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Memorial Day: Phillies Rock Rockies (5/26/2014)

On May 26, 2014 – Memorial Day, Tim, Kellan and I headed down to Philadelphia for our second Phillies game of the season. The visiting team this time was the Colorado Rockies.

As usual, we headed down plenty early and were first in line at Citizens Bank Park…

…and, unlike usual, Kellan past time playing with a sticker book while Tim played with a happy meal pokemon toy.

Tim pulled out his camera to document the grand occasion:

It was dollar hot dog night!

Since it was Monday, the LF seats opened before the rest of the stadium, which made it feel like a pre-2014 Saturday game. So, we started out by heading to the LF foul corner. Things out there were pretty slow. The highlight of the first portion of BP was Kellan showing us that he can sit in two seats at once:

Eventually, a Rockies bullpen catcher-type guy came out to the RF line and set a bunch of baseballs on the foul line. When the Rockies’ pitchers came out to throw, Rex Brothers was one of the closest guys to us and I noticed that he picked out a commemorative baseball from the pile of baseballs:

After zooming in with my camera, I knew it was the 20th anniversary baseball that the Rockies used in 2013. We never got one in 2013 and we made it out goal to get Rex to throw us that baseball.

But just as the Rockies’ pitchers were starting to wrap up, Phillies’ usher Bernie walked over and gave a baseball to Kellan.

Thanks, Bernie!

And then very quickly after our visit from Bernie, Brothers wrapped up his throwing and started walking away from the LF corner. I hollered, “Rex!” And he turned around and fired warn but beautiful Rockies 20th Anniversary baseball to Tim.

Thanks, Rex!

When the rest of the stadium opened up, Matt Belisle was hanging out in RCF…

…and Drew Stubbs was in straight away center.

We needed to fill up our water bottle to tide us over for the rest of BP. Just as RF was about to open, Kellan and I started filling our bottle at the water fountain in the middle of Ashburn Alley. I told Tim to run ahead to the pizza wedge, which I could see from the water fountain.

As Kellan, our full water bottle and I approached the pizza wedge, someone hit a homerun into the CF end of the bullpens. It hit off of the stairs and bounced back onto the field where Stubbs fielded it and tossed it to Tim in the pizza wedge.

Thanks Drew!

Oh, by the way, an interesting side note: The Rockies hit five homeruns into the bullpens during BP. This ball from Drew Stubbs was the first Rockies homerun into the bullpen. Pay attention below to see what happened to the other four.

After a good chuck of BP passed us by, 3-4 baseballs came to rest on the RCF warning track. Matt Belisle came back and grabbed one of them and tossed it to Kellan…

…and then he grabbed another and tossed it to Tim.

Double thanks, Matt!

Jordan Lyles was hanging out shagging balls in LCF for most of BP. At some point, a ball got hit against the tall LCF wall, which always makes the ball deflect in the direction of the pizza wedge. When Lyles came over to field it…

…we called out to him and he made a fairly long toss to Tim. Unfortunately, the ball sailed high over Tim so I had to catch it for him. Sorry, buddy.

Thanks, Jordan!

So the second Rockies BP bullpen homerun landed toward the back of the Phillies’ bullpen grass, near the bench, and pretty much right behind us. The third Rockies BP bullpen homerun hit the back all of the Phillies’ bullpen and ricocheted back and came to rest just below the seats next to the front wall of the bullpen. Eventually, Erik Jabs from Pittsburgh came over and tried to glove trick that baseball:

See in the background how there are three ushers at the top of the stairs and two of them are watching Erik? Well, they let him try to get that ball for a couple minutes. But the grass was long and Erik couldn’t get it to stick in his glove. Eventually, the front usher (the one lowest on the stairs) hollered over and told Erik that he couldn’t use his glove trick.

So, the ball just stayed there nestled in the grass.

Typically, balls that go into the Phillies bullpen (the lower bullpen) will sit there until BP ends and Jesus Tiamo and (this year) Bob Stumpo come out for pre-game pitcher warm ups. However, on this day, something odd happened when Juan Nicasco wondered out to the bullpens. He had an empty bottle of water. He wandered over to the Phillies’ bullpen bench and filled his bottle from the powerade jug.

When he turned around, we pointed out that second Rockies bullpen homerun that was sitting on the ground not five feet from him. Nicasio grabbed it and accurately underhanded it to Tim with his non-throwing hand:

Thanks, Juan!

Meanwhile, someone blasted a homerun deep over our heads. It landed at the back of the Phillies’ bullpen on the cement, bounced hard off of the Phillies’ bullpen bathroom door, into the bullpen (who knows what it did in there), and then it came rolling out and came to rest against some random bullpen groundskeeper equipment…

…where it sat for the rest of BP.

Shortly thereafter, someone blasted the fifth and final Rockies’ homerun into the Phillies bullpen. Ths one also made it to the cement at the back of the bullpen. It then bounced hard against the back wall of the bullpen, took a hard right turn and bounced against the side wall of the bullpen (the wall separating the bench from the groundskeeper/refrigerator/bathroom section of the bullpen), and then bounced hard on a downward/diagonal trajectory (still flying pretty quickly) and went into Jesus Tiamo’s equipment bag! The bag (a big red duffle) can be seen sitting on the bench just behind Nicasio in the photo above).

So there you go, all five Rockies’ homers had been hit into the bullpen. Two had been tossed to Tim and the other three were still sitting in the bullpen, with one resting comfortably in Jesus’s equipment bag. And then BP ended.

All of this action had Kellan’s bunny – who joined us for his first game – quite excited:

As I mentioned above, Jesus Tiamo and Bob Stumpo were the first guys to head out to the bullpen. We don’t really know Stumpo, this is only the second game we’d seen him at. Our plan was to point out the third BP homerun (the one Erik Jabs tried to glove trick) to Jesus and see if he’d toss it up. But Jesus was slow getting into the bullpen. Stumpo trudged ahead. The pizza wedge was essentially empty except for the three of us at the tip of the wedge. Upon entering the bullpen, Stumpo walked straight to that third Rockies homerun, grabbed it and walked back to us so he could toss it to me for Kellan.

Thanks, Bob!

Next, Tiamo entered the bullpen and I pointed out the fourth Rockies’ homerun – the bathroom ball! Jesus grabbed it and tossed it to Kellan who caught it himself!

But wait, look, Tim is catching a ball in that picture too! After Kellan caught the ball, Tim told Jesus that another homerun was hit into his bag. Jesus laughed, thinking that Tim was joking with him and just trying to get another ball tossed his way. After Jesus laughed it off, I chimed in, “No, he’s not kidding. Someone hit a homerun that ricocheted around and landed inside your bag!”

Jesus walked over and found the ball right at the opening of his bag. He held it up with a “WOW!” expression on his face, and then he tossed it to Tim.

Double thanks, Jesus!

So, there you go, the Rockies hit five homeruns into the bullpens and all five were tossed to us. Pretty cool, eh?

Next, we headed to the Games of Baseball so the boys could do some playing:

As the game was getting ready to start, we decided to get some food and head up to our seats. On the walk over, we stopped to get pictures of the boys tagging out Richie Ashburn:

We headed up to our seats in the last row of Section 430…

…where we watched some baseball…

…ate some dollar hot dogs (Tim tried, but failed, to eat two)…

…and did some birding:

Kyle Kendrick was on the hill for the Phillies…

…and Tm was positive (but incorrect) that his hot dog wrapper, which blew away in a big gust of wind, was playing CF with Ben Revere:

Kellan enjoyed the little “standing room” area next to our seats:

It’s pretty odd to see Justin Morneau not wearing a Twins uniform:

After eating, we decided to walk across the upper deck and over to the kids’ play area. Along the way, I snapped some pictures. Like this panorama:

And this shot of Jimmy Rollins:

And this panorama…

…, which was taken from the same spot but is not as cute as this picture of Kellan watching the game from the stairs:

We stopped by to see All-Star Mickey:

And we snapped this panorama from the concourse behind section 312…

…and this shot of Ryan Howard…

…before scurrying down the switch back ramp to the kids’ play area.

When we got to the play area, I had an idea I’d never had before. I asked Tim to take his camera into the kids’ play area. Here is a unique photo he clicked in there:

And, here is a fairly odd and very unique video tour he took – click here ().

After the kids’ play area, we decided to get some ice cream and head back up to the upper deck. This time, we walked the lower concourse. Along the way, we ran into the Hatfield Pig, who was there to encourage the fans to eat some hot dogs. Kellan gave him a monster high five that almost made the pig crash to the ground:

Actually, as you may have guessed, that was a fake reaction by the pig. But Kellan LOVED it. Ever since, he has been saying “see if this makes you fall down” and then high fiving me as hard as he can. If I don’t fall down, he just mega-high fives me until I do.

We stopped behind section 12…

…to watch Chase Utley’s at bat leading off the bottom of the sixth inning:

Utley singled to RF on that pitch. If you look closely on the far right of that picture above, you’ll see the ball on its way to RF.

I guess I should mention that the score was 2-0 when Utley came to bat in the sixth. Ryan Howard followed Utley with a 2-run homerun to make it 4-0 Phils.

At the top of the switch-back ramp in the LF foul corner, I took this photo of the parking lot (can you see our car?) and the Philadelphia skyline:

And then we found some ice cream (I made the boys share a small ice cream helmet because Kellan was already too hyper…he didn’t need a full helmet at that point!), and we pulled up some seats here…

…in section 329…

…, where Kellan proceeded to use that straw in his hand to blow bubbles in the ice cream helmet, which of course, caused little drops of chocolate ice cream to fly everywhere. Oh, my boys…

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Chase Utley came to the plate again:

And on that swing (the ball is long gone from the frame so you’ll have to take my word for it), Utley smacked an RBI double to RF off of our pre-game buddy, Rex Brothers. That hit sent Jimmy Rollins to 3B and made the score 5-0 Phils.

Ryan Howard followed with a single to LF. Jimmy Rollins scored easily on the hit, he jogged home slowly. Meanwhile, Chase Utley turned on his afterburners and flew like a low-flying missile around 3B and slid across the plate with a pop-up slide just as Rollins looked back over his shoulder to check on what was happening behind him. It was one impressive run by Utley. And it made the score 7-0 Phillies.

A couple batters later, John Mayberry launched a homerun to LF…

…, which made the score 9-0. That would hold up to be the final score of the game.

In the ninth inning, we headed downstairs and found some seats behind the 3B dugout. Bunny loved the seats:

Justin DeFratus retired the Rockies 1-2-3…

…in the ninth to end the game. An impressive Phillies win.

After the game, home plate umpire Jim Wolf chatted with someone he knew at the top of the entrance to the umpires’ tunnel. When he finished chatting with the guy, he turned and tossed a ball to us and then immediately ducked down into the tunnel and out of sight.

Thanks, Jim!

All around, it was a great day. We had a nice usher take our picture:

On our walk out of the ballpark, we were stopped by a Phillies usher who was excited to see our Mariners jerseys.  She’s actually seen us there before and was excited then too.  She asked me whose name was on the back of my jersey.  Jason Phillips!  She didn’t have much of a reaction.  Then she asked Tim who was wearing an Ichiro jersey.  She exploded with joy.  She LOVES Ichiro.  She told us her story of working at the 1996 Olympics and seeing him up close…in fact, he hit a foul ball *off of her*.  She couldn’t catch it because she was holding bottles of water she was supposed to give the umpires between innings.  The funniest thing about the whole encounter — to me, at least — is that it was the “sleeping usher” from our non-game with the Tishlers on September 8, 2012.

And then we hit the road homeward.

2014 Fan Stats
8 Games
11 Teams (Blue Jays, Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Orioles, Royals, Pirates, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Rockies)
5 Stadiums (Stade Olympique, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Camden Yards, PNC Park)
63 Baseballs (9 Mets, 2* Expos, 11 Phillies, 6 Marlins, 2 Mets, 3 Braves, 7 Umpires, 6 Orioles, 2 Royals, 4 Cardinals, 1 Pirates, 4 Diamondbacks, 6 Rockies)* Olympic Stadium Staff
7 Commemoratives (2013 WBC 1, Angels 50th 2, Dodger Stadium 50th 1, 2011 All-Star, 2012 All-Star, Orioles 60th Anniversary, Rockies 20th Anniversary)
8 Ice Cream Helmets (2 Phillies, 2 Orioles, 2 Pirates, 2 Mets)
 

 

No Sleep Till Brooklyn & Queens (5/24/2014)

May 24, 2014 was a fun day that I had been looking forward to for a while for both baseball and non-baseball reasons. On the baseball front, we were going to see the Mets host the Diamondbacks. I bought the tickets in April when our buddy and former Mariner Ryan Rowland-Smith was in the Diamondbacks pen. But before this series arrived, Ryan was designate for assignment and was pitching in AAA in Buffalo, NY when this weekend rolled around.

That was a bummer. And it made me not really want to go to this game…I would have preferred another game at a different park.

But…the non-baseball reason still had me excited to go to NYC.

The game was scheduled for a 4:10 start. But we packed up the car…

…and were on the road…

…to NYC by 7:30 a.m.

Did you catch those two clues? You see, my boys, baseball and the Mariners…

…aren’t my only interests. I’ve always been very much “into” music. And from the fifth grade and the release of the classic album “Licensed to Ill,” I have been a big fan of the Beastie Boys.

Truth be told, I was a much bigger Beasties fan when I was younger (I prefer harder music these days and am not really into rap anymore). But from fifth grade through college, I listened to the Beastie Boys a ton. In fact, during my sophomore year in college, I hosted an hour long radio show each Monday night called “Beastie Revolution” that featured all Beasties all the time.

Now, you see, Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys died of cancer in 2012. In May 2013, a park in Brooklyn was renamed for him (“Adam Yauch Park”). Since then, I have wanted to visit Adam Yauch Park. And since this past offseason, I have had a very specific idea for our eventual visit to Adam Yauch Park: to remake the cover of the Beastie Boys’ classic album, “Check Your Head.”

So that was the major plan for the morning.

But I decided to make Beasties morning of it. So, on the way to Brooklyn, we had to stop by the corner of Rivington & Ludlow in downtown Manhattan (not Brooklyn) to visit the site of Paul’s Boutique:

The Paul’s Boutique building looks nothing like it used to on the cover of the Beasties’ sophomore album (pictured above to the right). However, if you open up the album cover and unfold the panorama, the intersection is still recognizable due to a few unique features – such as the building diagonal across the intersection and the “Talmud Torah” arched sign above the building two down from Paul’s Boutique.

I did my best to recreate the panorama of the intersection. Here you go:

 

By the way, I should mention, as we first approached the intersection, I pulled out my Paul’s Boutique CD and held up the booklet inside trying to see if I could match it to the corner. Right then, a random guy walked past us and stopped for a beat, pointed at Paul’s Boutique, and said, “It was right there on that corner,” and then he just kept walking. I thought that was pretty cool.

This was a quick stop. We had bigger plans for the morning.

