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2012 Cook GFS Game 4 – Orioles vs. Royals (5/16/12)

On Wednesday, May 16, 2012, we woke up for the last time in our St. Louis area Caboose and hit the road for Kansas City.  The drive to KC was pretty easy, just a few hours. Nothing like our 550+ mile trek from Minneapolis to St. Louis.

However, we had put the wrong address in our GPS, which resulted in us driving right by our hotel (literally right by it, it was right off Exhibit 18 on I-70), right by Kauffman Stadium…

…and all the way into one of the least desirable sections of Kansas City.  After figuring out our mistake and backtracking 20 minutes, we found our hotel and just rested in our room for several hours.  But our hotel time, I reconnected by phone with Royals season-ticket holder and myGameBalls.com member Garrett Meyer.  We’d met Garrett last season at Ballhawkfest.  Garrett knew we’d be at this game.  After catching up a bit, Garrett and I discussed gate times and the Royals “early-bird” tour.

After discussing it with my dad, we opted to meet up with Garrett and do the early bird tour, which gets you into the Royals…

…Hall of Fame (where we saw some cool stuff like this…

…) and then it gets you into BP way before the rest of the public.

Besides getting in early, the normal BP people have to stay in the outfield for a while once they are let into the stadium.  Meanwhile, the early bird tour people stay on the infield, behind the dugouts.  We set up shop behind the Orioles’ visitors’ dugout on the 3B line:

It was beautiful.  Our view looked like this:

At the beginning, Garrett was on the Royals side (where the Royals pitchers were warming up).  A bunch of fans wearing Orioles gear were on our side and they all seemed to be either autograph collectors or folks who just wanted some extra time to see the Orioles.  No one seemed to have any interest in getting a baseball tossed to them.  Also, if foul balls are hit into the stands down the foul lines, the usher will let you run down and grab it.  It was a crying shame that ZERO baseballs were hit into the foul seats (which is amazing).

Anyway, while the Royals were taking BP, several infields took grounders at SS and 3B.  The first group of infields included Alcides Escobar…

…and the second group included former-Mariner Yuniesky Betancourt.  Both the tossed stray BP balls to us on their way off the field.

Thanks, Alcides and Yuni!

A few Orioles were hanging around in the bullpen below us.  Since people were asking for autographs, I asked Tim if he wanted to get one of our new baseballs signed.  He did.  Dana Eveland was happy to oblige Tim’s request:

During much of BP, Tim played with ants that were crawling out of a little hole in the cement…

…and Kellan just walked up and down the rows like walking was going out of style.

At some point, Garrett came over to the 3B dugout.  I hadn’t even seen him yet when I noticed an Orioles coach standing by the Orioles BP ball bin start tossing balls out in the crowd.  He must have thrown 6-7 baseballs in a row.

Moments later, Garrett walked over to me and Kellan and said, “That Orioles coach is tossing a Camden Yards Commemorative to anyone who asks for one!

Kellan and I high tailed it down there.  He was no longer throwing baseballs, but was still standing at the ball bin.  I called out to him and when he looked up I was happy to see the face of former-Mariner Jim Presley looking back at me.

I asked for a OPACY commemorative ball, he dug around in the bin until he found one (I saw it too), and then he tossed *a baseball* to us:

(Photo taken after the game started)

I was thrilled!  I shouted out a big:

Thanks, Jim!

And then Garrett whispered to me, “it is not commemorative!”  He could see in my glove as I thanked Presley and saw the MLB logo on the ball he’d thrown.  I was utterly confused because I *saw* Presley grab a commemorative baseball and throw it to me.  Or at least I thought I did.

Garrett and I exchanged puzzled looks.  And then I got bold.  I called out to Jim again and asked (paragraphing), “Hey, Jim.  I don’t mean to be annoying, but is there any way I could trade this baseball for one of the Camden Yards baseballs?”  He looked up at me with a confused look and asked, “That one wasn’t one!?”

Nope.

I tossed it back to him.  He put it back in the bin and he tossed me a pearl of a Camden Yards commemorative baseball.

Thanks again, Jim!

Presley then walked away from the bin.  My dad and Tim had not heard or seen what was going on.  When Garrett, Kellan and I went back down toward the OF end of the dugout, I told my dad that he and Tim should give it a shot if Presley wandered back over to the bucket.

Well, wouldn’t you know, he did…

…and they did, and he hooked them up to!

Sweet!

Quadruple thanks, Jim Presley!

It was our first Camden Yards baseballs and my dad’s first baseball of the trip.  So it was a very special interaction with a first class former Mariner.

Moments after Tim and my dad returned with their Camden Yards baseballs, an Orioles fan was getting an autograph from Brian Roberts at the camera well at the end of the dugout.

