pitchers’ duel between P.J. Walters and Drew Hutchinson (two guys I had never heard of before this game).  To that point, this foul ball by Joe Mauer was one of the offensive highlights of the so-far uneventful game:

Eventually, Kellan needed to get moving.  We headed to Target Plaza so he could stretch his travel-weary legs:

After running around for a while in Target Plaza, we headed upstairs in CF.  At the deepest part of CF, this is what the concourse looks like:

While I took some pictures, Kellan worked his arm muscles and abs:

Then we took a look at the bullpens:

And deep LF:

And straight away LF:

Then it was time for another leg workout.  Kellan ran up and down this ramp from the field level to the upper deck about 3-4 times:

At the top of the ramp, Kellan wanted a solo picture posing with the Twins pig:

And then it was more running.  He ran a lot!

Eventually, we headed back to our seats through the field level concourse.  I took a picture from the concourse behind the odd seats in deep RCF:

They are tucked under the upper deck seats.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Hutchinson loaded the bases and then walked in the first run of the game for a 1-0 Twins lead.

Before sitting down again, Kellan and I grabbed some two-toned dipping dots helmets:

Those are some sweeeeeeet helmets.  I love ‘em.  These are our first two-tone helmets.

You can see this in some of the panoramas, but I figured I should take a picture of the “have’s” seating on the fancy side of the moat:

On the last game of the 2011 GFS Roadtrip, Johnny Damon hit a ball off the top of the RCF wall at the Trop.  They called it a homerun.  I could tell with my unaided eyes that it had hit the bar on the top of the fence and bounced back onto the field without leaving the ballpark.  They reviewed it.  And eventually Damon was told to head back out to second base.

In the top of the sixth inning of this game, Jose Bautista became the second player in as many GFS Roadtrip games to hit a disputed shot to the wall:

With my unaided eye, I could tell it bounced in the bushes above the OF wall and it should be a homerun.  I was right.  After stopping for a few minutes at 2B, Jose was told to finish his trip around the bases:

The boys were growing restless and I still needed to tour around the upper deck in the infield.  We decided to make it a four-man trip.  First, we headed to a little hallway on the second deck on the 1B side where Tim got his picture with a model:

And then we headed all the wall down the RF line in the upper deck – where the usher told me to reposition myself to take these pictures (I must have been blocking the view of some people in a downtown building because there was nobody (and no seats) behind me):

Then we walked around the upper deck:

There were a lot of people in the concourse up there too.  Unluckily, as you circle around home plate, there is an elevated walkway so you can stay out of the concourse.

Circling around home plate, I asked an usher to take our picture…

…and he warmed me that the sun would blast us in the face in the photo.

As we walked, I continued to take photos of the field…

…and of my boys and dad:

As we walked, we saw an awesome play.   Someone hit a foul pop up behind 3B.  The Jays short stop Yunel Escobar rushed back to make the play, but he bobbled the ball up into the air and Jays left fielder Jose Bautista swooped in to snatch it out of the air for the rare 6-7 put out:

Tim and I climbed to the highest seats in LF for this picture:

And at the bottom of that section, I snapped this cute picture of Tim, Kellan and my dad:

As we headed back to the RF corner to head down to the lower level, Joe Mauer launched a deep drive.  It was the craziest I have ever heard a crowd go for a double:

We headed back to our seats, but then I realized I never went up into the RF bleachers.  So Tim and I headed over there.  On the way, we took this picture of the worst SRO area ever:

All you can see is the right fielder and a TV screen.  On the plus side, it is completely shaded (under the  RF bleachers).

The connection between the RF seats and the CF seats makes for some crazy angles at Target Field.  I wish I had done a better job photographing it.  But I did get this awesome picture of two lone seats at the top of a mini-flight of steps:

Then we *scaled* the RF bleachers.  It was like rock climbing, I would imagine.  At the top I got this panorama:

And this photo of nervous-from-the-height Tim:

Here are some fun angles that make it look like the bullpen is at the bottom of a hole:

And then it was time to slowly walk back down the steep steps:

Approaching the stairs down to Target Plaza, I got this picture of the plaza…

…and one of Tim in front of the Twins Live set.

Late in the game, Bautista was on first base and I was just sure something was about to happen.  I was right, they tried to pick him off first unsuccessfully:

It was dark now and the ballpark signs looked great – check it out:

The Blue Jays had pulled ahead to a 2-1 lead, and they held on to win the game, which pleased Tim.  He had declared the Blue Jays to be his team to win early in the game.

After the game, I had an usher take a family shot of us…

…and it took Tim a few minutes to realize I had duped him into posing for a Target Field bonus picture.  Haha!!

On our way out of the stadium, Tim (in quite possibly his oldest looking picture ever) showed his respects for the Great Willie “Ballgame” Bloomquist (#18):

So there you go.  One game down on the Roadtrip.  Another great night and another great stadium.  In the morning, we would drive to St. Louis for a couple games between the Cardinals and Cubs at Busch Stadium.  It would prove to be a super long drive, but well worth it.