We hopped back in our car, turned off “Check Your Head,” turned on “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and headed toward the Brooklyn Bridge.

Now, this might seem odd (or maybe not), but this was the first time I’d ever driven over the Brooklyn Bridge. Every other time I’ve been to Brooklyn, I’ve taken a subway there. Also, this might have been Tim’s (and definitely Kellan’s ) first trip to Brooklyn. Anyway, I found the Brooklyn Bridge to be pretty cool. Great view out toward the Statue of Liberty and it has a cool walkers section in the middle. I recommend it!

It was a pretty quick drive from “Paul’s Boutique” to Adam Yauch Park:

The park is a in great city neighborhood that reminded me a lot of parts of Center City Philadelphia, where I lived during law school.

The park was tiny, jammed into the space between the neighborhood and a freeway on ramp, and (most importantly) really nice. Here’s what it looks like:

The boys played there for a while, but before playing, we got down to business.

Here is the “Check Your Head” album cover:

My original plan was to simply remake it in the same format with each of us playing the park of a different Beastie Boy, but with the “Adam Yauch Park” sign in the background. But, after a lot of internal debate, I decided to cut myself from the picture, and remake the album cover with Tim, Kellan and Adam Yauch.

I brought props. It took some coaching (especially with Kellan) to get the poses right (or as right as Kellan could do for playing the part of a 20-something year old guy).

So here was the initial effort (what I could do “on the street” with no computer work):

I gotta tell you: I loved it. It came out so great I thought maybe I was just done there…leave it at that with the Adam Yauch Park sign hanging above an empty spot where Adam Yauch (or someone playing his role) should have been sitting. Of course, I kept a version of the photo that way so I will always have it. And I still love it just like I took it on the street.

But, when we got home that night (and into the next day), I couldn’t help tinkering and trying out my original plan. So, here is the same photo with “MCA” added in:

Again, I completely loved it! (And still do). I couldn’t get Adam to sit quite right on the curb and still mesh right with Tim – probably because he’s a grown man who was originally sitting next to two other grown men, not 8 and 3 year old boys – but, hey, I forgive myself. I’m not a professional photo editor or anything. The only problem is that his bass guitar case is resting on the curb instead of sitting flat on the street like in the original. But I’m okay with that.

Finally, several days later, I completed my original concept, which due to size constraints, couldn’t include the “Adam Yauch Park” sign:

Not too shabby, eh?

I gotta say, after visiting Adam Yauch Park, where my boys had a ton of fun climbing around on the play toys and taking that original black-and-white photo of just my boys and the park sign, my day was pretty much made. But, as an added bonus, we still had a baseball game to go to!

We didn’t have time to drive to the upper west side to park and then take the train like we usually do. Instead, we drove straight from Adam Yauch Park to Citi Field. As a bonus, we got to experience two views that we’d never seen before.

First, a cool view of lower Manhattan from Brooklyn:

Second, we drove for 2.4 miles under the 7 train…

 

…, which was pretty interesting. I’ve really never driven around neighborhoods in Queens. Lots of interesting things to see out there!

We reached the ballpark in plenty of time, which was good we had to go to the Mets fan assistance office to get our tickets printed.

While we were in line at the gates, Kellan practiced his pitching to Tim:

Once we got into the ballpark, we headed down the RF line and then quickly made our way toward section 142 in CF.

When we got down to the front row corner spot, there was already a baseball sitting in the huge gap between the seats and the shortened outfield wall. The Mets were hitting and a few Diamondbacks pitchers were milling about. Fairly soon after we arrived in CF, an groundskeeper came to grab the ball in the gap and he decided to toss it up to Kellan.

Just before the groundskeeper tossed the ball, Brad Ziegler (who was walking from LF to the bullpens) popped through the door in the OF fence and tossed us a ball. Tim was standing right next to me on the right (sort of behind me as I faced Ziegler). When I caught the ball from Ziegler, the groundskeeper refocused his gaze from Kellan to Tim, and Tim made the easy catch on that ball.

Thanks, Brad, and thanks, groundskeeper!

About 20-30 second after we got the balls from Ziegler and the groundskeeper, Josh Edgin…

…(who is the guy on the left) turned around, shouted to get our attention, and tossed us a third baseball, even though Tim and Kellan were both visibly holding balls at the time. Luckily, the second was basically empty other than us at the time.

Thanks, Josh!

At the very end of Mets BP (and, as it would turn out, BP in general), Bartolo Colon caught a pop fly. Tim called out to Bartolo, but Bartolo first ignore Tim, who did not include “please” in his request. Then, when Tim called out, “Bartolo, could you please toss me that ball?”, Colon turned around and fired a strike to Tim’s waiting glove:

Gracias, Bartolo! (Or, as Tim later called him, “Barlesto”).

Once the Mets cleared the field, the groundscrew ran out and started taking down the nets, but they left the batting cage in place. As a groundscrew guy wheeled a screen out to the gap in CF, I asked him if the Diamondbacks were not taking BP (which, obviously, seemed to be the case, but why were they leaving the batting cage in place?). He confirmed that BP was finished. So, with a few Diamondbacks starting to appear down the LF line, we decided to relocate to the second just past third base:

It turns out that the Diamondbacks decided to take a full “infield/outfield,” like back in the good old days. It was cool to watch.

Both Martin Prado and Eric Chavez were playing 3B at first. Eventually, a ball trickled by them and came to a rest on the grass behind 3B. A little while later, Chavez headed to the dugout while Prado stayed put at 3B.

I called out to Chavez after his first step toward the dugout, and I pointed toward the ball in the grass behind 3B and then at Tim. That’s all it took:

Thanks, Eric!

Soon, another back squibbed by Prado, not more than 5-10 feet behind him. It stayed on the infield dirt and Prado just ignored it.

After the outfielders took fly balls from home plate, they call congregated in CF and Dave McKay fungo’d them a bunch more pop flies and they worked on their throws in to a cutoff man. Gerardo Parra was one of the outfielders taking fly balls from McKay.

When Parra headed toward the dugout, he ran right behind 3B. Prado and that stray ball were still there. I called out to Parra – just like with Chavez – and pointed to Tim. Again, that was all it took. Parra retrieved the ball and tossed it to Tim:

This ball, however, was a little bit more interesting. See Cody Ross (the next player heading toward the dugout behind Parra). He’s watching the ball fly toward Tim’s waiting glove. Well, the ball sailed a little to the right and sunk a bit. Eventually, Tim caught the ball (literally, not exaggeration at all) 1-2 inches in front of Kellan’s face. Had Tim not reached out for the ball, it would have smashed Kellan right in the nose.

Cody Ross got all nervous and jumped a bit as the throw played out. He might have even yelled a bit. They he yelled at Parra “you almost hit that kid in the face!” But Parra was on his way out, he didn’t even realize what Ross was talking about. Luckily, Tim’s got a good glove!

Thanks, Gerardo & Tim! (And thanks to Cody Ross for the concern).

So, all this while, there was another kid, probably 10-12 years old, a few steps to Tim’s left. He was just standing there quietly. I could tell he wanted a ball. I’m not big on giving away baseballs, because I like the personal connection we get with the player who tosses them, plus we’re trying to build a wall of baseballs that needs a bunch more baseballs before we can build it. But I do like to help other kids get their own baseballs. Eventually, it seemed like Dave McKay was the only option left on the field. He was still hitting fungos and he had a big bag of baseballs. I told the kid that his name was “Dave” and that he should ask him for a ball by name when he walked into the dugout.

But the kid was too shy. Standing next to him, I could hardly hear him call to Dave. So I shouted, “Hey, Dave!!” and I pointed to the kid still standing five feet to Tim’s left. McKay gave us a nod sort of like he was saying, “No problem, but hold on just a sec.”

I told the kid and his dad that I thought McKay was going to toss him a ball so he should keep watching him. McKay walked down into the 3B dugout, set down the bag of balls, and then reached in and pulled three balls out. He tossed the first one high to us. As it sailed our way, I called out to Tim, “Let him catch it! Let him catch it!” But Tim reached up and made the easy grab. Oops…

I told Tim to hand the ball to the kid. McKay then fired the other two balls directly to me one-after-the-other. We all thanked McKay and then the kid and his dad thanked us. I wished the kid could have caught the ball on his own, but oh well. Nothing I can do about it now.

Thanks, Dave!

That was it for pre-game. The Diamondbacks cleared the field and we (along with Zack Hample and Rick Gold) headed back out to the CF seats where all the “boys” posed for this picture:

And then Kellan ate a ton of “pirates” (that’s our nickname for a snack Tim and Kellan both enjoy) and he made a mess that amused Zack greatly:

When Kellan was all done eating, he took some picts, including this one of Zack:

We all hung out in CF while the groundscrew readied the field for the game. Check this out:

They are sweeping the grass to make the “NY” logo stand out better.

Just before game time, we grabbed some hot dogs and headed out to the picnic tables behind the bullpens (under Shea Bridge)…

…, which is one of our favorite spots at Citi Field.

After the Mets had taken the field but before first pitch, the Mets sound people blared some Beastie Boys (Sabotage) throughout Citi Field, which seemed like a fitting way to start the game on this day.

And here was the first pitch:

Like at our other game at Citi Field earlier this season, we spent a lot of time at this game in this picnic area. A lot of that time, we were playing catch (including Tim pitching to me):

Some of that time, we were posing for pictures, like this one:

And some of that time, Kellan was playing hand-baseball:

In the third inning, with the Diamondbacks already up 3-0, we decided to head out to CF to play some kids’ games. On our way, we got a panorama from the back of section 141…

…and a picture of the boys in the same spot:

Unfortunately, right after we left the picnic area below Shea Bridge, Curtis Granderson hit a ground rule double into the Diamondbacks’ bullpen. It would have rolled all the way to the back of the bullpen…right to where we had been hanging out moments earlier. Poor timing, I guess.

By the way, that groundrule double made the score 3-1 Diamondsbacks.

The boys had a lot of fun at the kids’ whiffle field:

Both fielding balls…

…and hitting them. Kellan hit several line drives off of the LF fence and Tim hit a couple balls over the wall in LF and CF.

After numerous rounds of hitting in the whiffle field, we got some ice cream and headed back to the bullpen picnic area:

David Wright hit a homerun in the fifth inning to bring the score to 3-2 Diamondbacks. That’s where the score remained into the ninth inning when we headed over toward the umpires’ tunnel.

Addison Reed came in and shut down the Mets in the bottom of the ninth, including former Phillies all-star Bobby Abreu…

…who lined out to short stop (I thought it was going to get in for a hit).

So, in the end, the Diamondbacks won 3-2.

After the game, home plate umpire Jim Reynolds gave baseballs to several kids, including both Tim and Kellan.

Thanks, Blue!

And then we got a final picture (taken by Mr. Hample) before leaving the ballpark for the evening:

Check out how nice the Jackie Robinson Rotunda looked on our way out as the sun was low in the sky:

I’d never seen it look like that before. The low pre-setting sun suits the Rotunda well.

We ended up driving into Manhattan and walking around a whole bunch through Central Park. We played some eye spy and wanted to play some baseball, but the sun was down by this point and the fields were chained shut.

So, we headed back up to the upper west side where we parked (after the game) and grabbed some late dinner at Ray’s on 82nd & Columbus:

A fine way to cap off an excellent day of Beastie Boys and baseball. The boys conked out quick in the car…a sure sign that it was a good day.

2014 Fan Stats
7 Games
10 Teams (Blue Jays, Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Orioles, Royals, Pirates, Cardinals, Diamondbacks)
5 Stadiums (Stade Olympique, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Camden Yards, PNC Park)
52 Baseballs (9 Mets, 2* Expos, 7 Phillies, 6 Marlins, 2 Mets, 3 Braves, 6 Umpires, 6 Orioles, 2 Royals, 4 Cardinals, 1 Pirates, 4 Diamondbacks)* Olympic Stadium Staff
6 Commemoratives (2013 WBC 1, Angels 50th 2, Dodger Stadium 50th 1, 2011 All-Star, 2012 All-Star, Orioles 60th Anniversary)
7 Ice Cream Helmets (Phillies, 2 Orioles, 2 Pirates, 2 Mets)
 

 

Another Saturday, Another Little League-to-Major League Doubleheader (5/10/2014)

On May, 10, 2014, the boys and I pulled off another Little League-to-Major League. We started in the morning with a 9:00 a.m. Liberty Swingmen game featuring Tim’s first career hit by pitch:

It was a beautiful sunny day in eastern PA. After the game, we hopped in the car…

…for a beautiful, sunny drive across Pennsylvania. But just before arriving in Pittsburgh, the weather went south. We arrived in plenty of time for BP and were greeted by a soggy PNC Park:

While it was raining, it wasn’t too bad. There was no BP, but I could tell that the game wouldn’t be rained out. With the help of Erik Jabs, we were able to get into the stadium early with the season ticket holders. For a long, long time we stood by the Cardinals dugout chatting and eating snacks…

…while several Cardinals lounged in the dugout listening to tunes (Jhonny Peralta and Carlos Martinez) or talking on cellphones (Trevor Rosenthal).

Here was our view of the ballpark:

For nearly an hour, we were the only people in the seats. It was pretty cool. During most of this time, we didn’t need an umbrella.

Eventually, the Cardinals pitchers came out to play catch. A few other fans eventually showed up, but it was very sparse out there. Here’s the scene:

Consistent with my past experiences in this section at PNC Park, most of the fans hanging out there were looking for autographs. Is the guy in the sweatshirt with the fungo bat in bottom left photo above? That’s Derek Lilliquist. He tossed Tim our first baseball of the day.

Thanks, Derek!

For a while, Tim hung out behind Trevor Rosenthal, who was playing catch with Carlos Martinez. Martinez uncorked several hard and wild ones that almost tagged Tim. In fact, in the upper right photo above, that is Rosenthal (#26) digging a low throw from Martinez. When Rosenthal and Martinez finished throwing, Trevor tossed their warm up ball to Tim.

Thanks, Trevor!

Michael Wacha did some work in the work in the pen early on, but then came out to the RF foul line to throw some more. That is Wacha standing to Lilliquist’s left in the bottom left photo above. When Wacha finished up, he tossed his warm up ball to Tim and then autographed it for him.

Thanks, Michael!

Eventually, Adam Wainwright started signing autographs. When a whole group of fans flocked to him, Tyler Lyons started walking to the dugout. Kellan and I shouted, “Hey, Tyler!” He turned back and tossed a strike right to us.

Thanks, Tyler!

Then, Tim asked if he could get Wainwright’s autograph too. I had to pull a ball – the Rosenthal ball – out of our backpack and by the time I did, Wainwright was walking away. We was out on the grass across the warning track. I called out his name and asked if he could sign one more for Tim. He said sure and put up his hand to indicate, “Toss it here!” It was pretty clear to me that he wanted to sign for Tim, but not get roped into another big group of fans. So he signed the ball and tossed it and our pen back.

Thanks, Adam!

