Archive for the ‘ roadtrip ’ Category

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)
 

 

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!)

Sixth Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip – Game 4, Yankees at Mets (5/27/2013)

On May 27, 2013, my dad’s birthday, we woke up in DuBois, Pennsylvania, with a bonus Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip game on tap for later that night in Queens.
We had plenty of time to get to NY so we started the day with a nice leisurely free breakfast in our hotel dining area:

1-breakfast-in-dubois

We had nothing but good things to say about the brand-spanking new Fairfield Inn in DuBois. A very nice place to stay for the night.
We hit the road and had a nice drive across Pennsylvania. It was route I’d never taken before. The boys did a little snacking in the car, and did some jumping jacks to burn some energy at a rest stop…

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…, then it was in to New Jersey, and on to the big city.

When we reached Manhattan, we parked in the upper west side and then dined on some huge pizza slices…

3-the-famous-original-only-first-famously-original-rays

…at Rays on 82nd and Columbus.

Sometimes I have trouble figuring out where we should get on the subway in the upper west side. So I gave Zack Hample a call. He pointed us in the right direction. And, wouldn’t you know it, as we approached the subway…

4-zack-city-subway

…we ran into Zack on the sidewalk. It had only been 3 days earlier that we were hanging out with Zack in Toronto. It was cool to bump into him again on the same roadtrip, although not at another game.

My boys love riding the subway:

5-subwaying

My dad had never been to Shea or Citi Field and he was happy to get to see the sights…

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…from the 7 Train.

You know we had to get this photo right after arriving at Citi Field:

7-grandpa-boys-shea-homerun-apple

We played a little catch in the parking lot and then hopped in line. As I held our spot, my dad took the boys for a little walk so he could see the outside of Citi Field. On their way back…

8-citi-line

…, Tim was showing off his muscles.

Once we headed into the stadium, we all headed to foul territory down the RF foul line. After a few minutes, the boys and I headed to the corner spot in RCF by the bullpens. Here was out view (to the left)…

9-rcf-parnell

…and my dad snapped that picture of us hanging out at the bottom of the steep RF steps. In that line up of player in RCF, the left one in from the left (closest to us) was Bobby Parnell. Eventually, a baseball was hit out to the warning track about half way between the players and us. Parnell ran over to grab it, and he was kind enough to toss it up to us.

Thanks, Bobby!

It was really bright in RCF and nice and shady in LF, so we decided to head over there. On our way, we met up with Mr. Met:

10-mr-met-2013

This was our view in LCF:

11-quiet-in-lcf

Nothing was doing out there. The most interesting part of our time out in LCF was getting to watch Mariano Rivera shagging fly balls.

Coming into this game, at least one player or coach from every MLB team had thrown us a baseball since Tim’s first game back in 2006, every team, that is, except the Yankees. I was hoping we could cross the Yankees off the toss-up list at this game.

I was really hoping we could get a toss-up from Ichiro, but before Ichiro made it out to RF, we ran into another former Mariner, Shawn Kelley. And, wouldn’t you know, the former-Mariner now in a Yankees uniform tossed us a baseball:

12-why-you-catch-that-daddy

IN that picture, Tim is looking at me in disbelief because I had the audacity to catch the baseball that Shawn tossed to him after it sailed two feet over Tim’s head. Had I not caught it, we never would have seen it again. But Tim was definitely bummed out that he didn’t get to make the catch. Anyway…

Thanks, Shawn!

Then Tim’s favorite player (who sadly now wears pinstriped pajamas as his home uniform) came out to field some balls in RF:

13-is-that-ichiro

Hey, I failed to mention that, while we were in LCF, my dad found his way over to the corner spot where we got the ball from Parnell. At the time, Ichiro was blistering balls all over RF and the RF seats. When he hit a laser out to RCF, an unidentified Yankee fielded the ball and tossed it to my dad; a pretty cool birthday present from the Yankees.

We headed over to RF to watch Ichiro. He tossed several balls into the seats in foul territory, but nothing anyway near us. Once he headed to the dugout, we decided it was a bit too crowded in the seats. So we called it a day for BP, headed off to get some ice cream and headed to the picnic tables under Shea Bridge so the boys could eat their ice cream in peace:

14-seventeen-pullups-two-ice-creams

Kellan is still only two years old and is only potty trained when he feels like it. So he wears pullups most of the time. As we pulled into Manhattan, I changed Kellan and realized that I only had one more pullup! We were far from my car when we stopped into a drug store to get a fresh pack of pullups. As the kids ate their ice cream, I counted that I had 17 pullups in my backpack — quite possibly a new Major League record. I think this meant that my dad had about 8 in his back pack too. By the way, it ended up that I did need to buy them. Oh, well…better safe than sorry.

As the boys ate their ice cream two interesting things happened:

15-two-baseball-by-bullpen

First, a usher came over and toss a ball over the fence to the boys. Tim was mid-ice cream and couldn’t get his glove on in time. After the Shawn Kelley toss-up, I knew Tim wanted to be the one to catch (or at least secure) this ball, so I literally let the ball just hit me in the chest and bounce back against the fence. Tim ran over and grabbed it with his glove still in his throwing hand (picture above to the right).

Second, the same usher came back over to us two minute later with another ball. He felt that both boys should get a ball. This time, Tim had time to get his glove on and he made a nice catch on the high toss over the fence (there he is with it in the photo above to the left). Meanwhile, Kellan was shoveling ice cream into his face.

Double thanks, Usher!

By the way, that is the usher walking away from us behind Tim in the photo above to the left.

My dad came and found us. And look who else found us once my dad arrived:

16-mr-met-and-the-birthday-boy

From time-to-time, Kellan has a case of the terrible twos. And this game featured a couple of them, including right when the game was about to start. That’s okay though. He can sit on my shoulders and fuss it up while we walk around and have a nice time. My dad needed to see some more of the ballpark so we all headed up to the Pepsi Porch in RF. That’s where we were when the game started. Here’s the second pitch…

17-second-pitch-is-better-photo-than-first-pitch-tonight

…because it ended up being a better picture than my shot of the first pitch.

The pitching match up was Jon Neise vs. Phil Hughes. That second pitch picture features a match up of Neise against Brett Gardner. Neise won that match up by way of strikeout.
My dad got his first taste of New York ushering…

18-watching-robby

…while watching Robby Cano strike out for the final out of the top of the first. Neise k’d all three batters he faced. Anyway, see that little gate to my dad’s right in that picture above to the right? When we walked up to the standing room area, my dad walked up to that gate and rested his hands on top of the gate – a very natural thing to do in an SRO area. The usher told my dad that he couldn’t stand at the gate, he had to move over to the left…which was a pretty pointless rule.

On our way out of the Pepsi Porch, we got a picture of Tim posing in front of the 7 Train and muffler city (that’s my name for it. Whatever it’s called, it is an eye sore):

19-tim-muffler-city-seven-train

And then Tim and my dad got a (bonus) picture with the Citi Field sign and some baseballs for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt:

20-citi-field-bonus-shot

We were in the upper deck concourse down the 3B side in the top of the second when Ichiro came to the plate:

21-bitter-sweet-ichiro-at-bat

Tim watched on with uneasy anticipation as his all-time favorite batter took the batters’ box wearing the wrong uniform. It was the first time we’d ever seen Ichiro bat in person wearing a non-Mariners uniform, and it was a bit unsettling.

We are never accustomed to wanting a Yankee to get a hit or do anything positive in a game. But all of us were happy when Ichiro laced a harmless single to CF:

22-still-hitting

It was Ichiro’s only hit on the day. He went 1-3 with a walk.

If I had it my way, Ichiro would rip off another 200 hit season this year, but his teammates would always squander the opportunities and leave him stranded on base.
While we watched Ichiro bat, my dad chatted with an usher who pointed out this:

23-row-six-and-row-six

You see it? Row 6 and, right behind it, row 6. Oops!

In the top of the third, we grabbed some food and finally found our seats:

24-short-lived-seats

Tim and my dad enjoyed their food and ended up sitting in our seats for a while. Kellan and I were I our seats for about five minutes tops. I ended up ripping off a big piece of Kellan’s soft pretzel and giving it to him to eat. I knew it was a mistake the second I did it. Kellan launched into another case of the terrible twos. Instead of letting his whining annoy our fellow fans, I decided to head back over to the bullpen area where Kellan could work the crankiness out of his system without bothering other fans. Somehow, we ended up staying there most of the game.

In the top of the sixth inning, the Yankees took a 1-0 lead. Brett Gardner led off the inning with a triple and scored on a Jayson Nix RBI single.

In the bottom of the sixth, Gardner helped keep the 1-0 Yankees lead intact. At the time, Kellan and I were in the field level concourse in LF. There were two outs when Daniel Murphy came to the plate. Murphy blasted the ball to deep LCF. It had just enough to get out of the ballpark…but it didn’t have quite enough to get out of Gardner’s reach. Garden jumped high against the wall and brought the homerun back into the park for the final out of the inning. Here is a video clip of the catch.

Tim and my dad ended up meeting up with us back by the bullpens around the sixth or seventh inning. We played a ton of catch back there:

25-catching-for-smiles

Above to the left, Kellan was throwing balls against the wall while my dad played back up. Above to the right, I was throwing long tosses (essentially the entire length of Shea Bridge to Tim. No one seemed to care that we were doing there, so that was pretty cool.

You know what wasn’t cool? The fans by the bullpens:

26-sweet-new-york-fans-way-to-go-guys

There were a bunch of Mets and Yankees fans and they were cursing up a storm at each other and putting down each other’s team. It was ridiculous. Eventually, an usher came over and threatened to kick out the guy above in the Mets shirt who is facing the camera. He felt this was a grave injustice and that it was the Yankees fans who should have been threatened to get kicked out.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, David Wright launched a game tying homerun to LF.

We had signed my dad up for a “First Game” certificate at the fan assistance booth in the upper deck early in the game. They told us to come back for the certificate in the seventh inning or later. We decided to head up to grab the certificate and get a picture of the four of us.

Turns out my dad’s certificate wasn’t ready so they ended up mailing it to him. During the eighth inning, an usher took this photo of us on our final stop on the GFS Roadtrip:

27-four-cook-dudes-at-citi-field

Here was our view of the action from our SRO spot in the bottom of the eighth:

28-view-of-some-duda

Lucas Duda ended up striking out to end the eighth inning, but the Mets fans didn’t care because two batters earlier Daniel Murphy had come through with a go-ahead RBI single to CF. So the Mets were up 2-1 going into the top of the ninth.

As Bobby Parnell came in for the save attempt, we relocated to the SRO behind the field level seats behind 3B so we would be closer to the exits when the game ended.
Historically, I have found it difficult to get down to the umpire’s tunnel at the end of Mets home games at Citi Field. At first, I wasn’t even thinking we would try. But Kellan and I ended up walking down to the SRO area just behind the section immediately above the umpire tunnel.

The usher was not checking tickets. But we stayed in the concourse.

With one out, this was our view as Ichiro worked a walk:

29-ichiro-walks-in-ninth

In a 8-pitch at bat, Lyle Overbay ended up striking out for the second out of the top of the ninth inning. In this course of battling Parnell, Overbay ended up hitting a little foul nubber right in front of the plate. I watched as catcher John Buck retrieved the ball and gave it back to home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth. Culbreth inspected the foul ball and then put it back in one of his baseball pouches.

Travis Hafner was the final batter of the game. As he batted, Kellan and I stood in the aisle right at the top of the stairs. Hafner ended up being retired on a moon shot, infield pop out to David Wright at 3B.

In terms of trying to get into position to get an umpire ball, pop fly outs are the best possible ending to a game. As everyone stood to watch the play, Kellan (on my shoulders) and I took off down the stairs and we had no problem reaching the umpire tunnel before Culbreth arrived. Culbreth ended up tossing a few baseballs to kids on the OF side of the tunnel. Then he turned and tossed his final baseball to us:

30a-umpire-ball-foul-ball

The baseball was all smudged and dirty. I have a strong feeling it was the foul nubber that Overbay hit before striking out for the second out of the game. Of course, there is no way to ever confirm that suspicion…but it’s fun to speculate.

Thanks, Fieldin!

