Let’s Get Back to Baseball (4/6/13)

Baseball season is back! It is an exciting time of year. It’s slowly but surely getting warmer in Pennsylvania. Tim is now playing coach pitch baseball in our local Little League. We’re playing a lot of baseball in the backyard. And, on April 6, 2013, Tim, Kellan and I hit up our first Major League Baseball game of the young 2013 season.

The whole day was good. Even having to pack all of our stuff into the car and drive…

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…more than an hour to the game was great fun. We listed to music, most notably “Orion” by Metallica, which remind Tim of the constellation, Orion’s Belt, that his Grandma pointed out to him a year or so ago. We love listening to music in the car.

Tim and I played several of our standard car games too. You know, classic Cook Family car games like (i) the alphabet game (we go through the entire alphabet and each of us has to point out something starting with each letter of the alphabet), (ii) the number game (Tim calls out a number and then we have to spot it somewhere), and (iii) the turkey vulture game (see who can spot the most turkey vultures. We also played a new game that time made up, the rhyming game (it involved rhyming, if you can image that).

As you might have noticed from the picture above, our destination was Philadelphia. We arrived plenty early and had some fun hanging out at the LF gate:

2-fun-at-the-gate-baseball-statues

Early season games are a little crazy for us because I end up brining about 10 changes of clothes – so we won’t get stuck in the wrong kind of weather. We had so much stuff for this game that my HUGE backpack couldn’t’ handle it all. So for the first time ever, Tim was in charge of his own stuff. As the workers prepared to let the fans into the ballpark…

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…, Tim and I prepared our backpacks for their first security frisking of the season.

And then we headed for the LF corner, which was cold and shady:

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We were in LF for until about 5 minutes before the Phillies opened the rest of the stadium, and almost nothing was going on. The Phils were hitting, a little. There might have been 2-3 homers hit to LF. Kyle Kendrick was running back-and-forth across the outfield warning track with a stop watch. In by the 3B dugout, two Royals (or Royals coaches) played catch with a football (pictured above with yellow arrow).

Finally, I made the call that it was time to head toward RF. We all jumped into the second row and took no more than two steps when a Phillies batter laced a ball down into the LF corner. Kellan was already up on my shoulders for the walk to RF. I told Tim to hold on. Kellan and I popped back over the row of seats to the front row, and Erik Kratz tossed us our first baseball of the season. (pictured above with other yellow arrow).

Thanks, Erik!

We headed over to RF with a few minutes to spare before the seats were opened to the fans. We had just enough time to buy a big bottle of water. And then we headed down to the tip of the pizza wedge. We staked out some prime real estate in section 101.

Within a few minutes, a Phillies batter lunched a towering fly ball right at us. I didn’t have to move my feet at all. But I didn’t think it would carry far enough. I leaned forward to try to backhand the ball over the fence, but then it carried a bit further than I expected. I ended up making the UGLIEST chest high, backhanded, two handed catch of all time. When it was all said and done, but ball was right on my palm and about 80% of the ball was hanging outside of my glove. But I caught it.

Down below us, Raul Valdes was walking from CF to the warning track below us to grab a ball that rolled to a stop out there. He watched me catch the ball and then he picked up the other ball and tossed it up to Tim. Tim made a great sure-handed catch with his trusty glove.

Thanks, Raul!

I handed the homerun ball to Kellan and the boys posed with their prizes:

5-first-pizza-wedge-of-2013

Then we started about the most peaceful 45 minutes or so of all time. The sun was shining and it was nice and warm. There were tons of fans in LF, but RF was still fairly quiet. We just sat and relaxed and the Phils chatted to each other below…

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…and Cliff Lee ran back-and-forth from the RF foul line to CF.

I got two awesome pictures of Kellan just chilling:

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We watched some groundskeepers water the bullpen (including watering the bottom mound from the top bullpen)…

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…and Tim made funny shadows in the bullpen grass.

The Royals pitchers started throwing down the LF line while the Phillies were wrapping up BP. By the time the Phillies retreated from the field…

9-bro-long-toss

…the Royals were playing long toss. Ah, baseball stuff. Gotta love long toss, right?

That Phillies player running off the field in the last photo was Antonio Bastardo. I took his picture because he had just made me laugh. As he started to clear the field, he grabbed one last baseball from the warning track and threw it to a kid (maybe 13-14 year old) about 15-20 seats down from us. He hit the guy right in the chest. The ball rattled around in the kid’s glove, but then fell to the ground in the first row. Bastardo saw the kid botch the easy catch and said loudly, but to himself, “Come on, bro!” with a sound a legitimate disappointment and then he sprinted to the dugout.

Royals BP was a lot of fun. They hit very few homeruns, and nothing remotely near us. But the stadium just had a great, relaxed, first-weekend-of-the-new-baseball-season vibe.

The only down point was that some random kid jumped over the second row of seats and stood right between Tim and Kellan for a while:

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It was very odd because the rest of the front row in section 101 was wide open.

Jeremy Guthrie was out in RF having fun with some teammate…

11-royals-chilling-in-phila

…and another big group of guys were socializing in CF.