By the way, here are two of those balls (and two cute faces to go with them):

During down time, Tim got creative with selfies:

After the Cardinals pitchers cleared the field, we cleared out of the field level…

…and headed to the kids’ play area:

Where the boys did some playing…

…and I did some birding:

But it was wet in the play area. So we decided to buy two feet of hot dogs for dinner:

Kellan and I shared a footlong…

…fox and the hound style. Meanwhile, this guy…

…finished off 12 inches of hot dog all by himself!

In the PNC Park picnic area behind the CF seats, there are a couple spots that make great make-shift bullpens:


Over the course of the evening, we played a whole lotta catch in this “bullpen.” I would toss the ball 5-10 feet to my left to Kellan. He would then toss the ball down to Tim who would toss it back to me. It was lots of fun.

Of course, the boys were respectful when it came time to sing the National Anthem:

And then it was party time…

…or, I mean, game time. We headed to the SRO area right behind the bullpens…

…to watch the first pitch:

As an added bonus, just before the first pitch, Pirates bullpen catcher, Herbie Andrade, toss us a final pre-game baseball, our first ever from the man who holds the MyGameBalls.com record (by a huge margin) for most toss-ups.

Thanks, Herbie!

After the first pitch, we returned to our “bullpen” and played catch for a while more. Eventually, we decided it was time to get some ice cream. On our way to the ice cream place, we stopped to get the boys’ picture with the PNC Park pig:

Tim enjoyed some pirates buried treasure while Kellan enjoyed his mint chocolate chip:

While they worked on their ice cream helmets, I enjoyed our excellent seats in LF:

Here is another one featuring a blimp for good measure:

Between innings, the boys made a futile attempt for a left fielder warm-up ball tossup:

Eventually, we decided we should go exploring. After visiting Ralph Kiner’s hands behind the LF seats…

…we started our explorations by walking up with spiral ramp in LF. At the top, this was the view:

Then we visited the first drinking fountain Tim ever used in his life:

Here’s a random panorama from section 327 that I snapped as we circled the upper deck:

Once we made it to home plate, we headed down the other spiral ramp that takes you down to the main home plate entrance.   Then we headed out to the kids’ play area, which was experiencing some chaos due to too many kids being out there, including some teens trying to play with the little guys.

So we headed across the riverwalk…

…and went back to our “bullpen” for some more throwing:

That’s where we were in the seventh inning when some fireworks were shot off over the river in conjunction with the seventh inning stretch:

I love the LF seats at PNC Park – they seem so homer friendly – so we headed back there for a bit more. When w2 arrived, a friendly usher took our picture:

Then the boys clowned around…

…while I concentrated on not catching a homerun.

In the ninth inning, we headed toward the third base dugout and found some seats in the last row of the section above the umpire’s tunnel:

As the game neared its final out (by the way, the Pirates were winning 4-3), Tim tried to get in position for a post-game umpire ball, something we’d never before gotten at PNC Park.

We were excited for the opportunity because we were sitting on 599 baseballs at the moment.

It turns out that we were double lucky. After Mark Malancon got Allen Craig to strike out swinging to end the game (Raise the Jolly Roger), home plate umpire Dave Rackley set number 600 into Tim’s glove…and number 601 in Kellan’s glove!

Double thanks, Mr. Rackley!

We capped off a great day of baseball with some post-game fireworks from our “bullpen”:

After one final picture of three happy boys…

…we headed to our car and the boys conked out quick…

…while I drove us back across Pennsylvania.

Great day!

2014 Fan Stats
6 Games
9 Teams (Blue Jays, Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Orioles, Royals, Pirates, Cardinals)
5 Stadiums (Stade Olympique, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Camden Yards, PNC Park)
43 Baseballs (6 Mets, 2* Expos, 7 Phillies, 6 Marlins, 2 Mets, 3 Braves, 4 Umpires, 6 Orioles, 2 Royals, 4 Cardinals, 1 Pirates)* Olympic Stadium Staff
6 Commemoratives (2013 WBC 1, Angels 50th 2, Dodger Stadium 50th 1, 2011 All-Star, 2012 All-Star, Orioles 60th Anniversary)
5 Ice Cream Helmets (Phillies, 2 Orioles, 2 Pirates)
 

 

Little League-to-Major League Doubleheader (4/26/2014)

Over the past several years, the boys and I have done several two-city MLB doubleheaders. But, on April 26, 2014, we tried something new: a two-city Little League-to-MLB doubleheader. We started out in a nearby town where Tim’s team, the Liberty Swingmen, took on a neighboring Little League squad full of huge kids twice the size of Tim’s team.

The other team started a Randy Johnson sized fire baller. The guy pitched 3 innings and only gave up one hit. Here is that hit:

A solid knock to RF that scored our first run of the day (By a Swingmen runner who had been hit by a pitch). Sadly, the Swingmen ended up getting pummeled and losing via the mercy rule. The silver-lining in the bad outcome of the game is that it resulted in us being able to get on the road in time to make it down to Baltimore.

We made great time getting down to Baltimore and made it in time for the gates.

In past years, we’ve usually gone to foul territory during season ticket holder BP. But this time, I decided to try grabbing the corner spot right by the O’s bullpen. We ended up staying there for all of BP.

Right when we arrived, Evan Meek (who was standing in front of us, shaded slightly to CF) turned around and saw our M’s gear. He came over to chat:

Turns out that Meek is from Bothell, WA, not far from where I grew up and went to a high school I’d played sports against back in the day. We had a nice Seattle-based chat with Evan. He congratulated Tim on his hit against the huge Little League pitcher he’d faced earlier in the day. Evan is a cool guy. And he tossed a baseball to Tim and another to Kellan.

Huge thanks, Evan, and good luck!

This super tall Oriole….

…., Ryan Webb, also tossed us a baseball.

Here was our view for all of BP:

It was a very pleasant and relaxed day at the ballpark:

During O’s BP, Darren O’Day and John Stinson…

…also tossed baseballs our way.

Thanks, guys!

The O’s blasted a bunch of homers into their bullpen, which was just to our left.

When the Royals came out for BP, Greg Holland had to use the restroom in the bullpens, and he tossed one of the bullpen balls to us on his way:

I was excited to see former-Mariner, Jason Vargas, at the game. But, unfortunately, this is as close as he ever got to us:

For a big chunk of BP, James Shields stood just to our left in LCF. When he arrived, I yelled, “James, pick off a homerun!” (which I’ve seen him do in very impressive fashion during past BPs). Well, he almost did it twice. The second one was a screaming line drive right to my chest. It would have been the easiest homerun catch of all time. But James came flying in and I had to reach over his glove. Our gloves reached the ball at the same point, and it squirted out, bounced (gently) off of my chest and fell right to my feet. I got it no problems.

Check out the huge warning track divot Shields left right below us:

Here’s a random picture I took of Tim with his bangs flowing out of his hat:

As this group of Royals pitchers…

…ran back-and-forth across the outfield in front of us, Kellan yelled out to them, “Are you tired guys?” It was pretty hilarious, although it might not sound that way in writing.

After BP, both boys wanted to sit in Cal Ripken, Jr.’s orang seat…

…and they pretended they were catching homeruns while doing so.

We decided to head to the play area and get some food on our way. As we approached home plate in the cross-aisle, we stopped to show up some of the boys’ baseballs:

Then we headed out into the concourse and ran into these guys:

(Those are our Baltimore friends Tim, Alex and Kelly).

Finally, we grabbed our food and found an empty picnic table by the speed pitch:

Kellan made crazy faces while he ate:

And we watched the beginning of the game (including, this, the first pitch)…

…on TV.

Once we finished eating, we played a bunch of hitting and throwing games…

…, but found that the bouncy house was mysteriously missing:

Someone (an O’s employee) told us that it was in the upper deck.

So, after we had done a sufficient amount of playing, we headed toward the flag court. The boys stopped to act silly on Eutaw Street on the way:

Then we hung out and watched the game for a while with our Tim, Alex, Kelly and Grant:

Sadly, we didn’t catch a single game homerun while we were out there!

Then we went in search of the bouncy house. We headed up to the RF foul corner:

It wasn’t in right field.

But we took the opportunity to watch the game and get some pictures up there:

Then we walked all the way around the concourse out to the LF (fair territory) upper deck concourse. It was kids’ day (or something like that) and there were approximately one million kids up there in the concourse.

The bouncy house was nowhere to be found. But we did wait through an incredibly long line to hit some baseballs on the air tee:

And then we had a nice usher take our picture way out in LF:

On our way down the stairs in LF, we took a panorama that I thought was pretty cool because it shows a suite/club level lounge to the far right:

We got ice cream and headed back out to RCF to want with the Baltimore guys:

Again, even though I assured Alex that I would catch a homerun, I failed to catch a single homerun.

Kellan’s ice cream made him chilly…

….so he through on his sweatshirt and some baseball pants I had in my backpack.

Our new buddy Evan Meek was on the mound, but by the time I realized it and tried to get a picture of him in action, he got pulled before he got a chance to throw another pitch:

This was our view from out there in RCF:

As the game neared its end, we headed toward home plate where we watched the game, tied 2-2, move into extra innings…

…and we got a baseball from home plate umpire, Quinn Wolcott, after Nick Markakis hit a walk-off single.

Thanks, Mr. Wolcott!

Over by the O’s dugout, Rudy Arias tossed us one more baseball for good measure. Meanwhile, Adam Jones faked out everyone and…

…pied the Bird instead of Markakis. Ah, good times!

Before heading to our car, a nice usher took a picture of me and my two most favorite guys:

A great day of baseball all-around.

2014 Fan Stats
5 Games
7 Teams (Blue Jays, Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Orioles, Royals)
4 Stadiums (Stade Olympique, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Camden Yards)
36 Baseballs (Mets 5, Expos 2*, 7 Phillies, 6 Marlins, 2 Mets, 3 Braves, 2 Umpires, 6 Orioles, 2 Royals)* Olympic Stadium Staff
6 Commemoratives (2013 WBC 1, Angels 50th 2, Dodger Stadium 50th 1, 2011 All-Star, 2012 All-Star, Orioles 60th Anniversary)
3 Ice Cream Helmets (Phillies, 2 Orioles)
 

 

David Wright Ruins Our No-Hit Bid (4/18/2014)

Saturday, April 18, 2014 was a fun day for the Cook Boys. After an adventurous drive northeast (during which I filmed an Instant Classic Video of Kellan), the boys and I arrived in the Upper West Side of Manhattan around 3:00 p.m. We parked at 79th & Riverside, where we found this awesome fire hydrant…

…and then we set out on foot for Central Park. In case you didn’t know, that building in the upper right (above) is the “Dakota” where John Lennon lived and was killed outside on the sidewalk.

Our plan was to get to Central Park with lots of time to spare so we could do some playing. But we drive took about 45 minutes longer than planned. We were going to meet up with Zack Hample at his family bookstore, which was across the park from us. So we just walked through the park, actually the boys ran through the park:

We met up with Zack, grabbed some food at a nearby deli, and hopped on the train:

Kellan got that banana at the deli and announced that he wanted to eat it once we got to our seats.

Once we reached Citi Field, we ran into a couple other guys…

… Greg Barasch and Rick Gold, who know their way around a MLB ballpark.

The boys passed the time while we waited on the gates by playing some catch along the 3B side of the stadium…

…and running around between the growing lines of fans:

Once the gates opened, we headed to the RF foul line:

And Kellan declared it to be banana time:

He destroyed that banana!

Nothing was doing on the RF foul line, so we decided to head to CF by the bullpens. Eventually, an unidentifiable Met tossed a ball to Tim:

Thanks, Mets guy!

We had the corner spot right next to the bullpen and it was relatively empty out there. But for some reason, we made the terrible decision to head over to the LF foul line where the Braves were playing catch. Left field was pretty packed. The LF line was packed too. And the Braves were essentially done throwing by the time we arrived.

So…

We headed back to the CF bleachers, which were now fairly full in the first 4-5 rows. We hung back in row 10 or so. And Tim took a picture of me and Kellan, just for kicks:

At one point, Craig Kimbrel walked into the bullpen to use the restroom. He walked by below us and waved and said hi to the kids. So I snapped a picture of his glove when he put it down on a chair below us:

As we hung out during BP, the boys went through my backpack and cleaned out our snack arsenal.

Tim had to take a break from his snacking when an usher-type-guy down in the bullpens decided to toss a baseball up to Tim. It took three throws for the two of them to finally connect…but Tim finally go it.

Thanks, usher-type-guy!

We had a rush of action late in BP. Ervin Santana and tossed a lot of baseballs to people in the front row of the CF seats, but no one had ever gone deeper than the first row. And there were no homeruns hit into the CF seats.

Eventually, things changed thanks to these guys:

First, Alan Butts (above to the left) wandered out to straight away CF. I figured I was the only person out there who knew his name. So, at an opportune time, I shouted out, “Hey, Alan!” He turned around, scanned the seats for the source of the call, and then he tossed a ball right to us.

Then, very, very late in BP. Ervin Santana spotted Kellan sitting up on my shoulders. He tossed a ball high over everyone else right to me. I held back on reaching out for it just in case Tim could catch it. At the last minute, Tim jumped in front of me and caught the ball. It was a great catch by Tim.

Thanks, Ervin!

Ervin had to know that Tim was my son too, it was just the three of us together in the row. But right after Tim caught the ball, I could see him think that Kellan still needed a ball too. So he went and grabbed another ball, called out to me again, and tossed a ball right to my glove.

Thanks, again, Ervin!

Once BP wrapped up, we decided to head upstairs to the area above the Jackie Robinson Rotuna for some dinner. On our way up the switch-back ramps, Tim stopped to pose with the Citi Field on the backside of the stadium (behind LF):

We dined on hot dog (Tim), nachos (me) and a jumbo pretzel with ketchup (Kellan)…

…and the boys kept warm with hot chocolate.

On our long walk back down to the field level, we first stopped (somewhat) behind home plate and had an usher take our picture:

Moments before the game started, we got a random panorama from a bit further down the 3B line:

And here is the first pitch from Jon Neise…

…to Andrelton Simmons. “Ball 1.”

Check out what was in the parking lot – cirque du soleil:

We headed to Shea Bridge…

…where it looked a lot like this:

The first inning ended with a 0-0 tie after David Wright…

…struck out swinging.

We spent huge portions of this game below Shea Bridge and behind the bullpens:

Check out what we found down there in the little hidden corner by the elevators:

For much of the game, Tim and I played catch across the length of the picnic area under Shea Bridge:

Late in the game, I saw on facebook that one of my wife’s cousins was at the game in the LF upper deck. We headed over there to find him. We never did find him, but we got these panoramas from section 533….

…and section 531:

It was windy and freezing up there!

Hey, guess what. All this while, the Braves were winning 1-0 and Aaron Harang was pitching a no hitter!

