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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other table featured…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big thanks to BIGS seeds!

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

…Mateo and Tim played catch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…as the Phillies warmed up in RF.

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Luis!

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

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

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

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

…whose name just happens to be Ichiro!

Thanks, Rod and (Not-Ichi) Ichiro!

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

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

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

I guess that’s why you use two hands!

Thanks, Zach!

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

That’s a big glove, alright!

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

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

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

Thanks, Jesus!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out my awesome view of the game:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hilarious stuff, guys!

Here’s some more hilarious stuff:

The slow process of awaking up at a ballgame.

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

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

Oh, yous guys!

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

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

And that was all she wrote for the Phillies.

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

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

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

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

2013 C&S Fan Stats

19 Games​

19 Teams – Mariners, Royals, Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers,
Reds, Nationals, Marlins, Pirates, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers, Mets, Brewers, White
Sox, Braves

32 Ice Cream Helmets – Phillies (jumbo) 4, Phillies (normal) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees
2, Orioles 4, Nationals 2, Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2, Tigers 6, Mets 2, Reds 4

91 Baseballs – Mariners 11, Royals 4, Phillies 19, Rays 2, Orioles 7, Dodgers 3,
Umpires 7, Reds 9, Nationals 3, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2, Twins 3, Tigers
1, Mets 3, Yankees 2, Brewers 2, Red Sox 6, White Sox 3

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

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

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

500 Baseballs

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

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

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

Fun game:  how many autographs can you identify?

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

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

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

1-funny-face-contest

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

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

The boys passed the time playing catch with Alex:

2-catch-with-alex

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

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

3-random-employees-in-outfied

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

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

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

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

greatdane

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

When the Red Sox came and out and started stretching…

4-red-sox-warming

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

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

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

Thanks, coach!

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

5-mike-carp-and-us

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

halman-shirt-carp-auto

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

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

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

6-bp-ice-cream

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

7-playful-gomes

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

Thanks, Jonny!

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

8-nava-perfect-random-toss

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

Thanks, Daniel!

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

9-wet-dry-face-papi-carp

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

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

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

Muchas Gracias, Papi!

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

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

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

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

10-adair-still-okay-with-mariners-fans

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

We watched Freddy warm up:

11-great-to-see-freddy

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

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

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

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

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The boys did lots of pitching…

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

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

Good, good, good…Freddy had a lead!

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

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

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Freddy was looking good:

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

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

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

So, yeah, he hit that homerun I requested:

22-carp-delivers-with-homer

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

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

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

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

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He looked so cute and peaceful sleeping on my shoulders…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Neither Alex nor Tim Anderson caught that one either.

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Jeff!

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

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

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

2013 C&S Fan Stats

13 Games
17 Teams – Mariners, Royals,   Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, Marlins,   Pirates, Blue Jays, Twins, Tigers, Mets, Brewers
22 Ice Cream Helmets – Phillies   (jumbo) 2, Phillies (normal) 2, Red Sox 2, Yankees 2, Orioles 2, Nationals 2,   Pirates 2, Blue Jays 2, Tigers 4, Mets 2
55 Baseballs – Mariners 6,   Royals 4, Phillies 11, Rays 2, Orioles 5, Dodgers 1, Umpires 4, Reds 4,   Nationals 1, Marlins 4, Pirates 1, Blue Jays 2, Twins 3, Tigers 1, Mets 3,   Yankees 2, Brewers 2
9 Stadiums – Citizens   Bank Park 2, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, PNC   Park, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park, Citi Field
30 Player+ Photos – Oliver   Perez, Lucas Luetge, Hisashi Iwakuma, Carter Capps, Daniel Nava, Alex Wilson,   Andrew Bailey, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Carp, Koji Uehara, Will Middlebrooks, Joel   Hanrahan, Jonny Gomes, Alfredo Aceves, Clayton Mortensen, Rick Anderson, Tom   Gorzelanny, Joe Savery, Jonathan Pettibone, Carlos Ruiz, Charlie Manuel,   Justin DeFratus, Ryan Howard, Ben Revere, Larry Anderson, Gary “Sarge”   Matthews Sr., Kyle Kendrick, Ryne “HOF 2005” Sandberg, Michael Stutes, Jimmy Rollins
5 Autograph – Hisashi   Iwakuma 2 (English & Japanese), Carter Capps, Ryan Hanigan, Jesus Tiamo

Sneak Peak: Cincinnati

My life is suited to writing a maximum of one game entry blog per week.  When we go on a roadtrip with several games in a row, it creates a big backlog.  I’m currently four games behind, including Red Sox at Orioles, Red Sox at Tigers (with bonus PawSox at Mud Hens content), and Mariners at Reds (two games).