2012 C&S Fan Stats

5/4 Games (Tim/Kellan)
9/8 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins
6 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2
25 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 3, Orioles 1, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1
3 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2
5/4 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
3 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak


A First-Rate Backup Plan (5/5/2012)

After our April 28th game at Camden Yards, our next game was supposed to be the first of the Fifth Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip on May 12th.  The weekend of Cinco de Mayo, we were supposed to head south to Colleen’s sister’s house for our nephew’s first communion.  The plan was for me to leave work early on Friday, May 4 so we could drive south.  But plans changed.  I had to work later than expected.  As it stood, we would have arrived at our destination late.  So Colleen decided to go to her sister’s house alone while I stayed home and tended to the boys.

So…hmm…home all weekend with my boys…hmm…what should we do?

Actually, it took me less time to figure out the plan than it took you to read that last sentence:  we would go see the Mets and Diamondbacks at Citi Field!

I bought some tickets on Stub Hub and we headed out for Queens, NY at around 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 5, 2012.  On our drive, our plans changed again.  Instead of our usual practice of parking on the upper east side and then riding the subway to the park, while Kellan mostly slept and Tim played *fun with meat* with a  beef stick…

…we ended up driving all the way to Citi Field.  It cost…I think…$16.50 to drive across those two bridges on our way, but the freeway dropped us off right behind the scoreboard in CF of Citi Field.

After driving around the stadium the wrong way and then circling back, we parked in the general parking lot and BOOM…

…we had made it to Citi Field!

FYI, I do not normal dress Kellan in the morning.  So I did not realize at the time that I had put him in a teeny-tiny Ichiro shirt.  But, hey, it made him look like a big muscly stud.

We had about 45 minutes until the gates open for non-season ticket holders.  Our plan was to take a ride on the 7-train for kicks.  But we ended up having a lot of fun at the stadium and never hopped the train.

We started out with some pictures at the Shea Stadium homerun apple:

Tim has been working on catching pop flies lately so it was cool to get a picture of him catching one in front of the Big Apple.  It was fun, but not everyone appreciated our good time.  You can’t tell from that last picture, but the flower beds in which the homerun apple sits is elevated a couple feet off of the ground.  The path that runs across the front of the apple runs to the edge of the elevated flower beds so people can hop up and get a picture.  At the end of the path running to the left (on the “Home” side of the apple), a very large and odd lady was sitting on the edge of the flower beds.  She was apparently upset that Kellan wandered into the flowers (I got him out of them within about five seconds) and that Tim was playing with a (dangerous) ball *near* other people.  She didn’t really confront me, but she started muttering loudly so I could hear her displeasure.  I didn’t think we were doing anything wrong, but I took her hint, and we left.

There were hardly any cars in the parking lot right in front of the Jackie Robinson rotunda so I decided we should go play catch in the parking lot.  But on our walk over there, I noticed something awesome:  a nice strip of grass along the edge of the parking lot.

So we took our gloves and baseballs over there…

…and had a heap of fun playing around.

Kellan mainly just ran around jumping and laughing.  Tim and I played catch.  And for extra kicks, we played catch for a while over a forked tree:

Tim and I were hooping and hollering when Tim finally caught a pop fly through the tree, which was really difficult because the ball would get lost in the branches as it went through the tree.  It was a lot of fun.  But then the unthinkable happened!

Tim tossed the ball over the tree to me…

…and it never came down!

Tim somehow threw the ball just perfectly that it landed in the little nook in the tree and stayed there.  I pulled another ball (not a real baseball) out of my backpack and tried to knock the first ball out of the tree.  I hit the first ball several times, but it never fell down.  And, eventually, neither did the second ball!

We lost TWO BASEBALLS in that tree!

Tim was not happyIt caused him a lot of pain walking away from that tree without being able to bring his baseballs.  Those were baseballs we play with a lot in the backyard.  So it is sad to have lost them.

As we walked away from the tree, I said to Tim, “Hey, you should think of this as a good thing.  I mean, how many people can say their baseball is stuck in the tree outside Citi Field?”  “Probably about a thousand,” was Tim’s response.  But I think he overshot it just a bit.  I’m pretty sure our baseballs are the only baseballs stuck in that tree!

With no baseballs left, we decided to hop in line for the last 15 minutes before the gates opened:

Tim and Kellan played around that tree a bunch, and then Kellan ran up to the front of the line so I followed him while Tim held our place in line.  Kellan and I ended up having 5-6 races down the strip of concrete strip, much to the delight of the people in the line.  Several fans ahead of us in line gave Kellan compliments on his Ichiro t-shirt.

Once inside the stadium, we had to stop and get a picture with this pig before heading off to BP:

While putting this blog entry together, Tim had me make his shirt into a Mets t-shirt.

We decided to switch things up at this game.  Every time we’ve been to Citi Field in the past, we’ve headed to LF for BP.  But the Mets are using 50th Anniversary commemorative baseballs this season and they warm up down the RF line.  So that’s where we headed.  Tim had bounced back from the balls-lost-in-the-tree fiasco and was excited for a fun day at the ballpark:

When we reached the field, the Mets pitchers were finished throwing and a bunch of them were running from the foul line to CF and then…

…walking back to the foul line.  That is Bobby Parnell on the far right end.  He kept smiling and waving at Tim and Kellan each time the pitchers returned to the foul line.  He seemed like a really nice and friendly dude.