Right after we got the ball from Culbreth, a teenage fan standing next to us looked at me and asked, “Todd and Tim!?” “Yeah…well, Todd and Kellan,” I responded. I didn’t recognize him at first because he has almost doubled in size since the last time we saw him, but I was pleased to be face-to-face once again with our former ballpark buddy and MyGameBalls.com member, Alex K.

We chatted for a minute or two in the seats and then I asked if he could head up to the concourse with us so he could say hi to Tim. I knew Tim would be psyched to see him. Here’s the thing about Tim, he loves people. Especially, kids, of all ages. In 2009, we met Alex in Chicago and then saw him several times in NY, along with his buddy Joe Faraguna. Back then, every time we went to a game, Tim asked, “Will Joe and Alex be at the game?”

Tim was definitely thrown off at first at how much older and taller Alex looks now. But once he realized it was Alex from “Joe and Alex,” he was excited to see his old buddy. Of course, almost right away, Tim asked, “Where’s Joe?”

Check out these now (2013) and then (2009) picts of Tim and Alex:

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They’ve both grown a lot!

After chatting with Alex a bit, we headed toward the gates. On the way out, I realized my dad had missed out on a Citi Field must see, the big Jackie Robinson “42”:

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On the way to the 7 Train, we saw a cool Mets car:

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We said good-bye to Citi Field from the 7 train…

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…, the local 7 Train, that is.

It was a long but fun commute back to our car on the 7 Train and the 1 Train:

34-commuting-post-game

And it was an even longer commute out of NY and back to Pennsylvania. We arrived home around 2:30 a.m.

So there you go, another successful Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip in the books. I’m pretty sure we’ll be in Texas in 2014 because my dad has now seen every team play a home game except the Rangers (he saw the Astros at the Astrodome so he still needs to visit Minute Maid Park and he saw the Marlins at Sun Life Stadium so he still needs to go to Marlins Park). Can wait to help him check all of those stadiums off of his list!

2013 C&S Fan Stats

11 Games

16 Teams – Mariners, Royals, Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, Marlins, Pirates, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers, Mets.

20 Ice Cream Helmets – Phillies (jumbo) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees 2, Orioles 2, Nationals 2, Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2, Tigers 4, Mets 2.

50 Baseballs – Mariners 6, Royals 4, Phillies 9, Rays 2, Orioles 5, Dodgers 1, Umpires 3, Reds 4, Nationals 1, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2, Twins 3, Tigers 1, Mets 3, Yankees 2.

9 Stadiums – Citizens Bank Park 2, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, PNC Park, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park, Citi Field.

16 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.

5 Autograph – Hisashi Iwakuma (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan, Jesus Tiamo.

Sixth Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip – Game 3, Twins at Tigers (5/26/2013)

On May 26, 2013, we woke up in Windsor, Ontario. We had one more baseball game scheduled for the 2013 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip, and it was waiting across the river from us, back at Comerica Park.

The game was scheduled for a 1:08 p.m. start time. We decided to do breakfast back in the good ol’ U.S. of A. so we hopped in the car, motored through the Tunnel to U.S.A. and crossed the border for the final time on our trip:

1-welcome-to-michigan-usa

We had no clue what we would do for breakfast. We thought maybe we would pass a nice looking restaurant on our way to the stadium. I wasn’t sure how the morning would go if we didn’t get to eat anything until the ballpark opened around 11:30. But we were there before we knew it and didn’t find any breakfast. Oh, well…we’d figure something out…

We parked in the stadium lot directly across the street from the batters’ eye. Tim caught some pop flies…

2-comerica-parking-lot-pop-flies

…before we set out to see the ballpark.

Because we were running late the day before, we hadn’t gotten a chance for my dad to see the outside of the ballpark. We headed to the LF corner and circled around toward the 3B side. Here are some sights along the way:

3-scenes-around-comerica-park

From top right and moving in the shape of a “W”: (1) Tim and my dad are standing just outside of the LF gate with Ford Field (home of the Detroit Lions) behind them; (2) walking down the street from LF toward the home plate end of the ballpark, we walked by the ferris wheel; (3) circling around the corner just passed the ferris wheel, Tim and my dad in front of a fancy tiger door; (4) a little further down the side walk, Tim and Kellan posed with a fancy tile Tiger “D”; and (5) just passed the players’ entrance, Tim posed with a plaque for Ty Cobb the “Greatest Tiger of All, A Genius in Spikes.”

As we kept walking, we circled the next corner and found ourselves outside the coolest ballpark gate in all of Major League Baseball:

4-this-tiger-is-roarsome

This gate is so big and bold and awesome that it is pretty much impossible to get all of the awesomeness into one picture, so here are some more:

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Hey, guess what!? See those windows below the two tigers in the photo above to the right? Well, inside those windows is a diner…

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…where we were able to feast on pancakes and bacon! Hooray! Isn’t it great when things work out?

After breakfast, we headed to the coolest gate in all of baseball and set our stuff down first in line. And then we played catch a whole bunch. Eventually, I started throwing pop flies to Tim and this was the result:

In case that doesn’t make sense, I was throwing pop flies over the Comerica Park sign to Tim our by the big tiger. It was actually quite difficult to throw the ball straight up and over that sign and still make it land out where Tim was standing.

Once the crowd got too big for us to continue playing catch, we hung out by the gate. Tim passed time by climbing on these support bars…

7-fun-at-comerica-gates

…while Kellan sat with my dad and looked at pictures on his cellphone.

Upon entering the stadium, the boys both collected their give-away Tigers baseball cards sets, and then we headed down to the field. We were the first people entering the 1B foul territory seats. As we walked down the aisle, there were 4-5 Twins coaches sitting on the wall. I was sure they would walk away as they saw *the fans* approaching, but they stayed put. Tim, Kellan and I walked up behind them and I asked them collectively, “Any Twins coaches interested in getting a picture with some Mariners fans!?”
The closest coach to us was Rick Anderson:

8-rick-anderson-from-mariner-high-school

And he was, indeed, interested in meeting and getting a picture with some Mariners fans. We chatted for a minute or two. He grew up in Everett, Washington, just north of where I grew up and my folks live, and he went to Mariner High School and used to play sports against Edmonds High School and Woodway High School back in the day. My freshman year, Edmonds and Woodway combined to create the world famous Edmonds-Woodway High School!!!

Rick was a nice dude. And, as we parted ways, he handed us one of the two baseballs he was holding.

Thanks, Rick!

After we chatted with Rick, the other coaches started to disperse. One of the Twins’ bullpen catchers started to head toward the dugout. On his way, he tossed two baseballs into the crowd, one to us and one to my dad.

Thanks, unknown bullpen catcher guy!

The field was not set up for BP, which was no surprise. There were no Twins out playing catch. But several sets of Tigers were playing catch on the 3B side. So we headed over there.

Because Prince Fielder had spent all those years in Milwaukee, we brought Tim’s cheese head with us. Prince wasn’t out on the field, but Tim decided to put on the cheesehead when we headed to Tigers side.

As this picture shows…

9-stray-ball-at-comerica

…, a some Tigers were playing catch in LF and there was a random stray ball sitting in shallow LF.

As a Tigers coach, Mike Rojas, walked in from the bullpen toward the dugout holding his fungo bat, I called out to him and pointed at the ball in LF. He walked over to it, shouted “CHEESEHEAD!” and gave Tim perfect bounce pass.

Tim caught the ball and admired its *different* logo:

10-hey-cheesehead

Turns out it was a AAA International League baseball…

11-cheesehead-gets-an-international-league-baseball

…, the second minor league baseball we have snagged at a Major League ballpark.

Sundays at Comerica Park are kids days. That means kids run the bases after the game, and kids ride the rides for free. It was time for some rides. We headed over to the ferris wheel:

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We got there just in time. There was a short line, and two minutes later is what 3-4 times as long.

Here are some random view from the ferris wheel:

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Pretty cool how the “Tigers” sign pops over the upper deck from the top of the ferris wheel?

All of us Cook boys had fun on there:

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When we got off of the ferris wheel, we took a quick stroll through the “Beer Hall”…

16-comerica-beer-hall

…just to see what it looked like in there.  At the entrance way of the ferris wheel area there is a fountain with a big baseball on top of it. And Kellan loved it:

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Like the day before, we headed over to Twins bullpen to watch the pitchers warm up. While standing around of there, they kept showing this cool graphic on the big screen:

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Today’s Twins battery was Mike Pelfrey…

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…and Ryan Doumit.

Hey, check out the cool hat the police officer guarding the bullpen was wearing:

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And check out Ryan Doumit’s fancy finger nail stickers:

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(I think those are stickers).

By the way, I should mention that Pelfrey was going up against Max Scherzer and his perfect 6-0 record. So he had a tall task before him.

While we were over at the bullpen, Kellan fell asleep on my shoulders…

22-sleepy-kellan

…and he was sleeping hard.

The game was about to start. Tim wanted to get some ice cream so he and my dad headed over to the Big Cat food court. Kellan and I headed to the cross-aisle so I could lean against the back wall while Kellan slept on my shoulders.

Kellan slept hard through the top of the first and the first out of the bottom of the first. But then the stadium exploded when Torii Hunter hit a solo homerun…

23-nap-ending-homerun

…and Tim was rudely awakened.

Since Kellan was awake, we decided to go join Tim and my dad for the ice cream:

24-switcheroo-ice-cream

And then it was time for Kellan’s first ride on the tiger-go-round:

25-lellan-rides-tiger-go-round

(Somehow, Kellan and Tim were nowhere near each other on the tiger-go-round and I was with Kellan, so I didn’t get any decent pictures of Tim on the tiger-go-round).

Our seats at this game were at the back of the bleachers in deep RCF, and we ended up sitting in those seats for a grant total of zero seconds. After ice cream, I asked my dad if he wanted to check out the SRO area in the cross-aisle where Kellan and I had spent a lot of time the day before, and he was interested. So this is where we spent a bunch of time during this game:

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Hey, check out the drink holder that guy had to tote around the ballpark? Talk about awkward to carry!

Here’s what our view of home plate looked like:

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By the way, the Tigers crowd booed Mauer like crazy every time he came to bat at both of our games in Detroit.

Tim is possibly the most skilled friend maker in the entire world. He is never shies away from talking to other kids of any age. So he had a great time chatting up this little guy standing next to us:

28-tims-comerica-buddy-no1

He kid’s mom was thrilled that we came and stood next to them. Apparently, the boy wasn’t doing well standing there with his parents, but he started having a great time when Tim started chatting with him. They talked about their respective little league teams and, you know, other kid stuff.

Remember that ball the fan gave to Tim two games (and days) ago in Toronto? Remember we gave it to my dad? Well, my dad ended up giving it to this kid. And he was excited to have it.

We were standing in the cross aisle just above the perfect spot for trying to get a third out ball from the Twins. With two outs in the bottom of one inning, I mentioned to Tim that he should get in position to run down to the bottom when the inning ended to try to get a third out ball. He misunderstood what I was saying and just cruised down the steps. He settled in here:

29-cheesehead-up-front

And he was essentially all alone in absolutely the best possible spot when Justin Morneau ended the inning at first base. But, sadly, Morneau walked right at Tim and then tossed the ball to a bunch of adults a little a few rows back and a couple seats over from Tim:

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Oh, well.

Tim only made that one attempt, and then we went off to explore the upper deck a bit. For some reason, my dad, Tim and Kellan walked the upper deck holding hands like this:

31-roaming-comericas-upper-deck

We popped into the seating area just in time to watch Torii Hunter at bat:

32-torii-hunter-from-above

And then it was time for lunch. We headed back to the Big Cat court. Hot dogs were on the menu. Tim and Kellan feasted on standard hot dogs…

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…and I had an extremely tasty Chicago Dog.

After lunch, we headed back to the SRO in the cross-aisle:

34-back-to-SRO-at-comerica

I took that panorama during the seventh inning streak, which means I have missed some scoring. By this point, the score as 6-1 Tigers, which ended up being the final score. The scoring high light came in the bottom of the sixth inning when pinch-hitter Avisail hit a bases loaded, 2-out, 3 run triple.
Here’s something I really like about Comerica Park’s new scoreboard:

35-high-tech-tigers-sign

The “Tigers” sign at the top of the scoreboard is an HD (well, I’m just guessing that it’s HD) screen so they can play video clips on the word “TIGERS.” That tiger above to the right isn’t new, I thought threw it in as an extra bonus.