If we were going to witness our first ever no hitter, I wanted to be closer to the action for the end of it. We started heading toward the infield. But then Kellan wanted to check out one of the little Mets team shops along the 1B foul concourse. We headed in to find that several Mets fans were taking refuge from the (not all that) cold and watching the game on TV:

Here’s some random game action captured on our walk toward the 3B line:

It was the top of the 8th inning when we reached the 3B foul concourse, and Harang still had his no hitter intact. The Braves were still winning 1-0…

That is, they were winning 1-0, until Freddy Freeman went yard in the top of the eighth:

Historically, at least in my experience, the ushers at Citi Field have been insanely strict about checking tickets, even late (or after) the games. We headed over to the aisle leading down to the umpires’ tunnel. During our ten minutes or so standing there, I noticed that the usher wasn’t checking anyone’s tickets. So, eventually, we made a move, and (with no problems) we ended up here:

When we ended up in these seats, we sat down right in the middle of a profanity laced (but good spirited) exchange between a bunch of Mets and Braves fans.

So, heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, the score was 5-0 Braves.

I was excited for Harang’s potential no hitter. But check out this photo:

Because Harang had 121 pitches through the first seven innings, the Braves brought in Luis Avilan. We adjusted our hopes to at least getting to witness a combined no hitter.

Well, Avilan retired the first two batters of the inning. Four outs until a no hitter. But that brought up David Wright, and Avilan gave up a clean line drive base knock to LF to spoil our chance at history.

Booo!!!!!

(FYI, that is Wright on first base in the photo above as Avilan pitches to Curtis Granderson, who he would strike out).

For the ninth inning, we made our way down to the second row:

Check out these silly guys:

The Braves scored a sixth and final run in the top of the ninth inning when Justin Upton…

…hit a sacrifice fly.

Jordan Walden retired the Mets in order in the bottom of the ninth to complete the combined 1-hitter.

Boooo!

After the game, Tom Hallion tossed us our final ball of the day, which Tim displayed in this final photo of the night with Zack behind the dugout:

After the game, Zack, Greg, his dad, the boys and I rode the subway together back to Manhattan before splitting up in our own directions.

We had a great day packed with fun and…

…lots of walking. Sadly, I got in the car a mere 127 steps away from my first 20,000 step day. Darn.

2014 Fan Stats
4 Games
5 Teams (Blue Jays, Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Braves)
3 Stadiums (Stade Olympique, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field)
27 Baseballs (Mets 5, Expos 2*, 7 Phillies, 6 Marlins, 2 Mets, 3 Braves, 1 Umpire)* Olympic Stadium Staff
5 Commemoratives (2013 WBC 1, Angels 50th 2, Dodger Stadium 50th 1, 2011 All-Star, 2012 All-Star)
1 Ice Cream Helmets (Phillies)
 

 

Hey, Let’s Go To Citizens Bank Park! (4/12/14)

On April 12, 2014, we had a nice little baseball day.  It all started with an opening day parade, ceremony and individual and team pictures for Tim’s Little League:

Here’s my unofficial picture of Little Leaguer Tim:

For the third year in a row, we went straight from the Little League opening day ceremony to Citizens Bank Park:

We made the rounds and said hi to some of the regulars, like Lefty:

We played catch while we waited for the gates to open:

We’d heard word that gates were changing from 2:30 hours before game time to 2:00 hours early this season.  If that was true, and everything else stayed the same as last year, it seemed like all of the gates should open at the same time.  But I asked some ushers and they weren’t sure if the other gates were opening at 5:05 or not.  So we stayed at our familiar LF gate:

When the gates opened, we headed over to the pizza wedge:

Yep, all of the gates opened at once.  But it seemed like most of the crowd had entered from the LF gate.

Soon after we made it down to the tip of the pizza wedge, a Phillies lefty hit a homerun into section 102.  I ran over and snatched it out of an arm rest of a couple folded up chairs.  We spent the rest of BP in section 101:

That’s Antonio Bastardo in the background above to the right.  He was in the bullpen for a little bit.  On his way back out to the field, he tossed that baseball to Tim.

Thanks, Antonio!

At the end of Phillies BP, all of the Phils cleared the field, but they left several baseballs on the warning track.  Then Mario Hollands…

…ran by and retrieved all of the baseballs.  And tossed one to us.

Thanks, Mario!

After starting off Phillies BP with a Phillies homer, it was only fitting that we start off Marlins BP with a Marlins homer.  But this one was better than the first, I caught this one on the fly.

About five minutes into Marlins BP, Tim was the lucky recipient of a toss-up from reining N.L. Rookie of the Year, Jose Fernandez:

Thanks, Jose!

And when a homer got hit into the bullpen, he was the lucky recipient of a toss-up from a groundskeeper:

Thanks, Groundskeeper!

Eventually, the Marlin from whom we’d most like to catch a ball – Giancarlo Stanton – came out to work on his fielding in RF:

Meanwhile, Steve Cishek made his way to RCF.  When I called out his name, he tossed us a baseball.

Thanks, Steve!

Soon, A.J. Ramos made his way over to RCF too:

Ramos approached us and tossed a baseball to Tim.  Then he asked if Kellan had a glove to catch a ball too.  I put my glove on Kellan’s hand and helped him catch a second toss-up from Ramos.

Double thanks, A.J.!

Earlier in the week (maybe even the day before this game), Giancarlo Stanton had been on Intentional Talk.  During Rapid Fire, Stanton told Millar and Rose that Ramos spends all of his time checking his hair in the mirror and taking kissy-faced selfies to post on Instagram.  After he tossed the baseballs to us, I asked Ramos what was up with Stanton talking about him on “IT”?  He responded with a big smile and chuckle, and he suggested, “I need to smack him in the back of the head!”

Ramos seemed like a really cool dude who knows how to have fun during BP.

Now, I’ve taken (and posted) a bunch of panoramas from Section 101 at Citizens Bank Park, but why not one more, right?  Nothing you haven’t seen here before, but this picture sets the scene for Marlins BP:

If you look over toward RF, you’ll see Brad Hand and Tom Koehler.  Roughly between where they are in this panorama is where Giancarlo had been shagging fly balls.

After BP wrapped up, we headed off to get some food – hot dog for Tim and pretzel with ketchup for Kellan:

We ate in our actual seats for the game – beautiful seats, section 101, row 5!

At around 6:30, Jesus Tiamo and some other dude…

…started walking out to the bullpen.  I later came to find out (from Harrison Tishler) that the “other dude” is named Bob Stumpo.  I guess he’s a second (I’ll call him “backup”) bullpen catcher.

Guess what happened when Tiamo and Stumpo reached the bullpen?

Tiamo tossed baseballs…

…to Tim and Kellan (but in the opposite order).  And then he signed a ball for both of the boys:

After he signed for the boys, Jesus and I chatted for a bit about his off-season down in Venezuela.

Part of the Phillies entertainment repertoire for 2014 – “what does the Phanatic say?”

Before the game started, the boys wanted to play some more games, so off we went:

See that picture above to the far right?  Answer “D” is “Ken Griffey, Jr.”  Unfortunately, that was the correct answer, and the question was “Who was the first player to strike out at Citizens Bank Park?”

After the games, we decided to get some ice cream.  As we circled the outfield toward LF foul territory, we stopped in straight away CF to watch the first pitch:

When we headed around the LF seats and scoreboard tower, we were greeted by a long table full of former Phillies ballgirls:

There were actually two separate long tables full of about 20 former ball girls each:

The ballgirls were signing a big poster with their pictures on it, plus their leftover baseball cards (back from their playing days).  It took us more than half an hour to collect all of the autographs, including me spelling Kellan’s name for every ballgirl with baseball cards.  A bunch of the ballgirls commented on Tim’s uniform and asked about his team.  It was a fun diversion before getting to the business of baseball watching.

Sadly, our normal ice cream lady was not at our normal ice cream spot.  I hope she returns because she’s been a fixture at all of our CPB games for years now.  Happily, the stand-in ice cream lady did a great job putting together this beautiful mess of ice cream, cookies, sauces and sprinkles:

Because we had awesome (half priced) seats in the pizza wedge, we stayed in our seats for most of the game.  We were hoping to see Giancarlo Stanton…

…hit some monster bombs.  He didn’t do it in that at bat, but he did collection two round trippers on the night (one that landed on Ashburn Alley and we missed seeing because we were at the “games-of-baseball”).  Giancarlo likes us.  We’ve seen him hit a least three homeruns in Philadelphia, at least two in DC, and one in Miami so far.

In the top of the second inning, we got to see our first “challenge” of the season under the new replay rules:

On the grounder to 2B, Ozuna was initially called safe and two runs scored (giving the Marlins a brief 3-2 lead), but on review it was decided that Jimmy Rollins narrowly beat him to the bag for the third out of the inning.

As usual, the boys were full of silliness during the game.  Kellan posed in our ice cream helmet…

…and did some backwards yelling through one of the megaphone we won at the games of baseball.  And Tim took some selfies (and some videos) with Jesus Tiamo in the background:

Here we are missing Giancarlo’s monster bomb:

 

Luckily, we were back in the seats to see the second Stanton-blast.

Back at the seats, there was most general silliness:

The pizza wedge is one of the best sections in all of baseball because there is action both in front of and behind your seats.  Check out this panorama that (should be curved around the viewer and) shows about a 270 degree view from out seats:

In this view, the guy in the blue/maroon shirt and backwards cap it sitting right in front of me and the Liberty Bell sign (in the upper right) is directly behind us.

Maybe this picture will help explain it visually – we could watch the game right in front of us, or this…

…right behind our seats.

By the way, in those photos above, that’s Jesus Tiamo catching Antonio Bastardo at the bottom and A.J. Ramos pitching to Jeff Urgelles on the top.  Prior to the game, Tiamo had given each of the boys a baseball, Bastardo had tossed one to Tim, and Ramos had tossed each of the boys a baseball.  After Ramos’s final pitch, I yelled, “Hey, Jeff!” and Urgelles tossed Ramos’s warm-up ball over the Phillies bullpen and right into my glove.  So, we got a baseball from each of the four featured in that picture.  Cool, eh?

Late in the game, Kellan conked out hard and slept the last couple innings on my lap.  Meanwhile, Tim took his turn in a Words with Friends game…

…that he is playing against his Grandma.  After making his play, he finger-typed and voice-typed a long and meandering comment to his Grandma in the Words with Friends comment section.

I meant to take a screen shot of his comments because they were funny, but I forgot.  Zooming in on another picture I took of him typing, I can see that he wrote “I played “hotels” from the Phillies stadium.  Bet you can’t beat that! 123 strikes you’re out at words with friends! Winning, oh yeah! 18 points!”  Then he followed up with a long and convoluted explanation that he really meant “22 points” and he provided a detailed explanation of how the points added up.  He’s a funny guy.

Hey, guess what?  The game went into extra innings.  Giancarlo Stanton tied up the game in the seventh with a 2-run homerun to left.  Jimmy Rollins broke the tie with a walk-off solo shot in the bottom of the tenth inning:

After the game, Bob Stumpo tossed a ball up to Tim and then a kind usher took our picture…

…before we headed to the gates with Kellan still sound asleep:

And then we sat in a traffic jam for an hour on the Schuylkill Expressway…

…and got home around 2:00 a.m.

Not the best ending of the night, but a great first game of the season at Citizens Bank Park.

2014 Fan Stats
3 Games
4 Teams (Blue Jays, Mets, Phillies, Marlins)
2 Stadiums (Stade Olympique, Citizens Bank Park)
21 Baseballs (Mets 5, Expos 2*, 7 Phillies, 6 Marlins)* Olympic Stadium Staff
5 Commemoratives (2013 WBC 1, Angels 50th 2, Dodger Stadium 50th 1, 2011 All-Star, 2012 All-Star)
1 Ice Cream Helmets (Phillies)
 

Bonus Photo – Lots of activity again at this game:

[60]

STH Early-Bird BP, King Felix, & Little Grandma at Safeco Field (8/6/2013)

On Tuesday, August 6, 2013, we attended our second game of the season at Safeco Field. It was the second game of the M’s series against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, and hopefully it is the last time we will ever have to see the Blue Jays play in Seattle. I like my Mariners home games to feel like home games! Unfortunately, a Mariners vs. Blue Jays game in Seattle feels more like a Blue Jays home game than a Blue Jays game at Rogers Centre.

Kellan took a nap on the drive down to the ballpark…

…and missed the nice view of Mt. Rainier. It was a beautiful day.

The M’s made up for the fact that the ballpark would be packed with obnoxious (very non-Canadian seeming) Blue Jays fans by hosting a season ticket holders’ early bird batting practice. I was excited for it because, even with the Pen opening early, Mariners fan never really get to see the Mariners much during BP. And I wanna see my M’s as much as possible!

The season ticket holders early BP gate was on the southeast corner of the ballpark:

And the M’s had a welcome banner and a bunch of people ready to hand out snacks-and-whatnot to the early-bird season ticket holders:

While it felt like there was a decent amount of people in line by the time the gates opened, inside Safeco Field felt gloriously empty. At the outset, Tim and my dad went midway down the RF line…

…and Kellan and I pulled up some seats right behind Jason Phillips…

…, who was playing catch with Hisashi Iwakuma.

Pretty quickly, Charlie Furbush tossed his warm-up ball to Tim.

Thanks, Charlie!

Meanwhile, Jason Phillips and I chatted a little bit. One of the main things I remember him saying was, essentially, that it was too bad that I had to see the Blue Jays while I was in town because it wouldn’t feel much like a Mariners home game. He nailed it.

Shortly after Tim and my dad joined us, Kuma and Jason finished playing catch and Kuma tossed the baseball to us.

Thanks, Kuma!

Tim and my dad decided to head out to RF, where most of the other season ticket holders also went once BP started up. I didn’t want to take Kellan in the sun so we headed over to the shady LF foul corner.

There were ZERO other fans on the entire LF side.   ZERO! For a long, long time. It was crazy.

Right when we got out to the foul corner, Danny Farquhar mosied out there. I asked Danny if he wanted to play catch. He responded, “No, but I’ll throw you guys a baseball.” And so he did:

Thanks, Danny!

Tim should have joined us in LF. Check this out:

My dad was hanging out in the front row ready to catch a homerun (that never came to him), but Tim didn’t like the sun so he sat in the shade for a bit.

Eventually, a ball was hit down the line and it came to rest (essentially) below us. Erasmo Ramirez came over and tossed it to us.

Thanks, Erasmo!

Kellan asked if he could throw the ball back to Erasmo, so I asked Erasmo if that would be okay. He agreed and, while standing on the edge of the grass (across the warning track), he stuck out his glove to give Kellan a target. And Kellan threw a bullet right to Erasmo’s chest. It was mighty impressive.

Kellan really liked throwing a baseball to a player so he asked if he could do it again when Farquhar was in the vicinity. I asked Danny if Kellan could toss him a baseball. He said sure and he tossed one up to me, and then Kellan rifled it back to him:

Meanwhile, Tim joined my dad down in the sun and ended up getting a toss up from Henry Blanco.

Thanks, Henry!