Once the pitchers finished running, they all dispersed but one stayed right in the RF corner.  It was our buddy from several weeks prior, Tim Byrdak.

The first time someone hit a ball down the RF line to Byrdak, I called out, “Hey, Tim!”

Byrdak turned and tossed Tim a big underhand lob:

That ball actually fell a tiny bit short, tipped off the very end of Tim’s glove and rolled back toward Byrdak.  He tossed it again from about half way out on the green tarp and Tim caught it.  Just then, another ball was hit down the line to Byrdak.

Kellan was standing on the ground next to me and Tim.  Byrdak looked at Kellan and asked, “Do you want one too?”  Then he turned back to Tim and said he would have to catch Kellan’s ball too.

As all of this happened, Byrdak kept getting closer and closer and we were chatting a little bit.  You know, a funny thing happened a couple weeks back after our first game of the season when Byrdak tossed a ball to Tim.  I wrote it up on our blog and, the very next day, I got an email from Tim Byrdak’s agent (Mike Mosa who represents “Only Baseball Players”) mentioning that he read the blog and thought it was great.  He offered to send us some autographed Tim Byrdak cards, and they arrived in the mail about a week later.  I told Byrdak how all of this had happened.  He thought that was pretty cool.

I asked Byrdak if he would sign a ball for Tim.  Tim made sure it was the ball Byrdak had tossed up for him, not the ball for Kellan.  In retrospect, I should have asked him to sign both balls because he ended up giving Tim just about the coolest autograph of all time:

Once he was finished signing the ball, he tossed it back up to Tim and then he tossed the pen, which bounced out of Tim’s glove.  Afterwards, Tim gushed about how he “caught three baseballs and almost caught a pen” from Tim Byrdak.  It was pretty funny.

Super, huge, ridiculous thank yous to Tim Byrdak!

The day was off to a fabulous start.  And it was just gonna keep being awesome.

We hadn’t planned to try to see Byrdak at this game, we just got extremely lucky.   But we did have one major plan.  The Mets were going to be playing the Arizona Diamondbacks and beloved former-Mariner Willie “Ballgame” Bloomquist.  Tim has loved Willie for  awhile now, although he didn’t realize until recently that he is no longer a Mariner, and hasn’t been for a long time.

Anyway, my dad gave Tim a Willie Bloomquist card last year that he has always had in a single card holder.  Tim decided he wanted to try to get Bloomquist to sign the card at this game.  If it worked, it would be the first time Tim had ever gotten a card signed by a player.

After parting ways with Tim Byrdak, we walked around CF and all the way over toward the 3B dugout, or as close as we could get to it without our tickets.  A bunch of Diamondbacks were out playing catch, but Bloomquist was nowhere in sight.

We were stationed in the second row right behind a handicapped seating area that was not accessible to fans unless you had tickets in that area.  The handicapped seating area was right on the field level.  Right in front of us on the other side of the handicapped seating area, Lyle Overbay and John McDonald were playing three-way catch with Paul Goldschmidt.  When finished, Goldschmidt walked over to Overbay.  McDonald had already walked off.  And when Overbay left, Goldschmidt…

…tossed us their warm up baseball and then headed toward the dugout.

Thanks, Paul!

Very soon after this, we spotted Willie Bloomquist in the 3B dugout.  I was intentionally wearing my Bloomquist Mariners t-shirt.  I called out a loud and low “WWWWWWIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLIE!”  When Bloomquist looked our way, I turned around and gave him a double-thumb “check out my shirt” point toward the back of my shirt.  He signaled his approval with a big fist pump.

A few minutes later, Bloomquist walked out toward 3B to warm up.   I called out to him again.  When he looked over, I asked him if he would sign Tim’s card after he finished his warm ups.  He immediately turned and proceeded to walk directly toward us.

As he approached, the usher in charge of keeping the riff-raff out of the handicapped seating area turned to me and asked, “Is this Willie coming over to see you?”  When I responded in the affirmative, she said, “Okay, you guys can all come down here” and she unchained the special area for me, Tim and Kellan.

On his way over, Willie stopped and picked up a baseball.  He then signed the baseball and Tim’s card for Tim.  We chatted a little.  He asked if we were from Seattle and I explained I had lived there for 20+ years and we’re huge Mariners fans.  He asked where I lived in the Seattle area.  I complimented him on his number switch from “16” as a Mariner to “18” as a Diamondback.  I wear “18” myself in softball and did in my former life as a baseball player.  He confessed, “I never liked 16!”

And then we all posed for a picture taken by the usher:

Check out how Willie is actually in the seating area with us, not out of on the field.

It was all incredibly awesome!

Then, after chatting with us, signing for us, giving Tim a baseball, and posing for a picture, Willie headed back out to warm up in LF.  As he left, a thunderous chorus of “WILLIE! WILLIE! WILLIE!” rained down from about 20 people who had gathered around to watch us chat with Willie.  But Willie was gone.  He came to see us and only us.  How cool is that!?

Thank you, Willie Ballgame!

Now Tim likes Willie even more than before!  And he was officially rooting for the D-backs to win this game.

Immediately after Willie left, we all headed up to the concourse.  I was so excited that I left my back pack down in the second row and we had a comeback for it several minutes later when we finally realized it was missing.

