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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

MyGameBalls.com Ballhawkfest 2013 (8/3/2013)

On August 3, 2013, we attended the MyGameBalls.com Ballhawkfest 2013 (the East Coast edition) in Philadelphia. And it almost didn’t happen.

First, there was a major scheduling conflict. The event was scheduled for the same weekend as the Mariners series at Camden Yards. I couldn’t imagine missing the Mariners in Baltimore. The thought of it was…well, it was unthinkable.

Next, we realized we had to fly to Seattle that very same day because we were heading out for Ken Griffey, Jr.’s induction into the Mariners Hall of Fame (which would happen the following Saturday). Normally, we fly out to Seattle on a Saturday and we return the following Sunday. Based on the scheduling of the Griffey MHOF game (something that was completely non-negotiable – we HAD to attend it), our “normal” schedule would have us flying on the day of Ballhawkfest.

But then we waited way too long to book our flight to Seattle. The ticket prices were ridiculous and the times weren’t great either. We ended up opting for a Sunday morning flight. And that meant we could go to (1) the Mariners at Camden Yards on Friday 8/2/13 and (2) Ballhawkfest on 8/3/13. Well, after securing our Mariners tickets, it turned out that 8/2/13 did not work. But 8/3/13 did. And this is the story of our day with our friends from MyGameBalls.com.

Because we didn’t find out we could go to Ballhawkfest until very late in the game, we didn’t get to order official shirts. But my wife found blank shirts that were exactly the same color and I made these shirts with my trusty set of sharpies:

I did the number on Tim’s back on the morning of the game, so his number was spot on.

Alan Schuster, who was going to join us for the Mariners/Orioles game on 8/2/13, stayed at our house on 8/2/13 and we caravanned down to Philadelphia (about an hour away) around 7:45 a.m:

As you can see, we were carrying a net in the back of my wife’s SUV. We brought it to use as a makeshift “L” screen.  Safety first, you know?!

We met up at FDR Park for a little homerun derby.  I’d never been to FDR Park before. It was perfect for our purposes. Check this out:

FDR Park used to be right across the Broad & Pattison intersection from Veterans Stadium, and it is just two blocks away from Citizens Bank Park where we went to the game and ate lunch at McFadden’s before the game. Also, check out CBP in the upper
right of that last pic. I cut out the field we played on at FDR Park, spun it around about 135 degrees and fit it on top of the field at Citizens Bank Park. It was definitely shorter, but it took a decent shot to get it out of our field at FDR Park.

Here is the crew we met up with at FRD Park (minus a few camera shy parents):

Cooks aside, from left to right our group included: Jenny and Benny Bang Bang, Rick “Unfortunately An A’s Fan” Gold, Mark Kopp, Alan “Mister MyGameBalls.com” Schuster, Alex “Fresh Off Catching A Chris Davis Eutaw Street Homerun The Night Before” Kopp, Harrison Tishler, Quinn Imiola, Dave “Big Papi” Imiola, Zack “Trying Not To Catch Any Game-Used Balls Today” Hample, Rick “Zoltan” Sporcic, Jeremy Evans and Max Pinsky.

We split into two teams and played homerun derby. The format was that each batter got two outs person inning. Any ball hit out of the park was worth 5 runs. Hits that landed in the outfield grass without being caught were worth 1 run. Any swing and miss, foul ball, ground ball or ball caught in the outfield was an out.

Our team was me, Tim, Jeremy, Alan, Dave, Benny and Jen.

The much better team included Rick Sporcic, Rick Gold, Zack, Alex, and Harrison.

It was a lot of fun playing ball with my boys:

I hit maybe 4-5 homeruns over the course of the morning. Tim put on a solid hitting display, and was only half the age of the next youngest player. Oh, yeah, Tim also made up the rule that a hit off of the “L” screen was good for 100 points…he made that rule right after the first time he hit the screen.  And, if you went by that rule, our team won big thanks to a few hits off the screen by Tim.

The other squad, unfortunately for us, put on a hitting clinic:

Upper Left:  “The” Alex Kopp showing his fine hitting form.

Upper Right:  Zack knocked a few long balls over the OF fence.

Lower Left:  Harrison “H” Tishler kept Tim on his toes with solid shots to left.

Lower Right:  The Babe Ruth and defending Ballhawkfest Homerun Derby Champion Rick Sporcic launched approximately 1,000 homeruns.  Rick hit ’em deep, he hit ’em long.  Rick put ’em on the board.  Yes!

We didn’t let Rick’s barrage of homers put lower our spirits…

…., nah, the good guy were full of hope and ready to swing ’em.

I was snapping pics in the dugout and in the outfield.  Some of my favorite pics were captured while we changed sides after a half inning.  Here’s my favorite:

I tried to stick right by Kellan in the outfield so I didn’t catch much…in fact, I think I only caught one fly ball all morning.  But my team mates had the outfield covered:

Benny was all over the place in LF catching balls.  Every time a ball was hit over there, Tim thought he was going to catch it.  But, eventually, Benny would make the grab.  I was happy with this outcome because the other team was hitting the ball pretty hard and I didn’t want Tim to take one off of his face.

During parts of the game, Tami and Seth Tishler patrolled homerun territory collecting the balls that we were hitting out there.  Seth joked that they were “ballhawking” the ballhawkfest homerun derby:

Here are some action shot of my teammates hitting from the diamond club:

Above to the left, Jenny Bang Bang demonstrates the old foot-on-home-plate method of hitting (note:  not the preferred method if you’re going by the official MLB rule book).  Above to the right, Dave Imiola hits a hard shot to RF in a Imiola vs. Imiola show down (i.e., that’s Quinn pitching his old man).

When our team was in the field, Kellan brought Tim’s bat with us to the outfield and I pitched tennis balls to him.  At one point, Kellan hit a homerun over the fence:

That photo is just a recreation of the event, not the real thing.  When Kellan hit his homer, he was actually another 10-15 feet in from the fence (closer to the in field) and I had my back to the fence.  He hit a nice poke to clear the fence.

After the derby, which my team lost (we needed about 40-50 runs in the bottom of the last inning but managed only 15 or so), we all headed over to Citizens Bank Park.  We parked out by the old Veterans’ Stadium infield and got a picture of the boys playing around at first base…

…before heading toward the stadium (and walking through a big BBQ festival that was getting ready for pre-game festivities).

We had two big tables at the restaurant.  One featured…

…Alan, the Kopps, the Imiolas (including Mom Imiola), Jeremy, Max, Rick Gold, and late arrivals Mateo Fischer and Chris Hernandez.

The other table featured…

…the Bang Bangs, Zack, the Tishlers and the Cooks.  In the picture to the left, Zack is signing a shirt that we all signed for Matt Hersl’s family.  Matt was one of the original members of MyGameBalls.com and organizers of the first Ballhawkfest.   Matt was tragically killed last winter when he was hit while walking on a side walk in Baltimore by an out-of-control car.  This Ballhawkfest was dedicated to him.  Benny is signing a photo/certificate type thing that we also all signed for Matt’s family.

Here’s another picture of our table that shows Jen too:

I think Zack has patented that display hand move so don’t try it in pictures unless you want to pay him royalties.  Kellan has a patent of his own, the eye-roll pose, which he is demonstrating above.

I should mention that Rick and his friend, Julie, hit baseballs for another half hour or more after we all left for lunch.  They showed up to lunch eventually, but after all of those picture were taken.

During lunch, Alan handed out certificates for last year’s awards (Ballhawk of the Year —> Zack; Photo Scavenger Hunt Champs —> us!) and gave out a bunch of prizes that people had donated.  When Benny saw Tim’s Ken Griffey, Jr. back pack, he tried to get it donated as a prize and suggested that he should be the winner.  Nice try, Benny!

As lunch started to break up, Dave announced that it was Quinn’s 14th birthday so we all sung “Happy Birthday” to him and then Alan broke open a HUGE box of seeds donated by BIGS seeds.  If you look three photos above, there is a big card board box on a table behind the waiter.  That was the box of seeds.  It was packed with full-sized BIGS packs and everyone took a bunch of bags.  I think we got 3-4 bags ourselves.

Big thanks to BIGS seeds!

Eventually, we all scurried off to the LF gate to get in line.  While most of us just milled about and chatted at the gates…

…Mateo and Tim played catch.

Much of the discussion at the gate was about how Zack’s bazillion game streak of getting a baseball was definitely going to end at this game because all of us were there AND the tarp was on the field!  I assured Zack that there would be batting practice.  But we was very doubtful, and nervous.

Eventually, we got a whole bunch of photos taken of us:

Benny, who is newly engaged (but wasn’t as of the date of this game), got a taste of what its like to have a kid at a ball game, with Tim up on his shoulders…spitting seeds left and right.

After I cleared out, we recreated the photos from the original Ballhawkfest with the shirts arranged in total-lifetime-baseballs order:

With Rick Gold replacing Garrett Meyers, Zack recreated the “top 2″ high five from 2011.  It’s pretty cool to look back at the photo from 2011 and compare it to this photo.  Check out Tim, Benny and Alex in 2011 — they were all within 10 baseballs of each others.  Now, in 2013, they came into ballhawfest with 2 baseballs separating Tim and Benny, and Alex not far behind.  By the end of the season, Alex would rocket to the lead.

Before heading into the ballpark, Zack organized a photo to send to BIGS to say “thank you” for the seeds:

At this point, Kellan was crashed out HARD on my shoulders:

He slept up there fore more than half an hour and it really refreshed him for the afternoon.

When the gates opened, we made our way to the LF corner.  This was the scene on the field:

It was pretty hilarious.  There were three groups of Braves throwing and about 50 people (our group plus others)  standing there watching intently.  Three balls were thrown into the stands.  The first to Chris Hernandez.  The second to someone not associated with MyGameBalls.com.  And the third to Zack, who was about 10-15 rows back and got a player to throw a long bomb over everyone else’s heads on his way toward the dugout.

When Craig Kimbrel saw Zack get the ball, he yelled, “NOOOOOOOOO!”  He’s not fan of Zack getting more baseballs…or at least he acts like he’s not.  I’m not sure if it’s real or just an act to be funny.

When all of this was going on, Mike Minor walked slowly out to CF where a ball was sitting in the grass.  He walked over to it and then just stood there for a long time like he was in a trance.  It was bizarre.  Eventually, Minor made his way into the bullpen.  When we started to head over toward the pizza wedge, a bunch of the guys were watching Minor continue to stand around in a trance:

When RF finally opened, there was nothing at all happening on the field.  We headed down to the pizza wedge and just hung out until…

…what’s this…???  They set up the field for BP and the Phillies started stretching in RF!

So, I was right after all.  Or half right, at least.  There was half BP at this game.  Only the Phillies hit.

I noticed that our buddy Jesus Tiamo was warming up at the mound…

…as the Phillies warmed up in RF.