Kellan and I decided to circle around to CF to meet up with Tim and my dad. The season ticket holder day was officially awesome. The Pen was open…

…but everyone had to stay down there, except for “us” season ticket holders (my folks are season ticket holders!).

When we were above the Pen, we saw Tim and my dad in the corner in CF. Just then, Kuma tossed a ball to Tim and he dropped it into the gap:

Kuma then went into the gap, grabbed the ball and tossed it to Tim again.

Thanks, Kuma!

Shortly thereafter, we met up with Tim and my dad in CF. Then something unexpected and awesome happened. When balls get hit in the gap, the ushers grab them (usually either a guy named Adrian or Tim’s favorite usher “Tim C.”) and give them to kids. Well, a ball got hit down there, Usher Adrian grabbed it, and instead of handing it to Kellan, he tossed it to him from about 5-7 feet away:

The ball smacked (gently) off of Kellan’s chest/left shoulder, rolled down his left arm and settled snuggly in Kellan’s glove. It was officially Kellan’s first ever unassisted catch of a baseball at a Major League game!

Way to go, Kellan!

Thanks, Usher Adrian!

We celebrated by taking this funny picture of a squinty-eyed Kellan and his new baseball and Tim with the ball Kuma had just tossed and re-tossed him:

Next, a Mariner hit a homerun and it bounced into the open OF gate and rolled up and then down the canvas cover over the tunnel between RF and RCF. When it rolled down, it went right to Yoervis Medina. And Medina tossed it to us.

Thanks, Yoervis!

Next, we decided to circle all the way back around home plate and back to the LF foul corner. On the way, Michael Morse…

…autographed the ball that Kellan had caught (with help from the lady who is attached to that arm – she was in the lower seats that were roped off and she was able to hand the ball to Morse and get the ball back from him for us).

Back in the LF corner, we got one more ball from Lucas Luetge…

…who had to toss this ball to us several times before we finally got it.

Thanks, Lucas!

And that was early-bird season ticket holders BP! It was awesome!

We headed back out to CF for Blue Jays BP:

We sat in the front row behind Mark Buerhle…

…who was the only Blue Jay I recognized.

Blue Jays’ BP was a yawner. Very few homeruns. Almost non-existent toss ups. Blue Jays fans everywhere.

So we headed to the kids’ play area:

And the boys had a blast!

Eventually, my mom and a very special guest joined us in the play area. We decided that we should all head over to our seats on the 3B line. On the way, we stopped to get a picture at the King’s Court throne:

Look at that! It’s my Little Grandma!   (Since we were kids, my brother and I always called my mom’s mom “Little Grandma” and my dad’s mom “Big Grandma”).

This was our first ever four generation Mariners game! Since my Grandpa passed away last January, my Grandma had been living with my folks for a couple months and she had started joining my folks at almost all of their Mariners games. She really enjoyed it. I hope she continues going in 2014.

By the way, my Grandma was 91 at this time.

Besides early bird season ticket holder BP, I was also very excited for this game because King Felix was going to be on the mound for the M’s. Unfortunately, it was not Felix’s night.

In fact, Jose Reyes lead off the game by hitting a homerun on the very first pitch of the game:

By the way, I officially cannot stand seeing huge numbers of fans cheer against the Mariners at Safeco Field – not cool!

I can’t really remember what the deal was with our tickets for this game. We had my folks normal season tickets in section 141, row 23.  But I think we had 2-3 other seats that were right in that vicinity, but not necessarily together. So when we reached the section, my folks talked to their normal usher about getting us all together. We ended up sitting together toward the section where there were plenty of empty seats.

And a Mariners employee who I totally recognized sat right behind us during the whole game:

I chatted with him a little bit. At first, I thought it was Anthony Suzuki, but he was not. Whatever his name is (I’m not sure), he said he works with Kuma. He sat there the whole game and seemed to be fairly busy on his phone and his iPad.

My best friend since sophomore year of high school, the one and only Paul Samione…

…, was at the game with his brother, Kevin. Paul is the one leaning toward the aisle and laughing. His family shares some amazing season tickets. Throughout the game, Paul and I texted about our desire to never see the Blue Jays play in Seattle again.

Not much was doing offensively for the M’s in this game. Raul went down swinging in the second:

Mike Morse followed with a single to RF…

…but he didn’t score.

But this didn’t prevent us from having lot of fun:

How could we not with this beautiful view on this beautiful night:

The boys enjoyed some ice cream (as usual):

And they clowned around in the seats all night:

Guess what? This looks like Seager is about to hit a homerun…

…, but did didn’t.

In fact, the M’s didn’t score until the seventh, at which point the score was already 7-0 (six runs being charged to King Felix!). The M’s scored 2 in the seventh, but it was too little, too late.

But, as I said, we enjoyed ourselves anyway (well, except for having to put up with all of the Blue Jays fans). See, here’s proof, see my dad smiling despite the lop-sided score:

Lucas Luetge was a bright spot. He pitched two scoreless innings in relief:

But, lo-and-behold, the Mariners fell to the Jays by the final of 7-2. The game ended on a high pop out, which allowed me and Kellan to get down to right here by the time the final out was made:

On his way out, home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott placed a baseball into Kellan’s glove.

Thanks, Blue!

Before heading to the cars, we got a family photo back at the seats:

We waited for the place to clear out a bit and then took a slow walk around the concourse toward the outfield:

I took this panorama from the concourse in CF because, hey, why not?

There is an elevator in the back of the Moose Den that my grandma needed to take down to the street level:

On our walk to the cars, the boys posed with a nice red fire hydrant across the street from the LF gate:

And they played around with the lights in the ground outside the Clink (the Seahawks’ stadium):

Then we had a nice and restful drive back to my folks’ house.

Hey, it was a great day at the ballpark. Despite the loss, I was pretty excited just thinking forward to our next game, which would feature the induction of my all-time favorite player, Ken Griffey, Jr. into the Mariners Hall of Fame!

2013 C&S Fan Stats

21 Games                                                     
 
19 Teams – Mariners, Royals, Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, Marlins, Pirates, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers, Mets, Brewers, White Sox, Braves
 
34 Ice Cream Helmets – Mariners 2, Phillies (jumbo) 4, Phillies (normal) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees 2, Orioles 4, Nationals 2, Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2, Tigers 6, Mets 2, Reds 4
 
103 Baseballs – Mariners 22, Royals 4, Phillies 19, Rays 2, Orioles 7, Dodgers 3, Umpires 8, Reds 9, Nationals 3, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2, Twins 3, Tigers 1, Mets 3, Yankees 2, Brewers 2, Red Sox 6, White Sox 3
 
11 Stadiums – Safeco Field, Citizens Bank Park, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, PNC Park, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park, Citi Field, Great American Ball Park
 
33 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, Rajai Davis
 
12 Autograph – Hisashi Iwakuma 2 (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan, Jesus Tiamo, Mike Carp 2, Ryan Rowland-Smith 2, Felix Hernandez, Rajai Davis, Michael Morse

 

Stade Olympique: Part Deux! (3/29/2014)

On the morning of Saturday, March 29, 2014, we woke up in our hotel room and looked out the windows:

It was a great day for baseball! A great day for indoor baseball, that is. We were excite for our second game at Stade Olympique.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat at a little place in the shops of Dupuis Place (I think that’s what it is called), and then headed down the stairs to the Metro. Remember how I said the subway was really a bunch of linked-up electric buses? Here’s proof:

Kellan grabbed a window seat so he could watch the stops fly by.

Michel was waiting at the gates already. The pre-gate scene looked a lot like it had the day before:

We had seen most of the stadium the night before, but one place we never ventured was the right field bleachers. So that is where we decided to start off at this game:

It took about thirty seconds before we noticed the ramifications of the guy falling out of the bleachers the night before. See those guys:

They were huddling and talking about the fall – that’s where the guy landed, on his head.

Now, look up at the cross-aisle two photos above. It is a nice, wide aisle with a very reasonable set of railings.  You’ll see in a few more pictures that the railing is taller than Kellan, almost as tall as Tim, and higher than my waist. (By way of contrast, check out the crazy short railings at Tropicana Field [http://mlblogscookandsonbats.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/14-low-railing.jpg]). You would really have to try to fall over that thing, which is almost what happened. The guy climbed on the railing to try to start the wave. That’s just irresponsible spectating.

But when it’s the first baseball game in a particular stadium in a decade and a guy nearly falls to his death, the stadium staff are bound to change some things. And that this game, they first announced that we had to *stand back* from the railing. So, at first, we were standing in the cross-aisle, but a couple feet off of the railing. But that wasn’t good enough. A supervisor type yelled up from the bullpen area to the usher standing next to us and directed her to get everyone completely out of the cross-aisle and behind the glass that lined the first row of seats.

So if you look back at the panorama above, you can see that Tim is behind the glass and the cross-aisle is mostly open, other than people walking from place to place.

When I tried started to try to take a picture of the boys, the usher offered to take our picture – in the super dangerous cross-aisle by the forbidden railing:

And, apparently before we returned to our safe spot behind the glass, Kellan snapped this picture of a happy little Tim:

At one point, Juan Lagares tossed a baseball to Greg Barasch, who was several rows above us and a section over toward RF. Greg came over to show us that it was a 2011 All-Star ball.

Hmm…it would be nice to get one of those. We’d NEVER catch an All-Star ball – or any baseball with multi-colored laces.

Eventually, some Met (by the way, although the stadium opened two hours early (at 11:00 a.m.), the Blue Jays were long gone by the time the fans were let into the park) hit a homerun in our direction. I got a late start on it, and eventually ran down into the cross-aisle, reached my glove arm over the super-dangerous railing, and just got a piece of it at the very end of the pinky finger of my glove.

The ball deflected off of my glove and back onto the field. Some unidentified Mets pitcher (a guy with a beard – maybe, Bobby Parnell, but I’m not sure) watched this all happen. He immediately fielded the ball and tossed it right back to me.

Thanks, unidentified guy/maybe Bobby Parnell!

And, guess what? It was a 2011 All-Star game ball! (FYI, that was the All-Star game at Chase Field in Arizona).

At this point, it didn’t seem like everyone was being forced to stay in the seats in LF, so we decided to head over there.

After a long walk, we discovered that the same rule, indeed, was in effect in LF:

But Tim tried to break the rules and stay out in the cross-aisle…

…, which he managed to do for a while, before ultimately being told to get back into the seats with the rest of us.

BP was pretty much dead. Not many homeruns being hit. Not many baseballs being tossed up into the crowd. Not many Mets I recognized. And really loud music being blared in our faces from the make-shift Stade Olympique sound system.

Avi, Michel, Chris and Greg were all over in LF at this point too. At one point, I heard Greg say something to Bobby Parnell.

Ah, ha! We knew a player’s name! (I’m still not sure if it was Parnell who tossed us the ball in RF).

Almost immediately after learning which guy was Parnell, a baseball was hit to him. We (and Greg) called out to Parnell and, much to Greg’s non-delight, Parnell tossed the ball to us. And guess what?

It was a 2012 (Kansas City) All-Star ball! (Probably my favorite All-Star ball over the last decade).

Thanks, Bobby! (Sorry about the Tom Johnny!)

After BP, we went up into the back corner of the section 151 (the CF-most section of the LF bleachers) to take a panorama and chat with the rest of the guys. While we were up there, Chris took this shot for us:

Here is the panorama I took up there…

…and here is the scene generally:

Next, everyone decided it was time to go explore the stadium. We all started by exiting the bleachers through the tunnels that empty into the lower field level concourse. The boys and I had been in that part of the concourse the day before and it is a HUGE open area. When we all walked into the concourse, someone had the bright idea that we should play catch. And so we did:

Check out all of this room:

We tossed the ball every-which-a-way between Greg, Chris, Me and Tim, with period grounders in to Kellan in the middle. By the way, no one was walking around in this area of the concourse because the concourse ended just behind Tim and Greg (that’s where the construction area begins).

At one point, a security guard walked right by us. He literally walked ten feet from me and Tim on the back side of the concourse, and he didn’t even bat an eye at the fact that we playing catch.

The boys were getting thirsty, so we headed off to get some water. The rest of the guys all headed off to wherever it was they were going to explore. But after we got some water, Tim wanted to play some more catch. So we headed back to the big open concourse area.

As Tim threw the ball off the wall to himself, Kellan showed off our two All-Star balls:

Then I threw a bunch of pop flies to Tim over the various pipes…

…and then Tim made me throw him a bunch of *line drives* he had to run for so he could make what he labeled as *epic catches*!

Eventually, we decided to walk around a bit. We passed by the Expos-stuff-area where was found Andre Dawson’s 1983 N.L. Silver Slugger Award and his (broken) 1980 N.L. Gold Glove Award:

We made our way around home plate in the concourse. Here are some random shots of what the concourse looks like back there:

Eventually, we popped out into the field level seats on the 1B side. On the field, they (I’m not sure who *they* area – the Society for former Expos Fans, maybe) were celebrating the 1994 Expos:

We watched the end of the ceremony from the cross-aisle behind section 123:

Finally, just before game time, we headed down to the field to watch the Blue Jays’ pre-game throwing:

What happened next was really bizarre. As background, you need to know that I could not find the charger for my normal pocket sized camera when it was time to leave for this trip. So I had to bring Colleen’s hold (and huge) camera.   The camera barely fits in my cargo pants pockets. The camera also has a strap to hang around your neck.

Now, at this time, I had the camera jammed in my right cargo pocket with the strap hanging out of the pocket.

So, when pre-game throwing wrapped up, our plan was to head up to our seats in section 437. We turned around and the aisle we were standing in ran all the way up through both field-level cross-aisles and all the way to the upper field level concourse. With Kellan on my shoulders and Tim bouncing around as he tends to do while walking anywhere, we started trudging up the stairs all the way to the top.

When we were between the concourse and the upper cross-aisle (about 10-15 rows from the concourse), I tried to take a step with my right foot at my leg got pulled back. The camera strap had caught onto the arm rest of one of the aisle seats. I stopped, looked back, and maneuvered my leg to unhook the strap. I then turned back and resumed climbing the stairs, but all of a sudden I started to trip forward up the steps. All of a sudden everything was in slow motion and it was like I wasn’t in control of my feet. I couldn’t find the steps as I tried to walk and I starting falling forward with Kellan on my shoulders. Holding Kellan’s leg with my right hand, I tripod’d to save myself from falling down. Two guys jumped out of their seats and ran down to grab and stabilize me as well. I thanked them, stood up straight again, and started walking up the rest of the way. When I got to the top, I looked back and Tim was still 10 rows down and he was running up to me. He had the camera in his hand.

It turns out that after I unhooked the camera strap from the aisle-seat arm rest, it almost immediately got stuck again. As I was struggling to walk up the stairs, the camera was pulling me back down the stairs and eventually…

…ripped out my pocket, resulting in the camera falling to the floor. Luckily, Tim noticed the camera.