I’m throwing this in as a bonus too:

36-joe-west

“Cowboy” Joe West! He’s not the most beloved figure in baseball, but (1) I find him entertaining, (2) he’s never done anything (that I can recall) to hurt the Mariners unfairly, and (3) he’s been really nice to us. So I like him.

While hanging out in the cross-aisle, I took the opportunity to take an extreme close-up of Tim:

37-extreme-tim-close-up

We ended the game behind the plate…

38-comerica-behind-home-plate

…but did not come away with an umpire ball.

The game ended in a somewhat frustrating fashion. Kellan, who is a super nice, lovable and usually easy going boy, is still in his “terrible twos.” Sometimes he can pitch a big old fit for no reason. And that’s just what he did at the end of the game. That’s no telling what started it, but he screamed and cried for a while, starting right before the game ended and it continued while we got in line for kids’ run the bases.

By the way, here is where we got in line…

39-long-line-to-run-bases-at-comerica

…and he had to walk all the way around the inside of the stadium to the LF, and then exit the stadium, so we could enter a tunnel under the RF bleachers before finally entering the field in the RF corner¸ very near where we started standing in line here.

While Kellan continued to cry and whine and carry on, Tim made friends with another local kid:

40-in-and-out-of-comerica-tunnel

They chatted all the way around the stadium.

The thing that finally calmed Kellan down was when I spoke to Colleen on the phone and she told me to tell him that she wanted him to run *really fast* around the bases. When he heard that, he settled down and was like “okay, I gotta get ready to run really fast for mommy!”

After entering the field down the RF line, I got a picture of the boys by this Comerica Park sign:

41-tim-kellan-comerica-rf

And then I started filming with my camera. I planned to film Kellan running around the bases, but, incredibly, (not realizing I already had the video running) I turned *off* the video right when Kellan hit first base and I turned it back *on* right after he touched home plate.

Aye, aye, aye…

Luckily, my dad got a couple pictures as we neared home plate…

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…and I took one of the boys from behind on my cellphone as Kellan and Tim were approaching the plate.

After running the bases, we got a group picture…

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…and couple more photos:

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We had a long drive ahead of us. We would be driving back into Pennsylvania, but not all the way to our house. But we didn’t let that stop us from taking a quick side trip on the way out of town:

45-hitsville-usa

When we were in Canada, I told Tim we would go to a Tim Horton’s, but we totally forgot to do so. Luckily, I remembered this just before we passed what ended up being the last Tim Horton’s I saw on our trip. Check out what we got:

46-tim-and-timbits

Timbits!

Tim was in Tim heaven!

And then we drove until around 11pm…

47-lots-of-driving-to-hotel

…when we got to our hotel in DuBois, PA (a very nice, new Fairfield Inn) the boys both woke up and were wide awake again. As Tim looked at his new Tigers baseball cards (a very nice set), Kellan took a late night bath.

When it hit midnight, it was officially my dad’s birthday! We were still all wide awake, so I decided we should give my dad a birthday gift that we’d had packed away in our luggage all weekend:

48-bonus-birthday-baseball

When he opened it, the gift appeared simply to be a commemorative 2013 All-Star Game ball, but he soon realized that there was a baseball ticket tucked into the display case with the ball.

The ticket was for the subway series (Mets vs. Yankees) at Citi Field, and game time was less than twenty hours away…so we had to head to bed!

Bonus birthday roadtrip baseball to come! (Oh, did I mention that, after crossing the Jays and Tigers off the list on this trip, the only teams my dad had never seen play a home game were the Mets and Rangers?)

2013 C&S Fan Stats

10 Games

15 Teams – Mariners, Royals, Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, Marlins, Pirates, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers

18 Ice Cream Helmets – Phillies (jumbo) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees 2, Orioles 2, Nationals 2, Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2, Tigers 4

45 Baseballs – Mariners 6, Royals 4, Phillies 9, Rays 2, Orioles 5, Dodgers 1, Umpires 2, Reds 4, Nationals 1, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2, Twins 3, Tigers 1

8 Stadiums – Citizens Bank Park 2, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, PNC Park, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park

16 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

5 Autographs – Hisashi Iwakuma (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan, Jesus Tiamo

Sixth Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip – Game 2, Twins at Tigers (5/25/2013)

On the morning of May 25, 2013, the boys and I woke up early in London, Ontario and headed down to our hotel lobby to find some breakfast as my dad caught up on his sleep. Our hotel (the London Suites, or something like that) had a restaurant called “Smoke and Bones” built into the building and they can a nice breakfast buffet. We enjoyed a big, filling breakfast.

Our Tigers/Twins game in Detroit didn’t start until 4:05 in the afternoon,*we though* the ballpark wouldn’t open until 2:30, and we only had a two hour drive so we were not in a rush to get going in the morning. We probably dilly-dallied a bit too long. In fact, I know we did. But we finally got on the road around 11:00 a.m.

It was a nice flat and relatively straight drive…

1-london-to-windsor

…down from London to Windsor, Ontario.

Windsor is directly across the river from Detroit. Before we realize our cellphones wouldn’t work in Canada, we decided to get a hotel room in Windsor for the night. When we pulled into the Riverside Inn around 1:15pm…

2-new-toys-riverside-inn

…my dad ran inside to check in and I realized that my phone could hook up to the hotel’s wireless connection from the car so I took that photo above to the left of Tim and Kellan and sent it to Colleen, and then we chatted back and forth over instant message briefly before my dad returned to the car.

The lady at the front desk recommended that we take the “tunnel bus” to the ball game. So, after running our stuff up to our nice room, we headed to the bus station right behind the hotel:

3-tunnell-bus-is-a-bust

This proved to be a terrible idea. After my dad threw down a bunch of cash to buy round trip tickets to Detroit, we headed out to the sidewalk to wait for the bus. We’d just missed a bus. The next bus wasn’t until 2:00 p.m. It was supposed to drop us off about 6 blocks from the stadium. I figured there was a chance this would work out and we’d get there on time. But when a bus employee appeared and started asking him about it. When we realized that the entire bus (which was going to be packed) would have to pass through customs at the border before we could head to the ballpark, I suggested that we eat the bus tickets and hop in my car.

So that’s what we did. After a 4-5 block drive, we headed through the “Tunnel to the U.S.A.” and found ourselves at the border crossing at 2:10 p.m.:

4-detroit-board-crossing

From the point I took that photo, it took about 10 minutes to get through customs, but then it was a very quick drive to Comerica Park. As we approached the stadium parking lots, it was still a few minutes before the standard 2:30 gate opening time. When we drove by and saw people inside the ballpark, I figured that they must have been season ticket holders that got in a few minutes early. But then we realized that the gates were already open. Oh, no! We were missing out on our stadium time!

We parked and hustled into the ballpark.

Turns out the gate timing issue was these guys’ fault:

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In case you can’t tell, those guys on the newly upgraded scoreboard are the 1968 World Champion Tigers. For some reason, the Tigers were celebrating the 45th Anniversary of their championship season and, as a result, they had unknown-to-us opened the gates at 2:00 p.m., half an hour early.

The stadium was already pretty packed (for BP standards). Tim Kellan and I immediately headed to RCF in hopes of finding an open corner spot. My dad, who had never been to Comerica before, hung out down the RF line and took some photos of his 30th MLB ballpark (or, possibly, his 31st if he’s been to old Yankee Stadium):

6-dads-bp-views

By the way, I should not that, as of this game, the only current MLB ballparks that my dad had not yet visited were Citi Field, Marlins Park (but he’s been to SunLife Stadium), Minute Maid Park (but his first game ever was at the Astrodome), and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (guess what state we’re going to next season!).

My dad spotted us with his camera…

7-dad-spies-of-us-during-bp

…and we had successfully found an open corner spot…but it was pretty cramped quarters out there, at least in the first row.

Here is what it looked like from out spot:

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I could not recognize a single Twins player out there. Everyone was wearing pullovers over their BP jerseys. Luckily, one single ball was hit directly into the corner right below us, and that guy picture above to the right walking away from us on the warning track toss it up to us. I have no clue who it was. But…

Thanks, mystery Twin!

The nice thing about our little corner spot is that (provided that we hugged the brick wall behind us) we were in (or at least half in) the shade:

9-tim-tim-grandpa

Eventually, my dad came over and found us. And very soon after he arrived, the Twins fled the field. BP ended way early because there was an on field ceremony to honor the 1968 team, which was fairly pointless in light of the long and informative discussion they had with the 1968 team on the big screen. Really, compared to the discussion they had streaming on the scoreboard, the on field ceremony was pretty boring.

We headed up to the upper level in deep RCF and tried to get some lunch at The Jungle restaurant…

10-the-jungle

…but it was completely full and it didn’t look like anyone was about to head out.

We decided to head over to the Big Cat food court (where the Tiger-Go-Round is located) to grab some lunch. On the way, the boys and I got pictures with an old-school looking Mickey Mouse…

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…and a Tiger pig.

We also saw the new’ish Ernie Harwell statue…

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…and posed with a fake statue liberty.

Finally, we grabbed some lunch and then walked back to the Pepsi Porch (second deck in RF) and grabbed a picnic table for lunch:

13a-lunch-at-comerica

While we were eating, Kellan debuted an awesome new dance move:

After finishing our late lunch, we headed down to the seats in RCF, just above the visitors’ bullpen, and watched Joe Mauer and P.J. Walters warm up for the game, first in the outfield grass…

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…and then in the bullpen:

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See that guy leaning against the CF wall two pictures above (and to the left)? That is the Twins’ bullpen catcher. He was stretching out/loosening his back muscles by leaning against a baseball and rolling it across his back against the wall.

In the last photo above (also to the left), Wilkin Ramirez is standing in the batters’ box giving Walters the feel of pitching to a live batter. A couple pitches into the “at bat,” I called down, “Swing away, Wilkin!”

It would have been pretty sweet to see him launch a fly ball out of the stadium over the 3B line upper deck!

As the stadium PA announcer introduced Jose Feliciano to play the national anthem…

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…, all of the players on the field turned toward us…

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…and I realized that we were standing right below the flag.

After the anthem, we headed to our seats in section 141, row 12:

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As the game was about to start, my dad took the opportunity to document some of the scenes around the ballpark:

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We were rooting for the Tigers at this game because they had former Mariner Doug Fister on the mound. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Joe Mauer to jump all over Fister. With one out in the top of the first, Mauer launched a deep drive to RF:

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And after gathering to take a look at it, Crew Chief Joe “Cowboy” West confirmed the homerun call.

Once again, Kellan wasn’t in a sitting mood at the beginning of the game. My dad and Tim stayed in our seats while Kellan and I took a little walk in the beautiful Comerica Park cross aisle. As we walked toward home plate, Fister fought a losing battle with Josh Willingham:

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Willingham drew 1-out walk. We grabbed a prime standing-room spot in the cross aisle behind home plate just in time to watch Fister’s tough first inning continue against Justin Morneau:

21a-more-random-fister

Morneau hit an RBI double to make the score 2-0 Twins with only 1 out in the first.

By the way, Kellan was on my shoulders as we walked (and stood) in the cross aisle. Sometimes Kellan gets squirmy and is only satisfied if I continue walking around when he’s on my shoulders. But, to my surprise and delight, Kellan was happy as a clam sitting up there on my shoulders behind home plate. So I decided to just hang out there for a while. Here was our view:

21b-SRO-at-comerica

Two batters after Morneau, Chris Parmalee hit an RBI single (scoring Morneau) to cap off the scoring in the top of the first.

After the first inning, the score was 3-0 Twins. It was really too bad because Fister ended up pitching 7 innings and not giving up another run the rest of the day…but the Tigers (spoiler alert) only managed to score 2 runs all day. Tough luck for Mr. Fister.

I was satisfied to just stay put in our SRO spot all day, but we had to get out of there quick when we saw this guy…

22-paws-with-kellan

…walking in the cross aisle behind the 3B dugout. That’s Paws the Tigers’ mascot. In the photo above to the left, I tried to take a *selfie* of the three of us with my cellphone, but I completely missed Kellan and missed most of myself. Paws saw how terrible my picture came out and he grabbed my phone and handed it to his escort, who took the photo above on the right. I like how Kellan is just chilling up there looking at Paws, which is much better than what he did last year (cried) every time he saw a mascot up close.