It was still a very slow process before things got under way.  People were milling about passing time.  Eventually, Chris Hernandez came over and said hi:

We’d never met Chris before, but had seen his blog and seen him on Zack’s blog.  He’s a good guy (aside from tweeting way too much hockey stuff during the baseball offseason) and we got to known him a lot better about 1.5 months after Ballhawkfest.

The Phillies pitchers played catch along the RF line.  When they started playing long toss, I asked Luis Garcia…

…if he’d toss us his ball after he finished playing catch.  He said he would.  But then someone hit a ball to the warning track and Luis ran over, grabbed it and tossed it to Tim.  That works too!  (By the way, in the photo above to the left, a Phillies pitcher is tossing a ball to Rick Sporcic after taking it out of his *glove trick*).

Thanks, Luis!

Here’s an interesting drill that we witnessed in the bullpen:

The bright Ballhawkfest shirts makes it easy and fun to watch the others across the ballpark.  Check out this photo featuring Zack, Mateo and Alan:

Zack did not get that ball.  But Harrison got this one:

And we got another one from Rod Nichols and then another from this guy with the catchers mitt…

…whose name just happens to be Ichiro!

Thanks, Rod and (Not-Ichi) Ichiro!

For much of BP, it was the Cooks and the Tishlers locking down the pizza wedge…

…pretty typical stuff for a Saturday home game at Citizens Bank Park!

Check out this unique catch Tim made on a ball tossed by Zach Miner:

I guess that’s why you use two hands!

Thanks, Zach!

After BP, we all met up at the Richie Ashburn statue in Ashburn Alley.  On our way, Tim got the chance to pose with Rick’s big glove:

That’s a big glove, alright!

Everyone had a ball by that point except Alan (who is displaying his empty fist) and Quinn (who is holding one of Mateo’s balls, but would eventually snag a few of his own at this game).

We ended up getting one more ball on the day from someone pictured in this photo:

Yep, out guy, Jesus Tiamo tossed a ball to Tim.

Thanks, Jesus!

It was Phillies Hall of Fame weekend.  One of my least favorite Phillies of all time had been inducted into the club’s hall of fame the day before.  And there were a bunch of famous former Phillies at this game for the pre-game festivities, including a pair of National Baseball Hall of Famers in this photo:

It’s easy to see Michael Jack Schmidt waving to the crow in that photo, a little less clear to see that Steve “Lefty” Carlton is reaching out to shake “Taylor’s” hand (Sorry, I’m a Mariners fan, I have no clue who Taylor is).

As the game started, the boys played some Games of Baseball:

The Phillies scored a run in the first inning while we were at the games to take a 1-0 lead.

And then we met up with Alan and headed to one of our favorite spots — the back row of section 428:

We devoured a cookie sundae helmet while we were up there.  And, check out what we could see from up there:

Upper Left:  Zack is on the phone in LF chatting with someone-or-other after catching John Maberry’s 2-run homerun in the bottom of the second.  That put the Phillies up 3-0 and got Zack in trouble for sitting in the wrong seat (in the right section).

Upper Right:  Zack was forced to sit in his actual seat in the middle of the (almost empty) row.

Lower Left:  Mateo’s future was so bright he had to wear shades as he watched the game from section 103.

Lower Right:  Alex and Mark Kopp, both shades less, watched the game from section 105.

After a few innings up in 428, Alan headed toward the OF to hear the story of Zack’s homerun catch (I think) and we headed to the kids play area (to play):

While the kids played vigorously in the kids play area, I monitored the game and the world on my phone.  On the old Twitter machine, I discovered that the Tishlers were going to or had met up with Mateo in section 103.  So when we finished up at the play area, we decided to head over there.  Lemme tell you, 1-oh-3 was the place to be!

As you can see, I grabbed the aisle seat in section 11 along with Kellan, Tim and Alan.  Mateo and Quinn were in row 12.  And the Tishlers had the last three seats in row 13.  It was perfect.

Well, it WAS perfect, until this guy came back to his and his wife’s (Tim and Alan’s) seats:

His wife was just fine, but this guy was quietly, but very obviously, not happy to find people in his seats.  Alan, Kellan and I moved across the aisle to some other open seats and Tim popped back a row and took the seat between Mateo and Quinn.  Tim loves hanging with older guys.  And he was in older guys paradise sandwiched between Quinn, Mateo and Harrison.

I always enjoy taking some outfielders pictures while we’re in the outfield, so here are some:

That picture to the right is pretty cool because its features a pair of brothers, B.J. and Justin Upton, manning the outfield together.  How cool would that be!?  I couldn’t imagine how awesome it would be if Tim and Kellan both played in the big leagues and played in the same outfield together.  I’d probably have to start traveling with the team so I could see every single game!

One of the great parts of being a dad to a little kid is getting to hold the little buggers when they fall asleep.  Sleeping little kids are great.  And watching the process of them falling asleep is great too.  It was so relaxing and low key out in RF during this game.  I had a blast watching Kellan slowly fall asleep on my lap for his second nap of the day:

Check out my awesome view of the game:

While Kellan napped, Tim went crazy with his camera (that dude loves taking pictures!):

You know how some stadiums do the bongo drum cam?  Well, this was Tim’s (failed) effort to get on it:

He was really playing the bongos on Alex and Mateo’s heads.  I gotta hand it to them, Alex and Mateo are always great with Tim.  He is an excitable (fun-loving) little guy, and they always roll with the punches (or the head bongos) like pros.  That’s why Tim loves going to games with these guys and Avi and Harrison so much.  He’s making great childhood memories at the ballpark with his old man and brother, and a set of supercool friends that we’ve met through MLBlogs and MyGameBalls.com.  Thanks, guys.

So, Tim devoured (or at least sucked and spit) an entire bag of BIGS Salt & Vinegar seeds.  So he as pretty pumped when Alan handed him another free bag o’ BIGS — bacon BIGS!

Eventually, most of the MyGameBalls.com crew made it over to RF.  When Zack stopped by, we capitalized by getting a bonus picture for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt:

Zack is the all-time MyGameBalls.com leader at Citizens Bank Park (and that’s the homerun ball that he caught).

When I stood up between innings with sleeping Kellan, Jen and Benny decided to copy us:

Hilarious stuff, guys!

Here’s some more hilarious stuff:

The slow process of awaking up at a ballgame.

I’ll tell you, I was paying attention to the game.  But most of all, we were just relaxing and having fun hanging out as a group.  It was just about ideal conditions for a game with friends.  (More ideal would be with the Mariners playing and winning the game by 16-or-so runs).

Here’s a behind he scenes photo of Mateo taking a picture of the young love birds:

Oh, yous guys!

So, after the Phils took an early 3-0 lead, the Braves came roaring back and took a 4-3 lead.  The Phils tied it up at 4-4 in the seventh, and then the pitching an defense took over.

The Braves finally broke through for another run in the top of the 12th inning on an RBI ground out by the .196 hitting “His Name Is” Dan Uggla.  That meant Craig Kimbrel came into the ball game in the bottom of the ninth:

And that was all she wrote for the Phillies.

Ball Game:  5-4 Braves win over the Phillies.

After the game, we were going to all meet behind the Braves dugout for a group photo.  But plans changed when we learned that Zack got booted out of he game!  He went back over to LF (where his actual ticketed seat was located) and they kicked him out on sight because a beer vendor (or some sort of vendor) told the ushers that Zack and used some foul language in describing them after their post-homerun interaction.  It all seemed quite silly and unnecessary.

Anyway, as a result, we all (or those of us who could stay for the end of this 4-plus hour game) met up outside the ballpark for a final group photo:

It was a great day all around.  Great guys, great game, great lunch, great homerun derby.  Great, great, great.  Looking forward to next year already.  (By the way, Citizens Bank Park is the 13th stadium that Chris has visited in his quest to see ’em all).

2013 C&S Fan Stats

19 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

91 Baseballs – Mariners 11, 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

10 Stadiums – Citizens Bank Park 2, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards,
Nationals Park, PNC Park, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park, Citi Field, Great American
Ball Park

32 Player+ Photos – Oliver Perez, Lucas Luetge, Hisashi Iwakuma, Carter Capps,
Daniel Nava, Alex Wilson, Andrew Bailey, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Carp 2, Koji Uehara,
Will Middlebrooks, Joel Hanrahan, Jonny Gomes, Alfredo Aceves, Clayton Mortensen,
Rick Anderson, Tom Gorzelanny, Joe Savery, Jonathan Pettibone, Carlos Ruiz, Charlie
Manuel, Justin DeFratus, Ryan Howard, Ben Revere, Larry Anderson, Gary “Sarge”
Matthews Sr., Kyle Kendrick, Ryne “HOF 2005” Sandberg, Michael Stutes, Jimmy
Rollins, Ryan Rowland-Smith

10 Autographs – Hisashi Iwakuma 2 (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan,
Jesus Tiamo, Mike Carp 2, Ryan Rowland-Smith 2, Felix Hernandez

Observing Baseball With Mateo Fischer (7/20/2013)

On Saturday, July 20, 2013, Tim, Kellan and I hopped in the car and headed south to our nation’s capital to see the Nationals take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.  It was a hot one in DC.  Not as hot as the scorcher we attended in DC in July 2012, but it was toasty.  According to Baseball-Refernce.com, it was still 92 degrees at 7:05 when the game started!  It was even hotter at the beginning of BP.

I was sick of the $35 parking price for the lot right next to the ballpark.  So we ventured a few blocks away to a no frills gravel lot.  It wasn’t worth it.  Parking was still $25.  Too much!

We walked by some fountains on our way to the park:

We were hot and sweaty after our walk so we bought some cold waters and…

…jumped in the back of the long line.

In the morning, I bought the boys new cameras.  The plan was simply to get Tim a new camera because Kellan had broken Tim’s camera in June at the Toledo Mud Hens ballpark.  But as I was looking at the cameras, I found one that looked like a cellphone and it said it was water proof and could dropped 7 feet without breaking.  It just seemed to scream out, “Buy me for Kellan!”  So I did.

As we waited for the gates to open, the boys tested out their new cameras:

Once we made it into the ballpark, we headed to the corner spot in RF by the Nats bullpen.  It was pretty crowded.  This is what it looked like from the corner spot:

See that red line and the green arrow and “X”?  He hadn’t gotten any baseballs by 5:00 p.m.  And then someone on the Nats absolutely blistered a line drive to RF.  It was one of the hardest hit balls I’ve seen.  It seriously seemed like it was rising the entire time off the bat.

I’m not big at chasing batted balls because I need to stay right with the boys.  But this ball was just to our right about 10 feet.  As the ball approached the stands (and still seemed to be rising), I darted to our right and lunged behind the gals in the white hat and the tall guy in the red hat.  As I lunged with my glove (left) hand, my back turned completely to the field and I reached out with a backhand just passed the guy’s guy.  I thought the guy would catch the ball himself.  I lost sight of the ball as it screamed passed the guys noggin.  And then:

*WHACK!*

The ball slammed into the pocket of my glove.