Tim and I swooped in and capitalized big time:

In one fell swoop, we accomplished three things: (i) Tim got Roberts to sign his new Camden Yards baseball, (ii) he got his picture with Roberts (first ever picture  with an Oriole!), and (iii) Roberts held the baseball and gave a thumbs-up in the picture so it qualified for five points in the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt!

Thanks, Brian!

Tim was in a thumbs-up mood.  So he got a thumbs-up picture with Garrett too:

While the Orioles pitchers warmed up down the LF line (where we could only go if a foul was hit into the stands), three set of Orioles position players played catch right in front of us at the dugout.  When the final group was finished, Chris Davis tossed us his warm up baseball before walking back into the dugout.

Earlier in BP, my dad and I had a little bit of discussion with former-Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair.  Tim and I have had several nice discussions with Adair at Camden Yards since he joined the Orioles’ coaching staff.

Well, after all of the Orioles pitchers had warmed up down the LF line, I saw Rick down the line chatting with an O’s pitcher and tossing a baseball back-and-forth from hand-to-hand.  He was probably 150 feet down the line.  When he finished chatting with the player, I called out, “Hey, Rick!” and I flashed him some leather.  I was hoping he would make a big long toss throw to me.

Instead, he walked toward us.  He was on his way to the dugout.  It was clear he was going to give us the baseball, but he wasn’t into the long toss idea.  As he got closer, he was into Tim’s catching range, so I pointed to Tim.

Adair made a good toss, but Tim botched the catch.  It fell to his feet and he picked it up.  He’s actually botched the toss from Jim Presley too.  So he wasn’t having a gold glove day so far.  But he got the ball on his own, so it was all good.

Big thanks to Rick Adair!

Eventually, a friendly female usher who was chatting with us behind the dugout told us that the entire stadium was open so we could move around wherever we wanted to go.  My dad went to the team store to buy some baseballs (he buys a team or stadium baseball at each stadium he visits), Garrett went out into the outfield where we saw several Orioles air mail baseballs over his head, and Tim, Kellan and I headed down the LF line, but stayed in foul territory.  We took up a spot on the wall and watched BP:

Orioles pitcher Luis Ayala was running around LF wearing a huge, oversized glove.  From myGameBalls.com and other mlblogs, I know there are several guys around the country who use a “big glove” like this.  So I scanned the crowd, and soon we met Minnesota’s own Big Glove Bob:

I love that picture of Tim and BGB.  Bob has the face of a man stuck in the middle of Tim unfolding a long and overly detailed story.  I believe this particular story was about how Shawn Camp tossed Tim two baseballs the day before in St. Louis.  That was a story with which Tim regaled anyone who would listen while at Kauffman Stadium – notably, Garrett about five times or so.

Kauffman Stadium was great, but the setup of the seats down the LF line was frustrating me while we were down the line.  At some stadiums the seats in the corner are situated diagonally so the end seat in each row butts up against the fence.  In that type of row, I can block Kellan into a defined space.  But  none of the seats down the line at Kauffman Stadium butt up against the fence.  In fact, there is a huge amount of space in front of the seats.  So it was very difficult to keep Kellan near us without chasing him back and forth.

I decided we should go out to LCF so I could block in Kellan at the end of the bottom row next to the batters’ eye.  We ended up going out there for a very brief time, but the sun was right on us and it was too hot.

While we were there, Ronnie Deck and someone named “Flaherty”…

…were shagging fly balls in CF and LCF.

I placed my third or fourth call of the day to my “Orioles guy,” Avi Miller.  The call went like this:

Todd – “Hey, Avi, what is Flaherty’s first name”?

Avi – “Ryan.”

Todd – “Oh…wait, I gotta go.”

I called him back about 30 seconds later.  That call went like this:

Todd – “Ryan Flaherty just tossed us a Camden Yards commemorative.  Thanks for the assist!”

Avi – “Any time, sir.”

If you’re visiting Camden Yards or seeing the Orioles on the road, Avi is a good guy to know.   Well, he’s a good guy to know in general, I guess.

Thanks, Ryan and Avi!

That was it for BP.  Thanks for the early bird tour, we snagged 7 baseballs with almost no effort.  Not too shabby.

As we made our way toward foul territory, we stopped briefly at the bullpen.  One of the Orioles coaches was crossing the warning track grabbing stray balls.  Totally out of view, he tossed one right over me.  I didn’t see it in time to get my glove up and it sailed right into the fountain.

Doh!