On a funny follow-up note, for the rest of the day Kellan kept asking about the “lion.” I told him over and over that Paws is a tiger, but he just kept calling him a lion.
Like the previous night, when we initially left Tim and my dad at our seats, Kellan and I promised to come back with ice cream. So Kellan and I set off to find some ice cream.
We headed to the concession stand in the LF concourse. But we couldn’t see any ice cream helmets (or ice cream) in the stand. So we walked the concourse toward home plate until we found a fan assistance office. The fan assistance staff explained that there were ice cream helmets out in the food court encircling the tiger-go-round (and while at the fan assistance office, I picked up “First Game at Comerica Park” certificates for Kellan and my dad).

The ice cream place was all the way around the other side of the stadium from our seats. I handed Kellan’s ice cream up to him and carried Tim’s ice cream back to our seats:

23-ice-cream-at-comerica

Kellan ate his ice cream on the walk back. After I took him down so he could sit in his seat and eat his ice cream, a lady sitting behind me leaned forward and said, “I apologize, but I have to get this ice cream for you” and then she took a napkin and cleaned a huge piece of ice cream out of the back of my hair. Kellan and deposited the ice cream into my hair and somehow I had no clue it was there.
Anyway, while the boys ate their ice cream, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera…

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…did not hit a homerun.

Guess what Kellan and I did after he finished eating his ice cream (or, I mean, after I finished eating his ice cream)? We went right back to our same SRO spot behind the 1B side of home plate. It was the perfect spot to catch a foul ball (which we didn’t) and Kellan was into hanging out there (and not so into sitting in the seats) so I figured let’s go for it!

For most of the rest of the game, Kellan and I stood between two college-aged gals on our left (who kept giggling about how cute Kellan was sitting on my shoulders) and two 40-50 year old men on our right (one of whom thought we were the ideal example of why baseball is the best sport for fathers and sons). At one point, as Kellan was all relaxed and just lounging up on my shoulders, I could hear the guy next to me telling his friend who awesome it was that I had brought Kellan to the game and we were just hanging out watching the game together. Two seconds later, the guy asked if I had a camera and told me that I just couldn’t miss getting a photo of this…

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…moment. After he took the picture, he handed my phone back to me and said, “I may need a copy of that one myself!”

It is a pretty cute picture. And it great to capture these moments when my lil’ guy can rest up there on my shoulders. It’s so sad that Tim is too big to do that now. They grow up so fast!

By the way, here’s a picture of the general scene:

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The guy in the ChiSox jacket is the one who took our picture, the Cubs guy is his buddy who was standing right next to me and Kellan in that empty spot between him and the girl in the orange jacket. That girl is one of the “college-aged” girls I mentioned before (hmm…maybe not college, but young 20s nonetheless), I’m not sure where her friend was at this point.

While Kellan and I were standing there watching the game, Tim and my dad toured all over the ballpark. First they went up to the upper deck where my dad snapped a few photos out past the foul pole:

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By one of the “D” stores (team stores), my dad got this great shot of Tim “hitting” against Fister:

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They got some pictures with the ferris wheel in the background…

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…some pictures above/behind the big Tiger statues and the tiger-go-round…

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…and a shot of Tim by a big Tiger coin-collector…

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…, which was just inside the main gate by the Ernie Harwell statue.

The Tigers made the game interesting by scoring a pair of runs in the middle innings while Fister kept the Twins locked in at 3 runs. In the fifth inning, Andy Dirks singled with two outs and then scored on an RBI double by Torii Hunter.

In the sixth inning, Jhonny Peralta took a leisurely trot around the bases…

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…after hitting a solo homerun with two outs. But that was all the scoring the Tigers had in them. The score after 6 innings (and after 9) was 3-2 Twins.

In the ninth inning, Kellan and I started the slow process of getting into position to make an attempt for a post-game umpire baseball. Here was our view as we first started our trek down to the tunnel:

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We ended up doing some birding during the ninth inning. Here are my bird shots:

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And here are 4 of Kellan’s first birding attempts:

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Eventually, he successfully captured a bird on *film*:

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In the bottom of the ninth, this was our view:

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We were in a near perfect spot for an umpire ball, but that metal box is pretty poorly placed.

After the game, home plate umpire Andy Fletcher didn’t toss any baseballs into the crowd. When he walked by us, I could see two baseballs in his pouch, but they stayed there. On his walk out, he motioned to someone up higher in the stands behind home plate. I had a feeling he was going to come back to chat with someone so we stayed put. In a few minutes, he did come back. As he was standing right below us I asked if he could toss one of the baseballs in his pouch up to us, but he said (1) he only had a couple left, (2) was meeting up with a friend, and (3) had promised them to his friend’s kids. And that’s just what happened. He ended up chatting with a guy for a while and giving the two baseballs to the guy’s kids. Oh, well.

Kellan and I then met up with Tim and my dad out by our seats. It is super easy to meet up with your loved ones when you are in the U.S. and have working cellphones. Before heading to the exits, we got a great group picture:

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On our way out of the ballpark, we found a second Tigers Mickey Mouse:

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We exited via the CF gate so we had to walk all the way around the stadium to get to our car. On our way by the 3B gate, I got a couple photos of Tim and my dad:

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And then we headed back to Windsor, Canada for the night. We ended up playing catch for a while in the park across the street from our hotel…

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…before going out to a late dinner at “The Keg.” Note, in that picture above to the right, Tim is catching a pop fly and that is our hotel in the background. In that picture above to the left, that is Detroit in the background across the river. Detroit was incredibly loud all night because there was an electronic music festival going on over there, and it literally shook us over in Windsor.

All-in-all, the second day of the Roadtrip was a smashing success.

2013 C&S Fan Stats

9 Games

15 Teams – Mariners, Royals, Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, Marlins, Pirates, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers

16 Ice Cream Helmets – Phillies (jumbo) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees 2, Orioles 2, Nationals 2, Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2, Tigers 2

42 Baseballs – Mariners 6, Royals 4, Phillies 9, Rays 2, Orioles 5, Dodgers 1, Umpires 2, Reds 4, Nationals 1, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2, Twins 1

8 Stadiums – Citizens Bank Park 2, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, PNC Park, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park

14 Player Pictures – 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

5 Autographs – Hisashi Iwakuma (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan, Jesus Tiamo

Sixth Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip – Game 1, Orioles at Blue Jays (5/24/2013)

The Sixth Annual installment of The Great Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip on the evening of May 23, 2013, when my dad (Jim), Tim, Kellan and I…
1-2013-GFS-roadtrip-game-on
…hopped into our car and headed north to Syracuse, NY. All we did on May 23rd was to drive to our hotel.

The baseball and sight-seeing portion of the Roadtrip kicked off the following morning, on May 24, 2013. And we had a jam-packed day on the 24th.
After grabbing some free breakfast at our hotel, we hopped back into the car and headed over to Niagara Falls:

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The falls are split into two parts, the American Falls and, I guess it’s probably called, the Canadian Falls (but who knows, that’s just a guess). In those last two photos above, we’re all standing next to the top of the American Falls.

There is a chunk of land between the two parts of the falls, and there is a bridge you can walk…

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…(or drive) across to the other part of the falls. Hey, look at that sign, it calls the “Canadian Falls” “Terrapin Point Horseshoe Falls.” And check out that statistics: 675,000 gallons/second of water flow during the summer. That’s a whole lot of water.

That Terrapin Point Horseshoe Falls sign is at the top of a hill that looks down on this view:

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After first, I stayed up at the top of the hill as my dad and the boys walked down to the point. Check out the scene as they approached the edge of the falls:

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The whole thing is so big (and impressive) that it’s hard to get everything in the picture, even from a long distance away:

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 Here’s a closer view that shows both sides of the horseshoe:

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WARNING: I’m going to show a lot of pictures that have nothing to do with baseball. Here is another, of Tim at the top of the horseshoe:

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And one of all of us taken by a nice passerby:

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Back at the top of the hill, here’s another shot of my dad:

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See how my dad is holding his cellphone? We’d just received text messages from Verizon saying (this is a paraphrase) “Welcome to Canada, your phones ain’t gonna work no more!”
As we got hot chocolate…

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…and walked back toward the American Falls, we both made calls trying to figure out what was going to happen with our phones once we actually entered The Great White North. The bottom line was, unless we were going to pay bazillions of dollars, our phones weren’t going to work.

Oh, well…it was time to pull on some blue plastic ponchos…

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…and hop onto the Maid Of The Mist for a closer look at the falls:

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It was really misty out there:

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See all that *white* behind Tim, that’s mist, which was blocking my camera’s view of the falls.

Here’s my attempt at a panorama from the Maid of the Mist:

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And another, using my camera’s “sweep” function, which I usually never use:

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After the boat ride, we got a some more falls pictures…

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…before heading back to the car. And then it was off to Canada across the rainbow bridge:

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Check out my GPS in the photo above to the bottom right! No phones, no GPS. Aye, aye, aye!

Luckily, it is super easy to get to Toronto:

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The stadium didn’t open until 5:30, and we were hours early. So we headed to the top of the CN Tower, where the boys sat/stood/laid on a glass floor 116 stories above the Rogers Centre:

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Check out the view from the main observation deck:

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But we didn’t stop there. We headed up to the Sky Pod…

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…ONE-HUNDRED AND FORTY-SEVEN STORIES above the Toronto streets below!

This was officially the highest up in the air we’d ever been while NOT in an airplane. In that last photo, that is the Rogers Centre above and immediately to the right of the CN Tower. Above and to the left of the CN Tower we looked down on a train round house that is across the street from the Rogers Centre and CN Tower.

While up in the Sky Pod, the boys played a little fake baseball…

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…because, why not!?

Here’s a shot of the boys looking at the city over 1,460 feet below:

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And here is the view back up toward the CN Tower from the area right below the glass floor:

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After visiting the CN Tower, we stopped by the Blue Jays’ team store, where we founds a Jays Mickey and Jays pig:

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And my dad and Kellan got their first ever views inside the Rogers Centre:

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But it still wasn’t time for baseball quite yet. Our CN Tower tickets also came with access to a ride of some sort (that the boys were too young to ride) and a 3D movie called “Legends of Flight.” Here is Kellan wearing his 3D glasses and waiting for the movie to start:

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The movie was pretty awesome. We sat in the front row and the boys kept trying to grab all of the airplanes flying at us. It was pretty awesome.

After the movie, which was about 30 minutes, we headed over to the roundhouse to poke around a bit:

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Finally, it was getting close to game time…or at least gates opening time. We took a walk all the way around the Rogers Centre…

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…and then we hopped in line at Gate 6…

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…, which is down the RF line.

From growing up at the Kingdome, I love attending games in domed stadiums. The one bad thing, however, is that photos often come out blurry inside domes. Therefore, when we headed into the stadium and camped out down the RF line…

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…I had no clue who that blurry guy is at the end of the red arrow. And because he’s so blurry, I can’t even ask our buddy, Avi. Anyway, he was kind enough to toss a baseball to us.

Thanks, mystery Oriole!

Before that guy tossed us a baseball, I thought I was going to catch a one hopper off the bat of an Oriole, but it hopped to high for me to reach, and my dad ended up snatching it up several rows behind us. His first ever Major League baseball snagged outside of the United States! Way to go, Pa!

Things were pretty slow down the RF line, so we headed out CF, just to the left of the batters eye. And look who we saw out there:

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In case you can’t tell, aside from my dad sitting in the first row, that’s our buddy Zack Hample off in the distance in the bright orange Orioles shirt.

Zack came over and took this photo of us…

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…, which unfortunately does not have my dad in it (because it is the best group photo we got all night).

As is often the case, all of the Orioles looked exactly the same to me. Unfortunately, Avi wasn’t there (since we were in Canada and all) and I couldn’t call Avi because our phones didn’t work (since we were in Canada and all). Luckily, Zack recognized everyone and told us that Jim Johnson was standing right in front of us.

Shortly thereafter, an Oriole hit a homerun that hit the batters’ eye and bounced back down onto the field. Luckily, it bounced over a bunch of people and Jim Johnson grabbed it. I called out his name and pointed to Tim and…

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…we had to thank Mr. Hample for the assist.