I could hardly believe I caught.  I think it is the best catch I’ve ever made in the stands at a Major League game.  It was a lot of fun.

I walked back over to the boys with a grin on my face and showed them that I caught it.

Hooray for Daddy!

Very soon after making that catch, I scanned the crowd behind us and found a familiar face.  It was Washington’s and New York’s and Minneapolis’s own …

…Mateo Fischer.

We always have a great time with Mateo.  He’s just the right age to be an adult with me while still being a kid with Tim.  Tim loves everyone.  He’s about the most social person I’ve ever met.  And he loves hanging out with Mateo.

Tim pulled out his new camera and showed it to Mateo, and then he took this picture of (almost) all of us:

And then Kellan broke out his camera and snapped some pictures of Mateo:

While we were all hanging out with the boys taking pictures, Mateo and I watched as a Nats batter hit a foul ball into the seats down the RF foul line.  Most of the balls batted into the stands are quickly fetched by dutiful ushers.  But this one seemed to go unseen by the authorities.

When the rest of the stadium opened to the public, Mateo, the boys and I all scurried over to foul territory and I found the ball right where I thought it would be waiting for us.

Then we split away from Mateo – who I think headed back to the outfield.

Tim, Kellan and I headed over to the 3B foul line.  The Dodgers had taken the field and Tim wanted nothing more than to take tons of pictures on his new camera.  And so he did:

While Tim took photos, Kellan and I watched something rather unique happen on the field.  There were two Korean-American folks right behind us (a teenager and his mom).  They had a couple pearly white baseballs and they were on the lookout for Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu.  When he wandered over to the LF corner, they called out to him in Korean and he briefly chatted back to them and put up a hand to signal, “Throw me the baseballs and I’ll sign them.”  This is what happened:

The mother-son combo tossed their two baseballs and a pen to Ryu.  Ryu grabbed them and walked back into fair territory to sign them.  As he walked toward fair territory, another guy behind the mother-son yelled something like, “Sign mine too!” and he tossed it onto the outfield grass.

And then baseballs rained down like a Midwest hail storm.  People from foul territory and homerun territory tossed 10-20 baseballs at Ryu.  He patiently signed them all.  But there was a problem.  Other than the mother-son, he had no clue whose baseballs he was signing.  He just started chucking balls back into the crowd after signing them.

There was a fairly annoying teenager right next to us who chucked a cheap-plasticy Nationals logo ball (one of the balls with fake dirt on it that is supposed to look game used) at Ryu.  His ball was the easiest to differentiate on the field because it wasn’t white.  When Ryu signed and tried to toss the kid’s ball to someone else in the crowd, the plasticy ball fell on the warning track.  The kid proceeded to have a near heart attack going crazy until he got his ball back.

See those three guys behind Ryu (but further out into LF) in the photo above?  One of them fielded a batted baseball while Ryu was signing and he rolled the ball into the signature pile.  It actually rolled to a stop right next to Ryu’s toe.  Knowing that it was *no one’s ball*, I called out to Ryu to see if he would toss it to us, but he randomly hurled it into the stands.

The whole autograph session (with the exception of the whining kid with the cheap ball) was hilarious and wildly entertaining.

Anyway, we decided to head over to the seats behind the Dodgers bullpen:

A couple homeruns got hit into the bullpen while we were back there, including one that was hit directly in line with us, but fell too short.

At one point, Dodgers coach (and former Mariner) Steve Yeager came into the bullpen and tossed one of the baseballs to the lady next to us.  I think they knew each other.  He stood below us and chatted with her for a bit.  During their chat, Yeager ended up tossing a baseball to Tim.

Thanks, Steve!

When we got home that night, I looked in my old pictures and made a neat picture:

That’s me and Steve Yeager (wearing No. 7 for the Mariners) in the Kingdome on photo day in 1986 and Tim and Steve Yeager (wearing No. 7 for the Dodgers) in 2013.

After BP, we headed to the kids play area in the CF concourse.  But, guess what?  It was closed…

…for excessive heat.  We asked an usher what was up with the play area and they said it was too hot that the hard plastic of the playing-contraption could burn the kids.

We decided to put the old switcheroo.  We headed to the upper deck for the dessert portion of the switcheroo.

Near home plate, there is an elevator that will take you up to the upper deck at Nationals Park.  We got smashed way in the back of an elevator full of catering stuff.  All of a sudden, it sounded like running water in the elevator…and then the back of my leg felt wet.  Oh no!

One of the bottles of water opened up in my backpack and 20 oz. of water poured straight through my backpack and onto the elevator floor.

That was less than ideal.

As they sometimes do, the boys made the decision to get dippin’ dots instead of ice cream helmets. They ate their frozen treats one of the blue picnic tables behind home plate:

In the top of the first, I got my first look (the boys had a limited view from the picnic table) at Yasiel Puig:

He grounded out harmlessly, but really busted it down the line trying to beat out the throw.

Soon, we met up with vegetarian sabrmetrician, Mateo Fischer, who was unfamiliar with this view…

…and, more understandably, these delicious Nationals Park chili nachos:

We crushed those nachos.  Tastiest nachos in MLB!

Here’s a fun view that I always enjoy from the LF upper deck at Nats Park:

While Mateo and I chatted and watched “Cranky” Zack Greinke…

…pitch to the Nats, the boys pulled out their cameras and had a professional-caliber photo session:

Eventually, we headed over toward our seats in section 417.  Our actual seats were in about row 6 or so, but it was pretty crowded around there.  So we headed up to the back row…

…where this was our view of Nationals Park:

And this was our view of Bryce Harper hitting a foul ball:

While the boys and I were taking tons of pictures, I noticed something that neither Mateo or I had ever noticed before:

Check out that little handicapped seating cross aisle at the front of the upper deck in RF foul territory.  That’s pretty cool.  We’ll have to check that out some day.

Kellan was taking tons of pictures while we were in the upper deck.  I managed to get this cute picture of him…

…during one of the brief moments he wasn’t holding up his camera taking pictures.

As usual, the Presidents’ race was thrilling…

…and it was won by the new guy, Mister President/Chief Justice William Howard “Bill” Taft, after he fooled the other Presidents into taking a detour into the stands – classic Presidential hijinks.

Here’s more Puig:

He went 0-5 on the day – very un-Puig’ish.

After spending a couple innings up in the upper deck, we decided to do some roaming round the stadium.  On our way out of the upper deck, an usher took a horribly blurry photo of us…

…, which is too bad because the coloring of the photo (particularly the sky) is pretty cool.

We headed down the ramp on the 1B side…

…and headed down to the 200-level where the boys and Mateo posed for a picture with a Thomas “Tom” Jefferson bobblehead:

We walked across the 200-level concourse all the way out to CF where it ends with a stairway leading down to the field level.  We were heading to the play area.  It was much cooler now.  No chance of kids burning their skin on the hard plastic toy.  But it was still closed.  I figured they probably told the employees charged with running the play area to head home for the day, so they had no one to run the play area once the temperature went down to an acceptable level.  Oh well.

By the way, the score was still zero-zero.  In fact, one two runs were scored during “regulation” – the Nationals scored 1 run in the bottom of the sixth and the Dodgers tied it up with their own run in the top of the seventh.

Anyway, we headed over to LF and loitered in the concourse for a bit behind Bryce Harper:

This was my view with Kellan lounging on my shoulders while resting his batting-glove clad hand on the bill of my hat:

We decided to head back up to the upper deck.  We trudged up the switch-back ramp in the LF foul corner.  We headed up to the same spot where we ate our nachos and Tim and Mateo grabbed a prime spot to watch the game…

…while I followed as Kellan ran up-and-down…

…and up-and-down (repeat, repeat, repeat) from the bottom of the top leg of the ramp and the table where Tim and Mateo were watching the game:

As I mentioned earlier, upper deck concourse in LF is pretty cool at Nationals Park.  We had a great view of the U.S. Capitol building:

Here are a couple of view of the game from up there:

And a panoramic view of Nationals Park from the same spot:

In the eighth inning, we decided to head down toward home plate and the umpire’s tunnel.  Before heading out, we asked a lady if she could take our picture and then began the longest three-picture photo session in the history of the world.

In the photo she took on Mateo’s cellphone, she cut off Kellan and stuck her finger in the shot.  For me, the lady held the camera noticeably crooked.  It was amazingly slow and awkward waiting for this lady to take two photos for me.  But, hey, she did the job:

As you can see, Tim had his camera ready for the lady to take more pictures.  But I had to shut him down.  We didn’t have another hour to wait for her to take one more picture.

Instead, we headed to the concourse behind the home plate end of the 3B dugout.  There is a camera platform right where we were standing waiting for a break in the action.  During a break in the action, the camera man called Tim up and let him run the camera:

The camera guy told Tim that his cameraman work would appear on the Los Angeles game broadcast.  So, all of you Angelinos, I hope you enjoyed Tim’s handiwork.

In the ninth inning, we grabbed some open seats with a great view of the action:

The game was still tied 1-1 after nine innings.  In the top of the tenth, Adrian Gonzalez led off with a double to CF.  Red hot Hanley Ramirez (batting a mere .390 at the time) followed with an RBI double to CF.  Ramirez advanced to 3B on a sacrifice bunt by Juan Uribe and he scored the third Dodger run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Andre Ethier.  Despite two more Dodger hits in the inning, that was all the scoring for the Dodgers.

Kenley Jansen came in for Dodgers in the bottom of the tenth and shut the Nationals down with two strikeouts and a groundout to end the game.

Dodgers win 3-1.  Chris Withrow, who pitched the ninth inning for the Dodgers, earned the “W” (the first of his career).

After the game, Mateo and Tim both tried to get an umpire ball, but neither succeeded.  Kellan and I went to the dugout and were quickly joined by Tim and Mateo.  As the victorious Dodgers cleared the field, Kenley Jansen tossed a baseball to Tim.  We were all set to head to the gates when Jansen popped his head back over the top of the dugout and asked to trade baseballs with Tim.  Turns out he had given Tim the ball that recorded the final out of the game, thus earning Withrow his first career win.  Tim tossed Withrow’s “Win” ball back to Jansen and caught the replacement ball that Jansen tossed to him.

Thanks, Kenley!

Before heading to the gates, I took a group selfie (featuring a Monkey pose by Kellan):

We had a great time hanging out with Mateo, as we always do.  We walked part way to our car with Mateo because the route matched his walk to where he was going to catch a train (or a bus…some sort of public transportation).

The boys quickly fell to sleep once we got on the road…

…with Kellan still holding the baseball Jansen tossed to Tim.