While we were out in LCF, me and the boys met up with my dad and Garrett.  After BP, Garrett offered to take us to the only “Kauffman Stadium” sign in the ballpark, which is above the Royals dugout on the 1B side, so we could get a Kauffman Stadium bonus picture for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt.  Because of the Diamond Club, you cannot get from the 3B side to the 1B side on the field level without going up into the concourse.  While we were passing through the concourse, Tim and Garrett posed for a picture with the Royals pig:

There were a bunch of kids in the first row above the dugout and it was far from an ideal situation to get a picture featuring the Kauffman Stadium sign.  This was as good as we could do with Garrett’s assistance:

I took a second picture of Tim from the first row just in case the last picture came out horribly:

Then, we split off from Garrett and the boys, my dad and I headed up to the upper deck to try again from up there:

That one isn’t ideal either, but it was better.  Tim was pretending to be scared his heights while up there.  That’s why he isn’t smiling in the photo.

While up there, I also got this panorama from the front of section 420:

And then we walked the concourse a bit.  All the way down the LF line, we could see a classic spiral ramp and the KC Chiefs stadium next door:

We all headed down to the field level for the beginning of the game.  We got some great tickets on stubhub for way under face value.  This was our excellent view from section 112:

And this was the view of the first pitch of the game:

Fairly quickly after the game started, Tim wanted to go see the kids play area that I’d mentioned was behind the scoreboard in CF.  I didn’t know what all was back there, but I was up for checking it out.  On our way, we met Sluggerrr:

As passed behind the Royals Hall of Fame, we noticed that the crown on top of the scoreboard had little spikes on it.  We figured we ought to take a picture of it:

We also figured we should take some panoramas from the top of section 202 in LF:

And from down at the bottom of section 202, just above the LF fountains:

As we made our way to the play area, we ran into the Kauffmans…

…who were apparently very enthusiastic with their waving.

On the back of the scoreboard, the Royals have a big “KC” logo instead of a “Kauffman Stadium” sign:

There was one big problem with the play area:  it had too much fun stuff.  Literally, it was just too much.  Tim was really excited about it.  But I quickly realized we could end up spending the entire game there.  And I wasn’t too excited to spend our only game at Kauffman Stadium behind the scoreboard where I couldn’t see the game.

Here are two of the things we didn’t do:

On the left, that is a miniature golf course.  See how the ground is all wet in front of the mini-golf?  Well, we didn’t notice as we made the approach.  And then a huge blast of water flew straight up my pants.  I walked over a fountain set into the walkway exactly when it went off.  My shorts were completely drenched.

It was funny, but I could have lived without the comic relief.

Tim was really excited to play, but I had to limit him to the play fort thingy.  Mini-golf just takes too long!

The play area would be great if this wasn’t our first game at Kauffman Stadium.  It would be ideal for the down time between the end of batting practice and the beginning of the game.

The other non-ideal thing was that the play fort was a bit too advanced for Kellan.  So Tim played for a bit while Kellan and I just roamed around.  And I got this panorama from behind the scoreboard:

And soon enough, it was time to head back into the infield and grab some dinner:

We go the nachos and grandpa got the BBQ sandwich.  In retrospect, I wish I would have tried a BBQ sandwich too, but I missed out.

Actually, I basically just missed out on dinner because this was going to be our only game in KC and I needed to run around and see the stadium.  So the boys ate dinner with Grandpa and I took off.

I started by heading the LF corner and I got this panorama from behind section 104 – just on the CF side of the Royals bullpen:

Then I checked out the fountains…

…and the trough behind the CF wall, where a few people have jumped down to grab homerun balls.  I could see several baseballs down there.

I got this panorama from the walkway behind section 101:

Then I walked through the area behind the batters eye and below the scoreboard, and I popped out on the other side in the party porch:

I walked across the party porch and got another panorama from RF:

Behind the Orioles bullpen in RF, there is a bar thingy that I didn’t go inside…

…and I’m not sure if it is open to the public.

There are more fountains and less seating in RF than in LF.  There are also more statues in RF than in LF:

Here is one of my favorite panoramas that I got at Kauffman Stadium, from above/behind the fountains in RF (the thing on the far upper right is the bottom corner of the scoreboard):

I circled around that bar thingy and got this panorama from section 248:

Then I headed up to the 300 level (which I would naturally call the “second” level).  It seemed to be a suite and club type level, but it seemed that they let anyone walk through it.

I had a funny interaction in the suite level concourse.  I ran into a super-drunk Orioles fan who was also walking around the stadium taking pictures.  He saw me walking with my camera and thought it was hilarious.  We chatted a bit, and he had previously also lived in Pennsylvania.  He ended up taking a picture of the two of us.  I gave him a hugely over-exaggerated thumbs-up in the picture.  I imaged that the next day he probably scrolled through his pictures and scratched his head thinking, “Wow – I drank too much.  Who in the world is this guy!?”