A Royals coach who was wearing a catchers’ glove (pictured above standing behind Guthrie) ran out to CF to grab a few stray balls and he tossed on of them to us.

Thanks, Coach!

When we said hi, Guthrie gave the boys and I a big wave, smile and “Hi!” A little while later, he came over and tossed a ball up to us.

Thanks, Jeremy! Good luck this season!

Eventually, our buddy, Tang, from Kansas City wandered by and joined us in the pizza wedge. Kellan had asked to sit on my lap for a while, so I had Tang take out picture:

12-daddy-and-kellan-phils-royals

Toward the end of BP, Luke Hochevar tried to throw a baseball to Tim, but he threw it too high and it sailed right over Tim. Kellan and I were eating some snacks and I had a hand full of food. I helplessly tried to slap the ball down as it sailed past Tim, but it was a lost cause.

We shrugged it off and moved on with life. But Hochevar wasn’t satisfied. He called over to a teammate in straightaway RF who had just fielded a ball. Hochevar gave his teammate the universal throw-me-that-baseball glove flap. The teammate tossed it over and Hochevar made a perfect second throw to Tim. And Tim squeezed it into this glove with no problem.

Double thanks, Luke!

And that was all for BP.

I asked Tang if he would help us out with a photo we needed for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt. He kindly agreed. We decided to trudge all the way up to the upper deck for the photo. On the way, we witnessed a tragic and fatal fire far off in the distance.

13-bad-fire-in-phila

Up in the upper deck, we Tim and Kellan got their picture with Tang (another MBG.com member) with every drink holder in the row filled with a baseball:

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Thanks, Tang!

While I was taking the picture, an usher offered to take one of all of us. We happily took him up on his offer and he did a first rate job:

15-cooks-tang-citz-sec-301

Then we went over to the tip of the upper deck version of the pizza wedge and looked down at the odd angles of Citizens Bank Park:

16-upper-deck-pizza-wedge

Pretty cool.

Then, at Tim’s request, we headed up to the last row of the upper deck and I got a picture looking over the back of the seats down to the “Games of Baseball” and Bull’s BBQ area:

17-birds-eye-view-games-of-baseball

Once we made it back down to the field level, Tang split off from us and we headed over so the kids could play the running game:

18-running-game-phils-royals

The boys played the running game a few times and the quiz game a couple times. And then it was time for the game to start.

We headed over to section 112 where it looked like this:

19-citz-sec112-panorama

Check out Tim’s *pro* SRO form:

20-tim-lounging-SRO

And here was the first pitch of our 2013 baseball season:

21-first-pitch-phils-royals

John Lannan to Alex Gordon for Ball 1. Eventually, Gordon would go down on strikes.

Then we headed to the kids’ play area:

22-kids-playarea-phils-royals

Quite oddly (note, this was only the second home game of the season for the Phillies), the TV in the play area was not working. So I had no clue whatsoever what was happening in the game as the boys played for a while. Eventually, I would find out that *nothing* was happening.

While in the play area, I reorganized all of our stuff and came to a horrifying realization: we had lost Kellan’s glove! When I realized this I rounded up the boys and we began retracing our tracks.

Eventually, I figured that maybe we left it down in section 101 during BP. As we approached the top of section 101, I started to ask the two ushers if anyone had found a kid’s glove. But before the words could come put, I saw Kellan’s glove tucked into some a bag (or something) hanging on the fence railing at the top of section 101.

That was a big relief!

We decided to celebrate with ice cream. Tim convinced me that the old switcheroo (desert before dinner) was in order. It made complete sense. We would eat ice cream before it got too cold, then we’d eat a warm dinner later.

Even though it as only the second home game of the season, there were tons of empty seats in the upper deck. So we decided that we would get our ice cream down the 3B line (our normal spot0 and then head upstairs to eat it.

On our way to the ice cream place, we noticed that the “Schmitter” stand moved during the offseason and a Federal Donuts is now in the old Schmitter spot:

23-schmidter-moved

But, nevermind, we had more important things to think about: Ice Cream.

We were greeted at our standard ice cream spot, by our standard ice cream lady with a very non-standard ice cream option. Behold, the beautiful and wonderful new $9 jumbo Phillies cookie sundae ice cream helmet:

24-new-big-phils-ich

That guy consists of two huge cookies, a healthy (or unhealthy?) heaping helping of hand-dipped chocolate ice cream (no soft serve here), caramel sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles!!!

While this monster of a sundae is more expensive than a standard ice cream helmet, it is big enough that we only needed one to share between the three of us. And just check out that beautiful two-tone helmet!

I smashed out tray and folded it in half and it made a perfect table for the boys to share the sundae:

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And check out our beautiful view from the very back row of section 433:

26-citz-sec433-panorama

I always love it when you can look down on the top of the foul pole:

27-bullpen-top-of-foul-pole

And Tim always loves it when there are huge chunks of cookies in his ice cream!

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Seriously, after Tim’s very first bite of this sundae, he proclaimed (almost involuntarily), “THIS IS AWESOME!”