Next, it was time to sit down and check out one of Tim’s new prizes:  the Tom Seaver bobblehead that they gave to the first 20 or 30 thousand fans.  Tim loves bobbleheads and he was very excited about this one:

Tim decided we should sit in the last row of section 136 (although, it might have been 137).  This was our view:

Kellan drank some water and ate some snacks, and then spit some snacks into our water (foul!), while Tim surveyed his bobblehead.

After Tim had his fill of looking at his bobblehead and they both had their fill (for the time being) of snacks, the three of us headed down to the first row above the new LF party deck so I could check it out.  This is what it looks like:

I assume we’ll never set foot down there.

We hung out there for a while and watched BP.  Brad Ziegler was right in front of us:

At one point, Kellan and Ziegler looked eyes and Kellan gave him a big “Hi, Mister Baseball Player” wave.  Ziegler cracked a big smile and waved back at Kellan enthusiastically.  When that happened, I was 95% certain that the next ball Ziegler fielded would end up in Kellan’s hands…and it did.  Someone hit a ball to his right.  Ziegler went over and fielded it, and then walked towards us and tossed it to me.  Kellan grabbed it and held it tight like it was his new favorite toy.  And Tim and I yelled out a big,

Thank you!” to Mr. Ziegler.

And then, like Kaiser Soze, *poof* we disappeared.

We were off to the very steep and awkward RF bleachers.  This was our view:

We hung out there for a while and watched former Reading Phillies pitcher and former heckler at one of my beer league softball games, Mike Zagursky, shag balls with a couple teammates.

While in RF, we checked out the new fence lines at Citi Field.  Here is the crazy new set up in RCF:


When BP wrapped up, we headed out to the kids play area in CF.  They have some batting cages, a whiffle ball field, and some video game stations.  Tim switched things up from past games at Citi Field, instead of heading to the whiffle ball field, he tried out the video game station.  It was one of those new baseball games they’re always advertising…maybe the one with the Justin Verlander commercials.  Kellan tried to get into the action with Tim.  But Kellan also did some running around in circles, which eventually resulted in him falling face first on the pavement.  And that sent us to the first aid station for a skinned-knee clean up and bandage:

After the first aid room, we headed to the upper-deck, grabbed some food and headed to our seats in section 420:

We had a great view of the action while the boys chowed down on dogs and fries:

The Diamondbacks (with Tim cheering them on loudly) sent Patrick Corbin to the mound…

…and he sat the Mets (including David Wright) down in order in the first.

The Mets sent their ace, Johan Santana, to the mound:

And while he would eventually earn the win, he lost the battle against Ryan Roberts in the top of the second inning:

That made the score 1-0 Diamondbacks.  Tim was happy!

We were having a nice time watching the game and eating out tasty food.  After he finished eating, Tim decided he was jealous of his little brother for getting to sit on dad’s lap.  So he jump on my right leg.  I had to get a picture as I played the role of easy chair for both boys at once:

Hey, you can’t beat a day at the ballpark with two son’s snuggling up on you lap.

Over Easter weekend, Tim and I, my brother-in-law Kevin and nephew Gill watched the movie “The Big Year.”  If you haven’t seen it, go check out The Big Year.  It’s a very nice (and extremely positive) tale of a group of bird watchers who are in a contest to see who can spot the most birds during the calendar year.

We’ve always been into watching birds in our back yard, but we were never “birders” until we watched The Big Year.  Now, we are officially sub-amateur birders.  Every once in a while Tim spots a bird and tells me, “remember, we’re birders!” and instructs me to take a picture.  So, that’s a long backstory for very little payoff – in the second or third inning, Tim spotted…

…a pigeon!  This little guy was watching the game from the top of the stadium behind home plate.

After watching The Big Year, my father-in-law and brother-in-law told me we should do a “Big Year” in MLB ballparks.  Okay, here we go. We’re now at 1 species!

Around the third inning, we decided to go for a walk.  We ended up walking down toward the LF foul corner, and then we decided to walk down the switch-back walk way, all the way down to ground level.

As we started on our way down, I took this shot of the parking lot:

It was our first time parking here, so I figured I should capture it.  We were parking in the single row of cars between the two red arrows (in fact, I can see our car!).  As the big “X” shows, Shea Stadium used to sit right out there.  The Mets practically built Citi Field right on top of Shea Stadium.

I still very much prefer Shea over Citi Field.

Tim loves switch-back ramps!  After getting his picture with the Citi Field sign on the outside of the stadium…

…Tim ran and bounced down the ramp like an out of control airplane.

We stopped off on the second level…I think it has some silly name like Excelsior Level…and stopped into the Acela Club.  I bought our tickets on stub hub for two reasons: (1) they were the cheapest tickets I found online and (2) they said they came with access to the Acela Club, the Ceasar Club and the Promenade Club.  Unfortunately, if the tickets normal do have that type of access, any tickets that are run through stub hub come out lacking the special designations that normally allow you access to these clubs.  Anyway, we stopped in and I showed our tickets to the lady and asked if we had access.  She said our tickets didn’t say we had access, but she said they never turn people down who want to come in and see the Acela Club.  So we strolled through.