Thanks, Jim (and Zack)!

The ONLY Oriole I could recognize (because he was wearing his BP jersey and not a name-hiding pull-over) was Brian Matusz. He was in the LF corner so we headed over there. When a ball got hit down into the corner, Brian handed it over to Tim:

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Thanks, Brian!

We kept on the move. Next, it was off to RCF. Something funny happened there:

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Someone hit a ball to Orioles coach Wayne Kirby right below us. When Tim asked for it, Kirby tried to fungo it up to us, but came nowhere near us. He chased the ball and then tried to toss it to someone else. He missed them too. He then fielded it again and tried to toss it to us again, but missed us by ten feet. The ball went right to the guy above in the red, which was absolutely fine.

A couple minutes later, the guy came over and gave the ball to Tim. Usually, I try not to let other fans give us baseballs. I usually tell them we’ve already got one, thanks, but they could give it to another kid. But I didn’t get a chance to stop the hand off this time.

So, anyway, when fans successfully give us baseballs, we try to give them to other kids or use them for autographs. There was a kid in the RF corner who had been there all BP trying to catch a ball and I didn’t think he had succeeded. I told Tim we should go give the fan-ball to him. Tim agreed. He handed the ball to me and we started to head over to the RF foul corner.
On our way out of the section, an usher thanked us for coming to the game and asked if Kellan had caught a ball. I was holding the fan ball so I held it up triumphantly and said, “Yep!” So Kellan and I walked by her and the usher handed a baseball to Tim. I guess she wanted both of the boys to get a baseball.

Thanks, usher gal!

The kid was in the RF corner as we started walking over there…but then BP ended, the Orioles ran off the field, and *poof* the kid disappeared. We trekked all over looking for him. He was *gone*!

Oh, well. I gave the baseball to my dad and (as you’ll see two entries from now) he gave it to a kid Tim met up with at Comerica Park.

Here was the best pre-game scene down the RF line:

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That’s Adam Jones getting all stretched out.

Here was the view from our seats in Section 115R, Row 7:

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Kellan was in a roaming mood. Heck, he’d never been to Rogers Centre, can you blame him? So we roamed…behind home plate:

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We ran into the Blue Jay in the concourse:

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When Tim, Colleen and I visited Rogers Centre in 2009, I never visited the 200 level for some reason. So that’s where we headed. Here was the view from behind section 240:

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Here’s something interesting we found in the concourse:

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I liked how they built a TV that looked like the scoreboard into a big picture of the outfield. Now, see the section between the two red arrows? Historically, that’s been a restaurant or something like that. Well, that’s gone now and it’s just a SRO hang out. We’ll see it in just a second.

Here’s a panorama from behind section 243, just to the right (while facing the field) of that glassed in restaurant):

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Just for kicks, here’s what it looks like from right behind the big “Budweiser” sign:

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And here is a panorama from the middle of the SRO homerun porch (I just made up that name…who knows what it’s really called):

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We needed to get a picture with a “Rogers Centre” sign for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt. I planned for us to get one outside after the game because there isn’t a big Rogers Centre sign inside the stadium. But we ran into this sign…

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…out in LF, so I snapped a quick picture just in case. Luckily, I did because it was the only one we got.

We kept walking and got this panorama behind section 207:

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Just about now, I realized that we forgot to get a picture with Zack! Zack is a great guy and we should get a picture with him anyway, but getting a picture with him at this game would also get us two bonus points in the photo scavenger hunt because he is the Rogers Centre all-time career leader.

I figured that Zack would be behind the Orioles’ dugout going for a third out ball. And he was:

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A couple innings later, he snagged a third out ball from Manny Machado.

Before Kellan and I went on our expedition, I told Tim we would come back with ice cream. And we did, in these sweet new Blue Jays’ ice cream helmets:

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Ice cream time in Canada!

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Let’s catch up with the game, shall we? This game was a homer-fest.

In the top of the first, Nick Markakis and Manny Machado led off the game with back-to-back singles. J.J. Hardy then followed with a bomb. In the bottom of the frame, Melky Cabrera hit a lead off homerun.

3-1 Orioles after one inning.

In the top of the second, Danny Valencia doubled, Steve Pearce walked, and Yamaico Navarro singled. That brought us back to Nick Markakis, and he cleared the bases with a double of his own. Adam Jones ended the top of the second with a foul out on this swing:

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Brett Lawrie led off the bottom of the second with a laser of a homerun:

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The Jays scored another run of a Colby Rasmus double followed by an Emilio Bonafacio RBI single. Sadly, former-Mariner Munenori Kawasaki…

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…grounded out.

6-3 Orioles after two innings.

Chris “Crush” Davis led off the top of the third with another homerun:

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After a Matt Wieters walk, guess what Danny Valencia did? He hit a two run homerun.

And, similar to the second, Manny Machado fouled out to end the third:

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9-3 Orioles after three innings.

My dad wanted to see the Rogers Centre a bit so we all set out on foot. We headed to the 500-level down the LF line. Here’s what it looked like from section 540…

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…, which was closed so an usher asked me dad to vacate the section.

As we circled the upper deck, check out what we found:

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It was a vending machine full of baseball cards. Pretty cool.

We got a shot from section 524…

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…and another from section 518:

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After Muni batted again…

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…, we headed down a little hallway, corridor thingy in CF. I think the front wall (to the left) of the hallway was part of the hotel at the Rogers Centre.
Circling back to the LF corner, we took a switchback ramp down to the 200-level:

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After checking out the homer porch, we ran into Neal Stewart from BIGS seeds…

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…and Zack Hample in the CF concourse. Neal gave us more sample packs of BIGS seeds.

Thanks, Neal!

We kept walking through the 200 level concourse. Eventually, we came across a cool painting of the Rogers Centre…

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…with its roof open. See how the CN Tower is right over the wall in RF? I’d love to see a roof-open game at the Rogers Centre some day.

Next, we got this panorama, which I think must be about section 211:

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We found our way to section 215, where there is a bar called “Bar 12” (named after Roberto Alomar). We walked through it and found these seats:

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More specifically, these seats:

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In the top of the sixth inning, Adam Jones hit a solo homerun to make the score 10-3 Orioles. In the bottom of the inning, got two runs back on an RBI double by Kawasaki and an RBI single by Cabrera.

Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista followed with a harmless single…

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…but did not score.

After six innings, the score was 10-5 Orioles.

Something really odd and cool happened next. I had bought a big soft drink that came with a free refill. Kellan popped up onto my shoulders and we headed to this concession stand…

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…where the guy who filled my Diet Coke was really nice. While he was filling the soda, a guy came out from the back (I felt like he was one of the *cooks*, if there are such things at MLB stadiums) and he…

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…gave Kellan a baseball! Look at that, a free refill and a baseball in the 200 level! Kellan loved it!

Thanks, concession guy!

The usher in charge of section 215 (who had checked our tickets an allowed us to downgrade from section 115 to section 215) brought activity books and crayons for the kids:

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In the bottom of the seventh inning, Adam Lind led off with a solo homerun:

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10-6 Orioles after seven innings.

After the end of the eighth inning, the weirdest and worst part of the night began. It started harmless enough. After the last out of the eighth inning, I noticed a HUGE patch of empty seats behind the Blue Jays’ (3B) dugout. I told my dad that Kellan and I were going to head behind the 3B dugout to see if we could get a third out ball after the top of the ninth (we got right behind the home plate end of the dugout, but the third out ball was tossed to the OF side of the dugout) and then we were going to meet up with Zack behind the Orioles (1B) dugout at the end of the game.  And that is exactly where we ended the game:

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An Oriole (couldn’t tell who) tossed us a baseball after the Orioles won the game and Zack took this picture of us:

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Kellan and I looked around for my dad and Tim. They were nowhere to be found. We kept looking around. And we kept looking around. And we kept looking around.
No Tim. No Dad. No Tim and Dad.

It made no sense.

I started wondering if I had mistakenly said we would be behind the Orioles *bullpen*, not dugout.

The ushers eventually asked everyone to head out of the seating area. On the way out, I took this photo from the top of section 117:

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No Tim and Dad anywhere in that picture, right?

We walked out to the Orioles bullpen. No Tim and Dad. We exited the stadium. No Tim and Dad. We walked to our car. No Tim and Dad. (We left a note on the car telling them where to meet us).

We walked back to the stadium. Despite being promised absurd phone charges, I turn on my phone and called my Dad.  Nothing.  Straight to voicemail. We walk around the stadium some more. I called again.  Nothing.

I am very nervous by this point.  It’s been more than half an hour since the game ended. I figured my dad would have turned his phone on by now too.  Now I’m thinking my dad must have gotten hurt and they were sitting in a first aid office or hospital with Tim having no clue how to reach me.

I called again, but accidentally dialed my wife. I probably scared her because I was panicked.  I’m not a fan of losing my son and dad in a foreign country with no phone service.

We walked through the team store. Nothing. We started walking around the stadium looking for a first aid office.  Nothing.

I had no clue what to do.  We start walking back toward Gate 6 where we had entered the stadium.  All of a sudden, I spotted Tim and my Dad way off in the distance walking away from the stadium in the wrong direction (i.e., not toward our car).  We ran them down.  Success!  We were all back together again.

I have no clue what happened. My Dad and Tim said they were behind the Blue Jays’ (3B) dugout, not the Orioles’ (1B) dugout. I don’t see them in any of my pictures, or any of the other pictures I’ve seen. They said *they saw* Zack behind the Orioles’ dugout, but somehow didn’t see me and Kellan.  That doesn’t make much sense because we were standing right next to Zack behind the dugout.  My dad *had* turned on his phone and tried to call me, but couldn’t get through to me, just like I hadn’t been able to get through to him.  He had also already called first aid and had all sorts of security personnel looking for us.

Aye, aye, aye…it was a terrible way to end an otherwise great game at the end of a great day, and it wouldn’t have happened at any other MLB stadium because our phones would have worked and we would have found each other right away.  Geez, how did we all manage before cellphones!

As a result of this frustrating episode, we NEVER got a group picture of all four of us Cook boys at the Rogers Centre (booo!).  In fact, that picture Zack took (way above) of us talking to Neal in the CF concourse is the ONLY picture with all four of us in it at Rogers Centre (booooo!).

We also did not get a picture outside of the stadium with the Rogers Centre sign.

Oh, well.

We hopped in the car and headed toward London, Ontario…

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…and the boys crashed out very quickly in the back seat.

Woah! What a day!

2013 C&S Fan Stats

8 Games

13 Teams – Mariners, Royals, Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, Marlins, Pirates, Blue Jays
14 Ice Cream Helmet – Phillies (jumbo) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees 2, Orioles 2, Nationals 2, Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2

41 Baseballs – Mariners 6, Royals 4, Phillies 9, Rays 2, Orioles 5, Dodgers 1, Umpires 2, Reds 4, Nationals 1, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2

7 Stadiums – Citizens Bank Park 2, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, PNC Park, Rogers Centre

14 Player Pictures – 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

5 Autographes – Hisashi Iwakuma (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan, Jesus Tiamo

MyGameBalls.com Ballhawkfest 2012 (6/9/12)

June 9, 2012 was a fun day.  My folks were visiting from Washington and we all headed out to Pittsburgh for Ballhawkfest 2012 featuring an interleague battle between the Kansas City Royals and the Pittsburgh Pirates or, as it would turn out to be, the Kansas City Monarchs against the Homestead Grays.

We had a full day on the 9th so we drove out to Pittsburgh the night before the game and stayed in a hotel.  The first order of the day was to play a little homerun derby.  PNC Park regular and mygameballs.com member Rick Sporcic had booked us an incredibly interesting ballpark called Officer Paul J. Sciullo III Memorial Field.  As you can see from this panorama:

There is a bridge directly behind/above the tall chain-linked centerfield fence.  And it was definitely in play.

The derby crew was small, but all the guys were cool.  In addition to me, Tim and my dad (my mom and Kellan played around in the shade in deep CF/RF), there was Rick Sporcic, his buddy Hunter Stokes, Ballhawkfest veteran Garrett Meyer, Ballhawkfest veteran Alex Kopp, and Alex’s dad Mark Kopp.

I was in the outfield most of the time and didn’t have my camera.  So I only got a few pictures, mostly taken by Tim and Garrett.