2013 C&S Fan Stats

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

Game 1: The Pale Hose (7/13/2013)

In our continuing effort to have Kellan see all 30 MLB teams play a game live, on July 13, 2013, we planned to attend the Phillies game vs. the Chicago White Sox.  As American League teams go, the White Sox are right up at the top of the “Teams I Never Watch or Think About” list.  So it was practically like we were all going to see them play for the first time.

The game started with a little confusion.  It was scheduled as a 4:10 Saturday afternoon start.  But the Friday night game the day before was rained out.  So our game was turned into Game 1 of a Separate Admission Doubleheader (the worst kind of doubleheader).  The problem was figuring out what time the game would start and the gates would open.  Late Friday night, I pulled up an article about the rain out on the Phillies website.  But what I didn’t realize at the time that the Phillies’ website linked me to the White Sox website, which is based in the Central Time zone.  When I read the game was going to be played at 2:00 on Saturday, I didn’t realize it was 2:00 p.m. Central, or 3:00 p.m. Eastern.  The Phillies twitter account was thoroughly unhelpful I might effort to figure the situation out.  Harrison Tishler, however, had all of the answers (and once I realized I had read a Central time zone-based article, I finally believed all of Harrison’s answers).

Anyway, we met up with the Tishler men (no, Tami) outside of the LF gate.  Unfortunately, due to the doubleheader, the gates only opened at 1:10…

…, normally they would open at 12:40 for a 3:10 game.

Because the gates opened later than normal, the entire stadium opened at once.  So we wasted no time in heading over to our beloved pizza wedge:

When we set up in the pizza wedge, there were two groundskeepers working on the Phillies mound in the bullpen (which is pretty standard two hours before game time at Citizens Bank Park).  Very soon, Harrison and Seth Tishler arrived on the scene.  I asked Seth (and he agreed) to watch the boys for a minute while I ran up to the concourse to fill our water bottle at the drinking fountain.  When I returned to the pizza wedge approximately 60 seconds later, Kellan had a baseball in hand.

Turns out that Kellan dropped his glove into the Phillies bullpen.  One of the groundskeepers retrieved it and tossed it up to Tim.  When Tim caught Kellan’s glove, this baseball was tucked inside Kellan’s glove.

Thanks, Groundskeeper!

At the time, not much was doing on the field.  But there were signs of life.  The White Sox were getting ready to take BP:

See number 17 in there?  That is White Sox coach, Daryl Boston. Lemme tell you a little story about him…and about these two guys in the bright orange:

The Tishlers went off on their own as White Sox BP was set to get started.  Shortly, Father and Son Orange Shirt showed up on the scene.  See the empty seat in front of Kellan in the phone above?  That’s seat number 3 in the pizza wedge.  Tim, Kellan and I were taking up the corner spot plus seats 1-3 (our standard operating procedure at BP at CBP).  There were zero other people in section 101.  There was hardly anyone in all of RF.  But these guys came in an camped out in seats 4-5.

They were nice enough folks.  We chatted a bunch.  But I was not a fan of getting crowded in the corner when the rest of RF was essentially empty.  But the dad was gung­­-ho about getting his son a baseball from the bullpen (I explained that no one would be in the bullpen until around half hour before game time).

Anyway, eventually Daryl Boston wandered out to RF.   He was in front of section 102 or 103 and he was hitting baseballs against the OF wall with a fungo bat.  I could see his “17” on his back.  Just then, the Dad in the Orange Shirt was flipping through one of the little booklets that lots of MLB teams give out that are full of info about the team and the current series, etc.   It looked, to me, that he was looking at the White Sox roster.  I looked over at the booklet (yeah, in an empty OF, the guy was so close that I could read the booklet in his hands) and scanned the “coaches” portion of the roster.  There it was:  No. 17 = Ron Wotus.  [FYI, Ron Wotus is a coach for the San Francisco Giants, something I did not learn until much later].

As “Wotus” started walking toward LF, I called out, “Hey, Ron, Fungo!” and I flapped my glove.  “Ron” immediately tossed a baseball into the air and tried to delicately fungo the ball to me.  But it fell short.  He tried again.  It fell short again.  Then he walked over and picked up one of the balls and tossed it up to us.

Thanks, Ron! (I mean Daryl!)

As you can imagine, Boston’s reaction to my “Hey, Ron, fungo!” request did nothing to dispel my thinking that Boston was Ron Wotus.

A few minutes later (while we were still waiting for BP to start), “Wotus” finished chatting with some White Sox in LF and headed over toward the “bucket.”  For all the way across the OF, I once again yelled, “Hey, Ron, FUNGO!!!”

Once again “Ron” immediately looked over at us, tossed a baseball in the air, and blasted a pop fly high in the air toward us.  But it was off line…and it was hit way too hard.  There was a guy at the top of the bullpens along Ashburn Alley and I was certain it was going to plunk him in the head.  I yelled, “HEAAADS UP!!!!!”  (I yell that a lot at MLB games because lots of fans don’t pay attention).  Anyway, the ball slammed off of the ball wall of the visitors (upper) bullpen, just below the guy on Ashburn Alley and it bounded down into the lower bullpen elevator.  Sort of like this (minus this Tishlers and other people standing around):

Later, Matt Lindstrom walked by and I told him about “Ron” hitting the fungo into the elevator.  He tried to get it for us, but the elevator was locked!

(By the way, you might be wondering why they have an elevator in the bullpen at a major league stadium, it’s because they put a bunch of the equipment into roller carts and then raise/lower them on the elevators.  Otherwise, they would have to carry everything up and down the stairs.)

A little bit later, these two gentlemen played a part in our afternoon’s activities:

Number 40 is Ramon Troncoso.  He was the only guy out in LCF not hiding his jersey with a  pullover so he was the only person whose name I knew.  The other guy?   No clue who he is.

Eventually, I decided we should try to get a ball for the Kid in Orange.  I ended up calling out “Ramon!” when he fielded a ball near us and, when he looked up at me, I pointed at the little guy.  Ramon tried to toss the ball to the kid’s dad, but he tossed it too high.  It sailed over him and I caught it and handled it over to the Orange Guys.

A few minutes later, the other guy in the picture above tried to toss a ball to us, but threw it over us and the Dad in Orange caught it and handed it to us.  Then I proposed something that seemed quite logical to me:  I caught the ball from Ramon Troncoso, the Guy in Orange caught the ball from the other guy, why don’t we switch balls so we have the ball I caught and the Orange Folks have the ball they caught?  He thought my logical was sound.  And so we switch balls.  And we ended up with the ball I’d previously caught from Ramon.

So, thanks, Ramon…and other guy.

The Phillies ultimately came out and started playing catch in RF while the White Sox were hitting.  We decided to take a break from BP.  We headed to the concourse to play some “Games of Baseball”:

When we returned to the pizza wedge, the Tishler were there:

We hung out for a bit and then went and played some more “Games of Baseball.”   When I figured the pitchers were starting to warm up, we headed back to the pizza wedge again.  Turns out, we were too late.  Warm ups were in full swing and our buddy, Jesus Tiamo, had already tossed out a bunch of baseballs.  We headed to the end of the second row…

…and Tiamo couldn’t resist those two Mariners fans’ cute little faces.  He went and grabbed another baseball and tossed it to Tim.

Thanks, Jesus!

Wanna see something cool?  Check this out:

That’s White Sox catcher Josh Phegley standing at the top of the stairs in the visitors’ bullpen.  Right after Jesus tossed the ball to Tim, Phegley headed down the stairs from the visitors bullpen to the Phillies bullpen.  When he hit the landing at the Phillies bullpen, he called out to us, and he tossed us a baseball.  In the picture above, you can see this baseball in Phegley’s right hand!

Thanks, Josh!

Before the game started, we headed off to get some ice cream.  On our way, we stopped by this misting contraption:

This is the only game we’ve ever seen this thing at in Philadelphia.  It’s a good idea.  The kids loved it.  Not sure why it wasn’t there more often.

We decided to go with a banana split, because bananas are healthy, you know?  I addition to two full bananas, our banana split featured ice cream, caramel sauce, white cream and maraschino cherries.  When I said I wanted cherries, Tim protested – he doesn’t like them.  I said, “Don’t worry, they’ll just put 1-2 on it and I’ll get them out of there quick for you.”

Well, I was wrong.  Our banana split featured TWENTY-ONE cherries!

Check out this beauty of a sundae…

…and our long walk two the place where the boys wanted to eat the sundae:

Cherries, anyone!?

The game started while we were out in the RCF concourse eating ice cream and then playing more Games of Baseball.  The Phils jumped on the White Sox early, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning.

While the boys were playing the games, I realized that “Bull’s BBQ,” which is between the running game and the trivia game is named after Greg “The Bull” Luzinski.  One of the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt photos for this season is a picture of you eating a food item named after a player.  I’d been looking for such a food item all season and I’d never thought about Bull’s BBQ.  I’d never been there before.  So I checked out the menu.  Almost every item is named after The Bull!  So before we grabbed some food for the boys and headed to our seats, I grabbed a “Bull’s Pulled Pork Sandwich”

Check out Tim (top left below), eating a big bite of the Bull’s Pulled Pork Sandwich in our seats:

And check out those great seats!  I should note that this game was our last game before Kellan turned 3-years-old.  It was his last *free* game at Citizens Bank Park.  I scooped up these two aisle seats in section 102 on stubhub for cheap the morning of the game.  And it ended up that the people with seats 3-6 were missing a seat mate who had to skip the game.  So they didn’t mind having one of us sit in seat 3.  Kellan wanted to hang out in the aisle the whole time, and watch the players in the bullpen.  Section 101 and 102 are Citizens Bank Park are some of the coolest seats around.

Here’s a random action shot of Alexi Ramirez:

And here is our view of Citizens Bank Park from our seats in section 102:

In the bottom of the third inning, Jimmy Rollins ripped a single to LF:

It was the second Phillies hit of the inning, but the White Sox wiggled out of the jam.

In the fourth inning, we headed over to the kids’ play area…

…and the kids did a whole lot of playing:

We were in the play area in the fifth inning when Alejandro De Aza hit a 2-run double to tie the game up at 2-2.

In the top of the sixth inning, we left the play area and , we decided to head up to the upper deck for a while.  We walked there via Ashburn Alley.  Just as we made it to the back corner of the bullpens, Conor Gillaspie hit a sacrifice fly…

…and Adam Dunn scored the go-ahead run for the White Sox.

So we headed up to the upper deck, and we ran into something odd on our way:

There were a whole bunch of nuns up there.

Here was our view from section 428:

Check out Dominic Brown’s curious positioning in LF:

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Darin “Babe” Ruf, blasted a solo homerun…

…to deeeeeeep CF.  That tied the game up at 3-3.