Here is the bar area:

My pictures of the dining area on the same level as the bar turned out all blurry.  But here is the view of the field looking down over several levels of dining tables:

This is a sit down restaurant.  Looks pretty cool, but not of interest to us, excepts as a new spot to walk through and check out what it looks like.

We continued on our way down the switch-back ramp.  I love spots like this where you get a little glimpse of the field:

You know what happens when Tim does something (anything)?  Kellan wants to do it too.  As we continued on our walk down, down, down, Kellan tried to do his own running airplane:

At the bottom of the ramp (we went ALL THE WAY down, below field level), we rode an elevator back up to the field level.  And then we walked over to the SRO area behind the seats and got a glimpse of the action:

It was still 1-0 Diamondbacks as the Mets batted.

We decided to head back out to the play area.  On the way, I got a shot of the new party deck from the opposite angle of our earlier picture:

Those big circles behind the party deck used to be on the old outfield wall.  The Mets apparently need all the help they can get to hit homeruns.

Despite the bloody knee, Kellan was not discouraged.  He ran around like crazy, with no spills this time…

…and Tim played more video game baseball.  In that picture, he is celebrating a homerun.

After leaving the video game area, we grabbed some ice cream helmets (check out the Mets awesome commemorative ice cream hemlets!), and headed to the picnic tables behind the bullpens.

This bullpen picnic area provides a terrible view of the game.  But it cool to check out from time-to-time because you can watch the relievers warm up…

…and from time to time someone will toss you a baseball.

And guess what?  This was one of those times.  Kellan was chattin’ up two bullpen attendant guys and they loved him.  I had no clue it was happening, but one of them headed into the Mets bullpen and came back with something special for Kellan:

Yowzers!  That’s one beautiful baseball.  I’m not sure how our day could be any better – playing catch outside the stadium, Byrdak, Bloomquist, fun times goofing around the stadium, and now a Mets 50th Anniversary commemorative baseball!  This was officially my favorite of the handful of games we have attended at Citi Field.

I should mention that the Mets scored four runs while we were hanging out behind the bullpen.  It was the bottom of the fourth inning.  Mike Nickeas hit a 2-RBI single off of Corbin.  And then Josh Collmenter, who we watched warm up in the bullpen, came in and gave up a 2-RBI single to Andres Torres.

That made the score 4-1 Mets.

The Diamondbacks would get two back on a 2-RBI double by Paul Goldschmidt in the top of the fifth.  That made it 4-3 Mets.  Unfortunately for Tim and the Dbacks, that was all the scoring for the day.  Johan Santana earned the win for the Mets.

Next, we headed to the Mets Hall of Fame.  We’d been there before (well, Kellan hadn’t).  But they had something in there that was pretty cool, and I’m pretty sure it was new — a display of 50 years of Mets team programs:

We actually went to the Mets Hall of Fame because I wanted to get a picture of the boys with the Jackie Robinson “42.”  Of course, Tim didn’t feel like do a normal pose.  So he flopped all around the 42 and Kellan tried his best to emulate his big brother.  This was my favorite of the handful of pictures I got:

Lounging with 42!

My boys are goofy.

Anyway, we decided to head up to the Pepsi Porch.

In the top of the seventh, Santana got Justin Upton (who we were hoping would hit a big fly) to ground out weakly:

We just hung out in a handicapped seating area behind the seats.  The boys alternated between watching the action…

…and just dancing around like the silly boys they are.

It was getting late in the game, and I had designs on trying to a post-game Citi Field umpires ball, which is very difficult because they check tickets at all times, even with 2-outs and 2 strikes on the last batter in the bottom of the ninth.

On our way to the umpires tunnel area, we walked around the upper deck and go this silly picture behind section 420 (where we sat for all of 2-3 innings):

We watched the last inning and a half from the SRO area behind the section above the umpires’ tunnel.  It was a one run game and it got interest in the top of the ninth.  When Lyle Overbay reached first with one out, the Diamondbacks brought in Willie Bloomquist to pinch run…

…and he quickly swiped second.

Way to go, Willie!

But that was all see wrote.  The Dbacks couldn’t tie it up and they lost 4-3.

The second the game ended, we high tailed it down the stairs against the current of people flooding the exits.  But we managed to get through and reach the umpires’ tunnel before Jerry Layne entered the tunnel.  Layne ended up giving out three baseballs directly into little kids’ gloves, and then he just randomly tossed 3-4 more.  And luckily, we snagged one of them.

Although it was unintentional, thanks, Jerry!

Then we headed over to the dugout, and Diamondbacks bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock tossed us a baseball on his way in from the bullpen.

Thanks, Glenn!

After the game, we got a picture by the end of the visitors’ dugout:

This game was official getting ridiculous!  We had 8 baseballs including two commemoratives, plus interactions and autographs with Byrdak and Bloomquist.  It was crazy.

And it wasn’t quite done yet.

On our way out of the seat area, we walked behind the dugout and this guy…

…gave Kellan another baseball!

Thanks, guy!

Aye, aye, aye…this was our second biggest baseball total ever (tying Tim’s fourth MLB anniversary last September):

It was nice having the car right outside the stadium.  But I think this will be our last time driving to Citi Field.  It is more fun to ride the 7-train out from Manhattan.  Plus, it took forever to get out of the city on the roads from Queens.  The game ended around 7:30 and we got home around 11:20.