Here is Garrett taking some hacks against Rick:

I didn’t get any pictures of Rick hitting, but he was definitely the batting champ of the day.  In his second round, he hit approximately 800 homeruns.

Garrett got some cool pictures of Alex pitching to me:

I hit about 5-6 homeruns onto the bridge.  Several went to CF where the bridge wasn’t very far from home plate.  My best hit went to LF and I was surprised when it carried all the way to the bridge.  In the following photo, I’ve laid our derby park on top of PNC Park so I could see how far my longest homerun went:

I was shocked by how small the derby park was when I put it on top of PNC Park.  But, you know, any time you’re hitting a baseball over an outfield fence it is fun.

Here is another picture that Garrett took that shows one of my homers sailing onto the bridge:

One of the best parts of the derby (which I completely failed to capture on film) was watching my dad hit.  He was lacing some hard line drives all over the park and eventually hit one bomb to leftfield.

Good job, pa!

After two rounds of homerun derby, we finished up with Garrett pitching to Tim:

Tim put on a good show.  He even took some successful lefty hacks.

After lunch, we all headed over to a local restaurant.  Two noteworthy things happened at the restaurant.  First, the service was horrible.  We had to wait for our food…

…for close to an hour.  This ultimately resulted in our bill getting cut in half by the manager.  Second, Milwaukee’s Best, Nick “The Happy Youngster” Yohanek, and his wife April showed up.  They missed the derby because they had a morning flight in from the dairy lands of Wisconsin.

After lunch, even with the long delay, we had a good chunk of time before the gates would open at PNC Park.  My folks, the boys and I passed the time with a visit to the Duquesne Incline:

Eventually, it was time to head to PNC Park.  PNC was Kellan’s 12th MLB stadium.  This was also my mom’s first game at PNC Park.  I’m not sure of her stadium total, but let’s see if I can figure it out.  I’ve been to games with my mom at: Safeco Field, the Kingdome, The Big A (as a kid), Dodger Stadium, Oakland Coliseum, Veterans Stadium, Citizens Bank Park, Camden Yards, Fenway Park, new Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, and Tropicana Field.  Okay, so my mom might be tied with Kellan at 12…but, then again, she might have been to the Astrodome with my dad before I was born.  Hmmm…not sure.

Anyway, as we approached PNC Park for my mom’s and Kellan’s first time, my mom and Tim got their picture with the Willie Stargell statue:

And then we met up with the Ballhawkfest crew, which now also included Rocco Sinisi from Cincinnati and Zac Weiss from Pittsburgh.  We joined in with the rest playing catch on Clemente Bridge:

When the ballpark opened, Rick took over and ended up getting all of us non-season ticket holders into the stadium with the season ticket holders.

Thanks, Rick!

While almost everyone else huddled up in LF, we got Tim’s picture with the Pirate Pig…

…and then headed over to RF foul territory:

RF foul territory is a pretty good spot to hang out in during BP at PNC Park.  A lot of the time over there, it was just us Cooks or us and Zac Weiss.

When we arrived Jeff Francouer was playing catch with a football in front of the 1B dugout.  He was a little past 1B and his partner was close to home plate.  His partner tossed a few balls past him and I kept yelling, “Hit me, Frenchie!  Hey, I got a tight spiral!”  He thought it was pretty hilarious, but didn’t let me get in on the football tossing action.

Charlie Morton tossed us a baseball pretty quickly after we arrived:

Thanks, Charlie!

About thirty seconds later, a Pirates batter hit a foul down the line.  I caught it on one big hop.

Shortly thereafter, Juan Cruz tossed a baseball to Tim…

…and Tim made a nice catch on it.

Right after throwing the ball Tim, Cruz grabbed another baseball and tossed it to my mom.  So everyone had a baseball already:

Double thanks, Juan!

I gave my glove to my mom so she could patrol the line with my dad and the boys:

My mom didn’t get any other baseballs, but my dad could 4-5 on the day.

It was a great time down the line.  In addition to a bunch of baseballs, we pictures with three players.  First, Tim (and sort of Kellan) got a pitcher with hard throwing Kelvin Hererra:

I didn’t know it before this game, but Jose Mijares is super nice and really likes kids.  He saw Kellan standing along the wall with his glove and walked over and put a baseball into Kellan’s glove.  Then he handed out some high fives to both boys:

Thanks, Jose!

I really wanted to try to get a picture with Yuniesky Betancourt and/or Johnny Giavotella (to whom one of my friends from New Orleans had asked me to pass along a message that New Orleans is rooting hard for his success).  They ended up taking some grounders together:

And then Giavotella came over and posed for a picture with Tim:

And I passed on the news that his home town is rooting for his success (which I imagine wasn’t too much of a shock to him).  He seemed like a real nice kid.

While the Royals pitchers were running sprints in the outfield, Greg Holland…

…fielded a batted ball and tossed it over to me and Kellan.

Thanks, Greg!

Then righty-former-Mariner Yuniesky Betancourt went on a tear hitting foul balls down the RF line.  I caught one of Yuni’s one-hoppers.

My dad got one of his that was sliced into the seats just behind the handicapped seating area.   And then Tim snagged one that Yuni sliced into the seats right where my dad had already got one from Yuni.  It was the first *hit* baseball that Tim had ever snagged on his own:

And he loved that it had a nice scuff mark from hitting the concrete.

Tim’s baseball from Yuni was our last baseball of the day.  Tim and Grandpa both wanted to see if they could get Yuni to sign their baseballs (they never got near him) so they headed over to the wall just past the dugout:

While Yuni never stopped by, Humberto Quintero did, and he posed for this picture with Tim:

Toward the end of BP, my folks went off to tour the stadium a bit…

…while the boys and I hung out with Matt Peaslee and Erin Wozniak¸ who we know through Matt’s Pittpeas MLBlog and met in person for the first time last year:

Matt and Erin are good people, and huge Pirates fans.  Follow Matt on Twitter and you will always know when the Pirates win a ballgame (NOTE: Matt just tweeted that linked tweet exactly when I typed this part of this blog entry!).

After parting ways with Matt and Erin, we grabbed some ice cream helmets and headed out to LF for a group shot with most of the Ballhawkfest guys:

Everyone had success and BP.  All told, I think we combined to snag over 50 baseballs as a group.  Not too shabby.

After the group photo, we headed to the picnic tables by the Alleghany River to eat our ice cream…

…do some ballpark birding…

…, and play some catch.

And then it was game time.  We had some lovely seats in the four row of section 137:

When the teams took the field, we realized it was Negro Leagues throw-back day.  The Pirates were sporting Homestead Grays uniforms and the Royals were representing the Kansas City Monarchs:

I thought both uniforms really looked great, with a slight edge to the Monarchs uniforms.  I really liked the look of the red and grey Monarchs uniforms paired with the Royals royal-blue spikes (shown below).

We had the first five seats on the aisle…

…, which worked out great for Kellan (as we’ll see below).

Yuniesky Betancourt kicked off the scoring in the top of the third inning with a 2-run homerun to LF:

I also enjoy seeingYuni do well.  A lot of Mariners fans like to rag on Yuni, but I’ve always liked the guy.  I liked him as our short stop.  And I like him for being an incredibly nice member of the brotherhood of former-Mariners players.

Good job, Yuni!

I was all set to catch a game homer…

…or to help Kellan catch a between-inning warm up baseball.  But neither came to fruition.

Section 137 is only about 6 rows deep and Kellan spent almost the entire game walking up and down the stairs between rows A-F.  A lot of the time, he hung out right at the fence:

While Kellan was playing in the aisle, Tim and a blast (as he always does) with this grandparents:

I thought this was one of the funniest pictures of the night:

Kellan was working a strong game with the ladies sitting out in LF too:

By the way, did you see the Elivs Presley guy sitting in row C?  That was his gimmick because we were sitting behind Pirates leftfielder Alex Presley.

By the way, I should mention that the Royals scored their third (and final) run of the night in the top of the fourth inning to go up 3-0.

But then the Pirates came charging back with five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

That put the Pirates up 5-3, and that score would stick.

There was an odd play late in the game.  I can’t remember who the batter was.  But he hit a single to CF that Andrew McCutchen totally booted:

The ball rolled to the CF wall giving the batter second base for free.  But the batter came flying around 1B and bit the dust  — face first into the infield dirt.  He had a retreat to first base and, because he didn’t take second, McCutchen didn’t get charged with an error.

Here is a look at the “Monarchs” with their royal blue shoes:

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Around the 6th or 7th inning, we headed to the pizzeria behind the left bleachers.  This big pepperoni pizza…

…was only $21.  That would normally be expensive for a pepperoni pizza, but for ballpark pizza, that seemed incredibly reasonable.  I was thinking a whole pizza would cost $45 or something like that!

After eating, we took a little tour around the upper deck.  We stopped in at section 318:

Where we finally got a good look at the front of the “Grays” jerseys:

My camera has quickly been turning into a piece of junk this season.  It completed the metamorphosis at this game.  Here is a great family picture that my camera completely ruined:

Tim grabbed onto his grandfolks…

…and we headed out to section 301 down the RF line:

This is what it looked like from the cross-aisle in section 301:

We then hustled back to our seats and watched the rest of the game from our seats.  The Pirates held on and the Parrot came out to *Raise The Jolly Roger*:

But our day wasn’t finished just yet.  After the game, the boys saw their first concert:

A washed up and reduced to 3-members, Boyz II Men.

All-in-all, it was a great day!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

12/11 Games (Tim/Kellan)
17/16 Teams – Tim – Mariners, Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates; Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates
19 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3, Red Sox 2, Pirates 3
69 Baseballs – Mariners 9, Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 6, Orioles 6, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 6, Red Sox 6, Rays 4, Pirates 3
11 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 3, Dodger Stadium 4, Fenway Park 1
10/9 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens   Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park

1/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Sluggerrr; Kellan – Fredbird

5/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Johnny Giavotella, Kelvin Hererra, Humberto Quintero; Kellan – Willie Bloomquis
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
5 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki

 

Celebrating The Fentennial (5/26/12)

On April 26, 1901, a new American League franchise known as the Boston Americans played its first game at the good old Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds.  In 1908, the team changed its name to the Red Sox, and kept showing up at Huntington Ave. to play some ball.

On April 20, 1912, the Red Sox moved into some new digs over on Lansdowne Street, just over by the Back Bay Fens.  The owner called it Fenway Park.

The Red Sox celebrated Fenway’s opening day by beating the visiting New York Highlanders 7-6.  At the time, Babe Ruth was a 17-year-old high school student in Baltimore, and it would be a little more than two years before he would make his Major League debut at Fenway Park on July 11, 1914.  On a personal note, it would be seven years before the birth of my first-born grandparent, Leonard Flathers, in April 1919.

Fast forward 100 years to 2012, Babe Ruth is one of the most iconic baseball figures of all time and has been dead for 64 years, my grandpa is still going strong at age 93, and the Red Sox are still playing ball at a beautiful little treasure called Fenway Park.

I’m dubbing Fenway’s 100thAnniversary the “Fentennial” – and I declared long ago that there was no way that my boys and I would miss out on joining in the Fentennial Celebration.

So, on May 26, 2012 – the 100 year anniversary of a Red Sox off-day in the middle of a 21 game homestand – Tim, Kellan, Colleen and I rolled into Boston for the baseball portion of a fun little Memorial Day weekend.

It would be just me and the boys at the game.  Colleen had shopping and a movie on her agenda, but was primarily looking forward to a Sunday in Mystic, CT and at the beach.  We arrived in downtown Boston around 3:00 p.m.  The gates wouldn’t open for normal BP for several hours.  But I wanted to get in a little earlier than “normal.”  I knew there was a way to do it, but I didn’t know quite how it worked.

While Colleen took Tim to play in the fountain at Copley Square, Kellan and I headed to Fenway Park…

…to ask how we could join the “Red Sox Nation” and get into BP early.  The lady in the box office and a guy at Gate C both told us just to come back to Gate C at about 4:45 and there would be a lady with a clip board who would sign us up, and then we could scoot on into BP half an hour before the regular folks.  So that was the plan.