While the Phillies fans were excited about their team tying up the score, Tim and Kellan were excited about something else:

See that red arrow up there?  That’s pointing at one of the steel beams holding up the light towers along the 3B side of the stadium.  When we are up in section 428, Tim and Kellan often spit seeds down the middle of the light towers.  On this day, while doing so, Tim and Kellan found some animal tracks on the beam.  We couldn’t tell what kind of animal it was.  But the tracks looked like they were the size of maybe a cat or a raccoon.  It was pretty odd finding the tracks and imaging animals climbing around inside the stadium.

With the score tied in the 8th inning, we decided to head back to our seats in section 102.  But when we got there, there were a bunch of empty seats in section 101 (the best section in the ballpark).  We grabbed some seats in the third row.  When an usher standing at the bottom of the stairs saw us, he told us to move up to the front row.

If you insist, sir!

This was our view heading into the top of the ninth inning:

So we’ve been listening to a lot of classic Metallica on our game day drives this season – mostly Master of Puppets, some Ride the Lightning too.  On the way to this game, we listened to Ride the Lightning.  When Jonathan Papelbon headed to the mound in the top of the ninth inning, I was a proud father when Tim pointed out that his entrance song (For Whom The Bell Tolls) was one of the songs we listened to (and discussed) on our car ride down to this game.

During the top of the ninth inning, Kellan focused on making silly faces…

…and monkeying around with his bro:

After the final out of the top of the ninth inning, the Phillies cleared off the field, and then came the rain, and the tarp, and a rain delay.

Up in the concourse behind section 102, we met up with Harrison and Seth.  Check out these colorfully dressed guys:

The Tishlers volunteered to help us earn some points for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt.  I had noticed that the upper deck in LF was almost completely empty, and there was absolutely no one in the three sections closest to CF.  So we all headed up there in the rain for this scavenger hunt photo:

We all headed back to the pizza wedge as the rain let up.  I always enjoy getting a photo of the infield tarp pulled out to the outfield wall.  Like this one:

After a 41 minute rain delay, the game resumed, and Tim shook the rain off his wet hair like a dog (well, he might have used his hands a bit too):

The Phillies should have won the game in the bottom of the ninth.  Kevin Frandsen lead off the inning with a single.  He took second on a Darin Ruf’s follow-up single.  Braves pitcher Nate Jones then balked Frandsen to 3B and Ruf to 2B with no outs.  But the next three batters couldn’t get it done.  Carlos “Chooooooch” Ruiz flew out to shallow LF.  Lance Nix struck out swinging.  And Ben Revere ended regulation play with a line-out to RF.

So we got some free baseball.  Remember, this was the first game of a separate-admission doubleheader.  After a 41 minute rain delay, fans were already lining up at the gates for game 2 when our game headed into extra innings.

J.C. Ramirez pitched the top of the 10th inning for the Phillies.

During the bottom of the ninth inning, Ramirez warmed up right behind us in the Phillies bullpen.  At one point, Ramirez uncorked a wild pitch to Jesus Tiamo.  It kicked off the back wall and ricocheted out into the grass in front of Tiamo.  They grabbed a new ball to finish Ramirez’s warmup session.

After Ramirez was finished warming up, Tiamo tossed the ball up us:

The ball was so exciting and the game so long, that Kellan drifted off to sleep in the tenth inning with the ball snug in his glove.

Thanks, Jesus!

Ramirez held the Pale Hose scoreless in the top of the tenth.  But…

…not in the top of the eleventh.

After recording two quick outs in the top of the eleventh, Ramirez gave up a triple followed by an RBI double followed by an unearned run scoring grounder to short.

The Phillies mustered one run in the bottom of the frame, but that was all she wrote.  The White Sox won 5-4 in 12.

After the game, we got a Cook Boys photo…

…before heading to the gates and pushing our way through the in-bound crowd.

We drove off into the sunset…

…on our way home while the Phillies began their second extra-innings game of the day!

2013 C&S Fan Stats

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

500 Baseballs

Back in 2009 when Tim and I started going to BP for all of our games (for some silly reason, I thought it was too young for a whole game plus BP before 2009) and we started getting a few more baseballs, I came up with the idea that we should create a full wall of baseballs.  I figured we would probably need about 500 baseballs to build the wall…so that has been a number we have been aiming at for a long time.  As we have gotten closer to 500, I have determined that 500 isn’t enough for the wall I am envisioning.  Anyway…

Last weekend in Washington D.C., Tom Goodwin tossed our 500th baseball to Tim:

To celebrate reaching the 500 baseball milestone, I put together this little video:

Fun game:  how many autographs can you identify?

One More In Cincinnati (7/6/2013)

We woke up at the Millennium Hotel in Cincinnati on the morning of July 6, 2013, ready for some more great Mariners baseball action.  Unfortunately, we woke up to a rain soaked city.  For a few hours in the morning, I could not imagine the game getting played.  I was thinking rain out all the way.

We passed the morning hours by being incredibly lazy in the hotel room:

By the way, Kellan is flexing his muscles to show off the tattoo that he got at the dinosaur place the day before.

Eventually, we decided we needed to run to the parking garage to grab an umbrella.  No luck.  So the boys, Avi and I trekked around rainy downtown Cincinnati looking for umbrellas.  On our walk, we passed by a shiny metal…thingy…that made us look like we were in a house of mirrors:

And then it was off to Skyline Chili for some traditional Cincinnati food:

It was scheduled to be a 4:10 start.  We had nothing else to do.  So after lunch, we headed over to the ballpark:

It stopped raining on our walk.  Still, we were doubtful there would be BP.   When we walked into the lobby to the Reds Hall of Fame, we were informed that the early BP tour was cancelled because the teams would not be taking BP.  So this was our third Mariners game of the season and third time not getting to see the Mariners take BP.  So sad.

We decided to tour the very awesome Reds Hall of Fame.  Here are some random shots that explain very little about the first room you enter at the Reds Hall of Fame:

Note the big Ken Griffey, Jr. autograph on the wall.  Very nice.

Ringing this entire room there are autographed baseball cards from what appears to be almost everyone who has ever played for the Reds.  When you first walk in the door, there are autographed cards from the very beginning of the organization, and it just moves through the years as you walk around the room.  Relatively near the end, we found Griff (far right below)…

…there is also a computer on the wall on which you can look up past Reds (middle aboe is the info page for Griff).

Down the hall, Avi found a board for visitors to leave their own autographs.  Avi had the bright idea for us to sign in blue sharpie, which stood out in the sea of mostly black ink:

I signed for Kellan since, you know, he was 2 at the time and can’t sign his own name.   By the way, I’ve historically worn number 18 so I signed an “18” next to my name like I’m a Big Leaguer.  Tim signed his “55,” the number he has worn every season of his Little League career to date.  Kellan wanted a number of his own and he pulled “6” out of thin air.  Avi had no number to add to his signature, which was quite sad.  Sorry, Avi.

Down at the end of the hall, I took this picture out of the window:

It looks cool out there.  We have to check out that area next time we’re in Cincinnati.

Before heading upstairs, we headed into the baseball stadium designed auditorium…

…and watched a cool little video about the history of the Reds.

The stairs and the entire area upstairs was crazy because there were some former Reds signing autographs up there, and a long line of Reds fans started on the stairs and ran all the way to the other end of the building where the payers were signing.

We had to wait for a break in the line to get this picture of the boys…

…with a whole bunch of Joe Morgan’s rings.

Upstairs there are some interactive attractions for the kids, including this pitching set up:

Behind home plate you can look through the umpire’s face mask and call balls and strikes.  On the other side, there is a sensor on the wall that calls actual balls and strikes based on your pitches from the mound.

In another room, there is a little play area for the kids:

There was a crazy kid in there who was hyping Tim and Kellan up, until he hurt himself by falling through a hole in the ceiling/floor – he fell from the upper level of theplay area back down to the lower level.

In other news, check out Avi’s cool baseball glove chair.

Here are some other random areas in the upstairs portion of the Reds Hall of Fame:

Avi and Tim celebrated with a  bunch of Big Red Machine statues:

Above to the left, that is Tim and Ken Griffey, Sr. (formerly known simply as Ken Griffey during his days with the Reds).

At the far end of the upstairs, we finally found the former Reds who were signing autographs (I still have no clue who they were)…

…and we walked (quickly) through the Hall of Fame gallery.

We walked quickly through the gallery because I noticed out the window that THE GATES WERE OPEN!

I had no clue what was going on.  We knew when the gates were supposed to open, and it wasn’t supposed to be for another 10-15 minutes…or so we though.  So we scurried out of the Hall of Fame and into the ballpark.

When we reached the field…

…there were absolutely no players anywhere to be found.  The frustrating thing is that there were a bunch of spike marks all over the warning track.  The Mariners had already been out there throwing and we missed seeing them.  So, so, so very sad.

We sat around and did absolutely nothing for a long, long time.  Actually, not nothing.  Avi and Tim talked over how to score a baseball game:

And Kellan took a half hour nap on my shoulders:

Avi eventually went off to explore the ballpark a bit.  Tim, Kellan and I headed out to the Mariners bullpen in RF…

…when reclamation project Jeremy Bonderman prepared for his final game as a Mariner (maybe his final game of his career):

See Danny Farquhar (No. 40) in the bullpen in that last picture?  He came over and ended up talking to a guy next to us for a while.  He signed a few baseballs and tossed them up to the guy.  After they finished chatting and Farquhar returned to the bullpen, the guy mentioned that he was Farquhar’s little league coach.  I thought that was pretty cool.

It was also pretty cool when Jason Phillips came over and tossed us a couple baseballs after Bonderman finished warming up for the game:

Thanks, Jason!

Jason is always a cool dude.  It’s always great to see him.

Something else cool happened when we were over by the bullpen.  Alice Cooper threw out the ceremonial first pitch:

Check out Alice’s awesome choice of jersey number!  18!  Excellent.

We hung out by the bullpen until just a few minutes before game time.  From there, we headed around the batters’ eye on our way to our seats in the LF upper deck.  Check out these tall guys we passed on our way:

This game started almost exactly like the day before (unfortunately, it didn’t end like the previous day’s game).

The boys and I went to get some nachos before heading to our seats.  We walked around the back side of the nacho stand to watch the first pitch:

Actually, we watched Brad Miller’s entire lead-off at bat.  He grounded out.

Then we bought our nachos – check ‘em out!

Like the day before, when we returned to our seats after watching the first batter of the game, the Mariners were leading 2-0.  Endy Chavez had followed Miller with a single, and then Kyle Seager hit a 2-run bomb.  Excellent.

Here was our view from the back of section 405:

We had a great time clowning around in the back row:

And, of course, eating some ice cream:

Yes, we ate all of our food at this game out of helmets:

Here’s something you don’t see everyday from the bleachers of an MLB stadium…

…a coal barge passing by RF.