But a long and slow drive can’t change our mood:  this was a great day.  Tons of fun!

Hooray for baseball!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

4/3 Games (Tim/Kellan)
7/4 Teams – Tim –   Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks; Kellan   – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks
4 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1,   Orioles 1, Mets 2
23 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets   8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 3, Orioles 1, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4
3 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2
4/3 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens   Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field; Kellan – Nationals Park,   Camden Yards, Citi Field
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky   Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
3 Autographs – Willie   Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak


Orioles Win One For Frank Robinson (4/28/2012)

During the week leading up to Saturday, April 28, 2012, we were looking forward to our first game of the season at Camden Yards.  But the weather outlook was sketchy.  Rain seemed to be in the forecast.  And I was going back-and-forth regarding whether Kellan should join me and Tim for this game.  I wanted him to join us, but I feared having to corral him in the rain.  But on Friday, I made the decision:  Kellan would definitely join us.

So let’s do it.

It was our first night game of the season.  After having a nice relaxing day lounging around the house, we hopped in the car where Tim and Kellan kept themselves entertained during the drive south:

When we walked up to the stadium at 4:30 in the afternoon, a huge crowd was already waiting at the gates…

…, which apparently upset Kellan (he wasn’t too interested in getting his picture at the time).

Luckily, when it comes to Camden Yards, we know *people* and those people are permanently first in line…

…and so were we.  In that last picture, along with Tim, Avi Miller and Matt Hersl, that is 1,100+ baseball ballhawk and east coast Oakland A’s fan, Rick Gold.  Rick and I have known each other for a while through and twitter, but this was the first time we had ever met in person.  Despite rooting for the wrong A.L. West team, Rick is a pretty cool guy.

Kellan grabbed a spot on the backpack-checking table and had a great time hanging out with the guys:

The crowd was so big because the Orioles were set to unveil a new Frank Robinson statue at a ceremony at 5:15 p.m.  The ceremonyfeatured Robinson, Hank Aaron, Eddie Murray, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer and others.  As we waited at the gate, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron and his wife zoomed by (inside the gate) on a golf cart.  A few minutes later, Eddie Murray walked by…

…and I took two of the worst possible pictures of him – that last one is the *better* of my two Eddie Murray pictures!  The statue unveiling was part of the Orioles’ celebration of the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards.  (Think, when Camden Yards opened, Fenway Park was a mere 80-year-old spring chicken of a ballpark).

I knew Hank Aaron was going to be at this game, and I really wanted to see him in person.  But I didn’t want to sit through the crowded ceremony.  So we headed into the ballpark for BP once the gates opened.  As usual, we headed for the third base line:

Kellan absolutely loves wearing his glove and trying to catch baseballs around the house.  His hand is so tiny that he cannot close the glove so he relies on the ball just landing in there and not bouncing out.  Early in BP, he made his first ever attempt on a toss-up from a MLB player, Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz (who was wearing a “Brady Anderson” embroidered glove):

That is easily my favorite picture of the season so far.  In our first three games, my camera has been annoying me like nobody’s business.  It is ruining a ton of my pictures and really seems to have it out for me.  But my camera apparently felt the gravity of the situation and it worked perfectly in the crunch and captured that last picture.

Thanks, Camera!

And thank you, too, Brian Matusz!

By the way, the ball bounced off of the side of Kellan’s glove and fell to his feet.  But it was a great moment anyway.

Kellan grabbed his new baseball and held it tight:

Hey, remember that ceremony I mentioned?  During BP, it was taking place in the picnic area behind the bullpens:

We decided to head over there for a little peak.  But it was so crowded we could hardly see the panel of Hall of Famers – and my only picture attempt came out totally unrecognizable because I had to take the photo through trees, flowers, people, etc., etc.

We decided to head off to the restroom.  Normally, cameras are off limits in the restrooms, but I couldn’t help taking this next one because Kellan looked so cute and funny lying on the flip-down baby changing table with is big baseball glove:

He was like, “Hey, let’s get this done so we can get back out there!”

And get back out there we did.

We headed back to the third base line.  Unfortunately, he had taken Kellan’s umbrella stroller into the stadium, which was a terrible idea.  Tim was in charge of rolling it around (empty) and finding places to stash it during BP.  He seemed to like taking charge of this task and he was vehemently opposed to just leaving it out in deep LF while we went back to the third base line.

Anyway…when we returned to the field, the A’s pitchers were playing catch down the line. When he finished playing catch, we thought Jim Miller was going to throw a baseball to Tim.  We were both excited for the third chance in three weeks for Tim to catch a toss-up from a player.  But then Miller decided to walk it over and hand-deposit it into Tim’s glove:

Thanks, Mr. Miller!

Although there was no one in our vicinity blocking the rows of seats, Tim decided to climb back up to our spot in the tenth row (which I figured was out of foul ball range – I didn’t want any baseballs beaning my boys):

It was a long slow climb and during the process Tim dropped his baseball.  It rolled all the way back down to the first row.  I had to run back down and scooped it up for Tim.

Although we weren’t *at* the Frank Robinson ceremony, it was pretty cool being inside the ballpark during the unveiling.  They had lots of nice videos playing on the scoreboards…

…and all of the speakers were broadcast over the PA system.  It was really cool being in the same building and hearing Hank Aaron speaking about his friend Frank Robinson, and then hearing Frank Robinson talk about himself and his teammates.