Thankfully, I have walked up and down so many flights of stadium stairs with either Tim or Kellan on my shoulders over the years that I am extremely comfortable walking around that way. It was great that those guys jumped up to stabilize me, but I knew I was never going to fall even if they didn’t. And Kellan didn’t panic at all. Actually, I’m not even sure he realized what was going on.

Anyway, we walked up, up, up…

…and found our seats in section 437:

While we walked through the upper deck concourse toward our seats, Tim asked if we could pull the old switcheroo (dessert before dinner – or, in this case, lunch). So we go them the same treats they enjoyed the night before:

Here’s a blurry look at the first pitch of the game:

Here’s an elevated view of where the guy fell the night before:

See the guy in the orange shirt in the cross-aisle? The usher during BP to me the guy fell about 5-10 feet behind that guy (closer to the RF foul pole).

Here’s a nice first inning match-up – Brandon Morrow vs. David Wright:

Ultimately, Wright when down swinging.

Before the game, Avi told me one of his goals was to sit in the far upper OF corners in both LF and RF. I could see with my naked eye that he wasn’t in the upper RF corner. So I zoomed in on the upper LF corner:

There you go. To the upper right, that is Chris in the Mets jersey (with Natalie’s blue sweatshirt barely showing to the right of Chris), Avi (in the black sweatshirt), Greg (in the white with a Mets hat), and Greg’s dad, one row down from Greg.

I asked Tim if he wanted to go join them. Of course, he did. So we walked all the way around the stadium the long way (couldn’t cut through CF because of the construction zone) hoping they would still be there when we arrived.

As we arrived, they were just starting to walk down the stairs to head to the RF corner. But, when they saw us, they decided to sit back down so we could experience the upper corner with them for a bit.

Here is a panorama from the corner of section 462:

I stepped out a few seats so I could get another view that wasn’t blocked (as much) by the construction barrier), check it out:

I loved that you can look behind the scoreboard (or advertisements above the scoreboard) and see people on the other side of the stadium. By the way, in case you couldn’t tell, this game was PACKED! Over 50,000 fans were in attendance.

Here’s another familiar and welcome sight from my childhood:

Just like the glorious Kingdome (by the way, look for the Kingdome later in this entry), huge speakers hung from the roof of the dome all around the stadium.

Once we finally decided we’d had enough upper deck LF time, we headed down to the cross-aisle and stood around a bit. Greg’s dad had gone somewhere and we were waiting for him to return. While standing in the tunnel leading from the concourse to the cross-aisle, I got this photo:

That’s officially the first random wall cut-out with two-by-fours that we’ve ever found at a Major League ball park. Yep, the Stade has character!

And when Tim decided to blow a big blast of air into this cut-out, we discovered that the Stade has some dust too….well, it has a lot of dust.

We moved out to the concourse to wait some more. I grabbed a “dee-it coke” from a hot dog stand. Then we stood around some more.

Eventually, we decided to leave Greg behind and had over to RF.

On our walk through the concourse, we looked off the back edge down to the lower (upper field level) concourse and we found a bunch of these things:

I don’t know what those area. My best guess is some kind of counter-weigh that helps support the roof of the dome.

Here’s something else you don’t find much at Major League ball park, big piles of garbage in the concourse:

Avi, Chris, Natalie, the boys and I all headed up to the RF upper deck corner. At this point, we still needed to find fans of the Rays, Rockies and Cubs. While we were walking toward RF, Chris finally spotted a Rays fan, in line for some food. In the concourses at both of these games, it always seemed like there were thousands of people waiting in line for food.

Once we got to the RF corner, I took no pictures whatsoever because the boys and I were hardly there. Tim wanted to play catch again, so we left the rest Avi, Chris and Natalie and headed downstairs.

I had two goals: (1) get some poutine and (2) go play catch in the LF concourse. I wasn’t sure where to find poutine. So we headed to the upper-field level concourse and just started walking from RF to LF.   When we got behind home plate, I took this panorama from the top of section 101:

Beautiful, eh? I really like the color of the roof. It gives the feeling that you’re at a night game with a hole in the roof.

As we walked toward LF in the concourse by third base, I heard someone call my name. We turned around to find this guy standing there:

That’s Alex – or as I always identify him for my wife “Alex of Joe & Alex.” You see, back in 2009, Tim and I ran into “Joe & Alex” a few times at Citi Field. Tim used to talk about Joe & Alex like we were going to see them at every game at every stadium, he really wished we would. He’s always loved hanging with older guys. We’d actually met Alex for the first time at U.S. Cellular Field on August 17, 2009 – see, here’s proof.  We’ve also seen him at Camden Yards in 2010 and Citi Field, again, in 2013. It was great to catch up with Alex at yet another stadium. But he really needs to grow back his crazy 2009 mop-hair, don’t you think?

While we were chatting with Alex, a 20’ish year old gal in a Rockies hat walked by, I pointed at her and yelled, “ROCKIES!!!” I think she thought I was crazy. But that meant all we needed was to see a Cubs fan to complete our challenge.

After chatting with Alex for a bit, we excused ourselves so we could continue on our quest to find poutine and play catch. We wandered all around the food places, all with massive, slow-moving lines. We passed under this balloon arch…

…and then settled in for a 2-3-inning wait in line at the Bienvenue Grill:

That’s not an exaggeration. The game (tied 0-0) was sailing by and we were in line for more than half an hour! Looking back on the game, I feel like we hardly saw any of it. But the one thing Michel told us we had to do in Montreal was to each poutine, so we waited it out.

It truly was incredible how terribly slow every food place was at Stade Olympique. It didn’t help that every line we ever stood in (well, except for the ice cream/popsicle stands) ran out of major food items while we were in line – or that they only announced the non-available food items in French.

After waiting in this line for half an eternity, a guy yelled out in French, “L’blah-blah-blah. Oui, blah, blah, blah. L’blee-blue-blah.” All us Americans looked around confused and started asking the locals what he said. “No, more hamburgers or hot dogs.”

Check out the energetic and ready-to-serve staff at Bienvenue Grill:

We were going to get hot dogs for the boys and a poutine for me to share with the boys. But with no hot dogs left, we doubled down on the poutine. By the time we got our poutine, it was the eighth inning!

I decided that we didn’t have time to go play catch. Instead, we headed over to the SRO area behind section 228…

…and we started chowing down on…

…our:

By the way, poutine is French fries, gravy and cheese kurd. And it’s quite tasty. (Although, Kellan decided he didn’t want any).

After we finished our poutine, we decided to head out to LF to see about playing some catch and to see if Avi or anyone else we knew was out there. We headed out toward LF in the cross-aisle. When we got out there – or here…

…, it was still tied 0-0 in the bottom of the eighth. And then Melky Cabrera hit a 2-run homerun to put the Blue Jays up 2-0 as the game headed into the top of the ninth.

We were going to meet everyone behind the Mets dugout after the game. Because of Melky’s homerun, I (once again) decided we didn’t have time to go back to play catch again. So we headed toward the infield. And we found Avi and the guys on the way. I told them that all we needed was to see a Cubs fan to complete the all-teams-fan challenge, and they reported that they had finally spotted a Cubs fan. So we did it!

When the game ended, we made our way down to the first for behind the dugout, and Eric Langill (or as his fan club said…

… Eric “Lawn-jeel”) tossed us our final Stade Olympique baseball (at least of this trip!).

Thanks, Mr. Lawn-Jeel!

Tim got a big kick out of the smily-face eggs on the back of the grounds crews’ jackets:

We all milled around a bit, trying to extend our time inside Stade Olympique. Eventually, we got some pics of me and the boys, and me and Avi…

…featuring my new, beautiful Kingdome shirt!

And I even found another Cubs fan:

On our way out of the first row, someone (I think Chris or maybe Greg) noticed this great, personalized season ticket holder seat in the first row above the dugout:

“Maybe this year”?? Well, *maybe* for the Natspos of Washington, D.C.

As we headed to the exits, I took our final Stade Olympique interior panorama (for now, at least) from mid-way up section 118:

And then we headed out into the Great White North to check out the outside of the stadium:

Once we got a little further away, I got a panorama:

We decided not to go up the tower (because the usher inside told us it wasn’t worthwhile), we decided just to go find the Olympic Rings. We headed up a flight of stairs, until we hit the glacier that was covering Parc Olympique:

The ground was a mix between snow, slush and ice puddles. Kellan was on my shoulders so he was safe, but I had to micro-manage Tim’s walking so he wouldn’t arrive at the Olympic Rings covered in ice-water from head-to-toe.

At one point, I turned around and snapped this pic of Chris, Avi and Natalie:

Check out the cool set up at the Olympic Rings:

By the way, we had to negotiate our places – Kellan had to win the gold!

Finally, we headed back to our hotel. We had a pretty lazy evening. I took this photo showing all of our commemoratives from the trip…

…and we went out to dinner at this little Italian place:

And then Avi did work for his classes until around 3am.

The following morning we packed up and hit the road, but not before Kellan took a little standing nap:

Then it was back to the U.S. of A.:

2014 Fan Stats
2 Game
2 Teams (Blue Jays, Mets)
1 Stadium (Stade Olympique)
8 Baseballs (Mets 5, Expos 2*)* Olympic Stadium Staff
5 Commemoratives (2013 WBC 1, Angels 50th2, Dodger Stadium 50th 1, 2011 All-Star, 2012 All-Star)
 

Bonus Photo – Lots of activity again at this game:

Stade Olympique: On veut du baseball! (3/28/14)

So…Baseball is Back! On March 28, 2014, we got our season off to a quick start, in a big way. I thought Tim and I had been to every MLB stadium. In fact, I’d been to 37 (all current plus 7 closed) and Tim had been to 34. But over the winter we heard of an opportunity to add an old, new MLB stadium to our list: Stade Olympic (a/k/a Olympic Stadium) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We decided to make a weekend of it and, when my wife wasn’t up for the driving, we invited our old roadtrip buddy, Avi Miller.

The trip actually began around 6:15 p.m. on Thursday, March 27th. That’s when Tim, Kellan, Avi and I jumped in the car…

…popped in “Cowboy” Joe West’s “Blue Cowboy” album, and started driving north.

We bunked at the beautiful La Quinta Inn in Latham, NY for the night, and then hopped back in the car and drove into the Great White North on the morning of March 28th. With my US-based GPS out of commission, we got lost driving into Montreal. But our ship was righted with the help of a helpful gas station/garage manager.

*Merci*

Around 2pm, we pulled up to weekend digs, the Gouverneur Hotel Place Dupuis:

We incorrectly believed the ballpark would open at 5:00 (two hours before game time), so we rested up for a bit and then headed off to the Metro:

Olympic Stadium was three miles (or maybe it was kilometers??) away from our hotel, but it was incredibly easy. The boys wore their winter jackets (which meant I got to lug them around all night inside the stadium), but they were not needed because it was possible to go from our hotel room to our seats at the game without ever going outside. Also, the Metro was fun because it runs underground like a traditional subway train, but it runs on tires – it’s like a bunch of huge electric buses linked together.

So, after bording at Berri-Uqam and whizzing by Beaudry, Papineau, Frontenac, Prefontaine, and Joliette, we hopped off the train at the “Pie-IX” stop (a/k/a the “Half Felix” stop – actually, only we call it that, I think).

We spotted our first “Stade Olympique” sign right when we got off the Metro…

…we headed out those doors behind Avi and Tim, and headed down that next hallway (above to the right). Part way down the hall, we headed up some stairs and headed outside where we got our first view of the most beautiful domed stadium in Canada:

Oh, yeah, look at that – there was snow everywhere. We thought we needed to walk outside to the stadium, but Avi had the bright idea of going back inside and seeing where that hallway would lead us since it seemed to be heading right to the stadium. And it did head right to the stadium.

At the other end of the hallway, there were a bunch of these big red and yellow “Parc Olympique” signs:

It took a second or two to realize, but once we noticed the table and garbage cans (behind the signs), it was evident that the signs were marking the bag check point to get into the stadium. So we took our place at the left side of the sign in the above photo.

Standing to the right of the same sign was the mild mannered Quebecer pictured above with Avi and the boys. His name is Michel. He’s a member of MyGameBalls.com and he recognized us all when we walked up. We started chatting and ended up spending a lot of time with him over the weekend. He’s a quality dude. And it was great to meet him. This was a special day for Michel. He’s been to about 15 or so MLB parks in the U.S., but the Expos left town when he was about 6-7 and he’d never attended a game at his hometown’s MLB ballpark.

Michel let us in on the bad news that the stadium wouldn’t open until 5:30. That mean we had about an hour and a half to wait.

But we had fun passing the time. On the drive to Canada, Avi had predicted we would see fans of all 30 MLB teams at the Montreal games. So we made this list…

…and started checking them off as we spotted them. There were Expos fans everywhere. There were also a bunch of Mets and Jays fans since they were the teams playing. But we also quickly spotted Pirates, Braves, Dodgers, and Rangers fans.

The crowd started to grow rapidly.

And then the TV reporters showed up. They started interviewing Expos fans all around us, and Avi and Tim were in the background…

…of a lot of those interview.

Kellan got comfortable…

…he’s pretty much “at home” at a ballpark.

Soon, more of our friends showed up. First, Chris Hernandez and his finance Natalie arrived (pictured later), and then Greg Barasch…

…and his dad arrived.

By 5:00, the crowd in the little underground rotunda area was huge, and we were at the very front:

Oh, look, there is Chris and Natalie (above, behind Tim).

Kellan passed the time by taking a nap on my shoulders:

At 5:15’ish, we were the very first people to have our backpacks checked at an MLB game in Montreal:

See that yellow line with the arrow pointing to it in the photo above? At 5:15’ish, they waved us by. There was a mini-frenzy. We thought we were heading into the ballpark, but really we just rushed up to and then were stopped at that yellow line (where there actually was a yellow line on the ground).

We stood there for the next 15-20 minutes.

This was the scene (and it was pretty crazy):

There were camera-people lining the gates photographing and filming the crowd. Meanwhile, the guy right next to us (with arm raised and wearing a Jose Vidro jersey), started 15 minute rousing crowd chanting session. I think he started with “Let’s go Expos!” Then, he moved on to “We want Baseball!” As he chanted “we want baseball,” I yelled, “Now, in French!” He looked at me and said, “it’s too complicated in French.”

But then he did it. “On veut ‘baseball! On veut l’baseball! On veut l’baseball!On veut l’baseballOn veut l’baseball” (repeat, repeat, repeat…).

The TV cameras and running over immediately! Then an usher (the one at the left side of the yellow line in the photo two above) came over and told Jose Vidro a better way to say it in French.

On veut du baseball! On veut du baseball! On veut du baseball!” (repeat, repeat, repeat…).

[Special thanks to Michel for teaching me how to write those…]

It was pretty cool. Definitely, unlike any baseball stadium gate experience we’ve ever had. With all of the chanting and the video cameras and the flash bulbs popping, the anticipation to enter the stadium was palpable, you could feel it all around.

