AAA & MLB: Red Sox at Tigers Organization (6/23/2013)

The weekend of July 22-July 23, 2013, we had a big weekend planned with some old friends and the Tigers and Red Sox organizations.  My friend Heather and her kids live in Toledo, Ohio.  We used to work together.  She’d never yet met Kellan and I’d had yet to meet her son, Jasper.  We’d been talking about getting together for a Mud Hens game.  We decided to do it on July 22 because (1) Ryan Rowland-Smith and his Pawtucket Red Sox teammates would be visiting Toledo and (2) it was scout night at the ballpark and we could camp in the outfield after the game.  Leading up to the weekend, Heather ended up scoring four tickets to the Red Sox at Comerica Park for July 23.  So it was an official Red Sox-Tigers AAA-MLB weekend for the Cook boys.

The fun started on Friday, July 21st, with a four hour drive across Pennsylvania to a very nice hotel at the Pittsburgh airport.  Although it was after midnight when we reached the hotel, the boys were excited and ready to wrestle when we reached our room:

Have you ever seen the movie “Elizabethtown”?  If not, you should.  It’s really good.  A simple story with no special effects or crazy plot twists, but some great characters.  Two of the great characters are “Chuck & Cindy” a couple who (along with their huge wedding party) take over the hotel where the main character in the movie is staying while visiting Elizabethtown.  The hotel is always bustling with Chuck & Cindy (“Loving Life!”) mania throughout the movie.

That’s how our hotel was when we arrived just past midnight.  The lobby was loud and crowded.  And when we jumped in the elevator, the “Chuck & Cindy” of the night was waiting inside the elevator to take a right up to their wedding night suite.  The elevator wreaked of alcohol.  And “Chuck” was psyched to see Tim’s Ken Griffey, Jr. backpack.  Griffey was always one of “Chuck’s” very favorite players.  A special player.  We exchanged our well-wishes when we parted way.  Loving Life!

The following morning, Chuck & Cindy mania was still evident at the hotel.  We started out our morning with a little swim:

Around 8:05 a.m., an obvious wedding guest sauntered into the pool area for a refreshing morning swim.  Of course, he still (or already) had a cold bottle of beer in hand.  As we swam, he walked over to a lounge chair and promptly dropped and shattered his beer bottle on the hard tile floor.  When we left around 8:30, he was still cleaning up the mess.  Loving Life!

After swimming, we packed up and hit the road for Toledo.

Around 1:30, hours and hours before game time, we arrived at Fifth Third Field along “Gene Cook Way”:

Interestingly enough, my grandpa’s name was “Jean” Cook.  For some reason, my great-grandfolks spelled his name the traditional female spelling instead of “Gene”  Still, it was good to see “Gene Cook Way” up there on the street sign.

The park wasn’t set to open for hours.  We just stopped by to take a walk around the stadium.  The highlight of our walk-about was seeing these two kid-based statues in the outfield:

We stopped by the team store and got some Mud Hens memorabilia.  And then it was off to Packo’s…

…a restaurant right next to the ballpark that is famous for being mentioned repeatedly by Corporal Klinger in M*A*S*H.  Lemme tell you.  Packo’s was TASTY!  The boys both loved the chili.  If you stop by Toledo, definitely check it out.

While at Packo’s I exchanged a few DMs on Twitter with Ryan Rowland-Smith and told him I would be sporting my “Hyphen” shirt to show my support.  I was excited to see the Big Aussie in person.  The last time I saw him in person was in October 2010 in his last game with the Mariners.

After luck, we drove to the suburbs and stocked up on provisions at Target.  With tons of time to kill still, I punched in “parks” in my GPS and we were soon off to a nearby park to burn off some energy:

The park was great because it had tons of tree coverage so it was really shady.  While at the park, I connected with Heather and we decided to head over to her place to cool off a little bit before heading to the game.

Heather’s kids, Elena and Jasper, had been to some Mud Hens games, but they’d never met a player, got a ball or an autograph before.  I was hoping that they could meet RRS at this game.  And, it could have worked out, but didn’t.

We drove to the game separately from Heather’s house and we arrived first.  We headed into the stadium and I quickly spotted RRS out in RCF:

We headed out to RCF and he ended up coming back to the warning track and chatting with me and the boys for the rest of BP.  While we were chatting, he ended up tossing Tim a baseball and signing a few autographs for us.

Thanks, Ryan!

The unfortunate thing; however, is that Heather and her kids just went and sat in our seats.  So they didn’t meet RRS during BP.  At the end of BP, I told RRS that I was hoping Elena and Jasper could meet him.  He said he’d come out and say hi to us during the game – we were going to be sitting in the front row by the Paw Sox bullpen (oddly, no one sits in the bullpen, it is just for warming up).