Here’s something else you don’t see everyday at an MLB stadium (unless you are me)…

…an ice cream-drip-stained Mariners hat.  I’ve committed to wearing this hat to every MLG game we attend until I have worn it at all 30 MLB ballparks.  It has been to 29 of the current ballparks, all but Chase Field.  The plan is to get to Chase Field again next season and then retire this trusty old hat.

The actual game action is too sad to track in detail here.  This Dustin Ackley double…

…was a highlight.  But there were many lowlights.  The Mariners got creamed.

But we managed to have lots of fun anyway up high in the LF bleachers:

Check out this huge load of stuff I was carrying:

That’s a pretty standard amount of stuff for us.  During April games, my backpack is even bigger because I stuff it with jackets and other warm clothes too.

Tim took a ton of pictures during this game.  Here are four of them:

Top Left:  Endy Chavez taking a pitch.

Top Right: Kendrys Morales taking a big hack.

Bottom Left:  Jeremy Bonderman delivering a pitch while Kyle Seager gets ready at the hot corner.

Bottom Right:  Mike Zunino hitting a line drive…that was caught for an out.

After each of the Mariners 14 strike outs (11 at the hands of Reds starter Mat Latos), these things shot fire:

Kellan and I went and explored this restaurant down the LF line:

I believe it is called the “Machine Room.”  It is pretty cool looking for a sports bar, but I’m not sure why you would want to go to a sports bar WHILE YOU ARE AT a Major League game.

Toward the end of the game, we took a walk.  On the way out of our section, Kellan wouldn’t get down from my shoulders, so here is a picture of only Tim at the front of section 406:

Avi went off looking at stuff.  The boys and I headed over to the dinosaur area, but it was closed.   So we went to this standing room area…

…, which is behind home plate just slightly off to the 1B side.  As you can see from the big 9-screen-in-one-screen above the concourse in that last picture, Danny Farquhar came in to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning for the Mariners, and he gave up four runs.  It was ugly.

The silver lining was that the Reds fans felt comfortable with a 13-4 lead heading toward the ninth inning and they took off in droves.  We noticed a ton of open seats on the 3B side so we headed over there.

This was our view in the top of the ninth:

When the game ended, home plate umpire Alan Porter walked right below us into the umpires’ tunnel.  He paid no attention to us or any of the other fans.

We headed down to the other side of the dugout.  As the Mariners relievers headed toward the dugout, I snapped this picture:

As you can see, Tom Wilhelmsen is in the process of swinging his arm back to underhand a baseball to Tim.  I didn’t notice this at all when I was taking the picture.  I snapped the picture and then lowered my camera to find a ball flying right at us.  Tim snatched it up with no problem.

Thanks, Tom!

We got a final group shot before heading back to the hotel and our car:

Then we drove until around midnight…

…and stopped at a hotel in Triadelphia, West Virginia, where they had this cool pancake machine at the free breakfast the next morning:

Before driving the rest of the way home the following morning, we stopped at Cabela’s to look at some live fish and stuff animals:

We had the most fun with the big bad bears:

It was another great weekend of baseball and another excellent road trip with Avi.

2013 C&S Fan Stats

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

Avi and the Cooks Meet The Mariners in Cincinnati (7/5/2013)

For months, we had been looking forward to the Fourth of July holiday weekend.  Our Mariners were scheduled to take on the Reds at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.  The original plan was that my folks would come out for the series and my wife would join us too.  But through a series of plan squashing issues, neither my folks nor Colleen could end up making the trip.  My folks were out weeks in advance, but Colleen was going to join us right up until July 3rd.  We picked out our hotels and bought our game tickets with her input…but then something more important came up that she had to attend to and had to drop out.

On very short notice, we were happy to have Avi Miller…

…join our traveling roadtrip caravan.

The plan was to see the M’s in Cincinnati on July 5-6.  We headed to Pittsburgh around 11:00 a.m. on the Fourth.  There was a big “Regatta” party-thingy going on in Pittsburgh.  We started out by playing some catch in the park:

We cooled off in this big fountain:

We watched a pretty cool BMX show:

For the record, that guy jumping above is traveling from left to right…and Avi wasn’t impressed until the very end when the last two bikers did back flips.

Next, we met up with famous Pittsburgh couple, Matt Peaslee and Erin Wozniak, and watched a boat race on the river.  This guy captaining the No. 10 boat easily won the race:

Next, it was off to Moe’s for dinner:

And then we finished off the night with some fireworks:

The next morning, July 5, 2013, we were off to Cincinnati.  Neither Kellan nor Avi had ever been to Great American Ball Park (or Cincinnati in general).  While both of them loved the ballpark, Avi contained his enthusiasm while Kellan couldn’t even stand still for a quick picture:

Oh, by the way, this game marked Kellan’s 50th MLB game and Great American Ball Park his 16th MLB stadium.

The Reds have an extra early BP “tour.”  You pay some extra cash at the Reds Hall of Fame (which is an awesome Hall of Fame that you should definitely check out), and you get in to BP super-duper early.  You also get a pass into the Reds HOF and a cool Ted Kluzinsky statue.

After buying our tickets, the boys posed for some pictures with Reds Mickey Mouse…

…and Reds Statute of Liberty.

Just outside the Reds HOF, we found this excellent statue of Johnny Bench:

(Note:  Tim is using a brochure as a catcher’s mitt in that picture).

Around 4:21’ish, our BP tour guide took us inside the stadium…

…and told us what would happen once we went out to the field.  Essentially, for the first half hour we would be confined to right field.  Then the first base line would open up for us (and I think all Reds season tickets holders.  At that point, we could stay in RF or we could head down to the Reds dugout in search of autographs.  Eventually, the gates would open to the general public and we would be able to go anywhere.

When we headed out to RF, Joe Saunders was throwing a bullpen session:

We watched Saunders while Avi went off to watch BP.  After Saunders wrapped up his throwing session, Saunders flipped his warm up ball up to Tim between the narrow gap between the seats and the net over the top of the bullpen.

Thanks, Joe!

For the rest of Reds BP, we hung out here:

You can’t tell in that picture, but we were in a little partial row pressed up against the batters’ eye.  Spots like that are always ideal for us because the natural barrier on one side helps keep Kellan from trying to wander away.

Reds BP was interesting.  As far as I could tell, they hit a grand total of two homeruns.  I might have missed some…but who knows.  I truly only saw two homeruns the entire time.  Meanwhile, all of the Reds were wearing BP pullovers and I had no clue who most of them were…

…but then I saw a familiar face, Mariners bullpen catcher Jason Phillips.  I hadn’t seen him in the bullpen when Saunders was throwing.  He must have been hiding in the corner.  We exchanged our customary tip of the caps as he walked across the field with Saunders.

Eventually, I recognized two Reds in the outfield.  First, I noticed Shin-Soo Choo shagging balls in CF.  When Choo made a catch on a sinking liner in CF, I called out an extended “CHOOOOOOOO!”  He turned around and fired the ball to me.  About thirty second later, he shagged another ball and it tossed it to Tim.

Double thanks, Shin-Soo!

The boys posed with their Choo-Balls and the Great American Ball Park sign for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt:

Nearby in RCF, MyGameBalls.com 2013 top ten snagger Rocco Sinisi was toiling away and doing his thing.  Rocco is the MyGameBalls.com career leader for Great American Ball Park and a photo with him was good for scavenger hunt bonus points.  Although we’d been chatting a bit off and on during BP, we decided to get a photo with Rocco early in BP just in case we forgot to or didn’t get a chance to do so later.  So here is our first attempt at the Rocco/GABP bonus photo:

Over the past several years, I haven’t really followed but have admired Aroldis Chapman from afar.  He seems like a good guy and, heck, he throws balls at crazy fast speeds.

Amongst the sea of unrecognizable Reds in the outfield, I eventually noticed that Chapman was hanging out in straightaway right field.  When I spotted Chapman way over there in RF, I shouted out a loud, “AROOOOOOLDIS!”   This prompted Aroldis to look over and exchange waves with us.

See where Aroldis was:

He was way over there.  Carter Capps was “way over there” too – way over across the field from this throwing partner out on the LF.  Capps was firing seeds across the field.  It was impressive.

A little while later, someone hit a grounder through the infield and into somewhat shallow RF.  Aroldis sauntered over and grabbed the ball.  I called out his name again (you know, we were buddies after that exchange of waves) and he threw the ball all the way from RF to my glove waiting in CF.

Thanks, Aroldis!

Hey, remember those two BP homeruns I mentioned?  Jay Bruce…

…hit one of them right to me and I made the catch on the fly.  Thanks to Rocco for identifying Bruce for me later in the day based on that last photo.

See that bat laying on the ground in the photo above to the right?  When Reds BP ended, we headed  around the RF foul pole and toward home plate.  On the way, I took a photo (that photo) of a bat (that bat) sitting on the ground in the Mariners’ bullpen.  I took the photo for the sole purpose of zooming in on the picture to see whose name was on the bat.  So click on that photo and check it out:  it was Jay Bruce’s bat.  That’s odd.

As we approached the infield, the Reds grounds crew removed the cage and screens from the field.  What was this all about?  It was very confusing.  It was also a bit of a bummer because this was only our second Mariners game of the season and the Mariners didn’t take BP before our first game either.

Anyway, we decided to grab some food for the boys and head over to the third base side…

…where the Mariners’ position players were stretching.  As  I took some photos, Tim munched down a hot dog and Kellan worked away on a big soft pretzel:

Funny side note:  Kellan ate part of that pretzel while sitting on my shoulders.  When he finished, I had to pick big grains of salt out of my hair for the rest of the afternoon.

The lack of BP was actually kind of cool because the Mariners did a modified version of the old fashioned “taking infield and outfield.”

While we were watching our M’s, a Reds employee with a camera came over and asked if he could take our picture.  “Sure,” I responded.  After he snapped the pic, I asked why he wanted the picture.  “It’s for the Mariners,” he responded.  Later in the day, we found out that the Mariners tweeted the picture to over 130,000 people.  Here’s the M’s tweet, and here’s another look at it:

After playing catch with Hisashi Iwakuma, Felix Hernandez signed a bunch of autographs:

Tim got him to sign the Jay Bruce homerun ball.

Thanks, King Felix!

I asked Felix why the M’s weren’t taking BP.  He said they had got into Cincinnati around 2:30 in the morning after playing a road game in Texas the previous night and decided not to take BP.

Following the M’s warm ups, we got a better photo with Rocco:

And then we wandered around a bit and got some pictures with the Reds piggy bank…

…and a big bobblehead burger guy.

Before the game, the Reds honored Homer Bailey…

…for throwing a no-hitter against the Giants three days earlier.