So, start getting excited now because in about a month you’re gonna see some awesome stuff from Cincinnati, like this new two tone ice cream helmet:

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And this beautiful view of the aptly named Great American Ball Park:

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And this guy, Rocco Sinisi, who was a great host to us during BP:

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And this guy, Avi Miller, our guest roadtripper for the weekend:

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It’ll be fun.  So stay tuned.

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

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

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

1-welcome-to-michigan-usa

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

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

2-comerica-parking-lot-pop-flies

…before we set out to see the ballpark.

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

3-scenes-around-comerica-park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7-fun-at-comerica-gates

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Rick!

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

Thanks, unknown bullpen catcher guy!

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

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

As this picture shows…

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

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

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

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Turns out it was a AAA International League baseball…

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

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

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

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

Here are some random view from the ferris wheel:

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

All of us Cook boys had fun on there:

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

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

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

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Today’s Twins battery was Mike Pelfrey…

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…and Ryan Doumit.

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

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

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(I think those are stickers).

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

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

22-sleepy-kellan

…and he was sleeping hard.

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

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

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…and Tim was rudely awakened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oh, well.

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

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

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

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…and I had an extremely tasty Chicago Dog.

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

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

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

I’m throwing this in as a bonus too:

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

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

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We ended the game behind the plate…

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…but did not come away with an umpire ball.

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

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

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

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

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They chatted all the way around the stadium.

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

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

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

Aye, aye, aye…

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

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

After running the bases, we got a group picture…

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…and couple more photos:

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

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

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Timbits!

Tim was in Tim heaven!

And then we drove until around 11pm…

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

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

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

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

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

2013 C&S Fan Stats

10 Games

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

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

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

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

16 Player+ Photos – Oliver Perez, Lucas Luetge, Hisashi Iwakuma, Carter Capps, Daniel Nava, Alex Wilson, Andrew Bailey, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Carp, Koji Uehara, Will Middlebrooks, Joel Hanrahan, Jonny Gomes, Alfredo Aceves, Clayton Mortensen, Rick Anderson

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

New Blue Jays Ice Cream Helmets

We just returned from the Sixth Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip. We attended games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto (5/24/13), Comerica Park in Detroit (5/25-26/13), and Citi Field in New York (5/27/13). It will be a while before I have any of the blog entries up so I thought I’d share a little two photo teaser.

In 2009, we attended our first game ever at Rogers Centre and the ice cream helmets were decent, but nothing to write home about:

In 2013, the Blue Jays re-designed their uniforms with a retro Jays feel. Along with their fancy new duds came some great-looking new ice cream helmets:

Now there’s a helmet you can write home about. Heck, you can bring this helmet home to meet your parents!

Good job, Jays.

 

You can check out our entire MLB ice cream helmet collection at the Cook & Son Baseball Museum.

Tim’s Highlights: Liberty Lightning Game 1 (4/18/13)

Tim has his first coach pitch game of the season today.  His squad is called the Liberty Lightning.  They had a great game and Colleen got a bunch of great shots of Tim playing the field.  So Tim and I made a little video highlight reel tonight before bed.  Here you go:

PS – Tim likes to jump for joy after making a good play (you might have noticed this).

PPS – Go Lightning!

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:

4-LF-phils-royals

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:

5-first-pizza-wedge-of-2013

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…

6-cole-lee-and-some-dude

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

I got two awesome pictures of Kellan just chilling:

7-kellan-relaxing-phils-royals

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

8-bullpen-watering-and-shadowplay

…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…

9-bro-long-toss

…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:

10-come-on-in-kid

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…

11-royals-chilling-in-phila

…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:

12-daddy-and-kellan-phils-royals

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.

13-bad-fire-in-phila

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:

14-scav-pic-with-tang

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:

15-cooks-tang-citz-sec-301

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:

16-upper-deck-pizza-wedge

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:

17-birds-eye-view-games-of-baseball

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:

18-running-game-phils-royals

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:

19-citz-sec112-panorama

Check out Tim’s *pro* SRO form:

20-tim-lounging-SRO

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

21-first-pitch-phils-royals

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

Then we headed to the kids’ play area:

22-kids-playarea-phils-royals

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:

23-schmidter-moved

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:

24-new-big-phils-ich

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:

25-eating-cookie-sundae-ich

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

26-citz-sec433-panorama

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

27-bullpen-top-of-foul-pole

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

28-thats-a-tasty-cookie

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…

29-jackets-on-phils-royals

…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…

30-hot-dogs-in-cf-phils-royals

…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…

31-warming-up-in-team-store-phils-royals

…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:

32-SRO-phils-royals

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:

33-frenchy-chats-up-ump

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:

34-nice-view-of-royals

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…

35-royals-blow-it-phils-walkoff

…, 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:

36-citz-bank-park-bonus-pic

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!

37-heading-home-phils-royals

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:

38-fan-ball-helmet

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):

youngblooding

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:

spike-harold

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…

sherwood

…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!

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