Before heading back toward the Prudential Center area, Kellan got his first look inside Fenway Park through a big screen at the Bleacher Bar in CF:

Then we walked back down Ipswich and Boylston Streets where we met up with Colleen and a fountain-drenched Tim.  We ate a delicious late lunch at McGreevy’s Irish Pub (http://www.mcgreevysboston.com/)…

…and then the boys and I headed back down Boylston (stopping along the way to get a picture with some Boston firemen) and Ipswich and arrived at Fenway Park…

…around 4:30.  I signed up for Red Sox Nation (at a cost of $15, which also got me some cool Fenway Park 100 Years keepsakes), and then Tim acted a fool standing against the outside wall of Fenway Park until our group of RSN members started to file into the park around 4:45.

Other than just enjoying ourselves and taking in the Fentennial Celebration, my goal of the day was to try to get one of the beautiful “Fenway 100 Years” commemorative baseballs.  That’s why I wanted to get into early BP, so the Red Sox would still be on the field and hopefully would be using the special baseballs.

The Red Sox pitch the early BP experience as an opportunity to go up onto the Green Monster, which I really wanted to do.  But I could tell the Monster was already getting crowded (we were toward the end of the RSN line) and I didn’t think Kellan would be able to see anything from up there.  As we approached the stairs to the Green Monster, I asked the usher-guy if we could just go into RF.  He said “sure thing.”  So that’s what we did.

There were only about 20 fans in the CF/RF bleachers.  We stashed Kellan’s stoller behind the Red Sox bullpen, and then found ourselves a spot along the visitors’ bullpen:

In a matter of about 2 minutes, Alfredo Aceves (who was playing 2-person pepper with another Red Sox player across the RF grass) tossed us his extra baseball…

…and then Franklin Morales tossed us a baseball he shagged off the bat of one of his teammates.  Neither of the baseballs were “Fenway 100” balls, but they were both much appreciated by the three of us.

Thanks, Alfredo and Franklin!

Now there was one thing standing in the way of our quest to get a Fenway 100 baseball.  The sun.  It was blazing down on us and there was no shade to be found in RF.  We were in trouble.  Tim wanted some shade and wanted it bad.

I looked around and there wasn’t anyone official looking who might stop us from heading into the shade at the back of the grandstand in the RF foul corner.  So we headed over there.

So we found some shade.  But we might as well have been in our hotel room.  We were a long way from the field and there was zero chance one of those Fenway 100 baseballs would come find us up there.

And then I noticed something:  the whole 3B/LF side of the ballpark was shaded.  There was no one over there and I was pretty sure we weren’t supposed to be able to go there, but there were no ushers around to tell us otherwise.

So we started walking toward home plate through the aisle at the back of the grandstand:

Look at all of that glorious shade over there, and all of that lack of people!

Well, no one stopped us.  So we headed down to the Red Sox dugout:

There were a bunch of fans on the warning track behind home plate and a few people in the stands around the dugout.  But it seemed like everyone sitting in the stands (which was very few people) were wearing Red Sox / Fenway Park employee polo shirts.  It seemed that these people were just hanging out watching some Sox BP until their shifts started.

We continued toward the LF foul corner and ended up here:

Eventually, an usher slowly made his way over to us.  He approached and asked –

Usher – “Do you have some sort of ID or something?  Are you supposed to be here?”

Todd – “We’re part of Red Sox Nation here for early BP.”

Usher (looking around at absence of any other fans) – “Are you supposed to be over here?”

Todd – “I don’t know.  It’s our first time doing this early BP…but we were over in RF and the sun was killing my boys so we walked over here to hide away in the shade.”

Usher (looking around with a “hmmmph” expression) – “Okay.  Have fun.”

Did I mention that people at Fenway Park are, almost as an absolute rule, awesome!?  They are.  I’ve been to a number of games at Fenway dating back to 2000.  Both with my boys (in 2009 and 2012) and with my wife before we had boy (2000, 2003, and 2005’ish), the people at Fenway have always been amazingly cool to us.  We’ve seen the Mariners beat up the Red Sox a bit while I was all decked out in Mariners gear and everyone has always been completely cool to me.  This usher fit the mold – another cool Bostonian at Fenway Park.

Not much was happening when we first got down the line.  There was one guy (who seemed like a coach) shagging balls in LF.  Tim and I were looking at the beautiful Green Monster just a short distance to our left when Tim pointed at the Monster and said, “I bet if Big D was still playing he’d hit it way over the green monster!”  That gave me a chuckle.

“Big D,” of course, is a star Red Sox hitter in a book Tim and I read a few months ago called “The Fenway Foul-Up,” which is the first installment of David A. Kelly’s “Ballpark Mysteries” series.  Interestingly, shortly after this game, I had a chance email exchange with David and he recently sent us autographed copies of the first four Ballpark Mysteries books:

The fifth Ballpark Mystery book (set at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City) just came out and we’re looking forward to reading it soon.  The first four books have all been fun to read with Tim.  So if you have kids and like reading about baseball, head over to Amazon.com and check them out.

Anyway, back to the game.  A couple years ago, I made an incredibly ugly and uncomfortable baseball glove.  For some reason, Kellan had grabbed it off of my shelf and was walking around with it a couple days before this game so I decided to bring it with us.  And when that Red Sox coach in LF fielded a baseball, I used my “Learned Glove” (my fake baseball glove company name) to catch our third baseball of the day:

It was also not a “Fenway 100” baseball.  But, again, it was much appreciated.

Thanks, (probably) Coach!

Eventually, I asked this guy if he had seen any of the Fenway 100 baseballs, and I mentioned we were hoping to get one.  After that, I saw him check the logos on most of the balls he fielded, but none of them were commemorative.  When the Red Sox cleared the field and the gates opened to the rest of the fans, it seemed very certain that we would not get a Fenway baseball.

The Rays pitchers ended up warming up right below us.  And it was pretty awesome when Matt Moore tossed us his (and Alex Cobb’s) warm up baseball:

Thanks, Matt!

It was starting to get crowded down the LF line, and we were completely out of water.  We decided to go fill up Kellan’s list water bottle in the concourse.  With a full load of water, we headed over to the visitors’ dugout to see what we could see:

We saw Ken Rosenthal reporting for Fox Sports (this was the Saturday game of the day for Fox).  Even better than seeing Rosenthal, we saw this cool plaque on the back of the dugout:

Click that to make it bigger and you can read the history of the Fenway Park visitors’ dugout and club house.

While it was cool to see the historical info on the plaque, the dugout wasn’t the place for us to be.  I spotted our next destination from across the ballpark:

SHADE IN THE OUTFIELD!

We walked the awesomely cramped and cave-like Fenway Park concourse…

…on our way to the back row against the wall in section 35:

I’m not exaggerating.  He hung out against the wall…

…the nice and shady wall.

I didn’t think we would get a Fenway baseball from the Rays and we already had four baseballs on the day, so we really made no effort to get another.  But the Rays would have none of that!  A Rays righty-batter hit a homerun that landed about 2-3 rows in front of us…

…bounced off the wall (I’m not sure if I can call it the “Monster” out there above the bleahers, but its definitely at least “Monster-Adjacent” or, like, the Monster’s twin brother) and then it bounced over me into a folded up chair.  No one else had a real chance at it.  It was an easy grab for our fifth baseball of the day – also not a Fenway baseball.

Hey, do you see that guy in the light blue sleeves in the left part of that last two-part picture above?  That is Alex Cobb.  Before this homerun, he had fielded a baseball and I saw that he tucked it into his glove, which he was holding in his arms (not wearing on his hand).

Anyway, while Kellan and I just relaxed and watched the world go by, Tim took about 20-30 pictures with my camera, including this one:

And the picture below on the left:

My guess is that those big metal discs are used to tie down the batters’ eye tarp, which was removed for this game.

Tim took this picture too (I think) of Alex Cobb and his two buddies:

Around this time, Cobb turned around and looked at the bleachers.  He gave absolutely no indication that he had any plans.  He was just looking at the bleachers.  But I knew he still had that baseball in his glove.  Without standing up or making a sound, I simply raised my glove in a “here’s your target” motion.  And Cobb pulled out the baseball and (essentially, I had to get out of my seat to catch it) hit the target.

Thanks, Alex!

Wow – it was our SIXTH baseball of the day, and also not commemorative.   We seemed like we had exceeded our quota.  How could we get any more to get one of those commemoratives?  It’s not like we get an unlimited number of baseballs, you know?

Anyway, BP wrapped up.  We decided to head all the way back over to the LF foul corner so the boys could give a thorough inspection of a really big and cool lego Fenway Park on display in the concourse.  On our way, an usher took these to pictures of us (as an attempt at a MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt Fenway Park bonus picture):

I like both pictures, but the Fenway sign is a bit too far away and small.  We would have to try again.

Kellan’s little umbrella stroller was still hanging from the railing behind the Red Sox bullpen.  When we went to grab it, a guy who appeared to be the Red Sox bullpen catcher was walking around in the bullpen:

He walked toward the bullpen bench and out of sight below us, and then he flipped a baseball over the bullpen that seemed to come flying out of nowhere.  It came right to me and I caught it with my bare left hand as I held Kellan in my right arm.

Thanks, guy!

Wow – SEVEN baseballs, and no Fenway 100 Years commemoratives.  It seemed like it just wasn’t meant to be for us to get one.

We meandered slowly on our way over to that lego Fenway Park.  We headed up the stairs in the RF foul concourse and got Tim’s picture with a “Go Red Sox” sign painted on the wall:

We walked the aisle behind the grandstand seats again, and then headed down toward the bullpen like we had done early in BP.  This time, we stopped and had a fan take our Fenway Park bonus picture:

And finally we made our way to the lego Fenway:

Pretty cool!

Next, it was back to the water fountain where Tim filled his hat up with water about 5 times and doused his head with cold water, and I poured some water on Kellan’s head to cool him down too.

I’ve never been in the “upper deck” at Fenway, ever.  It’s pretty crazy and very unlike me.  But it’s just so small and it has always seemed like you needed tickets up there to get there, so I have never even really made an effort to get up there.  So we decided to go check it out.

But our attempt was cut short when we saw Big League Brian from the grandstand and had to go say hello:

Big League Brian hangs out on Yawkey Way “outside” Fenway Park.  I put the “outside” in parentheses because it is literally outside of the stadium, but it is “inside” the gates and is considered to be “inside” the ballpark.  You can go freely in-and-out to Yawkey Way throughout the game.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, our Big League Brian side trip to Yawkey Way made it so we never made it up to the upper deck.  Instead, we headed back to RCF for the start of the game.

I like to snap a picture of the first pitch of a game.  As you can see below (top left), the match up was Josh Beckett vs. Carlos Pena…

…but just as the first pitch was delivered and I squeezed down on my picture button (top right), a fan walked in front of me.  And then another fan, and another fan, and another fan.  It was not until the fourth pitch of the game (bottom left) that I got a clear view of home plate, and that pitch sent Pena back to the dugout (bottom right) as Beckett’s first strike out victim of the night.

We pulled the old switcheroo at the game.  We’d eaten a late lunch at McGreevy’s so we started our ballpark eating activities with an early dessert…

…, which came in commemorative Fenway 100 Years ice cream hemlets!

From a fan perspective, the beginning of this game was pretty ridiculous.  We were about 3-4 rows from the back wall of the stadium, and almost as far as you could get from home plate, but no one seemed to be in her or her assigned seat in our section (well, we were in ours).

A group of six brides maids and a soon-to-be bride showed up to claim their seven seats in the row behind us.  But the entire row was full.  A guy sitting in the middle of their seats announced that his seat was in the middle of our row, but someone was in his seats.  Everyone looked everywhere.  No one knew what to do.

Eventually, one of the brides maids got the Fenway seat police involved:

The guy in the red shirt delivered the message, “Hey, work it out guys.  Yeah, you’re in the wrong row.  Move.”  And the brides maids finally sat down and stopped blocking our view.

Speaking of our view, here is what Fenway Park looks like from section 39, row 47, seat 1:

We had seats 1-2 in our row.  Kellan was a non-paying, seatless customer.  Miraculously, in a packed house, seats 3-5 in our row were empty pretty much all night.

But early on Kellan wasn’t interest in seats 3-5.  He wanted to hang out on the steps and chat up the girl in red just across the aisle from us:

He was working a pretty solid game of *I’m a cute little kid* and she was watching him much more than she was paying attention to the game or her man-friend.  As you can see (above to right), he also spent some quality *hanging on daddy’s leg* time.

Before too long, it was time for the second half of the old switheroo – pizza for dinner.  On our way to find it, we cozied up with a fake Wally statue…

…and we added a 2007 World Series Champs smashed penny to Tim’s smashed penny collection.:

When I asked Tim which of the four smashed pennies he wanted, his response was swift and certain: “Hall of Fame.”

Tim often thinks that pictures of trophies (like the WS trophy featured on this smashed penny) are a sign of the Hall of Fame.  I’ve never corrected him because it’s cute.

We also hit up the RF team store, which featured a heavenly blast of air conditioning toward the back center of the store.  It was incredibly hot (possibly hotter for me since I was lugging Kellan around a fair amount) and our several stops in the team store throughout the night offered a much needed bit of heat relief.

Anyway, pizza was a hit:

By the time the boys (and I) finished their pizza, half of our row seated to have cleared out giving Kellan lots of room to play…

…and access to three new female fans to sweet talk.  He was a big hit with the ladies inhabiting the Fenway Park bleachers.

Maybe it was his wicked mullet…

…that endeared him to the fans, or maybe a combination of the mullet and a cute little personality.

One of the fans out there offered to take a photo of us:

In the photo, Tim decided to lift his knee to his waist and hang from my arms.  The picture turned out great.  Easily our best of the day.  It will be a great reminder of our participation in the Fentennial Celebration!

By the way, as far as taking pictures of groups of people goes at Fenway, I think you really have to wait until it is dark out.  Every time I have visited Fenway, the sun just floods the ballpark from above the grandstand behind home plate.  The air gets visibly thick and heavy, and it really works a number on pictures.  For example, in our first and second Fenway Park bonus shot above you can hardly see the Fenway Park sign because of the sun.

Not too long after finishing our pizza, we decided to do some more exploring.  We would never return to our seats again during the game.

We walked the concourse from RF to behind 3B.  Here is a picture of how cave’ish it is around 1B:

Along the wall, they have pictures of the historical Red Sox logos.  Tim had to pose with the batting *red sock* (above middle) and had fun acting like he was lifting the 1909-11 “Boston” and the 1912-30 “Red Sox” (above right).  That last picture is one of my favorite of the day.  Tim’s got a great sense of humor.

We headed up the stairs on the 3B side up to the aisle behind the field level grandstand seats.  We then walked right behind home plate…

…and back toward 1B.

By the way, as far as I know, the score was still 0-0 at this point.  Actually, although we watched a lot of the game, we missed almost all of the scoring.

To summarize, the Red Sox scored a single run in the bottom of the sixth on a single by Will Middlebrooks that scored David “Big Papi” Ortiz.  But the Rays came back with two runs in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist and a single by Luke Scott.

Both starting pitchers (Beckett and David Price) were “dealing,” as they say.

They boys were in *explore* mode and I was in *follow the boys* mode.   Right where the back of the grandstand opens up (to a hotdog stand, etc.) on the 1B side, Tim and Kellan found a ramp that I’d never noticed before.  And they started climbing:

When we got to the very top (a place I’d never been before at Fenway) there was an usher standing by some doors.  I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to be up there or not.  I started to tell the boys to head back down, but then I figured, “what the heck, let’s keep going.”  The boys turned left and walked down a walkway (above in the bottom right) behind, well behind whatever we were behind.

We had turned a corner to the right so I could tell we were now walking toward LF.  And then we popped out behind section 2 of the pavilion:

Beautiful!

I’d been to Fenway Park probably a dozen times and everything we saw over the next several innings was completely new to me.  I love it.

There is a bunch of standing room behind the pavilion seats.  And it is a GREAT view of Fenway Park and the ballgame.

Midway down the walkway, another fan offered to take this crazy picture of me and the boys:

Tim is throwing a curveball in that shot!

Here is the view from the SRO behind section 6 of the pavilion seats:

This was the first time I had ever looked down on the Green Monster seats.  It looked like this:

And David Price looked like this…

…and he pitched to some dude on the Red Sox.

This must have been the bottom of the seventh inning, because I remember that the Red Sox were losing.  That means that batter is Kelly Shoppach.  He fouled that ball down the RF line before hitting a double to CF.

We could walk down to section 10 before this upper section turned into suites and we could go no further.  Here is the view from section 10 (right next to the first suite):

And here is Mike Aviles flying out to CF…

…and Dustin “Lasers” Pedroia taking a pitch before hitting a single to LF.

After Pedroia’s at bat, we backtracked toward the ramp and then went the other way, toward RF.  We popped out here, behind section 1 of the pavilion:

Tim did some staged cheering…

…and we had a great view of Big Papi’s inning ending at bat.

We watched the top of the eighth inning from the SRO area behind section 8, where it looked like this:

Kellan was chilling out on my shoulders the whole half-inning and a group of 20-something fans thought it was absolutely great to see a father and two sons in Mariners gear having a great time watching the Rays and Red Sox at Fenway Park.  They were giving out high fives to Kellan and then offered to take this picture:

After a rousing sing-along of “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of 8th inning, we headed back down to the field level.  To scout out the lay of the land and plan for a post-game umpire baseball attempt.  We watched the top of the ninth inning from the SRO area behind 1B.  Well, I half watched it and half scouted out the umpire tunnel situation (visually on the field and electronically by searching Zack Hample’s blog on google).  Basically, all I could tell was that it was at the 3B dugout.  But I wasn’t sure which end of it – both ends seemed to have a tunnel, at least from where I was standing.

As I scouted out the umpire tunnel, Tim and Kellan hid inside Fenway’s steal framework…

…and generally monkeyed around.

As the top of the ninth ended (with the Rays still winning 2-1), we made our way to the concourse under the field level seats.  We walked all the way around to the last tunnel on the 3B side (which is between home plate and 3B).

The goal was to get have home plate umpire Ed Rapuano toss us a beautiful, game rubbed-up “Fenway 100 Years” baseball that had spent time in his baseball pouch on the field during a regulation Fentenntial season game.  The whole set up was confusing and did not instill any confidence that we could succeed in our task.

First off, the tunnel into the field level seats is a ramp.  Unless you are at the top, you can’t really see much of anything inside the stadium.

Second, I couldn’t tell how far down the 3B dugout was from us, or which aisle we should go down assuming we could even get to the dugout area after the game.  I was envisioning a Red Sox loss and having to swim upstream through a river of exiting Red Sox fans.

Third, there were three ushers at the top of the ramp.  They probably would have let us walk right by and find an empty seat, but I didn’t want to risk them stopping us.

So we just stopped at the top of the ramp along with the ushers.  Kellan was still on my shoulders, at the ready with his glove on his hand (not that he can actually catch anything with it).  Tim was at my side, also ready and also with glove on hand.

Francisco Rodney came in to nail down the win for David Price and the Rays.  Eight pitches later, he walked the leadoff batter and potential tying run, Daniel Nava.

Nick Punto pinch hit for Kelly Shoppach and successfully bunted Nava over to 2B.  He was in scoring position with one out and the double play was out of the mix.  I didn’t want the game to get tied up and head into extra innings.  Frankly, I was looking for a game-ending double play.  But now that wasn’t going to happen.

Up came Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  On the 0-1 pitch, Salty blasted a ball to RF.  I turned to Tim, “WALK OFF!  Come on, let’s go!”

It was amazingly perfect.  A home team loss can kill an umpire baseball opportunity.  A walk off homerun, however?  Pure umpire ball magic!

There was not a single person in the cross aisle as we scurried over to the dugout.  Nor was there a single person in the aisle as we cut down the steps of section 63 toward the home plate end of the dugout.

Saltalamacchia was still rounding the bases.  The crowd was going WILD!  It was pure Fentennial pandemonium.  And all the while, Ed Rapuano was camped at home plate waiting for Salty to score the winning run for the Sox.

Meanwhile, the other three umpires all gathered right in front of us.  BINGO!  We’d picked the right end of the dugout!

As Rapuano strode to the umpire tunnel after calling Salty “safe” on the homerun, we seemed destined to finally get a Fenway 100 Years baseball of our own.

But Rapuano completely ignored the crowd as I shouted out, “Mr. Hickock!”

OMG!  Where did that come from?  I had my Umpire Ed’s mixed up.

Just at Rapuano started to disappear as he descended the stairs into the tunnel, I finally spit out the right name, “MR. RAPUANO!!!!”

His head half disappeared, and then it quickly rose again.  His face was still half under the cover of the dugout roof when he flipped us the most beautiful baseball we have seen all year:

BOOM!  SUCCESS!  Ed Rapuano made our day!

Thanks, Mr. Rapuano!

After another fan took our picture (above to left), the boys celebrated with high fives and dancing:

The historical significance of a centennial celebration – the first US sporting stadium to ever celebrate a centennial – made this easily the most exciting commemorative baseball that we have ever got at a game.

Thanks, again, and again, Ed Rapuano!

YES!

As we continued to celebrate and just drink in the moment (the first and so-far-only Red Sox Fentennial walk off win!) something funny happened.  The Rays relieves and bullpen staff filed into the dugout, and outta nowhere one of the catchers (not sure if it was a player or the bullpen catcher) tossed us another baseball!

Thanks, guy!

That baseball miraculously tied the most baseballs we have ever got at a MLB game (excluding one game in Cleveland where we found SEVEN easter eggs).

Wow – for a game not involving a win by our beloved Mariners, could this night get any better?  Seriously, could it!?

After the celebrated died down a bit and people started filing out of the ballpark, I realized that we had to go all the way back to our seats at the top of the RCF bleachers – a LONG way away from the 3B dugout – because we had left Kellan’s stroller at our seats.

It was a festive atmosphere as we made our way through the concourse-cave against the current of fans:

In fact, it was so festive that that lady in the grey tank-top waved at us while I took a finally photograph of the cavecourse.

People at Fenway Park truly are great.

When we made it back to RF there were a couple people in straight away RF taking picture with the red Ted Williams homerun seat.  But that was it.  When Tim went up to get Kellan’s stroller (he is in the following picture can you spot him?)…

…there wasn’t another soul up there with him.

As Tim retrieved Kellan’s stroller I witnessed something funny.  An usher went over to the Red Sox bullpen where some grounds crew guys were working on the mound.  The grounds crew guy gave the usher a baseball and then the usher stuffed it in his pocket and left.

Hey, the home team bullpen is a great place to find a commemorative baseball and (by this point) we were literally the only people left in the bleachers.  So when Tim returned with Kellan’s stroller, we walked by the bullpen on our way out.

I saw a grounds crew guy and asked, “Got any spares down there?”  He looked over to the other grounds crew guy (the one who had given the usher a baseball) and asked him the same question.

That grounds crew guy popped his head over the bullpen roof and looked at us.  Without hesitation, he held up two fingers and asked, “You need two right?”

“Sure,” I responded.

We walked town to the CF end of the bullpen to meet him by the fence.  He handed one baseball up to Kellan and another (along with a fist bump) to Tim.  And then he explained, “You know, I don’t want them fighting over one ball at home!”  Good plan!

And, double thanks, grounds crew guy!

Again, neither were commemorative, but both were very much apperiated.

As Shaggy would say on Scooby-doo, “Zoinks!”  We were walking out of Fenway Park with ELEVEN baseballs, a new personal record (and according to MyGameBalls.com we tied Zack Hample for the most baseballs ever in a single game at Fenway Park – history made at the Fentennial!)

As the boys slept soundly in their hotel beds, I took this picture of our spoils from our one day joining in the Fentennial Celebration:

I wish we could come back again this year, but it doesn’t look like it.

But, hey, Fenway Park’s 100th Anniversary, you ask?  Yeah, we were there!  And we had more fun than anyone else in the ballpark!

Next up, Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary in 2014!  Sign us up now!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

11/10 Games (Tim/Kellan)
16/15 Teams – Tim – Mariners, Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays; Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays
16 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3, Red Sox 2
62 Baseballs – Mariners 9, Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 6, Orioles 6, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 2, Red Sox   6, Rays 4
11 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 3, Dodger Stadium 4, Fenway Park 1
9/8 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch   Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park1/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Sluggerrr; Kellan – Fredbird
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky  Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
5 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki

 

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