Tim decided he wanted to scoot out to LF by the bullpens so we could see Avi.  We walked out there, didn’t find Avi, and, almost immediately, it started raining and BP was cancelled.  Out came the tarp:

And off we headed to the Club Level to eat some snacks and avoid the rain:

We were up there a loooooooooooooooooooooooong time.  I’m not sure what time the rain started coming down, but it felt like we were up in the Club Level for about ten hours.  When I finally looked at the clock on my phone, I saw that it was still another whole hour until the game was set to start!  Yikes.  Rain outs during BP make for a whole lotta down time.

After the boys ate a ton of snacks, we walked all over the Club Level and I took a bunch of photos of the various lounge areas.  The Club Level at Camden Yards is not all that fancy, but it’s a good place to duck into and kill some time when it is raining.  Here is what it looks like…



…and this is in a glass case just behind the main entrance to the Club Level:

We eventually ran into Avi and a couple of his friends in one of the little lounge areas.  I sat down and chatted with them while Tim danced and tried to entertain everyone…

…and Kellan ran a million laps around two people sitting in chairs watching TV (one of them is above Kellan in that picture).  Eventually, this resulted in a giant catastrophe – Tim decided to show Avi’s friends how fast he is, so he ran two laps around the chairs in the opposite direction of Kellan and the two collided chest-to-chest on the second lap.  I could see it about to happen in slow motion as the scene unfolded, but I was helpless to stop it.  Tim completely flattened Kellan, who fell back and smacked his head on the floor.  It was a bad scene with lots and lots of crying.

Luckily, after five minutes sobbing uncontrollably on my shoulder, Kellan pulled through and was back to giggling and running around again.

When they did a second ceremony on the field, I snuck outside and snapped a few pictures:

In the upper left, that is Earl Weaver walking the “orange carpet.”  In the bottom right, of course, that is Hammerin’ Hank Aaron.

Hidden under the orange sheet (bottom left), the Orioles presented Frank Robinson with a 2-foot tall replica of his new statue.  Half an hour later, two guys walked by us in the Club Level carrying that little statue (which looked really heavy) to a suite (which I assumed was the owner’s suite) where all of the Hall of Famers watched the game.

All of a sudden, Hall of Famer Jim Palmer walked by and posed for a picture with (grumpy looking) Tim:

Although he has such a wonderful smile, Tim is prone to do these “grumpy” faces in pictures because he thinks it makes him look cool.  He’s a big fan of being cool!  Always has been. Growing up is an interesting process, eh?  He keeps it fun, even if his *cool* / *grumpy* face stands in for his big smile in some pictures.

Anyway, after the photo with grumpy-faced Tim, Jim Palmer handed a “Luis Ayala” embroidered glove to Tim and was like “here, try this on.”  Then Palmer handed Tim a baseball and was like, “here, hold this baseball…but you can’t have it because I have to give it to Frank Robinson.”  I’m pretty sure the glove and baseball were used by Frank Robinson when he threw out the first pitch.

As the game started, it was time for some dinner.  Kellan and I shared nachos…

…and Tim opted for some chicken fingers and fries.

After eating, the three of us headed out to the newly redesigned flag court:

The previous tall, two foot wide padded wall at the front of the flag court is now replaced with a short wrought iron fence.  Just like when Tim was 2-3 years old, Kellan LOVED the flag court and he ran around like crazy all over the flag court and Eutaw Street.

Chasing Kellan in the flag court was too much work for both me and Tim, so we decided to take the long way around the ballpark on our way out to left field.  On our way by RF, I noticed that the Orioles had a “20” painted on the grass in RF:

Of course, Frank Robinson played RF and the Orioles have retired his number 20.

While we were out in the flag court, it was the top of the second inning and the Orioles put up a 5-spot on the strength of six singles (by Adam Jones, Wilson Betemit, Chris Davis, Ronny Paulino, Robert Andino, and Nolan Reimold) and a sacrifice fly by J.J. Hardy.

That made the score 5-0 Orioles.

We never headed up there to check it out, but on our walk around the stadium, I took this photo of the new party deck above the batters’ eye:

And as we neared home plate, the A’s prized offseason acquisition, Yoenis Cespedes, had his turn at the plate:

He came up empty on that hack, and then hit a foul pop out to first base.

When we reached LF, we headed out to see the new Frank Robinson statue in the picnic area (which appears to be open to the public now, or at least it was for this game):

Then we grabbed some empty seats in section 86:

Although it was still drizzling a bit, the boys shared a swirl ice cream helmet:

And then they watched the very light rain fall on us:

Tim grabbed his glove and tried to catch specific drops as he tracked them on their way down to earth.

While we were out in LF, Adam Jones led off the top of the third inning with a single and then scored the Orioles sixth run of the night on a double by Wilson Betemit.  That made it 6-0 Orioles.  Things were looking good for the Orioles on a night dedicated to celebrating Frank Robinson.

Around the fifth inning, we relocated to the cross-aisle behind home plate.  This was our view for a big chunk of the rest of the game:

Tim and I watched for foul balls (and a couple came somewhat close to us) while Kellan relaxed in my arms, never quite falling asleep.