After the ice cream, it was about the 4-5 inning, the score was still 0-0, and the boys were officially freezing from the ice cream. They threw on their winter jackets…

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…and we headed off in search of that warm dinner. As we walked around toward RF, the Royals scored two runs and the Phils scored 1. I was on the phone with my wife, we couldn’t see the field, and we had no idea that anything had happened. I literally started to tell Colleen that the score was still 0-0 when I looked up and saw the score and was like, “Whaaaaaaatt? Huh?”

I still have no clue how those runs were even scored.

After scrapping the initial plan of nachos, and the second plan of pizza, Tim settled on…

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…hot dogs! We went up to the walkway way out in CF to eat. Unfortunately, it was pretty windy out there and the SRO counter was too tall for Tim. We ate sitting on the ground. Eventually, Tim spilled most of his food on the floor. Ooops.

We went to the team store to warm up a bit…

31-warming-up-in-team-store-phils-royals

…and the Royals scored again (on back-to-back doubles by Francoeur and Miggy Tejada). I figured that at some point this season, we’d finally see some scoring in person. I was right.

We decided to go meet up with Tang in section 132. Until the inning break, we watched the game from the SRO area behind section 131:

32-SRO-phils-royals

Each half inning in the 8 and 9, we keep working our way closer to the home plate end of the visitors dugout.

During a momentary break in the action, I got this random photo of Frenchy chatting up the home plate up, Jeff Kellogg:

33-frenchy-chats-up-ump

Maybe that’s not very exciting, but I liked it and thought I’d share it.

Here was our view in the top of the ninth with the Royals up 3-1:

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I should note that the fans started racing for the gates when it hit the ninth inning. It was a little sad. Such a short time ago the Phillies fans believed the Phils could win every game. Now they are giving up and heading for the doors when down by only 2 runs in only the second home game of the year!

Well, guess what? Those fans missed out. Because after Eric Hosmer made the last out of the top of the ninth…

35-royals-blow-it-phils-walkoff

…, the Royals’ closer, Greg Holland, walked three Phillies (Utley, Howard and Michael Young) in a row to start the bottom of the ninth. Holland then struck out Dominic Brown and John Mayberry, in pretty embarrassing fashion too.

It all came down to pinch hitter Kevin Frandsen. On Holland’s first pitch, Frandsen laced a ball into the RF gap. Everyone was already on their feet, including us, and a distressed Tang who wanted his Royals to pull out the victory. On contact I announced (to myself), “Well, we have a tie game.”

But somehow the ball rattled around in RF or the outfielders were sluggish and Michael Young motored around all the way from first base for the walk off win.

What fans were still in attendance were going B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

After the game, we all tried to make it down near the umpires’ tunnel, but there was just too much celebrating to get through the crowd down there. The four of us (Tang included) settled into a spot just above the dugout where the players head down the steps into the clubhouse.

The Royals high tailed it out of there. Eventually, a bat boy stuck his head out and started throwing about 7-8 balls into the crowd, including one to us and one to Tang.

Thanks, Batboy!

I had Tang take one last wintry looking picture of us above the dugout:

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Then, right as we started to leave, another baseball started rolling across the top of the dugout. A loud and crazy adult fan grabbed and handed it to Tim. I suggested we give it away to another kid, but Tim wanted to save it for autographs…so we did.

We said our goodbyes with Tang, and headed to our car. Minutes later, the boys were out like a light.  Sweet dreams, boys!

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And then, as I traditionally do, I called and chatted with my mom on the drive home.

It was a nice day of baseball, and it was great to be back at the ballpark again after a long winter.

BONUS PICTURE:

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NOTE: This is the fan ball from the end of the game. It is very suspicious to me. It is obviously game rubbed up. It also has two big reddish smudges on it, which to me clearly means it was used in the game. It might be a ball that was fouled straight back against the net. However, those are usually rolled over to the MLB authenticators on the 1B side dugout, I believe. One other theory has bounced around in my brain: it could be the ball that Frandsen hit to win the game, which the game tape shows ended up with the Royals catcher, Salvador Perez, and entered the Royals dugout. Unfortunately, we’ll never know for sure.

2013 C&S Fan Stats

1 Game

2 Teams – Royals, Phillies

1 Ice Cream Helmet – Phillies (jumbo)

7 Baseballs – Royals 4, Phillies 3

1 Stadium – Citizens Bank Park

3 Comments

One of the guys throwing the football is 3B Mike Moustakas. It’s his daily pre-game ritual! Go Royals!

That Jumbo Ice Cream helmet is awesome! I’m kind of disappointed, as the A’s made some changes to the food stands along the concourse and my beloved ice cream helmet place is gone! I don’t know if they don’t have ice cream helmets anymore, or if they just moved them, but I can defiantly tell you that it was disappointing to see that! Looks like you guys had a great day at the ballpark!
-Nick
http://nbbaseball.wordpress.com/

Wow! You know it’s baseball season when the Cook and Son Bats Blog is back and at it! I’m not sure there is a person who loves your posts more than me! I haven’t even gotten to me Opening Day post yet because of troubles with uploading the photos. It’s great that the season is finally here for both baseball and blogging about it.

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