Here was our view for most of this game, about three rows from the top of section 402:

In the couple of games Tim and I had previously attended at Great American, we’d sat in RF and lower LF.  We once visited the upper deck in LF, but never watched game from up there.  I’ll tell you though, I loved it.  For an “upper deck,” it’s not very high up there and the view is great.  Plus, we had a nice view of Kentucky across the river and a great breeze.  As an added bonus, at the back of the upper deck, there are covered seats to either shade you from the sun or keep you dry in the rain.  The LF upper deck at Great American Ball Park definitely gets my seal of approval.

The pitching match-up was Aaron Harang vs. Mike Leake.  I wasn’t a big fan of the match-up.  But sometimes a struggling pitcher can pull out a better-than-normal performance when facing his old team.  That’s what I hoped for from Harang.

We dropped our stuff at our seats and watched the first pitch from Leake to Brad Miller:

And then Kellan and I headed down the stairs on our way to get some ice cream for the boys.   As we walked down the upper deck stairs, Miller laced the ball down the RF line and coasted in for an easy triple.  A great start for the M’s!

As Kellan and I ducked into a men’s restroom, Nick Franklin stepped to the plate and blasted a 2-run homer.  Kellan and I had no clue this had happened.  But when we got back to the ice cream place we saw the score – 2-0 Mariners!

When we got back to the seats…

…, Avi informed us about the Franklin homerun.

Harang pitched a scoreless bottom of the first.  Then, Michael “The Condor” Saunders hit a leadoff bomb in the top of the second:

Here’s one of the reasons I like Brandon Phillips:

Check out that big smile clearly visible from the top of the upper deck in LCF!  That’s how I like to see guys playing the game, like my favorite player, Ken Griffey, Jr.

In case you were wondering, here was the Mariners outfield for the day:

Michael Saunders in RF, Dustin Ackley in CF and Rauuuuuul Ibanez in LF.

Here’s a funny picture with no backstory, just a bunch of funny guys:

And a couple loving brothers:

Tim and Kellan either spend their time trying to annoy one another or hugging and telling each other how much they love the other.  Generally, they act like wonderful loving brothers while at baseball games and reserve their annoying each other for play time at home.

Much to my delight, Harang was, indeed, putting a strong performance together against his old squad:

Multiple times before the game and once during the game, I took the boys here…

…for a little kid fun.  That table looks like it is covered in sand, but it is really a mixture of different colored bits of rubber chopped up into little grains.  There were digging tools and dinosaur skeletons that the kids could dig up.  The two big dinosaurs standing behind the boys in the picture above to the left felt real’ish and they moved around every couple minutes.  The one on the right also laid eggs.  The boys couldn’t get enough of this little dinosaur display.

Before the game started we were hanging out in dinosaur area and another guy wearing Mariners gear asked me if he’d seen us at Pittsburgh.  We chatted about it and, indeed, he had seen us in Pittsburgh.  His name is Greg.  He’s a NW Mariners fan transplanted to Detroit.  We’ve kept in touch a bit since running into each other several times this weekend.  Good guy, and good Mariners fan.

Last time we were in Cincinnati we failed to get a good picture of the batters’ eye boat.  So, we got this one:

Back up in section 402, the ballpark looked even better as the sun went down:

Avi agreed, this place is beautiful:

Tim and Kellan both took a bunch of pictures during this game and weekend.  Here’s Kellan’s funniest picture:

I should mention that the Mariners took a 4-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning when Michael Saunders hit a sacrifice fly to LF scoring Kyle Seager.

In the top of the fifth inning, Brad Miller made some Great American Ball Park history when he hit his second triple of the game.  In over 800 games, it was the first time that a player had hit two triples in a game at GABP.  Pretty cool.

In the bottom of the fifth, Shin-Soo Choo hit an RBI-double to put the Reds on the board.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Reds capped the scoring for the day when Joseph Votto blasted a leadoff homerun to CF.  That made the score 4-2 Mariners.

Late in the game, we got split up from Avi for a while.  When we connected on the phone, he said he was in a SRO area near home plate with Rocco.  We decided we should go over there.  Thinking (correctly) that we might not make it back to section 402, we got a picture of Tim at the bottom of 402 on our way out (Kellan didn’t want to get off my shoulders to get in the picture):

This was our view in the SRO area:

When we arrived at the SRO area, Avi was nowhere to be found.  Ends up, we’d left section 402 to meet up with him and he left the SRO area to meet up with him in section 402.

Eventually, we did all meet up at the SRO area.  They make you stand at the top of the stairs.  Eventually, we move down the stairs at stood at the corner of the cross aisle.  The ushers didn’t really do anything about it so we stayed there a bit.

Heading into the bottom of the eight, the Mariner brought in Charlie Furbush who blew away Zack Cozart, Joey…

…Votto, and Brandon Phillips, 1-2-3.

When Rocco came by, he headed down the cross aisle toward the outfield.  We all followed him and ended up here for the ninth inning:

Check out that guy’s Johnny Bench jersey.  That’s sweet.

Ollie Perez nailed down a great Mariners Win!

We ended up in near-perfect position for a umpire ball, but didn’t get one.  But when we moved to the other end of the M’s dugout, Jaime Navarro tossed this one to Tim:

Avi, the boys and I pulled up some from row seats…

…for the post-game firework show:

The very first fireworks show of Tim’s life was at Great American Ball Park and it was awesome.  However, since then, we’ve seen a fireworks show at Progressive Field, and absolutely nothing stacks up to the Indians’ fireworks shows.  They are incredible  But this was a nice show for the boys.  They love all fireworks shows.

After fireworks, we got one more picture with Rocco…

…, one more group shot of us four roadtrippers…

…, some mire image shots with these awesome mosaics…

…, and one with this cool thingy inset on the floor of the concourse behind home plate:

And then we headed off to the team store so Avi could buy a bunch of bobbleheads.  In the team store, Tim posed with a huge World Series trophy:

Finally, we walked back to  our hotel a few blocks away…

…where Kellan hid under a pillow, both boys acted silly for a while, and then we all called it a night.

Go Mariners!

2013 C&S Fan Stats

15 Games                                                     
17 Teams – Mariners, Royals,   Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, Marlins,   Pirates, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers, Mets, Brewers
28 Ice Cream Helmets – Phillies   (jumbo) 2, Phillies (normal) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees 2, Orioles 4, Nationals 2,   Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2, Tigers 6, Mets 2, Reds 2
72 Baseballs – Mariners 8,   Royals 4, Phillies 11, Rays 2, Orioles 7, Dodgers 1, Umpires 7, Reds 8,   Nationals 1, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2, Twins 3, Tigers 1, Mets 3,   Yankees 2, Brewers 2, Red Sox 6
10 Stadiums – Citizens   Bank Park 2, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, PNC   Park, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park, Citi Field, Great American Ball Park
32 Player+ Photos – Oliver   Perez, Lucas Luetge, Hisashi Iwakuma, Carter Capps, Daniel Nava, Alex Wilson,   Andrew Bailey, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Carp 2, Koji Uehara, Will Middlebrooks,   Joel Hanrahan, Jonny Gomes, Alfredo Aceves, Clayton Mortensen, Rick Anderson,   Tom Gorzelanny, Joe Savery, Jonathan Pettibone, Carlos Ruiz, Charlie Manuel,   Justin DeFratus, Ryan Howard, Ben Revere, Larry Anderson, Gary “Sarge”   Matthews Sr., Kyle Kendrick, Ryne “HOF 2005” Sandberg, Michael Stutes, Jimmy   Rollins, Ryan Rowland-Smith
10 Autograph – Hisashi   Iwakuma 2 (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan, Jesus Tiamo,   Mike Carp 2, Ryan Rowland-Smith 2, Felix Hernandez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Ryan!

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

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

…and bought some food.

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

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

Eventually, it was time for some ice cream:

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

Check out our seats:

Pretty nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Ryan!

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

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

Not quite accurate, but it was pretty hilarious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We had a tasty pancake and bacon breakfast…

…at Leo’s Coney Island Downtown.

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

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

…had Kellan not been doing that crazy squinty face.

Check out the huge line in front of us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Dana!

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

…, Willie Horton…

…, Hank Greenberg…

…, Charlie Gehringer…

…, Hal Newhouser…

…, and Al Kaline:

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

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

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

Verlander was on the hill…

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

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

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

3-2 Tigers after two innings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…for a while.

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

Kellan was just chillaxing and watching the game:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tigers win 7-5.

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

Double thanks, Alfonso!

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

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

Thanks, Brian!

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

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

We picked up some timbits…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wooooooooooooh!   What a weekend of baseball with my boys!

Fun times!

2013 C&S Fan Stats

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

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

Ex-Mariners Factor Big In Great Day for Mariners Fans at Camden Yards (6/15/2013)

On June 15, 2013, we headed back to Baltimore for our second Camden Yards game of the season.  This one featured an A.L. East showdown between the Orioles and the Red Sox.

The boys had a silly face making contest on the drive south…

1-funny-face-contest

…, and they both came up with the crazy looks.  We come up with lots of games to make our baseball game drives part of the fun.

When we arrived at the CF gates, our friends Alex Kopp, Tim Anderson (and his girlfriend who Tim Cook asked if she was Tim A.’s wife), and Doug Hakey.   Avi was still en route with our tickets.

The boys passed the time playing catch with Alex:

2-catch-with-alex

This was a 4 o’clock game (which seems to be a big trend in MLB this season).  When the gates opened at 2:00 p.m. we headed to left field with the season ticket holders and scooted around the pole into foul territory.

Orioles BP was taking place, but it was decidedly odd:

3-random-employees-in-outfied

Instead of Orioles players shagging balls in the outfield, most of the outfield was filled with Orioles employees who appeared to be groundskeepers.

Probably within 2-3 minutes of reaching foul territory, an O’s batter launched a ball right down the line over our heads.  I’m not sure if it was fair or foul, but it ended up clanking around in the seats just above the foul pole.  With no one around, I scampered over there and grabbed it.  Yay!

We had a special BP plan for this game.  We wanted to get a picture with former-Mariner Mike Carp.  Carp was best friends with former-Mariner Greg Halman, who was killed by his brother several years ago.  Wanna see how cool a guy and great a best friend Carp is?  Then check out this article.

Halman was Dutch.  He died during the offseason (actually, on Ken Griffey, Jr.’s birthday).  The next spring, Carp designed some shirts in honor of his friend can gave them to all of the members of the team (click here for the story). The fans wanted the shirts too.  Eventually, they were redesigned a bit sold at the Mariners’ team store and I think the proceeds went to some sort of charity.  Here is what the shirts look like:

greatdane

We had crossed paths with Halman a few times while he played for the Mariners and he was super nice.  In our interactions he was very quiet and gentle and really seemed to love kids.  We became instant fans.  And when Carp’s shirts were made available to the public, I had to have one.  I meant to wear it when we visited Fenway Park in April, but I forgot to bring it.  So I wore it to this game with the hope that Carp would notice it and come say hi to us.  He did.