After BP, we toured around the ballpark a bit and got some pictures…

…and bought some food.

As game time approached, the grounds crew pulled the tarp out onto the field.

During the rain delay, we hung out by the Mud Hens’ dugout and the kids waved and gave high fives to players and “Muddy” the Mud Hens’ main mascot:

Eventually, it was time for some ice cream:

And then it was time for a scouts parade on the warning track:

Check out our seats:

Pretty nice.

During pre-game throwing and stretching, I got Paw Sox right fielder Justin Henry to toss a baseball to Tim.  Tim passed the ball off to Elena.

And then right when the game started, the skies opened up and down came the rain.  And it rained and rained and rained and rained and rained.

We sat there in it for a long time.  Eventually, we took over in the concourse.  Heather and her kids, who are not big baseball fans like us, eventually called it quits around 9:30.  They’d absorbed enough rain and had to call it a night.  We walked them over to the exit down the LF line, and then we continued walking around the ballpark.  Here is what it looks like in LF:

Great standing room area for trying to catch a game homer.

Kellan ended up falling asleep on my shoulders for a bit, so he wasn’t available when Tim got his picture between Muddy and Muddonna:

The mascots were signing baseball cards.  We got two sets of signed cards so Kellan could have some too.

By this point, the crowd was tiny and it was all pulled back from the field with most people under cover.  We decided to head over to the Paw Sox dugout with the idea of trying to catch a third out ball.

When we walked down to the side of the dugout, we found RRS standing in the camera well looking around in the seats down the line.  He was looking for us and was going to come say hi to Elena and Jasper.

With Elena and Jasper gone, he decided to hang out in the camera well and chat with us for about 2.5 innings:

We chatted about all sorts of stuff.  It was great to catch up with Ryan.

While we were chatting with Ryan, the Paw Sox first baseman, indeed, threw a third out ball to us.  However, Kellan was on my shoulders and it was thrown above my head at a weird angle and it clanked off of my glove and right to the people in front of us.  It was a bummer, but what can you do.

Right after that, Ryan walked away and then came back holding a baseball.  He chatted with us a while more while holding the ball.  Eventually, Tim piped up and asked, “Hey, what are you doing with that baseball?”  Ryan responded, “It’s for you” and he handed it over.  It doesn’t look very funny written, but it was really funny how Tim phrased the question and the inflection in his voice.

Thanks, Ryan!

But, hands down, the funniest quote of our discussion with RRS was from Kellan, and it continued a tradition of my boys saying random, odd things about their birthdays to Ryan.  (Back in 2010 while we were chatting with Ryan in San Diego, Tim suddenly announced to Ryan, “I was born in the winter!”)

The back story here is that a couple days before this trip Colleen and mentioned to Kellan that he was going to be the next person in our family to have his birthday.  Anyway, while we were sitting in the seats chatting with RRS, Kellan all of us sudden called out, “Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!” When he got Ryan’s attention, Kellan announced, “Ryan, my birthday is next noon!”

Not quite accurate, but it was pretty hilarious.

By the way, during this whole conversation with RRS, it was raining constantly.  So he chose to hang out in the camera well in the rain and chat with us instead of sitting under cover in the dugout.  It was pretty cool.

Oh, yeah, that reminds me that we also talked about rain outs.  He couldn’t believe that the game had not been called due to rain.  He described how rainout decisions are made.  It was pretty interesting.  And I was sure the game would be called when the Mud Hens scored two runs to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning.  But, thankfully, it was not.

Eventually, RRS had to get back to his teammates.  It was great catching up with him.

We took a little walk in the concourse.  Guess who we found in the concourse right behind home plate?  This guy:

It was Alfredo Aceves.  For some odd reason, he was acting like he was watching pitches and hitting baseballs with a fake bat.

We ended up sitting right behind the Paw Sox dugout for the end of the game…

…, which the Paw Sox came back to win in ten innings.

Unfortunately, due to the rain, post-game fireworks AND the camp out on the field were cancelled.  Fortunately for us, Heather and contemplated the possibility that our camp out would be rained out before she took off and she offered to house us for the night if it was cancelled.  We were grateful to have nice warm beds for the night.

We had an usher take our photo before heading out of the ballpark and back to Heather’s house:

In the morning, he headed north to Detroit.  The game was scheduled for 1:00 p.m. so we wanted to get there as soon as possible, and I wanted to grab some breakfast at the little diner at the ballpark too.

On our way into Detroit, we stopped to take a look at the site of the old Tiger Stadium:

I’m kicking myself now because I didn’t realize the field is still out there and that we could have tossed a ball around and hit some baseballs out on the Tiger Stadium field.  Oh, well, I guess we have to go back to Detroit again!

We had a tasty pancake and bacon breakfast…

…at Leo’s Coney Island Downtown.