Anyway, I got panoramas from section 321:

And another from the stairway between sections 315-316:

I noticed that this would have been the ideal spot to get our picture with the Kauffman Stadium sign:

Maybe next time!

By the way, although I never tried to walk into the Diamond Club, it seemed as if anyone could sit in any seat at Kauffman Stadium without an usher ever asking to see your ticket.

Next, I headed up to the upper deck and got a couple shots before my dad texted that Kellan was asking for me.  First, I got this panorama from section 419:

And this one from section 417:

After twirling my way down the spiral ramp, I noticed that there was a cool “Royals” sign on the exterior of the stadium:

When I got back to the seats, it was reaching twilight.  The scene in the outfield looked pretty cool with a pink water show going on in the RF fountains:

By the way, I should mention the game was 0-0 through four-and-a-half innings.  In the bottom of the fifth, the Royals finally found the plate, twice, on the strength of a Humberto Quintero single to CF.  That made it 2-0 Royals.

Soon, it was time for ice cream.  Tim, Kellan and I went in search of some ice cream helmets.  We finally found them behind 3B.  I was surprised to find that the Royals only offered vanilla soft serve.  I thought that was odd.  And it was outside of Tim’s chocolate wheelhouse.  But the Royals made up for it with a strong showing on the toppings front.  Tim got crushed Oreos and Tim got chocolate chip cookie dough topping.  And the toppings looked and tasted GREAT!

Here’s a pretty sight:

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to share in much more than a single bite.  I used the ice cream time to finish my tour of the stadium.

I started by running up to the .390 Bar & Grille on the second deck.  It was a nice looking restaurant with a big sign “NOW OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.”  Unfortunately, all but one of my pictures in their came out completely blurry. But the one that came out clear was the most important.  Here is clear was the most important.  Here is our view if you choose to dine at the .390 Bar & Grille:

Wait, I got one more good picture from the restaurant:

That’s my dad holding Kellan as he scarfs down some ice cream.  We had the first four seats in the row and Tim is off-camera eating his ice cream in seat number 4.

I left the restaurant and got this panorama from section 401:

I already had a panorama from the front of section 420, so I went for another from the back row:

As I circled behind the first base dugout, a Royal (I think it was Francouer, but I’m not certain) smoked a foul ball right to OUR seats.  I zoomed in to see if I could see if my dad got it…

…, which would have been really hard while holding Kellan.

He didn’t get it.  Actually, if you look right between the ballboy next to the “Firestone” sign and my dad and Kellan, you can see a guy (two rows in front of my dad) in a blue shirt and light colored shorts.  He is leaning forward with his hands over his head.  In his left hand, you can see him holding the foul ball.  That is darn close!

I kept moving and got this shot from the stairs between sections 425 and 427…

…this one from between sections 435 and 437…

…, and this one from the very last seat at the end of section 439:

My tour was essentially complete, but I got a couple more pictures as I made my way back to our seats.  I got this shot from section 230:

And this one admiring the big World Series trophy that is part of a sign for the Royals team store:

By this time, it was official, I was hardly spending any time at all in our seats.  And, frankly, it wasn’t going to spend much more time there.  It was very late in the game by this time.  Like the 7thor 8th inning.

Kellan had been in the seats most of the game and he was ready to move around.  Mere minutes after returning to the seats, Kellan and I headed to the cross-aisle.  We ended up stopping in a huge tunnel behind section 118 (right behind 3B):

Kellan had a great time running around in this cross-aisle.  It was pretty clear that the Royals ushers didn’t care what fans did in this huge open area.  Kellan was sprinting back and forth across the big piece of cross-aisle/tunnel real estate, and all we got were “oh, that’s adorable” looks from the ushers.

After a while, Kellan decided it was time to continue his hanging from railings strength training:

The game was still tight.  In the top of the 8th, the Orioles finally got on the board on an RBI double by Nick Markakis.  That made it 2-1 Royals heading into the bottom of the 8th.

But the Royals got the run back pretty quickly.  After two quick outs, Billy Butler hit a single.  He was then replaced by pinch runner Mitch Maier.  Moments later, Maier motored around the bases and beat the tag…

…on a double by Alex Gordon.

That made it 3-1 going into the top of the ninth.

With three quick outs and the Royals could tuck the win into their back pocket.

We decided to get a closer look.  Garrett had texted and mentioned he was in the fourth row in section 118.  I noticed that the usher were not checking anyone’s tickets.  So as the teams made the offense-defense switch before the top of the ninth, Kellan headed down the stairs and met up with Garrett.

This was our view:

View nice.

Garrett was sitting with fellow myGameBalls.com member Leiming Tang.  Like the seats, Leiming was very nice too.