And then we got the word, and every rushed forward, with Tim running along with me and Kellan sitting on my shoulders. There were no scanners so the lady had to rip our ticket stubs (it was 2004 Montreal ticket technology), and then we ran through unfamiliar concourses to what felt like it should have been the third base side.

Eventually, we popped out of a tunnel just above the third base dugout. The Mets were on the field taking BP. We ran down to the dugout to see the action close up.

Bob Geren was playing catch in front of the dugout using two baseballs. As we approached, I called out a big “Hey, Bob!” An usher on the field, apparently unaware that it is okay to speak to players and coaches, reprimanded me.

“He’s busy on the field!”

Avi laughed, he couldn’t believe I was reprimanded for saying hi to Geren.

Geren didn’t mind. He finished playing catch within one minute, and he immediately turned and tossed one of the balls to Tim (he caught it) and the other to Kellan (he scooped it off the top of the dugout).   The first ball was a 2013 World Baseball Classic commemorative baseball and the other was an Angels’ 50th Anniversary baseball.

Wow, wow, wow…thanks, Bob!

The boys posed with their first baseballs of the season:

(By the way, I’m not a fan of “does it count” debates. We wouldn’t “count” balls from normal spring training games, but this was an exhibition game with 46,000+ crazy fans at a 27-year official MLB ballpark. You better believe we’re “counting” these baseballs).

Anyway, we started heading out toward LF and taking lots of pictures.

Here is the view half way between third base and the LF foul pole:

To get into the LF bleachers, you have to go up to the cross aisle and then back down. On our way up to the cross aisle, I noticed how beautifully retro the seats were – they were pure craziness:

Beautiful!

Once we got out to LF, Michel taught us how the fans slam the seats down to make an incredibly loud *clack* *clack* *clack* sound. When they really got going, Tim commented (and he was right on) that it sounded like a train rattling through the stadium.

So he is the deal. I absolutely love domed baseball stadiums. The Kingdome is my all-time favorite stadium because it was my baseball home for the first two decades of my life, and it was glorious. I loved the Metrodome. I loved Tropicana Field.

And, when I saw this…

…I officially fell in love with Stade Olympique!!!

I mean, come on!? How amazingly beautiful is that?? Have you ever seen something like that at a Major League ballpark? (No! No, you haven’t, unless you’ve been to Olympic Stadium).

So, my understanding (from Chris Hernandez) is that the LF seats are on a hinge (so to speak) in the LF and RF corners, and they swing forward to form the outfield bleachers for baseball games, or they swing back into the gap shown above to accommodate soccer.

Whatever the reason, I absolutely loved this massive (behind the scenes) dead zone. Truly a beautiful sight.

From that same spot, I turned toward the field and go this partially-blurry panorama (notice Tim checking out the crazy OF set up):

Here is a really terrible panorama that shows the awesome cross aisle in the front of the LF bleachers:

Between the LF and RF bleachers, two of the craziest make-shift bullpens were set up below the batters’ eye:

Oh, yeah, while we were out in LF checking everything out and watching BP, a stadium worker guy kept going down a flight of stairs on the CF end of the bleachers to retrieve homeruns that cleared the LF bleachers. He’d then give the balls to fans. He ended up giving Tim two baseballs, one was another Angels’ 50th anniversary ball and the other was a Dodger Stadium 50th anniversary baseball.

Thanks, guy!

By the way, I did not see a single non-commemorative baseball used during BP either at this game or the game the following day.

At the end of BP, Mets reliever Scott Rice came up that flight of stairs to chat with someone he knew. On his way back down the stairs, I took this weird photo:

That’s a scene you don’t see much at an MLB game, huh? Those fireworks were for Blue Jays post-homerun celebrations.

After BP, I took a quick selfie before the boys and I headed off to explore (Avi was off exploring on his own…or maybe with some of the other guys…at this point).

The tunnels in the LF bleachers excited through long ramps (that you can see in the *dead space* photo above) that lead into the lower, field lever concourse (there are two different concourse for the field level – this one that is accessed through mid-field level tunnels and another accessed by walking all the way to the top of the field level).

The concourse area is huge (and empty) right behind the LF bleachers. You’ll see more of that in tomorrow’s game. We turned left and headed toward the infield. Here are a couple of the first things we saw:

All of the food places had their menus in French (I wondered all weekend what “arachides” and “croustilles” are…I could figure out “biere”). The other thing (above to the right) with the green door opening is the weird restroom set up. They were all in the middle of the concourse and had ceilings that did not reach the concourse celing.

As we walked toward the infield, there was a ton of stuff in the concourse (most of which came out blurry in my photos). There were games, info booths, photo booths, Expos booths, Blue Jays souvenir booths, and food stands of all sorts.

Two photos that didn’t come out blurry showed the batting cages set up in the concourse…

…and a Tim Horton’s mascot suiting up in the restroom.

Speaking of the Expos booth, here is a photo that shows the (apparently) old authentic Expos stuff (here Randy Johnson):

We ran into the Blue Jays mascot in the concourse:

We decided to get some food. We got in a line that had hot dogs (which was conveniently listed in English). The line was taking forever. It wasn’t moving at all. Then someone behind the counter yelled something in French. I had no clue what was going on. Turns out they were out of hot dogs and needed to prepare more. This would be a common theme.

All of the food lines were incredibly long. We decided to head upstairs in hopes of finding shorter lines. As we approached the nearest ramps to the upper decks, this guy (who introduced himself as Max)…

…was walking down the ramp. He came over and asked if we were the Cooks. He recognized us from this blog. (Hi, Max!) We chatted for a few minutes. He’s a ballpark chaser and was very happy to be at Olympic Stadium (but, I think, it wasn’t his first time).

After chatting with Max for a few minutes, we headed up the ramps. I loved the ramps! Check them out:

These ramps were different than most of the ramps at the ballpark. We’ll see some of the others later.

Upstairs, we waited approximately *forever* for some hot dogs…

…before heading up to our seats in section 412, row S, seats 1-4:

The hot dog line was annoying because it made us miss most of the pre-game ceremony that featured Tim Raines, some other guys who played for the Expos, and the unveiling of this sign honoring Gary Carter:

Here was the scene while someone-or-other sang the US national anthem (in English) and the Canadian national anthem (in French):

Finally, Mark Burhle threw the first MLB pitch in Montreal in 9 years to Eric Young…

…who (two pitches later) tried to bunt his way on base.

Tim borrowed the camera (which was my wife’s old, clunky camera because we couldn’t find the chargers for either my camera or Tim’s camera) and took a bunch of pictures:

Meanwhile, Kellan did more napping – on my shoulder and the stairway:

I thought Kellan was really tired, but it turns out he felt a little under the weather, which resulted in a lot of napping during the first half of this game.

While Kellan napped, Tim and I watched the game, chatted and he posed for this picture with his new friend, Stade Olympique:

One funny thing that happened while we were up in our seats is that a fan started chanting “Let’s Go Blue Jays!” When no one in the crowd followed his chant, he yelled something to the effect of “That’s why you guys don’t have a baseball team anymore! Enjoy your baseball team guys!!!” It seemed very un-Canadian of him. I thought these guys were supposed to be the most polite people in the world?

So check this out:

Two cross aisles cut the field level at Olympic Stadium is cut into three parts. Those yellow tunnels at the bottom of the middle section take you out to what I previously called the “lower field level concourse.” But you could also follow stairs all the way from the field up through all three parts of the field level to an “upper field level concourse” behind the top part of the field level.

Elsewhere, there was a 300 level (suite level) concourse and a 400 level (upper deck) concourse.

After about three innings, we headed down to the 400 level concourse because Tim wanted to explore. The 400 level concourse was naturally divided into two parts, which I’ll all the front (field-facing) and back (exterior-facing) sections.

The back section of the concourse was, for the most part, wide open and gives you a nice view of the curved architecture of the stadium…

…while the front half was clogged with numerous seemingly endless lines snaking their ways to the various food and drink stands (like this make-shift biere stand).

We made our way all the way out to the end of the concourse where we hit a make-shift ply wood wall closing off the concourse with a sign “CONSTRUCTION ZONE.” So we headed through the tunnel where we were greeted by this glorious view from section 460:

Check out the huge flat surface (complete with table and chairs) on top of/behind the scoreboard in centerfield. How weird is that? And what in the world is the purpose??

By the way, see the black boards to the left? That is the boundary with the construction zone.

Oh, yeah, see all the smoke in the picture (above the RF bleachers)? We totally missed it because we were in the concourse, but Jose Bautista blasted a home run to LCF (that apparently went right over Chris’s helplessly outstretched arms). That made the score 2-1 Mets in the bottom of the fourth.

We decided to walk to the far corner in the RF side of the OF (on the other side of the behind-scoreboard-platform). On our way, we got some more panoramas, like this one in section 446…

…, this one from approximately section 428…

…, and this one from the concourse in section 401:

We were hoping they would have Expos ice cream helmets, but no such luck. Instead, Tim picked out a chocolate encased vanilla ice cream dove bar (Kellan didn’t want one at the time) and he had a chocolaty face by the time we reached section 463:

Here is a panorama from the second to last row below the cross-aisle in section 463:

As Kellan watched Tim eat his ice cream, he decided he wanted a “popsicle” too. But, he clearly did not:

He just sat on my shoulders holding it for a while until he finally told me to eat it.

Eventually, Kellan needed to head to the restroom. He was acting like he was sick and I was getting nervous. I really thought we needed to leave the game and head back to the hotel so he could rest in bed, but there was a problem. We had no clue where Avi was. Because we were in Canada, neither of our cellphones worked so I couldn’t call him. As Kellan headed into a stall claiming he needed “privacy,” Tim and I stood outside the stall and discussed what we would do. The plan was to meet behind the third base dugout after the game. But Avi could be anywhere at this point. My only thought was to find Chris and Natalie who we hoped would be in section 402 (where their seats were located) and have them relay to Avi after the game that we had already headed back to the hotel.

But after what seemed like an eternity, Kellan marched out of the stall acting totally normal again. He headed over to the sink and washed his hands acting like he’d never felt sick at all. He looked up at me and asked, “Can I get a new popsicle?”

And for the rest of the night, totally normal, non-sick feeling Kellan was back.

By the way, while we were in the restroom, Travis d’Arnaud hit the second homerun of the game (in the top of the seventh inning) to make the score 4-2 Mets.

We took one more upper deck panorama at section 447:

And then we headed off to get Kellan a popsicle, but this time it was a real popsicle, which I thought would be better for him if he was still feeling sick’ish at all.

We then headed down the ramps to the upper field level concourse (200 level). Here are some of the ramp views:

In the photo above to the right, those are the insides of the black windows that are at the bottom of the exterior of the stadium.

In the 200-level concourse, we found a nice standing room spot behind section 225 to watch the game…

…while Kellan devoured his large multi-colored popsicle:

That’s former-Mariner and international baseball sensation, Munenori Kawasaki, in the process of smacking a single. He and Maicer Izturis (who was already on base) later scored on a game tying single by Edwin Encarnacion.

On our way out to LF, we toured the 200-level concourse and stopped in a few different standing room areas. Check out this funky area, where it appears a careless adult in the end seat could bash his head on the slanted concrete support thingy:

Here’s the partially blurry (it’s hard to take good photos in a doom) view from the standing room behind section 204:

Finally, we made it out to deeeeeeeeeeep LF, to the seats that would be the top part of the field level if the LF bleachers were pushed back. Most of these seats were not sold, and were actually roped off. But the usher did not seem to care if people disregarded the rope.

Here is a panorama from the back of section 142:

We took the cross-aisle as far out as we could go (until there was a black divider hanging down that was supposed to keep people out of the area behind/under the scoreboard. Check out this crazy panorama:

This is, personally, one of my favorite panoramas I’ve ever taken. From the rest of the stadium, the CF area just looked like a black batters’ eye and a scoreboard, but from this view we got a behind-the-scenes peak, literally behind the batters’ eye and scoreboard.

And as a bonus, we got to watch Bobby Parnell warm up in the eighth inning (in the closer of the two make-shift bullpen).

Here’s another picture I took from that same spot:

From this cross-aisle, we could just barely see over the LF bleachers to watch the batter-pitcher matchup. Of course, the view of LF was a *bit* obstructed. But what really makes that last picture just perfect is the “Tim Hortons” sign. As far as I know, Tim Hortons is the most Canadian thing in the world (although, from my limited sampling, Tim Hortons seems to be much better represented in Ontario than it is in Quebec). Finally, check out the seats *under* the field level seats. Those are pretty cool.

In the bottom of the eighth inning with the score knotted at 4 runs apiece, Bobby Parnell got called into the game for the Mets. This picture will set the scene:

We had been hanging out right where Kellan is standing in that photo for the last 10-15 minutes. There was so much to see, I couldn’t get enough of it. At one point (while Parnell must have been taking a break between warm up pitches), Mets bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello looked over and exchanged some waves with the boys while he was still in his crouch behind home plate.

When Parnell got called into the game, “Rac” walked over to the short fence just off the edge of the bullpen “grass.” He was right in the middle of the length of the bullpen, by the light tower. It was clear that he was contemplating whether he could toss us Parnell’s warm up ball. That last picture is a little misleading, it looks sort of close. But, trust me, this was a long way away. Not only was it a long distance, we were two levels above Rac.

I pulled the glove off my head, popped the pocket with my fist and extended my arms to give Rac a big target. I also scooted back a bit so I wouldn’t be at the railing – I sort of lined up with a closed off tunnel to the concourse. Rac made some exaggerated grabbing-his-shoulder-and-rotating-his-arm gestures as if to say, “I don’t know if I can make it up there!” And then he unloaded a perfect throw. The ball sailed above me, arched like a low lower on its descent, and then it went directly in line with the lights on the far side of the stadium. I stuck out my glove hoping I would be able to fend off the lights. And then the ball emerged from the lights and smacked into my glove.

It was truly one of the coolest toss ups I’ve ever been a part of or even witnessed.

We all yelled big *THANK YOUS* down to Rac.

Thanks, again, Rac!

Parnell got out of the eighth and the game moved to the ninth tied 4-4.

The plan was to meet up with Avi, Chris, Natalie, Greg and Michel behind the Mets dugout after the game for a group picture. So we started heading that way.   On our way, we stopped for this panorama from the cross-aisle behind section 122:

Do me a favor, click on that last panorama to see the enlarged version. See the RF bleachers. Do you notice how there are just a two ushers wearing bright yellow sweaters? One is in the CF corner (above the “W” of the “Westjet” show and another in the tunnel between the Rolaids and Jack’s Links signs. Just remember that, because that is the “normal” amount of bleacher ushers.

We wandered around a little bit looking for Avi (who should have been easy to spot due to his bright orange Orioles jersey).   We found some other O’s fans in our quest, but didn’t see Avi quite yet.

The Mets didn’t score in the ninth so it went to the bottom of the frame. Around 10:15 were in the cross-aisle around section 216 as the Blue Jays tried to win it via walkoff:

Okay, now click on that photo, too, to enlarge it. See the RF bleachers?? I now count at least eight yellowe-sweater-clad usher in the bleachers, all scattered through the front cross-aisle in the CF-most part of the RF bleachers. It’s sort of hard to tell, but you can subtly notice that for the most part they are all leaning forward looking over the railing.