After breakfast, we headed out to get in line for the ballpark to open about 10-15 minutes later.

We got what would have been a great picture with the big tiger…

…had Kellan not been doing that crazy squinty face.

Check out the huge line in front of us:

As I excepted, there was no BP before this day game.  For Tim and me, this was our fourth game at Comerica Park and third game with no BP.  There were no players on the field, but we could see a Red Sox pitcher throwing in the bullpen.  So we headed out there and watched Jon Lester…

…throw a bullpen session.  He was really working.  He had two coaches talking mechanics with him and he was dripping with sweat.

After Lester finished up, all of the Red Sox personnel in the bullpen headed back to the clubhouse.  There was nothing happening on the field and the sun was beating down on us already.  So we headed over to the 1B line.  We hung out in the shade for a long time and the boys played with their water squirters:

When the pitches came out to warm up about half hour before the game, we headed back over to the bullpens to watch:

I was thinking that we were in for a great pitchers’ dual with Buchholz for the Red Sox against Verlander for the Tigers.  I already that Verlander was going to pitch.  Because Detroit is about 9 hours from our house, I was really hoping that Verlander would throw a near perfect game and the game would fly by in less than 3 hours.  Adding Buchholz to the mix, I thought, had the possibility of helping the game go quickly.  But Buchholz was just getting in some throwing.  He was not the starter for the Red Sox, that job went to Felix Doubront.

Before Doubront started throwing in the bullpen, bullpen catcher Dana LeVangie did some work with Red Sox starting catcher Ryan Lavarnway…

…and then he gave one of the three baseballs he was using to Tim.

Thanks, Dana!

With game time fast approaching, we decided to get some ice cream over by the tiger-go-round.  On our way out of the LF seats, we got pictures of all of the statues in the LF concourse, including Ty Cobb…

…, Willie Horton…

…, Hank Greenberg…

…, Charlie Gehringer…

…, Hal Newhouser…

…, and Al Kaline:

Right as the game was starting, the boys were cooling off in the shade eating ice cream:

And then they went crazy on the tiger-go-round:

From the tiger-go-round, the boys wanted to go straight to the ferris wheel.  I decided we should take a detour through the field level cross aisle.  At the time, the bottom of the first had just ended.  The Tigers had a 2-0 lead after two walks, an RBI ground rule double by Miguel Cabrera, and an RBI ground out by Prince Fielder.

Verlander was on the hill…

…and was pitching to Mike Napoli while we walked by on our way to the ferris wheel.  As we passed behind home plate, Napoli lifted a soft liner into shallow LCF for the first Red Sox hit of the day.

As we rode the ferris wheel, Verlander was busy giving back the lead his offense had staked him to in the top of the inning.  Single (Napoli), flyout, walk, RBI single (Lavarnway), HBP (Iglesias), Sac Fly (Ellsbury), and ground out, and it was a 2-2 game after an inning and a half.

It was like no one wanted the lead.  In the bottom of the second, Doubront gave up three hits and then let a run score on a passed ball.

3-2 Tigers after two innings.

Our tickets came with access to the “Tiger Den,” which is a bar/lounge type place near the ferris wheel.  We figured we should check it out and stopped by for lunch:

It was neat to get to see it, but it is definitely nothing to write home about.  On the way out of the Tiger Den after lunch, I took a shot that shows the entrance of the Tiger Den from the inside:

After lunch, we reported to our assigned seats for several innings.  Here was our view of Comerica Park from Section 134, Row 14:

Kellan has been all about taking pictures lately.  He confiscated my camera and took a ton of picts, including these gems:

Each inning, Tim made a valiant effort to get a third out ball…

…, but (despite) absolutely ideal positioning, it was not in the cards at this game.

The heat wasn’t too bad so we were able to enjoy our great view…

…for a while.

I should mention that a few more runs were scored.  In the top of the third, the Red Sox tied it up at 3-3 on a Mike Napoli groundout.  In the top of the fourth, the Red Sox took a 1-run lead on an RBI ground out by Shane Victorino.

Kellan was just chillaxing and watching the game:

I caught a moment during the seventh inning stretch that I thought was pretty funny:

Check out how Paws is grabbing his tail and he stands at attention during the singing of “God Bless America.”

In the bottom of the seventh, the boys were checking out this baseball fountain…

…while the Red Sox were busy giving up their 1-run lead on a bases loaded hit-by-pitch.

We had had enough sun, so we headed over to the shady cross aisle:

In the top of the eighth inning, Daniel Nava pinch hit for Shane Victorino.  In the bottom of the eighth, with the score still tied 4-4, Nava took over in RF for the Red Sox. The first batter in the bottom of the eighth, Avisail Garcia hit a deep fly ball to the warning track in RF.  Nava went back on it and, to me at least, clearly caught the ball.  But the ball shot out of his glove and went behind him and to the fence on the play.  I thought it was clearly an out and “on the transfer” drop.  But 2B umpire Mike DiMuro called it a “no catch” and Garcia sailed safely into second base.  Here’s the video clip so you can be the judge.