But you know what wasn’t nice?  The Royals’ decision to bring in Jonathan Broxton to close out the game.  Living in the Phillies’ television market, I know a thing or two about Broxton.  Well, really I only know one thing, I HAVE NEVER SEEN HIM CLOSE A GAME SUCCESSFULLY.  Okay, that might be an exaggeration, there is a chance that I have seen him do it.  But I seriously do not remember that ever happening.

Guess what?  It didn’t happen at this game.

You know, I said bringing in Broxton “wasn’t nice.”  I take that back.  I had wanted to see two games in Kansas City, but the length of the drive to Denver wouldn’t permit it.  And, frankly, I had missed a lot of this game because I was touring around the ballpark.

So I think the Royals were actually doing the nicest thing they could for me.  They extended the game, and almost let me see two games in one.

So, I guess you can tell by now, Broxton blew the save.  He blue it BIG TIME.

He coughed up the first run on a homerun by Wilson Betemit:

That made it 3-2 Royals.

He then gave up singles to Chris Davis, Xavier Avery, and J.J. Hardy.  Hardy’s single was of the RBI variety.

Tie ballgame, 3-3.  Extra innings on their way, and so was a huge dose of hitting futility (or pitching dominance).

In the top of the 10, we were happy to see 5’7” Royals pitcher Tim Collins.  Like Tim Cook, Tim Collins also sports number 55:

He sat the Orioles does in order.

After the 9th ended, Tim and my dad came down and met up with us in section 118.

Tim entertained Garrett with story after story after story.  Every fifth story, it seemed, was about how Shawn Camp tossed Tim two baseballs the day before in St. Louis.

Garrett was great.  He handled Tim’s shower of stories like a champ:

A friend of mine from New Orleans had told me a day or two before this game that a local guy named Johnny Giavutella had just been called up to the Major Leagues by the Royals.  Well, Giavutella pinch hit in the 10th inning:

He came up empty in the 10th inning, but eventually went 1-3 on the night.

We had lots of time to chat and take random photos, like these shots by my dad:

In the 13 inning, Nick Johnson hit a double for the Orioles.  For some reason, the ball was thrown out of play after the hit, and it was eventually tossed into the stands.  Johnson’s double­-ball now resides at my parents’ house!

Sluggerrr came and visited our section to keep the game entertaining (just in case the duel of the relievers wasn’t entertainment enough for some of the fans):

Heading into the 14 inning, Kellan was ready for more baseball!

In the top of the 15th inning, Adam Jones took matters into his own hands:

He hit a solo bomb to LF (way out of there) to break the 3-3 tie.

Kellan continued to clown around with Grandpa during the top of the 15th inning:

And then Tim, Kellan, and I moved into the first row with Leiming during the bottom of the 15th inning:

Actually, Tim had already been down there with Leiming and Garrett – and he had been having a blast hanging with the guys.  They were both awesome and really made Tim feel like one of the guys.

It just so happened that we were directly above the umpire’s tunnel.  Our friend (well, we don’t know him, but he’s been friendly to us in the past) Angel Hernandez was behind the plate.  We were in absolutely ideal post to get an umpire baseball.  Leiming, Tim, Kellan, and I all had our gloves ready when the final out was recorded.  (By the way, Garrett had moved to see if he could get the final out baseball – he was unsuccessful).

As we prepared for the final out, I told Tim he needed to be sure he squeezed that ball tightly if Hernandez tossed him a baseball because it would fall back down into the umpires’ tunnel if he missed it.

After the final out was recorded, Angel Hernandez walked right to us.  We all called out to him.  He then looked at me and Kellan and said, “Let’s let the little guys get one first!” and he flipped a ball to me.  He then flipped a second ball to Tim, and Tim caught it!  Success!

Finally, he tossed a third baseball to Leiming before ducking into the tunnel.

Thanks, Angel!

With these two baseballs, Angel Hernandez has now tossed us a baseball on each of the last three Cook GFS Roadtrips.

A few minutes later, we got a late night photo of four happy Cooks:

What a night!  Tim and I tied the longest game of Tim’s life, and Kellan set his new longest game record as well.

As we drove back to the hotel, I looked back, snapped this photo…

…and wished The K a good night.  It was a great one.

The next day would be a travel day.  A long one, we would be driving all the way to Denver.

2012 C&S Fan Stats

8/7 Games (Tim/Kellan)
12/11 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals
11 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2
42 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 5, Orioles 6, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 2
6 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 3
7/6 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium1/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Sluggerrr; Kellan – Fredbird
3/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Brian Roberts; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
4 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts

2012 Cook GFS Roadtrip – MLB.com Cut4 Blurb

We are now home from the 2012 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip.  It was truly amazing.  We had an outstanding time visiting Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium and Coors Field.  It is going to take a long time for me to write up all the amazing games we attended.