We did not know at the time. But just before I took this photo, a 40’ish year old (and probably intoxicated) Blue Jays fan climbed up the railing in a failed effort to start the wave, and he ended up falling over the railing to the concrete floor below. I’ve read articles saying it was anywhere from a 20 foot to a 50 foot fall. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition, and I’ve never heard an update. Hopefully he is improving. His fall would have an impact on the rest of the weekend.

Anyway, we headed down to the lower cross-aisle where we spotted Avi and Greg sitting just a few rows back from the turf:

Tim went down and joined them for the rest of the game while Kellan and I took it in from the cross-aisle, where no one cared that we were standing.

In the bottom of the ninth, Muni Kawasaki hit a double and eventually scored the winning run on a walk-off single by Jonathan Diaz.

Fake Expos Win!

After the game, we all gathered for a post-game photo (taken by Natalie):

We lingered as long as we could before Chris, Natalie, Michel, Avi, the boys and I all headed to the Metro, which was an absolute zoo. Avi and I had pre-paid passes and Kellan was free, but we though we needed to buy a return fare for Tim (who had been comp’d on our way out to Pie-IX by a Metro worker who seemed to like us. The line was too big for Chris and Natalie, they went to another station down the block. The rest of us waited through an incredibly long line to buy Tim’s return fare. Michel volunteered to do the talking (in French). When we got to the front of the line, we found the same lady who had comp’d Tim going the other way. This time, she told us that it was free for Tim because it was after 6 p.m.

So we all rode the Metro back downtown.

Back at the hotel, I completed checking off the teams whose fans we had seen at the game:

(I have no clue why that picture is showing up sideways.)

With the caveat that we were the Mariners fans that we saw, all we needed on Saturday was to find fans of the Rays, Rockies and Cubs. Pretty good!

As an extra bonus, check out my activity log for the game courtesy of my Fit Bit:

I walked most of those 7.61 miles with Kellan on my shoulders…and my back was about to pay the price.

All-in-all, it was an incredible first day of the baseball season for us. We had an absolute blast and we couldn’t wait to get back at it the next day.

On veut du baseball!

2014 Fan Stats
1 Game
2 Teams (Blue Jays, Mets)
1 Stadium (Stade Olympique)
5 Baseballs (Mets 3, Expos 2*)* Olympic Stadium Staff
3 Commemoratives (2013 WBC 1, Angels 50th2, Dodger Stadium 50 1)
 

 

Mr. Davis and the Cooks at Safeco Field (8/5/2013)

Who was the first batter at the first MLB game you ever attended?  Personally, I have no clue.

But I can tell you that Frank Catalanotto took “strike 1″ when Tim watched Gil Meche deliver the first pitch of his first Major League game back on September 12, 2006.  And I can tell you that Luke French delivered “strike 1″ to Rajai Davis with the first pitch of Kellan’s first Major League game back on October 1, 2010.

Our goal has been to meet and get an autograph from each of those guys.  And on August 5, 2013, which marked the first full day of our 2013 Seattle vacation, we finally caught up with Rajai Davis.  Here is the story of that day.

We had four Mariners games planned for the trips.  On our way down to this one, we were happy to have Colleen “Mommy” Cook…

…join us for her first game of the season.

We arrived plenty early and entered through The Pen entrance…

…in left field.

At the outset, Tim hung out with Granpda while Kellan, Colleen and I headed out by the batters’ eye:

There were two baseballs in the grass out there and an usher eventually tossed one our way.

Thanks, Usher!

I then split off from Colleen and Kellan and headed over to the LF corner to check out Edgar’s Cantina.  It’s nice, but I’ll never really spend any time here for at least a decade or two because kids are not allowed in there (which seems silly to me since people drink alcohol everywhere in the ballpark…and all ballparks).  Anyway, here are a couple photos.  First, the view to home plate:

The bar:

And through the window looking into the visitors’ bullpen:

Someone hit a homerun into the Cantina while I was in there.  They put a net over the top of the fans during BP, but the ball still trickled down and made its way into the hands of a fan back toward the bar.

So long, Edgar’s, I’ll come check you out again once the boys are in college or something.

When they opened the rest of the ballpark, Tim and my dad headed to RF for a bit and Yoervis Medina tossed a ball to Tim.

Thanks, Yoervis!

Colleen, Kellan and I headed to foul territory in LF.  We had one major goal for this game:  get a special autograph from Rajai Davis.  I knew the 3B line would be our best bet to make it happen.

As the Blue Jays took the field, the scene looked a little like this:

The three of us went to the lower “X” on the far right side of the photo.  Davis was playing catch with one of his teammates and he was in shallow CF throwing to his partner just behind 3B.

I made a big sign (just like I made for Tim’s first batter, Frank Catalanotto) that read:

RAJAI DAVIS

AUTOGRAPH

PLEASE!!?

When I spotted Rajai out in shallow center, I yelled, “RAAAAAAJJJJJJJAAAAAAAAAIIIIIII” at the top of my lungs and held the sign high over my head.

Davis looked over and gave me a nod and a little “hold on a minute” hand gesture.

Yes!!!

I knew we were going to succeed in our two three-year old Davisquest.

After taking some fungo’d pop flies in LCF, Rajai made his way over to us (and my dad, who had joined us) took a lot of pictures:

Top Left: I’m showing Rajai the photo of the first pitch of Kellan’s first MLB game back on October 1, 2013.  The picture was already signed by the M’s starting pitcher, Luke French.

Top Right:  While a Rueters photographer snapped away, Rajai and I look up to track a ball after hearing the crack of the bat.

Bottom Left:  Rajai points at the picture and mumbles (as if half to himself and half to me), “Ah, Oakland A’s.  Luke French.  Yeah…that’s a good night for Mr. Davis.”  After the game, I checked the box score and found that Mr. Davis went 2-3 with an RBI and 2 walks on the night. Nearly everything went wrong that night.  The M’s lost 9-0.  Thankfully, the one thing that went right was that Rajai was retired on the second pitch of the game.  So Kellan started his MLB career with the Mariners throwing “strike 1, out 1” on his first two pitches.

Bottom Right:  Rajai signs the photo for Kellan.

After signing the photo, Rajai was super cool (and patient) and hung out long enough for my dad to snap a few more photos of us (in which, for some reason, Colleen tried to lean back out of the photo instead of joining us – silly girl):

Here’s a close up of Rajai and Kellan (and me since I was holding Kellan):

And here’s a photo I found after the game by search google for “Rueters Rajai Davis”:

That photo was posted on several sports websites around the world…I’m not sure why, but I won’t argue about it.

Finally, check this out:

How many people have a picture of the first pitch of their first MLB game signed by both the pitcher and batter AND photos with both of the players??  Not many, I am sure.  In fact, Kellan is the only one I know (we are still trying to track down Tim’s first pitcher, Gil Meche).

After our Rajai Davis experience, we headed further down the LF line for a while:

There were so many Blue Jays fans down from Canada that we stood no chance at getting any toss-ups.

Late in BP, Colleen and my dad stayed with the boys in the shady foul territory and I headed out to RF to try my luck at catching a BP homer.  It was really sunny out there…

…and I came nowhere near catching any homers.

Check out my dad, Colleen and the boys (you can only see Tim in this photo) hanging out in LF foul territory…

…behind a line of Blue Jays fans.  I’m pretty sure that there are more Blue Jays fans at BP at Safeco Field when the Blue Jays visit Seattle than there are at any Blue Jays home game.

On my way back over to foul territory, I stopped by the Mariners bullpen to check out the new setup…

…, which is the result of the M’s bringing the fences in for the 2013 season.  Last season, there was a tall chain link fence between the bullpen and the fans.  Now, it is just a low railings.  Much more access and less interference between fans and players.  I like it.

Here are a few views of the newly reconfigured LF area:

Lower Right:  Edgar’s Cantina from the seats next to the LF foul pole.

Lower Left: The hand operated scoreboard is now above Edgar’s and set back 10-15 feet from the field – it used to be right above the OF wall.

Upper Right:  Tim touching the LF foul pole.

Upper Left:  The new standing room area above Edgar’s Cantina.  This area replaces two sections of seating that used to be in LF.

Next, we headed off to the Kids’ Play Area for a bit:

Last season, we concluded that Tim wouldn’t be able to go in the play area this season.  This season, he was a smidge taller than the height limit, but they still let him in with Kellan – and he still had lots of fun.

While we watched the kids play, my dad posed for a picture with the Rajai Davis sign and…

…then I drew a “Hit It Here” sign on the back of the Rajai sign.

Before the game started, we headed back to the bullpen to watch Hisashi Iwakuma warm up for the game:

And then Tim acted like he was throwing this Pepsi sign on our way to our seats:

We made it to our seats in CF in time for Kuma’s first pitch to Jose Reyes:

And that’s when I noticed that one of the Blue Jays’ BP homers had busted the out-of-town scoreboard above the bullpens:

It was like this the entire game, but was fixed by the next day.

For most of the game, my dad and Tim sat next to each other…

…and Colleen, Kellan and I sat right in front of them, with me on the aisle seat.

The game was a pitchers’ dual with R.A. Dickey…

…going pitch-for-pitch with Kuma.

In the bottom of the second inning, Justin Smoak hit an infield Popfly that just missed hitting the international space station…

…and it almost went for a base hit, but for the last minute diving catch by Jays third baseman, Brett Lawrie.

In the second inning, Kellan and I set out on foot for a little adventure.  First, we headed out to the SRO area in CF by the Mariners bullpen:

Check out the shadows on “MarinersVision” in those bottom two picts.  The sun was streaming into the ballpark from low on the horizon across Puget Sound resulting in a shadow of the lighting fixture clock in LF being cast against the screen.

Next, we headed to the SRO bar area Edgar’s Cantina:

I guess, in theory, this is somewhat like the Flag Court in Baltimore or the LF corner in Cleveland, but it is much smaller and is partially covered with an overhang.  Not bad though.

Next up, we headed over to the Mariners team store, where Kellan wanted me to buy him a stuffed Mariners Moose thingy (which I meant to buy later in the week, but forgot to do)…

…and then we headed back to our seats.  By this point, it was the fourth inning and I had to shake my head at the fact that people were still arriving for the game!

In the bottom of the fifth, it looked like the M’s were getting something going.  Dustin Ackley led off the inning with a single.  After Humberto Quintero flew out, Brad Miller slapped a single…

…of his own.  But that’s all the M’s could muster in the inning.  Two more quick pop outs followed and the game went into the sixth inning with a scoreless tie.

Here are some random, mid-game cute pictures of Colleen and Kellan:

We held the “Hit It Here” sign a bunch when the M’s were batting.  But no one ever hit us with a homerun.

I had forgotten about this, but Mariners home games against the Blue Jays are usually annoyingly crowded.  I’m all for tons of fans showing up at Safeco Field.  But I’m not for tons of visiting fans showing up.  I don’t particularly enjoy hearing the crowd at Safeco Field cheer AGAINST the Mariners.  I get enough of that phenomenon when we see the M’s play road games.  When I Seattle, I like the crowd to go crazy IN SUPPORT of my boys in blue.  This was the wrong series to attend from that perspective.

Anyway, due to the large’ish crowd (at least large’ish for a Mariners Monday night game), the people running the play area handed out these cards…

…at the beginning of the game.  They ran 15 minute shifts throughout the night and Tim and Kellan (accompanied by Colleen) had their chance to play a bit more from 8:40 to 8:55 p.m.

While they were away at the play area, my dad came down a row to sit next to me.  Soon, a couple of my high school friends sent me messages that looked like this:

My dad and I made the Mariners broadcast with my “Hit It Here” sign.  I think that picture is pretty funny because (1) my dad is smiling like he knows we’re on TV, (2) I’m doing something weird with my mouth (maybe I was eating something???), and (3) Kellan’s cute little glove looks so tiny on the corner of the chair in front of me (next to my knee).  I only wish they would have put us on when Colleen and the boys were all there.  Tim would have gotten a kick out of that.  Oh, well.

In case you were wondering, he was the Mariners outfield for the game:

Michael “The Beast” Morse, Michael “The Condor” Saunders and Rauuuuuuuuuuuul Ibanez.

And, in case you were wondering again, here is the oddly cool green-based Ken Griffey, Jr. shirt that Tim wore to the game:

So, Justin Smoak led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a massive Smoak-bomb to deeeeeeep RF:

That put the M’s up 1-0 with only sixth defensive outs to go and Kuma dealing a gem on the mound.  I was feeling quite positive about the prospects for an M’s “W”.

But it wasn’t our night.  Kuma gave up a lead off triple to Brett Lawrie in the top of the eighth inning.  After retiring Josh Thole, Kuma gave up an RBI single to Jose “Jose, Jose” Reyes.  Tie ball game.

Funky Cold Yoervis Medina then came in and recorded the second out of the inning.  But then he gave up a single to Jose Bautista, a wild pitch sending Reyes to 3B, and a walk.

By this point, Tim and I were over by the Mariners bullpen…

…watching Oliver Perez warm up:

And just taking photos of the bullpen setup that was still very new to us:

Unfortunately, Perez gave up a 2-RBI line drive single to Mark DeRosa.  That put the Jays up 3-1, and that was the final score.

On our way back to our seats we were hopeful for a Mariners comeback (that was not in the cards).  We stopped along the way at what I think is one of the most unique spots in any MLB stadium – The Pen’s lounge area with open flames:

The boys love that spot.  Unfortunately, you cannot see the game whatsoever from there.

The M’s gave it their best shot, but couldn’t come back.  Final score 3-1 Blue Jays.

After the game, we got some family pictures before heading out:

While we prefer Mariners wins, it is always great to be at Safeco Field, and we left this game knowing we had three more opportunities to see the M’s win at this beautiful ballpark over the course of the week.

Go Mariners!

2013 C&S Fan Stats

20 Games                                                     
19 Teams – Mariners, Royals, Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, Marlins, Pirates, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers, Mets, Brewers, White Sox, Braves
32 Ice Cream Helmets – Phillies (jumbo) 4, Phillies (normal) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees 2, Orioles 4, Nationals 2, Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2, Tigers 6, Mets 2, Reds 4
93 Baseballs – Mariners 13, Royals 4, Phillies 19, Rays 2, Orioles 7, Dodgers 3, Umpires 7, Reds 9, Nationals 3, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2, Twins 3, Tigers 1, Mets 3, Yankees 2, Brewers 2, Red Sox 6, White Sox 3
11 Stadiums – Safeco Field, Citizens Bank Park, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, PNC Park, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park, Citi Field, Great American Ball Park
33 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, Rajai Davis
11 Autograph – Hisashi Iwakuma 2 (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan, Jesus Tiamo,   Mike Carp 2, Ryan Rowland-Smith 2, Felix Hernandez, Rajai Davis
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