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:

Weird!

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

 

3 Comments

What an awesome game! The pictures with Bloomquist are great and so is the picture of Byrdak tossing one up!
~Matt

Very impressive. You guys sure know how to make a game fun and take advantage of all the neat opportunities that come with showing up early to a ball game.

Great game. Are ya’ll coming to Arlington this year?

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