Nava ran all the way into the infield to protest.  At the same time, Red Sox manager John Farrell ran out from the dugout to do the same:

The play stood.  Farrell was tossed.  And the Red Sox were in a bit of a jam.

The Red Sox didn’t do themselves any favors when they followed the Garcia at bat with E-1 on a sacrifice bunt.  After a sacrifice fly and a single, the Tigers pulled to a 7-4 lead after eight innings.

Heading into the bottom of the ninth, we relocated here:

In the top of the ninth, Joaquin Benoit gave up a 2-out RBI double to Jonny Gomes.  That brought Stephen Drew to the plate as the potential tying run.  But Benoit got Drew to line out to RF to end the game.

Tigers win 7-5.

On his way to the locker room, home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez gave a beautiful rubbed up baseball to Tim and then another to Kellan.

Double thanks, Alfonso!

Another fan was kind enough to take a picture of the three of us with the boys’ umpire baseballs:

And then we made our way over to the Red Sox dugout.  As the last folks made their way in from the bullpen, Red Sox bullpen catcher, Brian Abraham, tossed Tim a pearly white baseball.

Thanks, Brian!

Remember how I wanted this to be a quick game so we could get on the road?  Well, it was 3:47 minutes log!  Add in some time for post-game festivities (umpire balls and Abraham ball) and this parting shot of Tim outside the ballpark…

…and we did not get on the road until 5:20 p.m. (more than an hour after my goal departure time)!

We picked up some timbits…

…and other goods or the road and got on our way.  It was a long, long drive.  But the boys had an absolute blast.  We do a lot of driving during the season, but I think this was probably their best drive ever.  Tim and Kellan were constantly laughing, goofing off and getting along together from 5:20 until they both fell asleep many hours later.

Around 9:30 p.m., the moon popped up over the horizon.  It was huge and bright orange.  It was very odd and memorable.  We took some really crummy pictures that do not do it justice at all:

Later, I found out that June 23, 2013 was a “supermoon” and the closest the moon would be to the earth in all of 2013, and it wouldn’t be this close again until August of 2014 (check it out here).  That was pretty cool to see on our drive.

The boys conked out hard in the car and I just kept driving and driving and driving.  I talked to Colleen and my Dad for a long time during the drive.  Eventually, I decided to call it a night around 2:00.  We were just an hour from home, but enough was enough.  We got a hotel room for the “night.”

Even at 2:02 a.m., Kellan  was still acting goofy…

…, here, pretending to sleep.  Fortunately, they goofed around a bit but were easy to get back to bed.  We slept a few hours, woke up early and got home around 8 a.m.

Wooooooooooooh!   What a weekend of baseball with my boys!

Fun times!

2013 C&S Fan Stats

14 Games                                                     
17 Teams – Mariners, Royals, Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, Marlins, Pirates, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers, Mets, Brewers
26 Ice Cream Helmets – Phillies (jumbo) 2, Phillies (normal) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees 2, Orioles 4, Nationals 2, Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2, Tigers 6, Mets 2
66 Baseballs – Mariners 6, Royals 4, Phillies 11, Rays 2, Orioles 7, Dodgers 1, Umpires 7, Reds 4,   Nationals 1, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2, Twins 3, Tigers 1, Mets 3, Yankees 2, Brewers 2, Red Sox 6
9 Stadiums – Citizens Bank Park 2, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, PNC   Park, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park, Citi Field
32 Player+ Photos – Oliver Perez, Lucas Luetge, Hisashi Iwakuma, Carter Capps, Daniel Nava, Alex Wilson, Andrew Bailey, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Carp 2, Koji Uehara, Will Middlebrooks, Joel Hanrahan, Jonny Gomes, Alfredo Aceves, Clayton Mortensen, Rick Anderson, Tom Gorzelanny, Joe Savery, Jonathan Pettibone, Carlos Ruiz, Charlie Manuel, Justin DeFratus, Ryan Howard, Ben Revere, Larry Anderson, Gary “Sarge” Matthews Sr., Kyle Kendrick, Ryne “HOF 2005” Sandberg, Michael Stutes, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan   Rowland-Smith*
9 Autograph – Hisashi Iwakuma 2 (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan, Jesus Tiamo, Mike Carp 2, Ryan Rowland-Smith* 2

* Normally, we don’t include minor league stuff in our “fan stats.”  But, heck, this is Cook & Son Hall of Famer, Ryan Rowland-Smith.  And by the end of the season, RRS is gonna be back in the Bigs!  (Or at least he should be!)

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