In the meantime, I thought I would share something short that is related to the GFS Roadtrip.  On the final day of the trip, a reporter from MLB.com’s Cut4 team interviewed me on a little video camera for about 5 minutes about our roadtrip.  I’m not sure if that actual video will ever surface or not — I am told it takes Cut4 a while to process videos — but the very next day, the following showed up on the main page at MLB.com:

Clicking that link would take you to the following page:

You can click that picture to make it bigger or you can read the article on mlb.com by clicking here.

Hopefully someday soon (or ever) our video will show up on there as well.  But even if it never does, it is pretty cool to get a little bit of e-ink on mlb.com.

Okay.  That is it for now.  Next up, Game 2 of the 2012 Cook GFS Roadtrip.

A First-Rate Backup Plan (5/5/2012)

After our April 28th game at Camden Yards, our next game was supposed to be the first of the Fifth Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip on May 12th.  The weekend of Cinco de Mayo, we were supposed to head south to Colleen’s sister’s house for our nephew’s first communion.  The plan was for me to leave work early on Friday, May 4 so we could drive south.  But plans changed.  I had to work later than expected.  As it stood, we would have arrived at our destination late.  So Colleen decided to go to her sister’s house alone while I stayed home and tended to the boys.

So…hmm…home all weekend with my boys…hmm…what should we do?

Actually, it took me less time to figure out the plan than it took you to read that last sentence:  we would go see the Mets and Diamondbacks at Citi Field!

I bought some tickets on Stub Hub and we headed out for Queens, NY at around 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 5, 2012.  On our drive, our plans changed again.  Instead of our usual practice of parking on the upper east side and then riding the subway to the park, while Kellan mostly slept and Tim played *fun with meat* with a  beef stick…

…we ended up driving all the way to Citi Field.  It cost…I think…$16.50 to drive across those two bridges on our way, but the freeway dropped us off right behind the scoreboard in CF of Citi Field.

After driving around the stadium the wrong way and then circling back, we parked in the general parking lot and BOOM…

…we had made it to Citi Field!

FYI, I do not normal dress Kellan in the morning.  So I did not realize at the time that I had put him in a teeny-tiny Ichiro shirt.  But, hey, it made him look like a big muscly stud.

We had about 45 minutes until the gates open for non-season ticket holders.  Our plan was to take a ride on the 7-train for kicks.  But we ended up having a lot of fun at the stadium and never hopped the train.

We started out with some pictures at the Shea Stadium homerun apple:

Tim has been working on catching pop flies lately so it was cool to get a picture of him catching one in front of the Big Apple.  It was fun, but not everyone appreciated our good time.  You can’t tell from that last picture, but the flower beds in which the homerun apple sits is elevated a couple feet off of the ground.  The path that runs across the front of the apple runs to the edge of the elevated flower beds so people can hop up and get a picture.  At the end of the path running to the left (on the “Home” side of the apple), a very large and odd lady was sitting on the edge of the flower beds.  She was apparently upset that Kellan wandered into the flowers (I got him out of them within about five seconds) and that Tim was playing with a (dangerous) ball *near* other people.  She didn’t really confront me, but she started muttering loudly so I could hear her displeasure.  I didn’t think we were doing anything wrong, but I took her hint, and we left.

There were hardly any cars in the parking lot right in front of the Jackie Robinson rotunda so I decided we should go play catch in the parking lot.  But on our walk over there, I noticed something awesome:  a nice strip of grass along the edge of the parking lot.

So we took our gloves and baseballs over there…

…and had a heap of fun playing around.

Kellan mainly just ran around jumping and laughing.  Tim and I played catch.  And for extra kicks, we played catch for a while over a forked tree:

Tim and I were hooping and hollering when Tim finally caught a pop fly through the tree, which was really difficult because the ball would get lost in the branches as it went through the tree.  It was a lot of fun.  But then the unthinkable happened!

Tim tossed the ball over the tree to me…

…and it never came down!

Tim somehow threw the ball just perfectly that it landed in the little nook in the tree and stayed there.  I pulled another ball (not a real baseball) out of my backpack and tried to knock the first ball out of the tree.  I hit the first ball several times, but it never fell down.  And, eventually, neither did the second ball!

We lost TWO BASEBALLS in that tree!

Tim was not happyIt caused him a lot of pain walking away from that tree without being able to bring his baseballs.  Those were baseballs we play with a lot in the backyard.  So it is sad to have lost them.

As we walked away from the tree, I said to Tim, “Hey, you should think of this as a good thing.  I mean, how many people can say their baseball is stuck in the tree outside Citi Field?”  “Probably about a thousand,” was Tim’s response.  But I think he overshot it just a bit.  I’m pretty sure our baseballs are the only baseballs stuck in that tree!