When the Red Sox came and out and started stretching…

4-red-sox-warming

…we spotted Carp from afar and started walking over toward the dugout.  In that last picture, if you start from the Orioles batter taking a hack in the cage, Carp is two guys over to the right.

As we walked toward the dugout area (but were still probably 150 feet from home plate), Carp saw my shirt and gave us a big wave.

We walked to the section just past the dugout (OF end of the dugout) and watched the Red Sox warm up.  While we watched, two Red Sox coaches played catch on the warning track.  The coach right in front of us was Arnie Beleyer.  When he finished playing catch, Beleyer flipped the ball to Tim.

Thanks, coach!

After the Red Sox finished stretching, Carp came over to chat with us.  We got this picture together:

5-mike-carp-and-us

He signed the ball that Beleyer had flipped to Tim and he signed my shirt:

halman-shirt-carp-auto

We chatted a little about Halman.  The first thing Carp said when he walked up “thank you for the support.”  Not sure if he meant supporting Halman or whatever the charity the proceeds went to, but Mike is certainly welcome.  We’re glad to do our part!

During our brief chat, I told Carp to hit a homerun today.  He smiled and chuckled, but didn’t promise anything.  I also told Carp that the Red Sox need to call up Ryan Rowland-Smith.  He’s pitching way too good this season to be stuck in AAA.

With BP in full swing, the boys decided it was time for ice cream.  We grabbed some helmets and grabbed our standard front row spot down the LF foul line:

6-bp-ice-cream

Jonny Gomes was the only Red Sox player hanging out in left field.  He was pretty playful…

7-playful-gomes

…with the folks in homerun territory.  In that picture, he’s pump faking the fans.  He also tossed balls straight up in front of them so they couldn’t catch it.  After faking out the fans, he tossed several balls into the crowd in LF.  Eventually, he tossed one to us in foul territory, too.

Thanks, Jonny!

Around 3:00, we decided to head out toward the bullpens in LCF.   We hung out by Cal Ripkin, Jr.’s orange seat.  There was a little patch of open seats to our right…

8-nava-perfect-random-toss

…and, at one point, Daniel Nava ran hard toward CF and snatched up a batted ball on at a full sprint.  Without breaking stride, he Kareem Abdul-Jabaar skyhooked it into the crowd.  It sailed right over everyone in the front row and, reaching out into that open patch of seats, it was an easy catch for me.

Thanks, Daniel!

We decided to head toward home plate.  It was pretty crowded around the dugout.  We stood about 8-10 rows back from the field.  Tim doused one side of his face with water while leaving the other side completely dry…

9-wet-dry-face-papi-carp

…and we watched Mike Carp and David “Big Papi” Ortiz take their hacks.

This was the last group of hitters.  The grounds crew started pulling up the tarp behind home plate while the group was still hitting.  There were about five baseballs on the tarp and the a guy on the grounds crew set them all in a little group after removing the tarp.  When BP ended, Big Papi grabbed all of those balls and tossed them to people right above the dugout.

As he tossed the five several balls, I called out “Paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!”  Big Papi looked up and spotted us and tossed the last baseball to us over a big crowd of people.  It was very exciting!

Muchas Gracias, Papi!

With BP over, we headed back to LCF where we met up with Alex Kopp.  There are always a bunch of balls spread out in the bullpens after BP and Orioles pitching coach, Rick Adair, usually tosses them into the crowd when he gets to the bullpen.  Alex warned us, however, that Adair has really gotten to a point where he only tosses baseballs to fans wearing Orioles gear.

Adair and Taylor Teagarden arrived at the bullpen.  While getting ready to do some catching drills, Teagarden tossed a ball to Alex.  A minute or two later, Tim politely asked if Rick would toss a baseball to him.  Rick responded, “You’re wearing the wrong jersey!”  I quickly responded to Rick, who used to be the Mariners pitching coach, “It used to be the right jersey!”  That seemed to do the trick.  Rick flipped a baseball up to Tim.

Thanks, Rick!  Don’t ever lose the Mariners love!  Once a Mariner, always a Mariner! (Except A-Rod…he’s exclusively a Yankee).

Speaking of former-Mariners, I was totally psyched to find out that top-5 all-time winningest Mariners pitcher and beloved former-Mariner, Freddy Garcia…

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…was taking the bump for the Orioles.  I decided immediately that I was rooting for the Orioles to win this game…although, of course, I still wanted Carp to hit a homerun (preferably against a relief pitcher, not against Freddy).

We watched Freddy warm up:

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As the game was about to start, we decided to head to the kids’ play area.  We were in the cross aisle in deep LF foul territory when Freddy delivered the first pitch of the game:

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And we were between 3B and home plate when he induced Dustin Pedroia to fly out…

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…for the third out of the inning.  Good work, Freddy!

We passed a cool looking Orioles muscle car on the way to the play area:

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The boys did lots of pitching…

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…and hitting in the play area.  They also did some bouncing and climbing/sliding:

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While the boys were playing, the first five Orioles reached base in the bottom of the first.  The Orioles scored two runs in the inning, the first on a Manny Machado double and the second on a infield single by Adam Jones.

Good, good, good…Freddy had a lead!

We decided to get some food and eat it in our actual seats, which were in a shady section of the upper deck.  On our way to get food, we ran into Mr. Boh (he’s the logo of National Bohemian beer, which is based in Baltimore):

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We grabbed some hot dogs and reported to our seats, where this was our view of the game:

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Freddy was looking good:

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I loved our seats.  We had a great view of the game, we were in the shade, and we were in the last row…

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…, which meant that Kellan could sit on my shoulders and not block anyone’s view behind us.

Guess what happened with Mike Carp came to the plate in top of the fourth inning?  My former-Mariner loyalties came head to head.  In the grand scheme of things, Freddy is much higher on my list than Carp.  I’ve loved Freddy for years.  But I had told Carp to hit a homerun in this game.  What was he supposed to do?  Let us down?  Nah, that’s not how Carp operates.

So, yeah, he hit that homerun I requested:

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Unfortunately, Pedroia was on first so the game was all knotted at 2-2.  Even more unfortunately, two more Red Sox collected hits in the inning so the Red Sox pulled ahead 3-2 after four innings.

And then they tacked on another run in the top of the fifth, making the score 4-2 Red Sox.

As Kellan was winding down for a nap, Tim was full of excitement:

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When we decided to leave the upper deck, another fan took our picture and Kellan was lights out up on my shoulders:

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He looked so cute and peaceful sleeping on my shoulders…

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as we walked down the switch-back ramps in RF foul territory:

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Kellan woke up on our way down.  As you can probably tell from that last picture, the kids play area is right at the bottom of the ramps.  So the boys played some more games.  And I finally captured Tim topping out at 37 m.p.h.:

37 is the fastest he’s ever pitched.  He’s hit 37 a bunch of times, but I’ve never been able to get a photo of it.  So, there you go.  37!

Alex and Tim Anderson were hanging out by the flag court so we headed over there to say hi.  On our walk, I got a photo of the best flag at Camden Yards:

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As we approached Alex and Tim, Alex was celebrating Nate McClouth reaching base on a Dustin Pedroia error:

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Check out this cool picture of three all-star baseball fans:

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Alex and Tim Anderson were playing for homers (and they’ve both had a bunch of luck already this season) and we didn’t want to get in their way too much.  So we headed back to the play area and played some more.

Neither of them caught Jonny Gomes’s sixth inning homerun that made the score 5-2 Red Sox.

Here’s a funny set of pictures.  Kellan is always standing around with this hands behind his back.  It always makes him look very polite.  Check it out:

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This picture of Kellan reminds me of “Batting Stance Guy”:

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And check out his less than ideal pitching mechanics as the day progressed:

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A little more bouncing and we called it a day for the play area.

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Toward the end of the game, we started thinking about going for an umpire ball.  But it still seemed like there was a good crowd on hand behind the plate.

We watched the top of the ninth from the cross-aisle down the 1B line:

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Heading into the bottom of the ninth, we moved closer to home plate.  We were one section over from the umpire’s tunnel when Matt Wieters hit a 1-out, 2-run homerun:

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Neither Alex nor Tim Anderson caught that one either.

J.J. Hardy followed up Wieters with a single.  Alexi Casilla was brought in to pinch run for Wieters.  He didn’t do a very good job of it.

We were still one section over from the stairway leading to the umpire’s tunnel when Ryan Flaherty came to the plate.  On the fourth pitch of the at bat, Flaherty hit a fly ball to RF.  It was a no doubt out.  However, for some reason, Casilla took off hard, rounded second and turned toward third.  With the fly ball still in the air, I yelled out to Tim to follow me because it was going to be a game ended double play.  And it was.  Shane Victorino made the easy catch and an easy throw to 1B to double off Casilla and end the game.  Red Sox win 5-4.

As all that was unfolding on the field, Tim and I ran a section over to our left (fyi, Kellan was on my shoulders) and down the stairs all the way to the bottom.  Because there was only one out in the inning on contact, most people had not realized that the game was going to end within a few seconds.

We had no trouble getting into perfect position for an umpire ball.  On his way out, home plate umpire Jeff Nelson gave us a nice, rubbed up game ball.

Thanks, Jeff!

We then headed over to the Orioles’ dugout before heading out to our car.  We saw something funny while at the dugout, check it out:

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The funny thing is that someone wrote “Baltimore Orioles” on the bat weight.  If they ever leave that behind at one of the parks where my softball team plays, I’ll be sure to mail it back to Camden Yards.

It was another great day of baseball for the three of us.  The only bad part of the day was that Tim somehow lost his only Mariners cap.  If forced to guess, I’d say it probably fell out of my bag while we were eating lunch in the upper deck.   Very sad.  But don’t worry, he didn’t go without a Mariners hat for long.

2013 C&S Fan Stats

13 Games
17 Teams – Mariners, Royals,   Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, Marlins,   Pirates, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers, Mets, Brewers
22 Ice Cream Helmets – Phillies   (jumbo) 2, Phillies (normal) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees 2, Orioles 2, Nationals 2,   Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2, Tigers 4, Mets 2
55 Baseballs – Mariners 6,   Royals 4, Phillies 11, Rays 2, Orioles 5, Dodgers 1, Umpires 4, Reds 4,   Nationals 1, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2, Twins 3, Tigers 1, Mets 3,   Yankees 2, Brewers 2
9 Stadiums – Citizens   Bank Park 2, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, PNC   Park, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park, Citi Field
30 Player+ Photos – Oliver   Perez, Lucas Luetge, Hisashi Iwakuma, Carter Capps, Daniel Nava, Alex Wilson,   Andrew Bailey, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Carp, 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
5 Autograph – Hisashi   Iwakuma 2 (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan, Jesus Tiamo
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