During the seventh inning stretch, the Orioles Bird (as he is prone to do) sat on the ledge of the TV booth behind home plate.  Kellan totally loved it and he repeated “BIRD!” about 800 times.  While the Bird was up there, Kellan’s “BIRDs” were declaratory (i.e., “there is a bird!”).  Then, after the Bird left the ledge, Kellan’s “BIRDs” turned inquisitive in nature (i.e., “where are you, bird?”).  It was pretty cute.

In the seventh inning, Chris Davis blasted a monster homerun to RF:

The homerun cleared the flag court and crashed down on Eutaw Street.  After the game, I heard one of the TV announcers mention that it was the 25th Orioles homerun to land on Eutaw Street…or maybe Davis was the 25th Oriole to hit a homerun out to Eutaw Street, I’m not quite sure.

I missed some scoring, the Davis blast made the score 10-1 Orioles.

We decided to head back up to the Club Level where we had left Kellan’s stroller at the front desk.  We really went up there because Tim wanted to see Avi.  We met up with Avi and watched Bryce Harper’s first at bat of his MLB career…an incredibly weak groundout to the pitcher.

And then we all (including Avi) headed back down to the Cross Aisle behind home plate.  As we approached our spot, someone hit a foul ball to the guy sitting next to the person directly behind/above the spot where we had been standing for several innings.  Had we been there, I might have had a play on it, but it would have required me to make a jumping catch above my head while holding Kellan, which would have been very difficult.  We still could have got it if the ball had bounced down into the Cross Aisle, but the guy took the ball directly to his gut, and it fell harmlessly to his feet for an easy pick up.  He was from Oakland (or at least he was decked out in A’s gear) so it was no doubt a cool moment for the guy.

Anyway, we went back to our same spot.  Over the course of a bunch of innings standing in the Cross Aisle, none of the ushers ever told us to get out of there.  In fact, one of them eventually came and said, “Hey, why don’t you just sit down right here?”  He was concerned that someone else running for a foul ball might fun us over.

So we obliged him:

And each half inning until the game ended, we crept up a little closer to the field:

I took some random action shots…

…but the scoring was done for the night.

We kept moving forward because I wanted to go for an umpire ball.   As we got closer and closer, about 10,000 kids, teens and adults all flocked to the tunnel with the same idea.  I guess everyone wants one of those nice commemorative Camden Yards 20th Anniversary baseballs.

We made it to the very bottom spot and we were the first people there when home plate umpire Eric Cooper left the field of play.  But he completely ignored everyone and gave out zero of those fancy commemorative baseballs.

We had one more idea – get over to the Orioles dugout (which was packed with fans) to see if anyone might toss up a commemorative baseball over there.

No such luck.

But that doesn’t mean there was *no luck* — indeed, there was a lot of luck left hanging in the night air.

As Orioles bullpen catcher Ronnie Deck approached the dugout, I called out, “Hey, Ronnie!” and gave him the obligatory *hit me* glove flap.  He had an equipment bag (which no doubt had a commemorative baseball nestled inside) hanging from his shoulder, but Ronnie just held out his open glove to show us *no baseball*, but then he looked down into his glove and gave himself a little *hmmm, okay* shrug.  He reached into his baseball glove, grabbed his batting gloves and tossed them to us.

The fans in front of us were nice enough not to intercept the gloves, which were clearly intended for us but would have been easy for another couple fans to catch before they reached us, and I caught them in my baseball glove.

Tim was SUPER-EXCITED about these batting gloves.

An usher took a picture of the three of us with our post-game prize:

Avi witnessed the toss-up from Ronnie Deck and  came over to chat with us.  Before we headed out, I took two pictures of Tim and Avi.  Avi decided to smile in the first picture, and Tim decided to smile in the second picture, so let’s take a look at both:

Before we left the stadium, we got one last picture of Tim and his new gloves (no chance he is sharing them with his little bro!):

Note the cool “20” with a spot light on the side of the warehouse behind Tim.  Cool.

When we got to the car, Tim told me not to tell mommy about the gloves.  They were a secret.  When we got off the phone, he asked if he could show her something when he got home.  Something secret.  He slept then entire ride home (as did Kellan).  But at 1:00 a.m., Tim let mommy in on his little secret before hopping into his bed.

So, there you go, a great night of baseball at Camden Yards.  Now we have an off-week and then it’s time for the Fifth Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip.  It is going to be an AWESOME trip this season with stops in Minnesota, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Denver.  Our Mariners/Rockies games in Denver will mark a major milestone for me and Tim:  we will finally have seen all thirty MLB teams play a home game (of course, with the opening of Marlins Park this season, we now have to go back to Miami before we can say we have been to every current MLB stadium – that will happen in September!).

This season’s GFS Roadtrip will also be extra special because it will feature a new and improved lineup:  Jim, Todd, Tim and Kellan!  That’s double the “Sons” and double the fun!

Stay tuned.

2012 C&S Fan Stats

3/2 Games (Tim/Kellan)
6/4 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles
2 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1
14 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets 4, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 2, Orioles 1, Athletics 1
1 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park
3/2 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards
1/0 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones; Kellan – N/A

2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck