Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Let’s Get Back to Baseball (4/6/13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Erik!

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

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

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

Thanks, Raul!

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

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

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

I got two awesome pictures of Kellan just chilling:

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

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…and Tim made funny shadows in the bullpen grass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Coach!

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

Thanks, Jeremy! Good luck this season!

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

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

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

Double thanks, Luke!

And that was all for BP.

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

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

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Thanks, Tang!

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

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

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Pretty cool.

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

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

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

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

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Check out Tim’s *pro* SRO form:

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

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

Then we headed to the kids’ play area:

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

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

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

That was a big relief!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Batboy!

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

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

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

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

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

BONUS PICTURE:

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

2013 C&S Fan Stats

1 Game

2 Teams – Royals, Phillies

1 Ice Cream Helmet – Phillies (jumbo)

7 Baseballs – Royals 4, Phillies 3

1 Stadium – Citizens Bank Park

The “Youngblood”

My friend, Alan Schuster, created and runs MyGameBalls.com. It’s a great site for baseball fans who like to attend games in person and come away with a few spheroidal souvenirs. We’ve met some great guys through Alan’s site. I like to do what I can to give back to the site. This offseason that took the form of writing a short article that is currently posted on the site.  Go over to MyGameBalls.com and check it out.

Here’s the article in its entirety (although you should really go to the site to read it.  Here, just click the picture below and you’ll magically be transported through time and space, all the way to MyGameBalls.com):

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And, just for kicks, here are links to our game reports for the two two-city, day/night doubleheaders discussed in the article:  September 6, 2010 & May 7, 2011.

Spike Owen & Harold Reynolds

As the title of our blog suggests, our blog is about one thing:  our family’s baseball adventures.  I don’t write about trades or trade rumors, MVP debates, player values, or Hall of Fame elections.  I have strong feelings about all of those things.  But I’m not a sportswriter.  It’s not my job to tell people what I think they should think about the current happenings in our great sport.  There are hordes of paid sportswriters for that.  I’m here to document my family’s personal baseball history, and that’s about it.

This makes the offseason pretty quiet around here.

But there is baseball and baseball stuff going on in the Cook household year round.  I recently wrote about Tim’s first winter clinic for his little league.  There will be another clinic in a couple weeks, and we’re eagerly looking forward to it.

In my downtime, I’m still working away updating our Baseball Logs (which I get behind on during the season) and our online Baseball Museum, and planning our 2013 season (fyi, be on the lookout for three generations of Cook boys in the Lone Star state in 2013).  But lately, there are two additional baseball items taking up some of my time and, since they fall in line with the concept of documenting our personal baseball history, I thought I’d do a short update about them.

They’re not so much “items” as they are people — two of my favorite former-Mariners:  Spike Owen & Harold Reynolds:

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Spike Owen was my original all-time favorite baseball player.  I have two distinct “where was I when” memories about Spike.  I was standing right here…

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…at my elementary school (there used to be a baseball field there) when my assistant baseball coach explained that Spike Owen played short stop for the Mariners (fyi, I played short stop for the Sherwood Eagles!) and he wore number 7 (fyi, I also wore number 7!).  From that very moment, Spike was instantly my favorite player.  Several years later (1986), I was in the basement of my family home (sitting on a cabinet/desk thingy to be exact), when my buddy, Dan Mosely, called to tell me the unthinkable:  Spike Owen was traded to the Boston Red Sox!  By this time, I was already a huge Mariners fan, but had never paid any attention to the postseason.  As a result of Spike’s traded to the Red Sox, I watched the World Series for the first time ever and REALLLLLY wanted Boston to win.

After 1986 (with no internet), it became pretty hard to follow Spike Owen, particularly during his years in Montreal.  Basically, all I could do was read box scores in the newpaper (people used to do that in the 1980s).

While Spike became my absentee-favorite ballplayer, over the next several years, I never officially announced a new favorite Mariner.  In retrospect, it was clearly Harold Reynolds.  That is, it was Harold Reynolds until 1989, when Ken Griffey, Jr. showed up on the scene.  Since 1989, Griff has held the title of my all-time favorite player and, unless Tim and/or Kellen make the pros, I assume he always will be my favorite baseball player.

So, why am I spending time thinking about Spike and Harold all of these years later?  Let’s start with Spike.

I have been a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) for a number of years now (4 or 5 years, I guess).   But I’ve never been an active participant in SABR.  However, recently I have been chatting with another local SABR member who is active in the SABR BioProject.  Through the BioProject, SABR is trying to have its members write 1,500+ word biographies of EVERY MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER EVER!!! (plus, managers, umpires, owners, etc., etc.)  They have a loooooooooooooong way to go to reach that goal.  So, I decided to get involved.

When I first considered getting involved, I quickly realized that the only way it would interest me is if I could have my participation in the BioProject compliment my efforts to document our family’s personal baseball history.  My first assignment of choice became clear:  I would volunteer to write the BioProject biography of the man who played a foundational role in my life-long love of baseball and the Mariners, Spike Owen.

Shortly after putting in the request, I was officially assigned the Spike Owen biography by the BioProject Committee.  Lately, I have been researching Spike’s career (and life) via the internet and I have learned a whole lot of stuff I never knew about Spike.  I thought I would share a few interesting things I have uncovered.  My favorite old article I have found (from shortly before Spike’s call up to the Mariners) highlights the relationship between Spike and his minor league roommate and double play partner, Harold Reynolds:

owen-reynolds combination clicks

Two other interesting notes, (i) Spike was the short stop for the Expos during Dennis “El Presidente” Martinez’s perfect game in 1991 and (ii) Spike was the Captain of the 1982 Texas Longhorns baseball team where his teammates included his future 1986 Red Sox teammates, Roger Clemens and Calvin Schiraldi.

Spike’s relationship with Harold Reynolds extended beyond the minors.  Spike was called up to the Mariners before Harold.  Spike played about 60 games for the Mariners in 1983 before Harold was called up and played his first game on September 2, 1983.  Interestingly, Harold made his Major League debut as a pinch runner for Ken Phelps following an at-bat when Phelps pinch hit for Spike.  Three days later, Harold started his first game for the Mariners.  Spike hit lead off with Harold in the nine-hole, meaning that Spike was on deck when Harold had his first career at-bat in the Major Leagues.  Twelve years later, Harold played his final game in the Major Leagues as the starting second basemen for the California Angels.  His teammate and starting third basemen for the Angels that day:  Spike Owen.

Let’s talk some Harold Reynolds.

harold card

Harold played almost his entire career for the Mariners.  He was awesome.  People in Seattle loved him (at least that was my perception at the time, I certainly loved the guy).  He collected over 1,000 career hits for the Mariners, he was a 2-time All-Star and 3-time Gold Glove winner for the M’s.  Plus, he won the 1991 Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable efforts.

It has never made sense to me that Harold has never been inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame.  He is an obvious choice to me.

So, last year, I created a Twitter account called @HR4MarinersHOF with the intent of posting pro-Harold tidbits as a sort of grassroots campaign to get Harold enshrined in the Mariners Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, almost immediately after I created the account and started posting a few Harold factoids, the Mariners announced that Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson (both great choices, as well) would be enshrined as new Marines Hall of Famers during the summer of 2012.  So, I decided to put @HR4MarinersHOF on hold until the 2013 Major League campaign.

Now is the time.  If you’re a Mariners fan and appreciate what Harold did for the Mariners, please give @HR4MarinersHOF a follow, a tweet, a retweet, or whatever you want to do to voice your feelings about Harold Reynolds and the Mariners Hall of Fame.

Happy New Year and we’ll see you in 2013!

Liberty Baseball’s Winter Clinic

So it’s cold these days in Pennsylvania.  We’ve been playing a lot of catch with foam and plush baseballs in the kids’ playroom.  But it has been a while since we’ve been able to get out in the backyard for some real baseball.

And just as the metaphorical winter rust was starting to form, along came Tim’s Little League, Liberty Youth Baseball, with its Winter Clinic!  We all met up at the Life Sports Center at Albright College.  The clinic started out with a little pep talk from Liberty’s fearless leader, Jason Weigand (in blue), and…

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…Kutztown University’s head baseball coach, Chris Blum.

The indoor training facility was really big and cool.  It was split into four separate areas.  After the boys split into groups, each group headed off to one of five stations.

Tim was in the youngest group.  Most of his ground were 5-6 year olds and a couple were 7-8 (I think).  Their group started in the hitting station.

First, a coach went over the proper grip of the baseball bat, stance at the plate, and swing:

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Next, half of Tim’s group went to a batting cage and the other half went to a group of three batting tees.  Unfortantely, I was chatting with someone while Tim was in the cage hitting live pitching (thrown by former Major Leaguer, Eric Valent,) and I forgot to get a picture of him hitting.  But here he is exiting the cage after his final hack:

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Although he hadn’t hit live pitching in probably a month, Tim hit pretty well.

And then it was off to the batting tees:

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By the way, I only had my phone to take pictures and this training facility has huge windows all the way down both sides of the building…so it was tough to get pictures that were even half-way decent.

And here is my favorite picture that I go today:

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After everyone in the group had hit in the cage and at the batting tees, all of the groups switched stations.  Tim’s group moved all the way to the other end of the building…

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…where they practiced fielding grounders…

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…and making the throw to first base (although, in reality, it was more like throwing to third):

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All of my fielding pictures were blury, but here is one of my favorites:

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The next station was pitching and catching.  But the 7-8 year old division in Liberty (which will be Tim’s division for the 2013 season) is coach pitch, so Tim’s group just practiced catching:

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The day after our final MLB game of the season, Tim got a new Tim Lincecum signature glove that he’s still getting use to.  But he did a good job catching normal throws and little pop flies tossed by Eric:

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Tim really likes playing catch now.  I love it.

The next station was practicing baserunning.  Once again, I was busy chatting.  I failed to take any pictures during the baserunning station.

At the final station, the boys practiced taking grounders and fly balls like they were playing in the outfield.   After fielding the ball, the boys practiced making strong throws in to the infield:

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The most amusing part of this station was that the kids were also supposed to be practing calling the ball like an outfielder.  The comical part was that the boys were screaming out, “I got it!” and “Mine!” while they were at the back of the line, but then you could hardly hear the boy at the front of the line calling the ball.  and a lot of them wouldn’t call “I got it” until right after they caught the ball.

Here’s another shot of Tim winding up for a big throw:

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After the final station, the boys gathered again for a few parting words…

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…and then they came in for a big “Liberty” chant:

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And that was that.  A great clinic.  Lots of fun.

On the walk back to our car, Tim posed with a nice silver fire hydrant:

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(If you haven’t noticed yet, getting his picture with fire hydrants is kinda Tim’s thing).

On our way home, we stopped off at the local Rawlings outlet store.  And then we capped the afternoon off with a 1-on-1 game of baseball in the backyard while Kellan napped.  We practiced all of the techniques taught during the clinic and Tim was looking really good as he beat me in our game — of course, he never actually let me bat.

We’re aleady looking forward to the next Liberty clinic in January!

Every Team At Every Stadium

With our 2012 games all written-up here on our blog, I am now in the process of updating our Baseball Logs.  There are still nine teams (the Rangers, White Sox, Tigers, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Reds, Brewers and Astros) that Kellan has not yet seen play a game in person, and he has only visited 17Major League ballparks he has yet to visit.  (But, heck, he’s only 2 years old…so he’s doing pretty well for himself as a baseball fan).  Tim and I, on the other hand, have now seen every Major League team play at least one home game and at least one road game:

touch em all checklist

It felt great to finally check off our final stadium.  But I don’t feel like our journey is now complete.  Far from it, in fact.  I want to visit every stadium a lot.  I want to get to know every stadium inside and out.

So, with my little “Touch ‘em All Checklist” complete, it is time to move on to the BIG LIST that I have often though of, and just finally put together:

Every Team At Every Stadium

Okay…yeah, this one is going to take some awhile.

Hmm…I wonder if there is anyone alive who can actually say they have seen every MLB team play at every stadium.  I doubt that I will ever be able to complete the chart.  But I plan to have a lot of fun with my boys trying.

Bring on 2013!  (And welcome to the A.L. West, Astros).

Tim’s Sixth MLB Anniversary (9/12/2012)

September 12th is one of the best and most joyous holidays on the calendar.  The holiday dates back to 2006 and marks a wonderful occasion – Tim’s in-person introduction to Major League Baseball and our Seattle Mariners.  This is the story of Tim’s Sixth MLB Anniversary!

A little background is in order before we jump into the day’s events.

On September 12, 2006, we celebrated Tim’s first MLB game.  It was a wonderful Mariners victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

On September 12, 2007, by total dumb luck, we ended up at Citizens Bank Park to witness the Colorado Rockies absolutely wallop the Philadelphia Phillies 10-0.  When I realized during the game that it was the first anniversary of Tim’s MLB debut, I decided right then and there that I would make every effort within my control to take Tim to a Major League Baseball game on September 12th every single year.

And every single year since 2006, September 12th has been an awesome day for us.

On September 12, 2008, we visited Arizona with my folks and saw Brandon Webb win his 20th game of the season over the visiting Cincinnati Reds.

On September 12, 2009, we were thrilled to see the Orioles beat the Yankees in New York.

On September 12, 2010, we were in Washington, D.C. to watch the Marlins beat the home team Washington Nationals with Tim’s Poppy.

On September 12, 2011, we headed down to Baltimore and had a great time watching the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles.

I originally had a couple additional goals for Tim’s MLB Anniversary that have fallen by the wayside over the last couple seasons.  First, I wanted to see two different teams play every season on September 12 (i.e., no repeat teams) until we could see the Mariners play again on Tim’s MLB Anniversary.  Along the same lines, I wanted to visit a different stadium every year on Tim’s MLB Anniversary, at least until we could make it back to Safeco Field for another anniversary game.

Last season, our no-repeat-teams goal fell apart when we saw our second MLB Anniversary game featuring the Baltimore Orioles.  This year, our no-repeat-stadiums goal was thrown on the scrap heap, too.

Planning was very difficult this year.  September 12 was a Wednesday.  I originally wanted to head up to Toronto to see the Mariners in a rematch of Tim’s MLB Debut game.  But that wasn’t going to work for a mid-week game.

Our second plan was to head to Queens to see the Mets take on the visiting Nationals.  That game would have preserved our no-repeat-stadiums goal and it was our plan for a long time.  But in July or August, I got news that I had a very important business appointment scheduled for the early afternoon on September 12th in Philadelphia.  With traffic, we live about 1.5 hours from Philadelphia.  Tim would be in school until 3:10.  Going to NY was out of the question.

Next, I thought about the Phillies…but their game was scheduled to start at 4 p.m.  That was a no go, as well.

So, I looked back to Baltimore, site of Tim’s Fifth MLB Anniversary, and found that the Orioles would be playing the Rays on September 12, 2012 at 7:05 p.m.  It was an exact rematch of last season’s MLB Anniversary game.  It would obliterate all of our secondary stadium/teams goals.  But with a little help from Colleen, I figured we should be able to make it to the game, and that was the only goal that really mattered.  BP would be out of the question.  But at least we should be able to make it for the game.  So that was the plan.

Here is what had to happen to make it happen:

Colleen and Kellan picked Tim up from school at 3:10 and immediately hopped on the road down to Philadelphia.  I was detained until around 4:30.  When I freed up, I called Colleen to find they were still stuck in traffic.  I hopped in my car and drove across Center City Philadelphia.  Colleen and the boys reached Philadelphia while I was still stuck in traffic.  I met up with Colleen and the boys at 30th Street Station in West Philadelphia.

The boys then hopped into my car and we hit I-95 South toward Baltimore.  My GPS told me we were going to arrive at Camden Yards around 6:30.  But traffic crawled coming out of Philadelphia.  We broke out of the traffic around the Delaware state line.  By that time, my GPS said we would arrive at the stadium around 7:10 – five minutes after game time.

Traffic was non-existent in Delaware and Maryland and we picked up a few minutes.  After the boys spent around 4 hours in the car, we arrived at the Camden Yards parking lot right next to the Ravens stadium.

Avi Miller purchased our tickets while we were still in the car and very kindly came and met us at the gate to save us some time getting into the ballpark.

Thanks, Avi!

The game actually started while we were still parking our car and B.J. Upton hit a leadoff homerun to put the Rays up 1-0 while we were walking toward the stadium.

So we missed a few batters, whatever, we were at the ballpark for some MLB Anniversary baseball action!

So, each of the last two seasons, we had exactly one game per season at which we didn’t get a baseball.  I don’t really worry about having a *streak* of getting a ball at each game – in fact, I have no clue what our current *streak* is – but I’ve had a goal of trying to complete a full-season getting at least one baseball at each game we attend.  After this game, we would only have two more games this season.  With no BP or other pre-game festivities, this would be our greatest challenge of the season.

During the home half of the first, we hung out behind home plate just in case an Oriole wanted to hit us a real game foul ball (something my boys have never caught and I haven’t caught since, probably, 1995).  We hung out in the ideal spot:

We had no luck, but the Orioles did.  On the strength of singles by Nate McLouth, J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters and Wilson Betemit, the Orioles scored two runs to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

By the way, this was a huge game for the Orioles.  They were one game back in the east behind the first place Yankees who were facing the struggling Red Sox in Boston.

After the end of the first, we decided to head down the 1B line cross-aisle to say hi to Avi, and then go grab some pizza.  While we were chatting with Avi, Carlos Pena led off the top of the second inning and smacked a foul ball directly to where Tim is standing in that last picture!  Aye…we would have had a great shot of catching it had we stayed put.

Oh, well.

It was pizza time.  The outfield was totally packed.  Instead of going in search of some pizza seats, the boys dined at Jim Palmer’s feet:

While we were hanging out with Jim, I noticed there were a couple other news statues out there – like Cal Ripkin, Jr.:

We decided that our best shot at getting a baseball at this game was to hang out in the new SRO area behind the visitors’ bullpen:

Here was our view for large chunks of this game:

Essentially, we split time during this game between the bullpen SRO area and the kids’ play area.  It was time to hit the kids’ play area.  Before heading over there, Tim wanted to check out the new statues.  First he played catcher for Eddie Murray:

And here is a look at the whole Ripkin statue:

And then we headed down Eutaw Street…

…toward the play area.  We cut through the cross-aisle behind the RCF seats…

…and then the flag court so we could watch a few seconds of the game on the way to the bouncy house:

The new bouncy house this season is great, except for one pesky thing.  It is bigger and better for the kids.  But the old bouncy house had a big loosely-knit net wall on one side that was great for taking pictures of the kids bouncing inside.  The new one has a tight-knit net on all sides and it is impossible to get a good action shot of the boys bouncing inside.

The boys always enjoy getting a picture with the big Oriole bird bobbleheads…

…and the pig:

After playing in the play area, we planned to get ice cream helmets.  There is an ice cream stand in the concourse down the 3B line.  I figured we would get some helmets there and then head back to the bullpen area to eat ‘em.  But as we passed behind home plate, we ran into our friend and Camden Yards regular Matt Hersl.  When I mentioned that we were on our way to grab some ice cream, he reached into his backpack and pulled out two little cups of carvel ice cream and handed them over.  That was pretty odd…, but, hey, thanks, Matt!

We headed out to LF and grabbed some ice cream seats in the cross aisle:

And then we headed back to the kids’ play area again:

I’ve gotten ahead of myself here.  I should mention that the Rays scored a second run in the bottom of the third.  For most of this game, the score was tied 2-2.

Late in the game, we headed back to the bullpen SRO.  Tim spotted a HUGE bug on the front wall of the visitors’ bullpen:

Alex Cobb had started the game for the Rays and pitched 4.2 innings.  After Cobb, the Rays cycled in a new pitcher pretty much each inning.  Jake McGee in the fifth-sixth, Wade Davis in the seventh, and Joel Peralta in the eighth.

Rays bullpen catcher, and all-around nice guy, Scott Cursi was warming up pitchers all night below us:

Well, that’s not completely accurate.  Cursi didn’t’ catch each of the pitchers.  Some of them he just watched and consulted with another Rays catcher.  Anyway, the game was still tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth.  The Orioles brought in closer Jim Johnson.  Meanwhile, Cursi was warming up Kyle Farnsworth in the Rays’ bullpen.

Johnson had a rough inning.  After retiring the first batter, he gave up a single to Jeff Keppinger.  Joe Madden sent Rich Thompson in to pinch-run for Keppinger.  After Ben Zobrist flew out to CF, Thompson stole second.

Around this time, I realized that once we made it to the bottom of the ninth, the Orioles could win it on one swing with a walk off homerun.  So I decided we would head to home plate once the game moved to the bottom of the ninth to see if we could get into position to go for an umpire baseball.

With two outs, Evan Longoria then hit a soft grounder down the 3B line that was ruled an infield hit.  As Thompson broke hard for third, Manny Machado charged the ball hard, scooped it up in his bare hand and made a hard fake throw toward first.  Thompson bit on Machado’s fake throw and rounded third hard.  Machado instantly spun and threw behind Thompson to Orioles short stop J.J. Hardy.  One throw later, Matt Wieters tagged out Thompson as he headed back toward 3B.

And that ended the top of the ninth inning.

I was all set to head toward home plate as Scott Cursi took the final warm up pitch from Kyle Farnsworth.  Farnsworth headed toward the CF gate to enter the game and Cursi headed toward the bullpen bench.  Before we left to walk toward home, I called out Cursi’s name.  He looked up and tossed us Farnsworth’s warm up baseball.  We shouted “THANKS!” and then started to turn toward home plate, but Cursi yelled for to us to stop.  We looked back, and he pulled another baseball (an absolutely pristine Camden Yards 20th Anniversary commemorative baseball) out of his back pocket and tossed it to us too.

Thanks, Scott!

I must say that Scott Cursi has been amazingly cool to us this season.  We saw the Rays play in five games and he tossed us SEVEN baseballs and spent a little time chatting with us in Seattle.

Thanks again, Scott!

Moments after Cursi tossed us those baseballs, we ended up sliding into a row of seats right behind home plate:

After making the key fake throw to help bring the top of the ninth to a close, Machado led off the bottom of the ninth and smacked a single into LF.  He then took second on a sacrifice bunt by Robert Andino.

Usually, September crowds at Camden Yards are tiny and lifeless.  This year was different.  The Yankees had already lost to the Red Sox by this time so they were only half a game ahead of the Orioles.  In other words, if Machado could touch home plate the Orioles would pull into a first-place tie with the Yankees.

The crowd was standing at attention, ready to erupt at a moment’s notice:

Right about this time, Avi (somewhere in the stadium) sent out the following tweet:

And, I was sort of a fortune teller.  No, Adam Jones didn’t come to the plate in the ninth and the Rays hadn’t taken the lead, but Nate McLouth hit a single to RF for a walk-off win.

The place was going crazy:  Orioles win!  Orioles win!  Orioles win!

As all of the craziness was going down, Tim, Kellan and I hustled down the stairs toward the umpires’ tunnel where (like Thompson an inning earlier) we got totally faked out by a bit of misdirection.

The home plate umpire is the only umpire who carries baseballs during a game (obviously).  At this game, Marvin Hudson was the home plate umpire.  When the first umpire ducked into the umpires’ tunnel, he handed out two baseballs on the other side of the tunnel.  As he passed us, we called out, “Mr. Hudson!” and the umpire just walked right by us.  We called his name one more time and then I realized something looked odd.  He didn’t have baseball pouches on his hips or a face mask like a home plate umpire always carries off the field.  Then, the umpire turned around and, looking at us, pointed behind him.  We turned around and looked back toward and the field and the other three umpires.  Right then, Marvin Hudson reached out and handed a beautiful rubbed up commemorative baseball to Tim:

Thanks, Marvin!

I still have no clue who the first umpire was or why he had two baseballs.  I’ve never seen a non-home plate umpire hand out baseballs after a game.  Very odd.

Anyway, the whole stadium was partying for their now *first place* Orioles and Nate McLouth was, predictably, the recipient of a congratulatory pie to the face:

We got a celebratory MLB Anniversary picture before heading toward the gates:

On our way to the gate, Tim got his picture with this guy:

We have no clue what that guy is all about, but we see him all over the place in Baltimore and he’s a cool looking dude.  So, naturally, Tim wanted a picture with him.

Now, I’d still never paid Avi for our tickets.  So we ended up meeting up with him outside of the LF gate.  After I handed over a tiny bit of money (because O’s tickets are incredibly cheap…and I hope that remains the case next season), we played a whole bunch of catch with Avi:

We had a blast playing catch with Avi after the game.  It was the perfect end to another great MLB Anniversary game.

As we finally started to head toward our car, I told Tim got give me a big “six” with his fingers for one final Sixth MLB Anniversary picture and he delivered possibly the most awkward looking “six” possible:

This one was difficult from a planning and execution standpoint, but September 12th always delivers great times.  I can’t wait to see where September 12th takes us next season for Tim’s Seventh MLB Anniversary!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

24/22 Games (Tim/Kellan)
18/17 Teams – Tim – Mariners, Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves;   Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves
40 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Mariners 5, Phillies 7, Orioles 5, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3, Red Sox 2, Pirates 3, Nationals 2, Marlins 4
1 Ice Cream Glove! – Nationals
136 Baseballs – Mariners 22, Marlins 7, Mets 21, Nationals 8, Phillies 5, Umpires 6, Orioles 13, Athletics 2, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 6, Red Sox   6, Rays 10, Pirates 3, Rockies 4, Braves 1
22 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park 2, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 9, Dodger Stadium 4, Fenway Park 1, Shea Stadium ’08 2, Nationals Park ’08 2
12/12 Stadiums – Tim – Safeco Field, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park,   Marlins Park; Kellan – Safeco Field, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park, Citizens Bank Park, Marlins Park8/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Mariners Moose (2), Sluggerrr, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Oriole Bird (2); Kellan – Fredbird
7/2 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Jeremy Guthrie, Evan Scribner, Stephen Pryor, Shawn Kelley, Scott Cursi; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist, Stephen Pryor
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
9 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki, Evan Scribner, Felix Hernandez, Shawn Kelley, Steven Pryor, Josh Kinney

Marlins Park: *First Lap* Around MLB Ballparks Completed (8/31/2012)

Back in May, Tim and I achieved the goal of having seen every MLB team play a home game.  But those pesky Florida Marlins changed their name to the Miami Marlins and traded in Sun Life Stadium for Marlins Park since we saw them play in Miami in August 2011.  So we needed to head back to Miami before we could say we had visited every current Major League stadium.

In May or June, we made the tentative plan to visit Miami over Labor Day weekend.  And before we knew it, all the pieces fell into place and it was time to go.  But it wasn’t just me and Tim.  And it wasn’t just me, Tim and Kellan.  No, it was a full-on Cook Family vacation!  We planned for two games, a day or two at South Beach, and a dolphin encounter at the Miami Seaquariam.

We kicked off all of the fun on Friday, August 31, 2012.

We hopped an 11:00 a.m. flight from Philadelphia to Miami…

…, passing over and Sun Life Stadium and driving by fancy new Marlins Park on our way to the hotel, the downtown Miami Hilton (which I would definitely recommend.  Very convenient to Marlins Park, South Beach, the Seaquarium.  Great pool.  Lots of fun).

We rented a car from Dollar Rent-a-Car and they gave us the most hilarious car possible:

CROWN VICTORIA!!!

Oh, yeah.  We were rolling in style!

We arrived at our hotel around 2 p.m.  The ballpark didn’t open until 5:30.  So we grabbed some lunch at The Daily (http://www.thedailycreativefoodco.com/) and then walked through a little park along the water.  On our way into the park, Tim posed with a fire hydrant (he has lots of interesting pictures with fire hydrants) with palm trees in the background:

Then it was time to rest up and figure out some pre-game logistics before our first game at Marlins Park.

For this game, it would be just me and the boys.  Colleen would enjoy the evening sitting by our rooftop pool reading a book.

The drive to Marlins Park was really short.  My GPS couldn’t find the stadium (because it is brand new) but we had no problem getting there because you can see it from downtown and it was self-evident how to get there.

All of the official Marlins parking garages that we passed on NW 7th Street had “prepaid only” signs.  So we ended up parking just passed and across the street from Marlins Park in the CVS Pharmacy parking lot.  The lot had “customer parking only” signs all over it, but it also had official looking guys selling parking tickets.  It all seemed legit, and it was.  It cost $20, which was the same as the parking garages.

Here was our view of Marlins Park from the CVS parking lot:

We walked down NW 7th Street to mid-block, crossed at a crosswalk, and walked down a little street that T’d into the side of the stadium:

We had no idea where we should enter, or where we were for that matter, so we just turned right and started walking around the stadium.  Very quickly, we came to an entrance where about 100 people were already standing in line to get into the stadium.  I guess it would have been considered the home plate entrance.

We hopped in line for about 5 seconds.  But then Tim wanted to explore.  The gates weren’t going to open for another ten minutes so I figured “what the heck.”

We turned around and started walking down this multi-colored piano-keyboard looking walkway:

Tim saw a big Marlins “M” and wanted to get pictures with it.  Here they are:

Just behind the “M” there was a stage set up (but empty at the time) and, after grabbing a Spanish language pocket schedule at a ticket office, we found another entrance behind the stage.  I’ll call it the LF entrance, but I’m not sure if it had an official name.

The line was short and we were inside the games after just a few more minutes.  The only drawback of this entrance is that you have to walk up a long winding walkway to get to the field level concourse.  Here is a picture I took from the walkway looking back toward the home plate entrance:

And here is what the ramp looked like after we snaked back to our left and kept circling up to the field level:

Right when we got inside, we headed down to the field out by the LF foul pole (well, in the vicinity of it).  Feeling the weight of the milestone, I promptly took a very unimpressive picture of Tim and myself:

There you go.  Photographic evidence of the two of us inside our 30th current Major League stadium!  Overall, it was Tim’s 34th and my 37th MLB stadium.  In addition to the current MLB stadiums, Tim has also been to (1) the Metrodome, (2) old Yankee Stadium, (3) Shea Stadium, and (4) Sun Life Stadium, and I have also been to (5) the (beautiful and wonderful) Kingdome (many, many wonderful and glorious times, (6) Veterans Stadium, and (7) RFK Stadium.

There wasn’t another fan to shake a stick at down the LF line.  Very, and I mean very, quickly, Mets reliever Robert Carson tossed us our first ever baseball at Marlins Park:

With that baseball, Tim has now got at least one baseball at 31 and I have got one at 33.  The only current stadium at which neither of us has ever got at least one baseball is Chase Field (where we have both only been to one game, on September 12, 2008).

Anyway…

Thanks, Robert!

And very, very quickly after that, Mike Baxter…

…tossed another baseball to Tim.

One of my complaints about Sun Life Stadium was that they didn’t let fans from the cheap seats get close to the field, even during BP.  You really could never get right down on the field down the lines.  First off, the bullpens were huge and took up tons of prime real estate down both foul lines.  Second, you had to enter from an entirely different area that required premium tickets (or so it seemed) to get next to the field in the little bit of space between the dugouts and bullpens.

In this regard, Marlins Park is a vast improvement.  For some crazy reason, Marlins Park does have an incredibly fan unfriendly moat.  But I knew from Zack Hample’s blog that they let everyone down into the moated-off area during BP.  So we went over there just to check it out.

While anyone can go right up to the dugouts, we did find out that you need special tickets to enter the first four rows between the end of the dugouts and the OF end of the moated-area.  Here is a panorama from section 7 that shows what I’m talking about:

We didn’t know the rules at first and walked right up to the field (something that could never have happened at Sun Life Stadium because the normal seats were elevated above the restricted area), but the lady in the red shirt on the right side of the picture above let us know that we needed to stay back in the fifth row unless we had a ticket up in the front section.

That rule is somewhat silly, but it is still a vast improvement over Sun Life Stadium because at least you can be down low enough that you’re essentially on field level, just pushed a few rows back.

We hung out there for a bit and watched the infielders warm up.  And then I took a blurry photo of the three of us:

I love Kellan’s casual little pose there.

If you enlarge the last panorama (from section 7) you will see a sign behind the CF upper deck seats that says “502.”  Tim requested that we go up there to check it out.

So we headed to the concourse.  I thought it was unique, so I took a picture of the bright yellow concourse down the RF line:

Eventually, I realized that Marlins Park has a rotating color scheme.  From 1B to RF the field level and upper deck concourse walls and floors and the tiles in the field level seating areas are yellow.  Approximately behind section 40 in RF (and you’ll see this soon enough), the yellow starts to break down, get mixed some white, and then transition to green.

From RF to LF everything is green, including the outfield wall (which I had never liked on TV).  In section 30 in LF (and you’ll see this too), the green transitions to red.  From the LF corner to around 3B, the concourse is bright red.  Around 3B, the red transitions to blue.  And then the blue wraps around home plate until it eventually transitions into the original yellow that I discussed around 1B.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have never liked the look of Marlins Park on TV.  Frankly, it has looked tacky to me.  But in person, I really thought it looked great.  Sure, green of the outfield wall is a bit much.  But, overall, the colors are fun and they work.  We’ll talk a tiny bit more about the colors a little later.

Behind section 40 in RF, we headed up some stairs to the RF-CF upper deck.  Half way up the stairs, we ran into a HUGE duct:

I am pretty sure that is to pipe all of the air conditioning around the ballpark.

If you want to call it a concourse, then the RF-CF upper deck *concourse* is bizarre to say the least:

From that main walk way, smaller other walk ways split off to the side and lead fans into the seats:

Check out (above) that suspension system…I guess that is what it is.  When we were up there, and there were only maybe 10 other fans in the entire upper deck, I could feel the entire upper deck move and shake a little bit.  I’m never a fan of that phenomenon.

Here is the view from that second with the “502” sign, which is actually section 134:

And here is a souvenir of our time up in the upper deck…

…that was tossed to us by Jon Rauch.

The rows of seats in the upper deck were really steep.  I was not a fan of hanging out there with the boys because I feared that Kellan would trip and fall over a row a seats – we hung back in the second and third rows.  So right after we got that baseball from Rauch, I snapped that picture of Tim (with Rauch pictured under the ball) and then we started to head out of the section.

As we cut across the third row toward the stairway on the CF side of section 134, I heard someone yell at us from below.  It was Rauch and he was holding up another baseball.  I guess he wanted both boys to have one.  He made another accurate toss for an easy catch.

Thanks and Thanks, Jon Rauch!!!

Before leaving section 134, we got a couple pictures of the odd homerun statue thingy in LCF:

I took a few more pictures on our way back down to the field level (start clockwise from top-right):

Top Right:  There is a little press box looking office behind the seats in section 134.  I’m not sure what it is.  I’m guessing they work the controls for the retractable roof…but I’m not sure.

Top Left:  There is a staircase in that little “concourse” behind section 134 and one of the walkway support beams (a huge concrete beam) frames in the staircase.

Bottom Left:  Mid-way down the staircase we had a nice view of downtown Miami out of the LF-CF retractable outer wall of the Marlins Park.  One regret of our trip (that was totally out of our control) is that we never got to see the ballpark with the wall open.

Bottom Right:  The view of the field level concourse in CF where the stair case dropped us into the field level.

The pieces of the LF-CF retractable wall move of train track like tracks through the field level concourse:

Behind the homerun statue, there is a little, moveable TV studio.  When I got a blurry picture of the boys standing by the TV set, one of the TV guys walked over and handed Tim one of the real deal Fox Sports microphones:

When I took that picture, Tim refused to look at me.  And in retrospect, he was completely right.  It looks more authentic with him not looking at me.  It is like he is doing a report looking at the TV camera.  Good job, Tim!

Here is the back of the homerun statue:

And a panorama taken just to the LF side of the homerun statue in a SRO area:

Next, we swung around to LF foul territory to get a look at the Marlins bullpen, LF seats, and the Clevelander (night club at the ballpark):

Note how you can see the tile changing from green to behind the LF seats!  You can see other color transitions in the infield tile on the wall of the moat.

Two Mets coaches were hanging out in LF.  One of them was Eric Langill.  When he shagged a ball hit down the line, Tim asked “Eric” if he could please toss the ball up to him.  He did…

…and Tim made a nice catch.

As we walked away from the spot, the batter hit a ball that landed ten feet behind us, right were we had just been walking.  It was my best chance to catch a hit ball on the fly at Marlins Park, but it was not to be.  It ricocheted back onto the field.

And then we headed into the moated-off area behind the Marlins (3B) dugout:

I read online on some random webpage that the red seat (that the article actually said was on the 1B side) marked the first seat installed at Marlins Park.

I snapped this panorama from the cross aisle behind section 19:

And then we got this Marlins Park “bonus picture” for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt:

There was a really friendly usher hanging out in this area and he gladly snapped the following picture of me and the boys:

As BP wrapped up and we headed out of the section, the usher told us to enjoy the game.  Good guy.

We headed up to the concourse and I bought a huge “all you can drink” souvenir soda.  There were two things we wanted to check out: (i) the bobblehead museum and (ii) some fish tanks we had heard about online.  I asked the lady at the concession stand where they were located in the stadium.

Her answer regarding the fish tanks confused me:  down by the field.

She told us to ask the ushers behind home plate.  Very confusing, indeed.

But soon it all made sense.  And it is completely awesome….but most awesome for the people in the diamond club.  Check out the fish tanks built into the short wall behind home plate:

You can’t get down there for a close-up look unless you have diamond club (I’m guessing that is what it is called at Marlins Park) tickets.

We decided that the closest and best view we could get would be from the very corner spot in the first row behind the visitors (1B) dugout (although there is a fish tank on both sides of home plate so either dugout would work)

Before going over by the dugout to take a look, I got a picture of Tim #FELIXING to celebrate his 34th MLB baseball stadium:

Then I got a panorama from section 12…

…and a picture of my boys (and my diet pepsi):

After getting all of the behind-home-plate photos that we needed, we head over to the stairs down into the moat.  There was a lady stationed there now who asked for our tickets.  I told her that we just wanted to get a closer view of the fish tank from the corner spot behind the dugout.  She said that once BP wraps up, you need tickets down below the moat to get into that section.

But then she added (paraphrasing here), “Maybe check back around the fourth or fifth inning and I could probably slip you in to check it out.”

That was pretty awesome, but made me wonder why they needed a moat at all!?

And then we headed to the Bobblehead Museum, which is located behind home plate in the blue section of the concourse:

The museum is a big oval-shaped glass case with bobbleheads from every MLB team.  There is a computer so you can look up teams or players and it will tell you where to look in the museum.  The whole case shakes a little so the bobbleheads are in a constant state of bobbling.  It was a lot of fun.

I decided only to post that one picture, but I took a bunch including a bunch of Mariners (and particularly Ichiro) bobbleheads, a couple Hank Aaron bobbleheads, some old school funny-uniformed Pirates, and a cool Prince Fielder wearing a big crown.

It was getting near game time.  So we headed out to RF.  Here are a couple not-so-random photos from the concourse:

The funniest thing I noticed in the concourse were the line-up pictures posted on the support beams behind each section of seats.  It is a cool idea.  But most fans stay relatively in the same spot throughout a game so they would probably never see the whole line up.  In fact, we move around about 20 times more than the average fan and we never noticed the entire line-up.  But we saw Giancarlo “Mike” Stanton and Greg Dobbs (pictured above) several times.

Here is the view of Marlins Park from our $3/ticket stub hub seats in the second row of section 40:

One thing about Marlins Park can be a little confusing.  Some of the sections have a few lettered (e.g., A-D) rows below row the numbered rows.  I originally bought $5 tickets in row 1 of section 40.  When I “sorted by rows, ascending” on stub hub, it indicated that row 1 was the first row in the section.  In fact, I didn’t even see that there were any lettered rows at the time because they all showed up below (i.e., behind) the tickets in numbered rows.

However, a day or two before our trip, I realized that Row A was the actual front row.  I emailed stub hub about how I was fooled by the “sort by rows, ascending” feature into buying “front row” tickets that were actually in row 8 or 9.  They credited back my purchase price and fees.  And then I found these wonderful $3/ticket seats in row B, the actual second row off of the field.

Giancarlo Stanton was right in front of us:

(FYI, it is hard not to call him Mike, but I am trying).

Here was our view of the Clevelander from across the stadium:

I had always been confused why this club area was called the “Clevelander.”  The confusion cleared up the following day when we saw the actual “Clevelander” club on Ocean Drive in South Beach.  This Clevelander is just a ballpark version of the real life Clevelander a couple miles away in South Beach.

The pitching match up featured Nathan Eovaldi for the Marlins and former-Mariner and newly minted *Ace* R.A. “The Knuckleballin’ Mountain Climber” Dickey:

At 37 years of age, Dickey is having the season of his life.  He has almost 1/3 of his entire career wins this season!  And, spoiler alert, this game was going to be his 17th win of the season, in complete-game, shut out fashion.  (Unfortunately, Tim decided he would root for the Marlins to win this game).

I noticed that the visitors’ right fielder had to warm up between innings with the Marlins ballboy down the RF line:

Really, that made no sense because the Mets bullpen was right there in RF.  I’m not sure if every visiting team has their right fielder warm up with the ballboy or if the Mets relievers were just being lazy.  My guess is the former.

Just for kicks, here is another panorama from our seats in section 40:

And here are some more photos from section 40:

The Marlins used lots of cool graphics on the big screen for both the Marlins players and the visiting Mets.  Here is one of the Miami-ified artsy photos used for the Marlins batters early in the game:

By the way, I am happy to report that from our seats in section 40, we had a clear view of both the big CF screen and the smaller (but still big) LF screen.  If you were at the back of section 40, I imagine (but don’t actually know) that you wouldn’t be able to see the CF screen.

Here is a random action shot of Jose Reyes hitting a foul ball with two outs in the bottom of the third inning:

Reyes would end up striking out.

With the game heading into the fourth, we decided to give up our spot in prime homerun territory and do a little exploring.  On our way out of section 40, we looked down into the Mets bullpen and realized several of the Mets had been sitting right by us in the corner of the bullpen:

Tim and Kellan called out, “Hiiiiiiii!” and the two closest guys turned and gave the boys waves and some big smiles.  Nice Major League ballplayers are great.  Kids (and grown up alike) always enjoy a wave from a major leaguer.  Thanks, guys!

We always bring a little kid “sippy cup” type cup to all of our games.  They’re just too darn convenient, plus stadiums always allow you to bring them in.  We spend a decent amount of time filling up the cup with water.  While filling our cup afer leaving section 40, a probably 25 year old stadium employ (seemed like a maintenance type guy) asked, “Is that for the baby (Kellan)?”  When I said, “Yeah.”  He shook his head no and warned us, “That water is no good!”

A couple seconds later, I got this awesome picture of Tim who had worn the perfect outfit to sit in section 40 at Marlins Park:

When I took this picture and then we turned left and walked into the green section of the concourse, the rotating color scheme finally all made sense to me!

By the way, mommy packed for the boys and forgot to pack any baseball clothes for Tim.  That is why he is wearing his hilarious banana shorts and cheesehead cow pants t-shirt.

Our plan was to head to the upper deck in the infield.  We headed across CF toward the LF foul corner.  We got this panorama by the TV set in CF:

In the LF corner, there is a little hallway leading away from the field into an area called “The Taste of Miami”:

All the food options back there reflected the multi-cultural Miami palate.

In the LF foul corner there are two escalators.  One connects to the club level on the second deck (off limits without tickets) and the other connects to the upper deck.  We hopped on the really long upper deck escalator.  During our ride, I took this pananorama…

…and R.A. Dickey threw THREE pitches, including this one:

Note how you can see the blue tile turning into yellow tile on the wall of the moat in the picture above!  Cool!

We headed up to the very top corner of section 327 where the boys sat on an extra little piece of concrete in the corner…

…while I took pictures, including this panorama:

While we were up there, we also found a bunch of random coins scattered through the seats.  It was pretty odd, but Tim is always a fan of finding money.

We noticed something else while we were up there (but we didn’t really draw the connection until a little later in the game):  the Marlins “M” logos on the end seats of each row are colored…

…to match the concourse walls and floors corresponding to that same section of the ballpark.  So, above the Marlins logos were in red to match the red concourse.

We also got a good view of the Clevelander from up there:

Swimming during a baseball game?  That’s weird.  I’m not saying my boys wouldn’t love to do it.  But its weird.

As we moved cross the upper deck, we stopped in section 322 to get another panorama:

While we were up in section 322, we also watched a shark win a race of a bunch of sealife around the warning track:

I was hoping we would see Giancarlo Stanton hit a monster bomb…

…but instead he struck out.

By the way, I guess I should mention that the score at the time was 1-0 Mets.  They had scored their first run of the night in the top of the fourth inning, while we were exploring the CF concourse.  Ruben Tejada had lead off the 4th with a single.  He advanced to 3B on a single by Daniel Murphy.   And then he scored the first run of the night on a sacrifice fly to CF by Ike Davis.

Now you  know why the scoreboard said 1-0 when I show you this great graphic of Greg Dobbs on the main scoreboard:

Here are some more random views of the weird little ins-and-outs of the Marlins Park upper deck, and a view down to the Marlins dugout from section 320:

And here is the whole ballpark in a not-so-impressive panorama from section 320:

Next, we wondered into a handicap seating around behind home plate.  We sat there for a couple minutes.  This was the view of field:

Here is what it looks like behind home plate from up there:

And this was the view of RF where I would like to point out two things:

Top Arrow:  That guy snagged Ike Davis’s 7th inning home run that landed in the first or second seat in the first row of section 140, almost exactly above our seats in section 40.

Bottom Arrow:  Our seats in section 40.

If you’re keeping track, that Ike Davis homerun made the score 3-0 because it immediately followed David Wright’s leadoff single.  And that would be the final score.

Soon, an usher came by and told us we couldn’t sit in the handicapped seating area.  That was fine.  We were on an exploration mission.  We headed up to the top of the stadium behind home plate.  This was the view from section 314:

Check out that huge air conditioning pipe.  It runs to the upper edge of section 314.  Check out what the view is like from the end seat up there:

And check out our view of R.A. Dickey doing his thing:

Between our early morning breakfast at the airport, late lunch at The Daily, and ice cream at the beginning of the game, our meal schedule was completely thrown off for the day.  We had still never eating any dinner, and it was getting late in the game.

Instead of pizza or nachos, Tim decided he just wanted some french fries.  At a concession stand behind home plate, they told us they sold fries at section 305.  We walked down there, into the yellow section of the concourse, but there was nothing at section 305.  We went past section 305 and asked someone if they had fries, and they too directed us to section 305.  I’m not sure what the story was, but there were no fries to be found.

But we did find this cool little emergency response truck:

(the same thing is also parked on the field level)

And we found “found” a nice view of the ballpark from section 305…

…but no fries at all.

We headed downstairs on an elevator that said it was reserved for handicapped people and families needing assistance.  They offered to let us ride in it despite the fact we clearly didn’t need assistance.  Check out the great TV in the elevator:

When we reached the field level, we continued our quest to find french fries, but we failed again.

It was already the 8th inning.  We watched Jose Reyes and his teammates take their hacks in the 8th from the SRO area in the concourse:

The Marlins applied pressure, but failed to deliver against Dickey.  They left two runners on base in the 8th.

Tim remembered what the usher guarding the moat told us before the game started.  He had been asking since the fourth inning if we could go back to look at the fish and I had been telling him it was too crowded but we could do it when everyone cleared out after the game ended.

But the usher’s invitation to slip into the moated area after the fourth inning gave me encouragement about trying to get an umpire ball after the game.  We knew from Zack Hample’s blog at the umpires’ tunnel is at the OF end of the 3B dugout.

So when the ninth inning rolled around, we boldly walked down the stairs toward the moat hoping the usher would actually let us in.  To our surprise, we found that the usher was no where to be found.  There was no one at all guarding the moat.  We simply walked down there, turned right and walked down the cross aisle to the area behind the umpires’ tunnel.  It could have been easier or less eventful.

We just stayed in the cross aisle, which is sunk below the main field level seats so we could stand there without blocking anyone’s view.

As the top of the ninth inning wrapped up, I was holding Kellan in my arms and Tim was standing along my side.  A bunch of kids were clamoring about above the Mets dugout and we could see a couple balls being tossed to them in the front row.  Here was the scene as Dickey prepared to pitch the bottom of the ninth:

It’s impossible to see who it is in that picture, but Jeremy Hefner is leaning against the dugout railing behind the kid in the blue shirt.  As those kids were begging for a baseball in the front row, Hefner (while still learning on the railing) twisted to his right and was scanning the crowd.  His eyes briefly locked with mine and he immediately flung a baseball back in our direction while still leaning on the railing.  He essentially lobbed it over his shoulder.  It was clear to me that he was tossing it to us, but that he wasn’t making any great effort to actually make sure we got it.

He tossed it high and one step to my right.  I went up for it bare handed while still holding Kellan.  An older guy jumped at it from our right and knocked into my arm sending the ball over my head behind me (closer to home plate).  I quickly turned around and bare handed it on the bounce.  Hooray!

Thanks, Jeremy!

When the innings started, we grabbed some seats that gave us an excellent view of Master Dickey at work, and a clear view of Hefner still leaning on the railing:

I still wanted to see Stanton go yard…

…but he couldn’t solve Dickey’s knuckler on this day.

The game ended in 2 hours and 7 minutes!  A 3-0 Mets win and a masterpiece for Dickey’s 17th win of the season.  He now has 19 and I am hoping he can get to 20.

There were tons of kids trying to get an umpire ball and home plate umpire Scott Barry ignored everyone.

So we headed over to the end seat by the corner of the dugout.  Here is what it looked like as the Marlins started to crack open the roof:

And here is a not-much-better-at-all view of the fish tank:

Tim really wanted to go down there to get a close up view, but it simply isn’t allowed unless you have those tickets.  Too bad.  It is a really cool ballpark feature that I had never noticed on TV.

Out of the blue, an usher (pictured at the top of the stairs in the last panorama) popped out of the dugout and tossed us a hug stapled MLB-wide statistics report that the Mets had been using in the dugout.  It is huge.  I’m not really sure what to do with it.  But it is very cool to see.

Another usher took a final picture of me and the boys before we headed out:

As we trudged up the stairs reluctantly leaving for the first time our 30th and final current MLB stadium, I turned around and got one last panorama from section 8:

The fun continued as we made our way out of the stadium. There was a concert in progress on that stage we had seen outside by the RF gate:

We followed the colored-brick piano’ish road back toward the home plate gate:

I thought it was pretty cool that there were a couple restaurants (bottom right in the picture above) open on the outside wall of the stadium.  Tim thought it was cool that there were tons of sparkly metal-looking flakes in the ground (top right in the picture above).

We capped off our ballpark experience with one more fire hydrant picture…

…before walking across NW 7 Street, to Wendy’s for a late night snack, and then to our car at the CVS parking lot  Then we drove back to the hotel and told Colleen all about our adventures.

We were excited that she would get to join in the fun the next day at our final game of the weekend.

It was a great milestone game!  Here is the complete let of Tim’s 34 MLB stadiums with the date of his first game at each in parenthesis:

1. Safeco Field (9/12/06)
2. Citizens Bank Park (6/30/07)
3. Camden Yards (8/9/07)
4. Yankee Stadium (’23) (9/3/07)
5. PNC Park (9/29/07)
6. Great American Ball Park (8/15/08)
7. Progressive Field (8/17/08)
8. Shea Stadium (9/7/08)
9. Chase Field (9/12/08)
10. Citi Field (4/25/09)
11. Nationals Park (5/17/09)
12. Yankee Stadium (’09) (7/2/09)
13. Fenway Park (7/3/09)
14. Wrigley Field (8/14/09)
15. H.H.H. Metrodome (8/15/09)
16. Miller Park (8/16/09)
17. U.S. Cellular Field (8/17/09)
18. Rogers Centre (9/26/09)
19. Oakland Coliseum (6/9/10)
20. Dodger Stadium (6/11/10)
21. Petco Park (6/12/10)
22. Angel Stadium of Anaheim (6/14/10)
23. AT&T Park (6/15/10)
24. Minute Maid Park (5/27/11)
25. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (5/28/11)
26. Comerica Park (7/3/11)
27. Sun Life Stadium (8/13/111)
28. Turner Field (8/15/11)
29. Tropicana Field (8/19/11)
30. Target Field (5/12/12)
31. Busch Stadium (5/14/12)
32. Kauffman Stadium (5/16/12)
33. Coors Field (5/18/12)
34. Marlins Park (8/31/12)

And here is one final picture that I have already shared:

2012 C&S Fan Stats

22/20 Games (Tim/Kellan)
18/17 Teams – Tim – Mariners,   Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks,   Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves;   Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets,   Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays,   Pirates, Braves
35 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Mariners 5, Phillies   4, Orioles 5, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3, Red Sox 2,   Pirates 3, Nationals 2, Marlins 2
1 Ice Cream Glove! – Nationals
119 Baseballs – Mariners 22, Marlins   4, Mets 14, Nationals 8, Phillies 7, Umpires 6, Orioles 13, Athletics 2,   Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 6, Red Sox   6, Rays 10, Pirates 3, Rockies 2, Braves 1
21 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 9, Dodger Stadium 4, Fenway Park   1, Shea Stadium ’08 2, Nationals Park ’08 2
12/12 Stadiums – Tim – Safeco   Field, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target   Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park,   Marlins Park; Kellan – Safeco Field, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field,   Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC   Park, Citizens Bank Park, Marlins Park8/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Mariners   Moose (2), Sluggerrr, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Oriole   Bird (2); Kellan – Fredbird
7/2 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky   Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Jeremy Guthrie, Evan Scribner, Stephen Pryor, Shawn   Kelley, Scott Cursi; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist, Stephen Pryor
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
9 Autographs – Willie   Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki, Evan Scribner,   Felix Hernandez, Shawn Kelley, Steven Pryor, Josh Kinney

The Nationals, Nationals Park, Shea Stadium, the Cooks & 2008 Converge On Citizens Bank Park (8/25/2012)

For months, we planned to visit Citi Field on August 25, 2012, for our only Astros game of the season.  It was going to be our best opportunity of the season to try to get our hands on one of the Astros 50th Anniversary commemorative baseballs, we had already caught at least one of each of the other five 2012 regular-season commemorative baseballs.

A couple days beforehand, I bought our tickets on stubhub.  The night before, we were all set to head up to Citi Field.

And then I realized something: no one had bought the Phillies-Nationals tickets we had listed on stubhub!  Oye!

I put our Mets-Astros tickets back on stubhub, took a loss when they resold, but avoided the bigger loss that would have resulted from not selling or using the Phillies tickets.  And, just like that, we had a new plan for August 25, 2012:  Nationals-Phillies at Citizens Bank Park!

It was only Kellan’s second Phillies game ever.

We arrived before the games opened.  While in line, we played a little catch, ate some snacks, and hung out with the Tishlers (center)…

…, Tami (mom), Harrison (son), and Seth (dad).

The Tishlers are a fun family that we have run into and spent some time with at several Phillies games this season.  Twelve-year-old Harrison is an up-and-comer on MyGameBalls.com, and Seth brings his glove and likes to get in on BP action as well.

Tim loves hanging out with older kids and he always has a blast hanging out with Harrison.  While waiting in line, Tim whipped out his camera and took a picture of himself and Harrison:

When the gates opened, Tim and I ran over to the LF seats and Kellan enjoyed the ride on my shoulders.  We’ve only ever got one “hit” baseball at Citizens Bank Park, a BP homerun at Kellan’s first Phillies game that bounced around in the seats before I grabbed it.

But almost right off the bat this happened:

Kellan and I were standing at the green dot (he was still on my shoulders).  Tim was standing just to my right, closer to the foul pole.  A Phillies batter hit a homerun directly over our heads.  I turned around watched it hit off the first seat in about row 10 or so.  It ricocheted on a single bounce right to me.  I casually lifted my glove and caught it right in front of my head and Kellan watched on from above.

That was the first hit baseball that I have ever caught with Kellan on my shoulders.  I thought it was pretty cool, but Seth really thought it was great.  He was all smiles and quickly let me know that he thought it was awesome how casually I caught the ball with Kellan up there.

Before going on, I should point out the guy in the last picture who is standing closest to the camera wearing a dark Phillies shirt and his son in the front row (left of the green dot) wearing a Phillies jersey.  About 10 minutes after I took that picture, the guy approached me and asked if I had a blog.  He didn’t seem to know us by name, but he had read our blog and recognized us from our Mariners gear.  He was a nice guy.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember his name.  He introduced us to his son and several other family members.  I think he said that he has been to about 17 MLB stadiums.  The best thing about the interaction was how he asked who we were.  He asked me something like, “Are you the guy who takes his son all over to different MLB stadiums and takes tons of pictures of everything?”  While I don’t know if I am “the” guy, I definitely am “a guy” who does that.

The clouds started to sprinkle the tiniest little bit of rain.  So we headed over to the back of the one foul territory section that is open during the first hour of BP and took cover under the second deck seats.

Shortly after arriving there, a security guard came over and asked if it was the boys’ first Phillies game.  I pointed at Tim and said, “He’s been to lots of Phillies games,” and then pointing to Kellan, “and this is his second Phillies game.”

I didn’t see it yet.  But I had the strong feeling that the guy had a baseball and wanted to give it to a kid experiencing his first game.  We certainly do not meet that criteria and I didn’t want to pretend we did.  When he did, in fact, pull out a baseball, I practically tried to talk him out of giving it to us.  But he also didn’t seem like he wanted to make the effort to find another little kid who might be at his/her first game.  So he gave the baseball to Kellan:

(By the way, that is the same baseball in both pictures).  It was our 109 baseball of the season, setting a new Cook family single-season record.

Even though he didn’t get to make a true baseball rookie’s day like he had originally planned, I’m pretty sure he was happy with his decision to give the baseball to Kellan because Kellan gave him the cutest 2-year-old “Thaaaaaank you!” which gave the guy a chuckle and a huge smile.

Thanks, security guard guy!

Just before the security guard found us, I had opened a bag of cheesy rice cakes, which we refer to as “pirates.”  When the guy handed the baseball to Kellan, his fingers were already a cheesy mess.

Tim and Kellan kept throwing back the pirates like they were going out of style:

Normally, we head out to the pizza wedge when the rest of the stadium opens.  But we decided to head down the LF line to watch the Nationals pitchers warm up because we had heard recently that they were using old commemorative baseballs (Shea Stadium and Nationals Park) from 2008.

Just before the rest of the stadium opened, three of the Nats coaches were hanging out down the LF line, with one of them sitting in the seats:

When we got down there, Tim and Kellan got the most hilarious picture ever with Steve McCatty, the only one coach who was still down there.

We watched the Nats pitchers warm up…

…and it appeared that none of them were using commemorative baseballs.

The highlight (or maybe lowlight?) of our time over on the foul line was that someone hit a foul ball in our direction.  It was going to land several rows below us.  The Tishlers were right there, but they were focused on the Nats pitchers.

I screamed, “HEEEEEEEEADDDDS UPPPPPPPP!!!!!”

It didn’t help.

The ball nailed Seth in the shoulder.

Once the Nats pitchers began to disburse, the boys and I relocated to the pizza wedge.  Two Nats were hanging out in RCF.  One of them fielded a baseball near us and tossed it up to us…

…before walking back to our spot.  It was Tom Gorzelanny (T.G. in the picture above).

Thanks, Tom!

Now, the baseballs the pitchers were using along the LF line were from the pitchers baseball bag.  The baseball that Gorzelanny tossed to us was a batted ball from the BP bucket, and we were very happy to find it was 2008 Shea Stadium final season baseball!

Double thanks, Tom!

I was very happy for us to get one of the 2008 Shea Stadium baseballs because Tim and I went to a Phillies-Mets game during the final month of baseball at Shea Stadium.

I soon overheard someone mention that they had caught a 2008 Nationals Park inaugural season baseball.

Now remember “S.B.” in that picture above?  That’s Sean Burnett.  I had no clue who it was at the time.  But at one point, a nearby fan started chatting with him a little bit and I overheard the fan call him “Sean.”  The second he finished chatting with the fan and turned around to walk back to Gorzelanny, I called out, “Hey, Sean!”  When he turned around, I made a bold move, I asked Burnett if he came across a Nationals Park commemorative baseball during BP if he would toss it up to us.  Without hesitation, Burnett said, “Sure!”

A few minutes later, he caught a fly ball right by us and tossed up to us a beautiful 2008 Nationals Park commemorative baseball!

Thanks, Sean!

Look at these two beauties:

Before long, the Tishlers arrived on the scene.  I got a picture of Tim and Harrison in the tip of the pizza wedge, but Kellan wanted nothing to do with being in the picture:

Harrison had snagged a baseball or two, but no commemoratives.  He really wanted to get one of each of the 2008 commemoratives.  Before too long, someone tossed a Nats Park baseball to Harrison.

As BP progressed, a couple No. 1 overall picks made their way out to CF.  Bryce Harper was only out there for a short time…

…until he had to go take his hacks in the cage.

But Stephen Strasburg spent a bunch of time out there shagging fly balls:

When one of his teammates hit a baseball to the CF warning track, Strasburg ran over, fielded the ball and tossed it up to us.  It was another Nationals Park commemorative baseball.

Thanks, Stephen!

Now, I don’t really remember the timing of this hit.  But at some point during BP, one of the Nationals hit a homerun over the pizza wedge:

It hit the back wall of the Phillies’ bullpen, and rolled out in the grass between the bullpen mound and bullpen plates.  While still focusing on the field in hopes of getting a Shea Stadium baseball, Harrison also set his sights on the homerun baseball waiting in the bullpen.

Toward the end of BP, a Nationals batter hit a homerun directly to us.  We were in the first row of the pizza wedge (section 101).  Kellan was standing in front of me leaning on the railing and Tim was to my right.  The baseball sailed right over Kellan and into my waiting glove.

I turned it over to find that it was another Shea Stadium commemorative.  Tim immediately instructed me to, “Give it to Harrison!  He needs a Shea ball.”

But Harrison said he wanted to get one on his own.  I must admit, I was a bit relieved that Harrison didn’t want that baseball because it was the first BP homer I had ever caught on the fly at Citizens Bank Park.

So we turned our focus back to watching Harrison and hoping he would be able to snag a Shea Stadium baseball of his own.  While we watched, Tim demolished some more cheesy pirates:

Well, some of them, as you can see above, escaped Tim’s mouth and found their way onto the warning track.

Eventually, the Phils cleared the field and, a bit later, Roy Halladay and the bullpen coaching crew headed out to the bullpen:

As Phils bullpen catcher Jesus Tiamo (an all-round nice guy by all accounts) walked across RF and approached the warning track by the bullpens, Harrison told Tiamo that there was a left-over BP ball in the bullpen and asked if Tiamo would toss it up to him.  In the picture above to the right, Tiamo is the guy in the middle (wearing No. 81).  He happily obliged Harrison’s request and that baseball ended up being the Shea Stadium commemorative that had evaded Harrison during BP.

I wanted to snap some pictures of Roy Halladay warming up before the boys and I departed the pizza wedge for the play area.   But he took his sweet time getting ready to throw.  After visiting the bullpen mound to grab a baseball from the bag, (shown above), Halladay headed out into CF where he and Erik Kratz (who I had never heard of before at the time) did some stretching while lying on the ground:

Although we are a Rawlings family, I liked the look of Halladay’s Nike glove.  But doesn’t that just seem weird?  A Nike glove?  I am all about Nike shoes, but I am going to keep my Nikes on my feet and continue to let Rawlings outfit my glove hand (and Tim’s and Kellan’s too).

Roy then slowly made his way to the little boys room in the bullpen (and the following shot also includes a better shot of Tiamo):

And then he did a bunch of stretching against the CF wall…

…before finally starting to play catch with Kratz:

We decided it was time for a little gaming.  Last season, the Phils had a speed pitch, a trivia game, and a running the bases (in place) game.  This season, Chickie’s and Pete’s has taken over the speed pitch area and only the trivia and base running games are left.  But Tim has fun with both of them:

The trivia game asks all Phillies trivia.  Tim knows none of the answers and I know very few.  But sometimes we get lucky on them.  The base running game is pretty funny to watch.  Each time we did it, Kellan would run about 5-10 steps and then just stop to watch Tim run.

From there, we headed on to the nacho stand and then the kids play area.  Kellan hadn’t had any real lunch (just snacks) following his nap so I hoped he would eat nachos with me while Tim played in the play area.  That was silly.  He ate 2-3 cheesy chips, but all he wanted to do was play.

I released him first into the little kids portion of the play area:

But he really wanted to go into the big kids play area.  I thought it was too big for him.  But Tim did some excellent big brothering.  He took Kellan up into big playarea and showed him all around.  It was really cute.  I could see Tim showing and explaining stuff to Kellan up there.  They posed for a picture together in one of the spheres:

And they even climbed all the way to the very top so they could ride the big spiraling slide all the way to the bottom:

Kellan had a blast with his brother and the other big kids.  I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable with Kellan going up there alone yet, but he did great with Tim.

The game started while we were walking to the playarea.  Halladay retired the Nationals in order in the top of the first and then Phillies scored two runs on RBI singles by Chase Utley and John Mayberry.

Finally, I decided it was time to head to the seats.  But one our way, we swung by the ice cream spot in the concourse behind 3B.  I always ask for a tray with our ice cream, but for some reason I failed to do so this time.  With an ice cream  helmet in each hand and Kellan on my shoulders, Tim and I began the long walk from the 3B side, around the scoreboard in LF, behind the batters’ eye, and to our seats in section 104 (RF).  It wasn’t overly hot at this game.  In fact, it was somewhat pleasant.  But that didn’t prevent both helmets from melting down and dropping all over my shoes on the walk.  It was pretty crazy, after the game, you could clearly tell that I had held Tim’s chocolate-vanilla twist in my right hand and Kellan’s vanilla helmet in my left hand.

I dropped the boys and the ice cream in our seats in row 14 and then quickly ran 20 feet over to the nearest concession stand to get trays for the boys to use to hold their helmets.  Finally, we were ready to eat ice cream…

…and watch some baseball:

That last picture is from the top of the fifth inning.  In that picture, Roy Halladay is pitching to Kurt Suzuki and Danny Espinosa is leading off first base.  Espinosa and Roger Bernadina had already both hit singles in the inning.

While Suzuki was hitting, Bernadina was over at second behind held closed by Chase Utley:

Suzuki singled to load the bases.  Gio Gonzalez failed to help his own cause.  He put the ball in play, but Bernadina was forced out at home plate.

But rookie Steve Lombardozzi came through for Gonzalez.  He hit a single to CF that scored Espinosa and Suzuki to tie the score at 2-2.  Bryce Harper grounded out to end the inning, but the damage was done.  Halladay’s lead was gone and we had a new ball game.

Just like old times in Philadelphia, look who was patrolling RF:

We didn’t stick around too long in our seats.  The boys needed some real food.  So we got out of there.  At our last Phils game, Tim and I got pizza and sat in the upper deck.  We decided to do that again.  But first we stopped by the RF councourse and played a few more games:

You get 1 or more stamps in a little book depending on how well you do in each game.  The more stamps you collect the better prize you can get when you cash in your stamps.  Tim collected 10 stamps which were good enough for a Citizens Bank Park pencil and this weird “water bottle”:

It was much more “bag” than it was “bottle” but Tim loves it.  We filled it up and headed up to the upper deck in search of pizza.

We got a picture of the boys and the Liberty Pig:

Finally, we grabbed some pizza…

…and found some seats in section 424:

The Phils regained the lead in the bottom of the 6th inning when John Mayberry, Jr. hit a solo homerun to LF.  They tacked on an insurance run in the 8th inning on a sacrifice fly, also hit by Mayberry.

During the late innings, the Phillie Phanatic pumped up the crowd from the top of the Phils’ first base dugout…

…and Kellan was super-excited about it:

As it got to the 8 inning, we decided to walk down to the field level concourse.  We were considering making an attempt at an umpire ball, which is always difficult at Citizens Bank Park, but we weren’t certain.  We figured we’d just go down and check out the situation first.

On our way out of section 424, we had an usher take our picture:

And then we started a long walk down the concourse to the RF corner and then back-and-forth down the switch-back ramps to the field level:

When we finally got down to the field level where the red line turns into a green line, I realized something.  When we sat down in section 424, I had set Tim’s new water bottle down on the ground behind our seats.  I had a sneaking suspicion that I had left it there.  We stopped and checked my backpack.  Nothing.

So we followed the green line (which is a magic line that shows through the seats) up a set up stairs and all the way back to section 424.

This whole walking process took so long that it was already the bottom of the ninth when we retrieved the water bottle.  We grabbed a standing room spot behind the 300-level seats to watch the final three outs of the game.  While Jonathan Papelbon warmed up for the Phils, Tim posed with his new missing tooth hole:

And then Paps got to work.  He struck out Jayson Werth and induced a fly ball out from Roger Bernadina.

The Nats hopes came down to Danny Espinosa:

But on this pitch  (the third pitch of the at bat)…

…, Papelbon struck out Espinosa to record the “W” for the Phillies.

Everyone celebrated:

It was a little weird seeing the final out from the upper deck.  That doesn’t happen too often for us.  Before we headed out of there, we had an usher take one more picture of the three of us…

…as the Phillies celebrated in the background.

Then we slowly made our way to our car.

All around, the whole day was a lot of fun.  I like the slightly less packed Citizens Bank Park of 2012.  Two thumbs up!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

21/19 Games (Tim/Kellan)
18/17 Teams – Tim – Mariners,   Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks,   Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves;   Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets,   Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays,   Pirates, Braves
33 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Mariners 5, Phillies   4, Orioles 5, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3, Red Sox 2,   Pirates 3, Nationals 2
1 Ice Cream Glove! – Nationals
113 Baseballs – Mariners 22, Marlins   4, Mets 8, Nationals 8, Phillies 7, Umpires 6, Orioles 13, Athletics 2,   Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 6, Red Sox   6, Rays 10, Pirates 3, Rockies 2, Braves 1
21 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 9, Dodger Stadium 4, Fenway Park   1, Shea Stadium ’08 2, Nationals Park ’08 2
11/11 Stadiums – Tim – Safeco   Field, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target   Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park;   Kellan – Safeco Field, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field,   Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park, Citizens   Bank Park8/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Mariners   Moose (2), Sluggerrr, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Oriole   Bird (2); Kellan – Fredbird
7/2 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky   Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Jeremy Guthrie, Evan Scribner, Stephen Pryor, Shawn   Kelley, Scott Cursi; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist, Stephen Pryor
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
9 Autographs – Willie   Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki, Evan Scribner,   Felix Hernandez, Shawn Kelley, Steven Pryor, Josh Kinney

A Winning In-Person Mariners Season (8/17/2012)

August 17, 2012 was our final Mariners game of the season.  And it was a big one!  If the M’s could pull out a win, we would finish *our* Mariners season with a final record of 4-2.  With a loss, our M’s record would be 3-3.  Either way, it would be a vast improvement over last season’s 1-8 record.

So, before getting to the game, I should give a little background.  We were in Seattle the week of August 13-17.  We went to the Monday night loss to Rays and the Tuesday night win over the Rays.  Wednesday, was a day game and we always planned to skip it so we could do some other fun things that the NW has to offer.  We decided to head down to the Space Needle because Colleen, Tim and Kellan had never been up it.

It was August 15th.  The Mariners game started while we were in the car driving downtown to the Space Needle.  I checked my ESPN SportsCenter App on my phone in the car and announced to my family that “Felix is perfect through 1!”

As we waited in line at the Space Needle, I announced that Felix was perfect through 3.  At the top of the Needle, I announced that Felix was still perfect through six innings, and I joked about us running down to Safeco Field to be there in case Felix stayed perfect.  But it was never a serious thought.

From the top of the Space Needle, I took several pictures of Seattle…

…and of Safeco Field…

…while history was being made inside the stadium.

During the seventh inning, Tim rocked a wicked air guitar at the outdoor concert stage at the Seattle Center…

…while we were making our way into the food court for a bit of lunch.

I pretty much followed the eighth and ninth innings pitch-by-pitch on my phone and I involuntarily leapt to my feet when the final out was recorded.  Then I received tons of text messages from people asking, wishing and hoping we were at the game.

It is utterly amazing that Felix tossed the first Mariners perfect game while we were in town and just a couple miles from the stadium.  It would have been great to be there.  But I don’t feel at all like I missed out on an opportunity.  The simple fact is that I knew going into the week that we would attend only 3 of the five games the Mariners played while we were in town.  And, quite frankly, the Wednesday day game was the obvious choice.  I (instantly) eliminated it from contention months ago when we first set the dates for our trip.  So, I had to feelings of loss or personal disappointment, but just a huge feeling a joy and happiness for Felix’s amazing accomplishment.

Way to go, Felix!!!

So, wouldn’t you know, this was the Mariners first game following Felix’s perfect game and the perfecto buzz was still in the air.  People across the NW (and world) were…

…#FELIXING all over the world of social media.  It was a great, festive atmosphere for our final Mariners game of the season.

We took two cars to this game with the boys (me, Tim, Kellan and my Dad) heading down early for BP and the gals (Colleen, my mom, and my aunt Barb) following about 30-45 minutes behind (the still wanted to get there on the early side because it was fleece blanket give-away night).

The Ballpark still hadn’t opened when we arrived…

…which gave Tim time to pose with Ichiro before heading inside the stadium.

When we got inside, all four of us headed out to CF and Michael Saunders…

…quickly tossed us a baseball in the SRO area right next to the batters’ eye.

Thanks, Michael!

Tim wanted NOTHING to do with the sun out there.  So we headed back over to that little covered nook at the LF side of the visitors’ dugout:

Tim climbed all over the support beams for about 10 minutes before the rest of the stadium opened.

Once the whole stadium opened, we headed up the stairs to the LF seats.  He headed down to the first row and Stephen Pryor quickl

Tim climbed all over the support beams for about 10 minutes before the rest of the stadium opened.

Once the whole stadium opened, we headed up the stairs to the LF seats.  He headed down to the first row and Stephen Pryor quickly (within a minute of us being there) tossed us our second baseball of the day:

Thanks, Stephen!

I quickly realized something interesting.  Over the last year or two, we have had baseballs tossed to us by few players who had tossed a no hitter that same season.  I feel like there is one more, but the ones I can remember off the top of my head include Dallas Braden (who threw a perfect game in 2010), Johan Santana (who threw the Mets first ever no hitter earlier this season), and Felix Hernandez (who threw Tim a baseball about a week before tossing his perfect game).  Well, earlier this season, the Mariners threw a 6-pither combined no hitter.  After Pryor tossed us a baseball, we now have a baseball in 2012 from all 5 relief pitchers (Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, Stephen Pryor, Charlie Furbush, and Tom Wilhelmsen).  The only one we missed was started Kevin Millwood.

Next we headed into foul territory where there was next to no action.  But we had a nice lazy time watching some BP and pre-game pitcher warm-ups:

After a while, Tim and my dad split off and headed out to explore the stadium a bit.  Eventually, they ran into an usher named “Tim C.” who was working in CF bleachers.  Last season, we ran into Tim C. after our Tim had been hit in the hand by a BP foul ball.  That day, Tim C. gave both Tim and Kellan a big pack of about 50 baseballs each.  Tim and my dad ended up chatting with Tim C. a bit and he remembered meeting them and giving the boys the big packs of baseball cards the season before.  Tim C. then told Tim that he didn’t have any cards for him today, but how about a baseball!  And then he pulled a BP baseball out of his pocket and Mariners Usher handed that baseball over to Mariners Fan Tim C.

Thanks, Tim C.!

I didn’t know it at the time, but I actually saw all of this happening.  While Kellan and I were still in the field level, I saw Tim and my Dad chatting up an usher in the bottom RF-side corner of the CF bleachers.  Turns out that was the encounter with first class Mariners usher Tim C.

By this time, Kellan and I had headed toward home plate where I got this panorama…

…and then down the RF line during we hit the shade-sun border.  After a brief foray into the sun side, we retreated and hung out on the shade side.  While we were over there hanging out…

…my mom, Barb and Colleen met up with us.  And Kellan jumped all over the bag of kettle corn that they were carrying.

BP ended soon after mommy arrived, and we headed…

…out to the play area…

…to meet up with Tim and my dad.

This was the height of the #Felixing craze.  The Mariners were showing pictures on the TVs around the ballpark and on the big screen in CF of people #Felixing.  So we decided to get a nice picture of Tim #Felixing up in the LF bleachers, and he wore the perfect shirt for the occasion:

I wanted to go up to the upper deck to take a few pictures.  Colleen and Kellan joined me while Tim stayed with his grandfolks.  On our way over to the escalators up to the upper deck, we got a cool picture of Kellan joining in on the Mariners 1995 playoff celebration:

When we reached the top of the escalators leading to the upper deck we were greeted by an interesting sight, people sitting in extra stadium seats that were sitting in the concourse:

I liked that.  I also liked the birds, water and city views we observed from the upper deck concourse down the 3B line.

We walked to the LF foul corner, which is called the “Lookout Landing.”  From the front of the landing, I took this panorama as the pitchers and catchers warmed up in LF/CF:

Then I decided I should expand my view a bit:

That is Century Link Field (home of the Seahawks and Sounders) sitting between Safeco Field and the business district of downtown Seattle.

While I was snapping panoramas, Kellan and Colleen were just chilling in the Lookout Landing Bar area:

We walked around the upper deck a bit and I got two more panoramas from section 340…

…and section 332:

We have never watched a game from the upper deck at Safeco Field, but I’d like to someday.  You get some great views up there.

The other reason we were in the upper deck was that Colleen was looking for a vegetarian concession stand that she noticed on the Safeco Field food map.  She thought it was around 330 or so, but it wasn’t.  Luckily, I had taken a picture of the map, and realized it was actually in the field level, not the upper deck.

We took an elevator back down to the field level and found ourselves right by the vegetarian concession stand and the Mariners Hall of Fame.  And wouldn’t you know, the Root Sports in-game update desk was right over there as well:

When I walked over and snapped some pictures, the cameraman hopped out and offered to take that picture of us behind the desk.

Thanks, camera guy!

Colleen decided against getting food at the vegetarian food stand so we just moseyed through the Mariners Hall of Fame and I got pictures of the plaques for the new inductees, Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson:

I also took some other not-so-random, but kinda random shots:

Top Left: I took pictures of these Griffey/Ichiro lockers last season, but what I didn’t notice then was the lovely Kingdome picture on the window behind the lockers.  Beautiful!

Top Middle:  There are only six official members of the Mariners Hall of Fame (Alvin Davis, Dave Niehaus, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson.  No, amazingly, Harold Reynolds is not (yet) a member, but we’ll see what we can do about that).  But the Mariners Hall of Fame celebrates more than just the actual MHOF members.  I took this picture because I liked seeing that the Mariners were celebrating the contributions of Mike Cameron and Omar Vizquel.  I think it is very cool that the Mariners respect their former-players enough to include guys in the MHOF area even while they are still playing for other teams.

Top Right:  This is the best of 3-4 pictures we got at the homerun wall.  Kellan just isn’t comfortable playing *above the wall* yet.  But he’ll get there.

It was getting close to game time.  We reported back to our seats in the second row of section 106 (designated as Row 26):

My folks, Barb and Tim were in our seats already when we arrived.  And guess what?  Another usher (named Adrian) was talking to them and had given Tim another baseball!

Thanks, Usher Adrian!

And as you can see in this picture…

…, Tim had also managed to wrangle a few more baseball cards from the ushers.

Before the first pitch, there was a video tribute and a quick ceremony celebrating King Felix’s Perfect Game.  I took a video of it and I’ll try to update this with the link to the video once I figure out where I saved the video.  It was simple, but pretty cool.

Then it was game time.  Hisashi Iwakuma was on the hill for the Mariners.  Here is his first pitch:

He picked up right where Felix left off two days before.   It was pretty crazy.  ‘Kuma started the game with four perfect innings of his own.

Meanwhile, John Jaso put the Mariners on the board with a 2-run homer (scoring Michael Saunders who had hit a 1-out single) to put the M’s up 2-0:

The Mariners added a third run in the bottom of the second on a lead-off homerun by Miguel Olivo.

Here is one of my favorite inanimate objects to photograph in all of MLB – the Safeco Field sign/clock:

It was weird (and a little sad) to see Iwakuma wearing our beloved Ryan Rowland-Smith’s No. 18, but he was representing the number well by dominating:

Fun times were definitely being had by all:

The Mariners didn’t score in the fourth, but I did get a nice shot of Miguel Olivo collecting his second base hit of the day – a single down the LF line:

We had never sat in section 106 before.  I liked it a lot.  Although it is right in the RCF gap, we felt really close to the action.  I took some random photos looking around from our seats:

Top Left:  The Dave Niehaus statue was behind us at the top of section 105.

Top Right:  The Roof was wide open, but we could see the edge of it sticking up above the RF upper deck.

Bottom Left:  There is a little platform in the CF gap where groundcrew people sit during the game.  Past the platform, the gap is protected by a little net.

Bottom Right:  We had an excellent view of the scoreboard and video screen behind us.  And, oh yeah, Usher Tim C. is up there in the CF bleachers.  Although I can’t really recognize him in the photo, I think that is him below the “E” in Wells and the “A” in Fargo.

In the top of the fifth inning, I left our seats to get some pizza for the boys.  I shouldn’t have done that.  I apparently upset the balance of the game and Iwakuma ended up losing his perfect game bid.  Sorry, Kuma!

But the boys did really enjoy the pizza.  While Tim concentrated on eating and enjoying it, Kellan tried to entertain me with his pizza eating abilities:

The top of the fifth inning took forever.  The Twins hit a double, a single and collected a walk en route to scoring their first run of the night.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Kellan and I headed over to section 124, where it looked like this:

The purpose of the trip was to visit my bestest buddy paul and his date:

Paul’s family has shared season tickets since the Mariners first season (1977).  At the kingdome, they were in the third row behind the first base (visitors) dugout.  At Safeco Field, they are in the seventh row behind the first base (Mariners) dugout.  They are some incredibly sweet seats.

While over with Paul, we got a close up look at John Jaso’s…

…and Justin Smoak’s…

…back-to-back fifth inning singles.  Unfortunately, they were both left stranded on base.  After five innings, the Mariners led  3-1.

On our way back to the seats, I grabbed some ice cream helmets for the boys:

And I took some more random family photos:

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Mariners extended their lead to 5-1 on back-to-back doubles by Travon Robinson and Eric Thames (scoring Robinson), a sac bunt by Brendon Ryan, and an RBI single by Dustin Ackley (scoring Thames).

The final bit of scoring in the game occurred in the top of the eighth inning.  Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham hit back-to-back homruns off of Stephen Pryor who was in his first inning of relief.  That made the score 5-3.

Mauer’s homerun went into the batters’ eye grass.   I headed over there to take a look into the batters’ eye (with no intentions of the ball still being there or someone tossing it to us).  The ball was already gone when we arrived.  I took a few batters’ eye pictures…

…before heading back to our seats.

Late in the game, the wave started and I got a hilarious picture of everyone doing it:

(Sorry, ma, but that picture is hilarious!)

In the ninth, it was “Closing Time” and the Mariners sent in Tom “The Bartender” Wilhelmsen to shut the place down:

Wilhelmsen had not trouble closing it out 1-2-3 on 9 pitches.

MARINERS WIN!!

MARINERS WIN!!

MARINERS WIN!!!!!!!!!!

Yes!  Our season Mariners record was a beautiful 4-2.

Thanks, Mariners!

It was sad to have seen our last in-person Mariners baseball of the season, but it was a great night and we were riding high on the win.

Before leaving, we recorded the moment in a family picture:

And another:

“MY, OH, MY!!!…

…it’s great to be a Mariners fan!

Go Mariners!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

20/18 Games (Tim/Kellan)
18/17 Teams – Tim – Mariners,   Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks,   Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves; Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves
31 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Mariners 5, Phillies 2, Orioles 5, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3, Red Sox 2, Pirates 3, Nationals 2
1 Ice Cream Glove! – Nationals
107 Baseballs – Mariners 22, Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 4, Phillies 5, Umpires 6, Orioles 13, Athletics 2, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 6, Red Sox 6, Rays 10, Pirates 3, Rockies 2, Braves 1
17 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 9, Dodger Stadium 4, Fenway Park   1
11/10 Stadiums – Tim – Safeco   Field, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target   Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park;  Kellan – Safeco Field, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park

8/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Mariners Moose (2), Sluggerrr, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Oriole Bird (2); Kellan – Fredbird

7/2 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Jeremy Guthrie, Evan Scribner, Stephen Pryor, Shawn Kelley, Scott Cursi; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist, Stephen Pryor
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
9 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki, Evan Scribner, Felix Hernandez, Shawn Kelley, Steven Pryor, Josh Kinney

Walk(off) this way: MARINERS WIN! (8/14/2012)

After a tough Mariners loss in our first game of the season at Safeco Field, we were back for more the next day on August 14, 2012.  Counting this game, we had two more Mariners games on our schedule for the season.  The Mariners had a 2-2 record in our previous four 2012 Mariners games.  A Mariners win at this game would ensure that we would not suffer a losing *in-person* Mariners season in 2012.

We wanted the win bad.  So we brought out our secret weapon:

This would be Colleen’s first Mariners game (or any baseball game for that matter) of the season.  The M’s would certainty want to win the game for this special occasion, right?

Well, let’s see.

We parked in the old Kingdome lot again.  This time, Kellan and I sped ahead as the rest of our crew walked lazily toward the “The Pen” entrance at Safeco Field.

Kellan and I hurried and grabbed a spot at the SRO counter behind the Mariners bullpen:

I had to stuff my giveaway Mariners shirt into my backpack so I set Kellan down on the counter.  As I was tussling with the backpack, Mariners supervisor-type-gal walked by and told me Kellan couldn’t sit on the counter.  I’m pretty sure she told me that last season too.  Oh, well, she gave Tim a baseball last season, too, so she’s okay in my book.

We’ve had amazing luck collecting a few baseballs at games this season.  It’s been a blast.  And entering this game we were sitting on a milestone.  Our next baseball would be our 100th of the season.  As a kid trying non-stop to catch a baseball at BP at the Kingdome with very, very, veeeerrry little luck, it is utterly amazing to me that we were about to hit 100 baseballs for the second season in a row.

But you know what?  It is a different time these days, and it is lots of fun.

Anyway, while at the SRO counter (in the spot pictured above), I noticed there were 3-4 Mariners in LF in front of the visitors’ bullpen.  It was hard to see them because they were behind the bullpen bench and its little canopy.

Kellan and I headed over there and stood in the little nook below the stairs up to the field level concourse.  It looked like this:

Shortly after we arrived, someone hit a ball right down the LF line.  Shawn Kelley ran over to field it and throw it back to the bucket.  But he walked back to his group of teammates before throwing it.  And, in doing so, he walked through that little break between the bullpen canopy and hand-operated scoreboard on the LF wall.  I called out his name and he promptly tossed us the baseball.

Big thanks, Shawn!

Soon, the rest of the stadium opened up.  Kellan and I headed out to the seats in RF.  I was thinking it would be cool if Kellan and I could catch a HR on the fly like we did last season.  No dice.

But right as Colleen and Tim showed up, Tom Wilhelmsen tossed us this baseball:

Thanks, Bartender!

It was way too sunny and warm out in RF.  Aye, aye, aye…it is so massively hot in Pennsylvania during the summer.  We’re a cold weather family and the last thing we want when we go to Seattle is hot weather.  But we just happened to visit during the hottest week of the summer.  It was in the 90s several days.  Anyway, we had to head for the shady seats in foul territory down the 3B line.

But, first, Tim had to stop by and get his picture with a bunch of military troops who were assembling in section 106:

As we relocated, the Mariners cleared the field.  When we reached foul territory, Kellan spent some quiet time watching the Rays pitchers playing catch:

Tim and I joined in the action with Kellan:

See that guy in the grass right in front of Kellan?  That is Rays bullpen catcher Scott Cursi.  Twenty-four hours earlier, Cursi had walked up to Kellan out of the blue and handed him a baseball.

Well, after finishing playing catch at this game, Cursi walked over to us and handed baseballs to both Tim and Kellan:

There really wasn’t anyone else over there but us.  He came over specifically to hand baseballs to both of the boys.  It was pretty awesome.

He engaged in a little baby’ish small talk with Kellan (FYI, Kellan is a big kid now!  He’s no baby!).

Then Cursi said to me in a questioning tone, “You were here yesterday?”  How weird is that?  He recognized us from the day before and he still walked over and gave both boys baseballs?  That is pretty darn cool.

Big huge thanks, Scott Cursi!

But he wasn’t done yet.  He then went on to warn us to be very careful over there in foul territory so we don’t get hit by any baseballs.  Tim responded by telling Cursi how one of the A’s hit him with a baseball last season.  Cursi reiterated that we had to be very careful!

I thanked him a bunch.

And then he posed for a picture with Tim:

That’s pretty sweet.

Thanks, again, Scott!

Tim developed a new obsession during this series that I am going to do my best to confine to just this series:  asking ushers for baseball cards.

Since Tim has been going to MLB games, ushers from time-to-time have given him baseball cards.  He likes them a lot and has a nice little collection, nothing fancy, but it’s fun for him.  Well, at this series, Tim realized he could be proactive and simply ask ushers for a card when he sees an usher.

So, after our interaction with Cursi, Tim decided he wanted to go over to the dugout and ask the usher over there for some baseball cards.  So we went marching off in that direction:

Behind the dugout, I noticed something funny:

That is Evan Longoria raking the dirt around 3B.  I think he started out trying to fix something he didn’t like with the dirt, but then he switched over and tried to get in his teammate’s way with the rake (as he is doing in that last picture).

The ushers at the dugout gave both boys several baseball cards.  And in the process, my mom showed up.  Then we headed back toward the LF foul corner, and we had someone take our picture along the way:

My mom and Tim then headed off to the kids’ play area, Colleen headed to the Mariners team store, and I hung out with my dad and Kellan down the foul line:

We were sitting back hoping someone would hit a foul ball to my dad…

…, but the Rays were not cooperating.

Eventually, Colleen returned and we all headed up the stairs…

…and over to the playarea:

A couple things to note that group of pictures.  Kellan climbed up to the top of the play set and then got scared and wouldn’t move.  I had to climb up to the top and coax him out of there.  While up there, I took the top two pictures above from inside the play set.

In that bottom left picture above, the arrow is pointing to my buddy from high school, Mark, who was attending that game with my best buddy, Paul.  I hadn’t seen Mark in a couple years so it was good to briefly catch up with him.

Our seats for all three games this week were in RF, right behind Ichi…oh..wait.  No.  There, sadly, was no Ichiro.  We were stationed behind Eric Thames instead.  Here was our view as Kevin Millwood delivered the first pitch of the game:

I should mention that, instead of joining us at our seats, Colleen headed back to the Mariners team store at the beginning of the game.  She was in search of some good deals.

Now, unfortunately, things didn’t start too well for Millwood and the Mariners.  Desmond Jennings led off with a single to LF.  BJ Upton followed with a triple, scoring Jennings.  And two batters later, Evan Longoria hit a sac fly to score Upton and make it 2-0 Rays.

So, things didn’t start too great.  And it didn’t looked too good because Matt Moore was on the hill for the Rays.

In the bottom of the first inning, I went to get some pizza and nachos:

Nothing was doing for the Mariners in the bottom of the first.  Luckily, Millwood locked things down after the first inning.

And then the Mariners got one run back in the bottom of the second inning on a back-to-back doubles by Justin Smoak and Miguel Olivo.

After polishing off our own food, Kellan moved on to my mom’s food.  He *crushed* him some sweet potato fries:

Eventually, I realized that Colleen was still shopping!  I couldn’t believe it.  I “discussed” the situation with the Mariners over Twitter:

She finally arrived at our seats in the fourth inning!  That’s a lot of shopping.

In the fourth, Millwood was looking strong:

And I started taking some pictures, like this one:

And this one:

My dad and I noticed that B.J. Upton has some huge feet, or he wears clown shoes:

Here’s another set of cute shots of Colleen and Kellan:

Mid-game, Tim and my mom decided to go on an adventure.  They started out with Tim taking an artistic picture of the RF foul pole…

…and then an usher took a picture of my mom and Tim while she was telling them that section 110 (RF foul pole section) was closed for the game.

Then it was off to the Mariners pig…

…and a big pepsi sign by the play area.

Tim posed on the pick-off wall in the M’s Hall of Fame area:

And then they ran into the Mariners Moose:

They also collected a boat-load of baseball cards from the field level ushers.  As I mentioned, Tim was hooked on baseball card collecting.

When Tim and my mom returned from their adventure, I grabbed some ice cream helmets for the boys and Kellan and I took his ice cream to the bullpen for a change of scenery:

It was still 2-1 Rays.

Millwood was still pitching, but Lucas Luetge was warming in the pen:

Oh, yeah, and when Kellan was sitting on the SRO counter eating ice cream, that same supervisor lady from the beginning of BP came over and leaned in and said, “I know you know, so I’m not even going to say it.”

Oops!

So, we decided to head back our seats.

On our way back to the seats, we stopped and got this panorama of Safeco Field from the Dave Niehaus statue:

Colleen had bought some sweet potato fries on her town, and Kellan really enjoyed sharing them with her:

We had a pitchers’ duel on our hands.  Not much offensive activity to report.  Hey, Trayvon Robinson hit a foul ball:

And we started our own exclusive Cook family wave:

Millwood gave way to Lucas Luetge to start the top of the 8th inning.  Luetge retired the first batter on a fly ball and then turned the ball over to Stephen Pryor:

Pryor retired the next two batters and sent the game into the bottom of the 8th with the score still 2-1 in favor of the Rays.

Colleen, the boys and I take a ton of pictures as a family, but we tend not to get many pictures of all of us as a family.  Over the last several years, some of our best (and most of our) family photos have been taken at Safeco Field.  Late in the game, we added to our catalog of Safeco Field family photos.

Here’s one:

And another:

And as we moved to the bottom of the ninth inning and the white shirts started waving (these shirts were a giveaway at this game)…

…to spur on a Mariners rally, we took a few more family pictures like this one:

Now, it was getting down to game time.  Bottom of the 9th, the M’s were still down by 1.  I felt good.  Even though the Rays had Fernando Rodney and his sub-1.0 ERA and only 1 blown save on the mound, I was confident the M’s could walk off with the win.

You see, this was the fourth time we had seen the Rays this season, and 2 of those 3 games has resulted in walk-off loses for the Rays, including Rodney’s one and only blown save and loss of the season up to this date.

Kyle Seager led off the inning with a single to RF.  We were in business!

Chone Figgins followed with a sacrifice bunt gone awry for the Rays.  First baseman Carlos Pena fielded the ball and threw it past the bag and down the RF line.  Seager advanced to 3B and Figgins to 2B on the error.  We were really in business now!!

Justin Smoak followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Seager to tie up the game and sent Figgins to 3B, ninty feet from the win.  Yes!

The Rays got desperate and creative.  When Miguel Olivo came to the plate with one down, the Rays brought right fielder Ben Zobrist in to play behind 2B as a fifth infielder:

It was a cool strategic move to see from Joe Maddon.  I was hoping we could *beat* the move with a soft liner down the RF or LF line for the win.  But it didn’t happen.  Actually, Miguel Olivo rendered the move moot by striking out.

So we turned to new-Mariner Eric Thames.  And guess what?  Thames hit a soft liner just over the glove of second baseman Sean Rodriguez.

MARINERS WIN!!!

Thames got a big ol’ shaving cream pie to the face:

In fact, he ended up spitting out a bunch of shaving cream.

Great Mariners win!

It was only Kellan’s second Mariners home win, and we were psyched about it:

And the win ensured us that we would not have a *losing* in-person Mariners season.  Hooray!

Now, we were one Mariners win (on Thursday) from hopefully securing a *WINNING*in-person Mariners season.  Double-hooray!!!

We celebrated a bit more with a grandparents-included Cook family photo:

And then we headed to the door with smiles on our faces.  On the way out, I snapped a parting-shot panorama from the concourse behind section 106:

And we watched the seagulls swoop in for some post-game feeding in the stands:

The good times continued on our way down the street toward my folks’ car.  Tim got a Safeco Field fire hydrant photo…

…a silly cop pose (that he did completely on his own) in front of a Seattle Police car, and finally a picture with a big picture of a hawk on the outside of Century Link Field (the *Clink*).

MARINERS WIN!  MARINERS WIN!  MARINERS WIN!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

19/17 Games (Tim/Kellan)
18/17 Teams – Tim – Mariners, Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves; Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves
29 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Mariners 3, Phillies 2, Orioles 5, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3, Red Sox 2, Pirates 3, Nationals 2
1 Ice Cream Glove! – Nationals
103 Baseballs – Mariners 18, Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 4, Phillies 5, Umpires 6, Orioles 13, Athletics 2, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 6, Red Sox 6, Rays 10, Pirates 3, Rockies 2, Braves 1
17 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 9, Dodger Stadium 4, Fenway Park 1
11/10 Stadiums – Tim – Safeco Field, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park; Kellan – Safeco Field, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park8/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Mariners Moose (2), Sluggerrr, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Oriole Bird (2); Kellan – Fredbird
7/2 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Jeremy Guthrie, Evan Scribner, Stephen Pryor, Shawn Kelley, Scott Cursi; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist, Stephen Pryor
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
9 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki, Evan Scribner, Felix Hernandez, Shawn Kelley, Steven Pryor, Josh Kinney

 BONUS PICTURE:  Here is a look at 99 of the baseball cards that Tim and Kellan (mostly Tim) collected at our three games in Seattle:

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