With no baseballs left, we decided to hop in line for the last 15 minutes before the gates opened:

Tim and Kellan played around that tree a bunch, and then Kellan ran up to the front of the line so I followed him while Tim held our place in line.  Kellan and I ended up having 5-6 races down the strip of concrete strip, much to the delight of the people in the line.  Several fans ahead of us in line gave Kellan compliments on his Ichiro t-shirt.

Once inside the stadium, we had to stop and get a picture with this pig before heading off to BP:

While putting this blog entry together, Tim had me make his shirt into a Mets t-shirt.

We decided to switch things up at this game.  Every time we’ve been to Citi Field in the past, we’ve headed to LF for BP.  But the Mets are using 50th Anniversary commemorative baseballs this season and they warm up down the RF line.  So that’s where we headed.  Tim had bounced back from the balls-lost-in-the-tree fiasco and was excited for a fun day at the ballpark:

When we reached the field, the Mets pitchers were finished throwing and a bunch of them were running from the foul line to CF and then…

…walking back to the foul line.  That is Bobby Parnell on the far right end.  He kept smiling and waving at Tim and Kellan each time the pitchers returned to the foul line.  He seemed like a really nice and friendly dude.

Once the pitchers finished running, they all dispersed but one stayed right in the RF corner.  It was our buddy from several weeks prior, Tim Byrdak.

The first time someone hit a ball down the RF line to Byrdak, I called out, “Hey, Tim!”

Byrdak turned and tossed Tim a big underhand lob:

That ball actually fell a tiny bit short, tipped off the very end of Tim’s glove and rolled back toward Byrdak.  He tossed it again from about half way out on the green tarp and Tim caught it.  Just then, another ball was hit down the line to Byrdak.

Kellan was standing on the ground next to me and Tim.  Byrdak looked at Kellan and asked, “Do you want one too?”  Then he turned back to Tim and said he would have to catch Kellan’s ball too.

As all of this happened, Byrdak kept getting closer and closer and we were chatting a little bit.  You know, a funny thing happened a couple weeks back after our first game of the season when Byrdak tossed a ball to Tim.  I wrote it up on our blog and, the very next day, I got an email from Tim Byrdak’s agent (Mike Mosa who represents “Only Baseball Players”) mentioning that he read the blog and thought it was great.  He offered to send us some autographed Tim Byrdak cards, and they arrived in the mail about a week later.  I told Byrdak how all of this had happened.  He thought that was pretty cool.

I asked Byrdak if he would sign a ball for Tim.  Tim made sure it was the ball Byrdak had tossed up for him, not the ball for Kellan.  In retrospect, I should have asked him to sign both balls because he ended up giving Tim just about the coolest autograph of all time:

Once he was finished signing the ball, he tossed it back up to Tim and then he tossed the pen, which bounced out of Tim’s glove.  Afterwards, Tim gushed about how he “caught three baseballs and almost caught a pen” from Tim Byrdak.  It was pretty funny.

Super, huge, ridiculous thank yous to Tim Byrdak!

The day was off to a fabulous start.  And it was just gonna keep being awesome.

We hadn’t planned to try to see Byrdak at this game, we just got extremely lucky.   But we did have one major plan.  The Mets were going to be playing the Arizona Diamondbacks and beloved former-Mariner Willie “Ballgame” Bloomquist.  Tim has loved Willie for  awhile now, although he didn’t realize until recently that he is no longer a Mariner, and hasn’t been for a long time.

Anyway, my dad gave Tim a Willie Bloomquist card last year that he has always had in a single card holder.  Tim decided he wanted to try to get Bloomquist to sign the card at this game.  If it worked, it would be the first time Tim had ever gotten a card signed by a player.

After parting ways with Tim Byrdak, we walked around CF and all the way over toward the 3B dugout, or as close as we could get to it without our tickets.  A bunch of Diamondbacks were out playing catch, but Bloomquist was nowhere in sight.

We were stationed in the second row right behind a handicapped seating area that was not accessible to fans unless you had tickets in that area.  The handicapped seating area was right on the field level.  Right in front of us on the other side of the handicapped seating area, Lyle Overbay and John McDonald were playing three-way catch with Paul Goldschmidt.  When finished, Goldschmidt walked over to Overbay.  McDonald had already walked off.  And when Overbay left, Goldschmidt…

…tossed us their warm up baseball and then headed toward the dugout.

Thanks, Paul!

Very soon after this, we spotted Willie Bloomquist in the 3B dugout.  I was intentionally wearing my Bloomquist Mariners t-shirt.  I called out a loud and low “WWWWWWIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLIE!”  When Bloomquist looked our way, I turned around and gave him a double-thumb “check out my shirt” point toward the back of my shirt.  He signaled his approval with a big fist pump.

A few minutes later, Bloomquist walked out toward 3B to warm up.   I called out to him again.  When he looked over, I asked him if he would sign Tim’s card after he finished his warm ups.  He immediately turned and proceeded to walk directly toward us.

As he approached, the usher in charge of keeping the riff-raff out of the handicapped seating area turned to me and asked, “Is this Willie coming over to see you?”  When I responded in the affirmative, she said, “Okay, you guys can all come down here” and she unchained the special area for me, Tim and Kellan.

On his way over, Willie stopped and picked up a baseball.  He then signed the baseball and Tim’s card for Tim.  We chatted a little.  He asked if we were from Seattle and I explained I had lived there for 20+ years and we’re huge Mariners fans.  He asked where I lived in the Seattle area.  I complimented him on his number switch from “16” as a Mariner to “18” as a Diamondback.  I wear “18” myself in softball and did in my former life as a baseball player.  He confessed, “I never liked 16!”

And then we all posed for a picture taken by the usher:

Check out how Willie is actually in the seating area with us, not out of on the field.

It was all incredibly awesome!

Then, after chatting with us, signing for us, giving Tim a baseball, and posing for a picture, Willie headed back out to warm up in LF.  As he left, a thunderous chorus of “WILLIE! WILLIE! WILLIE!” rained down from about 20 people who had gathered around to watch us chat with Willie.  But Willie was gone.  He came to see us and only us.  How cool is that!?

Thank you, Willie Ballgame!

Now Tim likes Willie even more than before!  And he was officially rooting for the D-backs to win this game.

Immediately after Willie left, we all headed up to the concourse.  I was so excited that I left my back pack down in the second row and we had a comeback for it several minutes later when we finally realized it was missing.

Next, it was time to sit down and check out one of Tim’s new prizes:  the Tom Seaver bobblehead that they gave to the first 20 or 30 thousand fans.  Tim loves bobbleheads and he was very excited about this one:

Tim decided we should sit in the last row of section 136 (although, it might have been 137).  This was our view:

Kellan drank some water and ate some snacks, and then spit some snacks into our water (foul!), while Tim surveyed his bobblehead.

After Tim had his fill of looking at his bobblehead and they both had their fill (for the time being) of snacks, the three of us headed down to the first row above the new LF party deck so I could check it out.  This is what it looks like:

I assume we’ll never set foot down there.

We hung out there for a while and watched BP.  Brad Ziegler was right in front of us:

At one point, Kellan and Ziegler looked eyes and Kellan gave him a big “Hi, Mister Baseball Player” wave.  Ziegler cracked a big smile and waved back at Kellan enthusiastically.  When that happened, I was 95% certain that the next ball Ziegler fielded would end up in Kellan’s hands…and it did.  Someone hit a ball to his right.  Ziegler went over and fielded it, and then walked towards us and tossed it to me.  Kellan grabbed it and held it tight like it was his new favorite toy.  And Tim and I yelled out a big,

Thank you!” to Mr. Ziegler.

And then, like Kaiser Soze, *poof* we disappeared.

We were off to the very steep and awkward RF bleachers.  This was our view:

We hung out there for a while and watched former Reading Phillies pitcher and former heckler at one of my beer league softball games, Mike Zagursky, shag balls with a couple teammates.

While in RF, we checked out the new fence lines at Citi Field.  Here is the crazy new set up in RCF:

Weird!

When BP wrapped up, we headed out to the kids play area in CF.  They have some batting cages, a whiffle ball field, and some video game stations.  Tim switched things up from past games at Citi Field, instead of heading to the whiffle ball field, he tried out the video game station.  It was one of those new baseball games they’re always advertising…maybe the one with the Justin Verlander commercials.  Kellan tried to get into the action with Tim.  But Kellan also did some running around in circles, which eventually resulted in him falling face first on the pavement.  And that sent us to the first aid station for a skinned-knee clean up and bandage:

After the first aid room, we headed to the upper-deck, grabbed some food and headed to our seats in section 420:

We had a great view of the action while the boys chowed down on dogs and fries:

The Diamondbacks (with Tim cheering them on loudly) sent Patrick Corbin to the mound…

…and he sat the Mets (including David Wright) down in order in the first.

The Mets sent their ace, Johan Santana, to the mound:

And while he would eventually earn the win, he lost the battle against Ryan Roberts in the top of the second inning:

That made the score 1-0 Diamondbacks.  Tim was happy!

We were having a nice time watching the game and eating out tasty food.  After he finished eating, Tim decided he was jealous of his little brother for getting to sit on dad’s lap.  So he jump on my right leg.  I had to get a picture as I played the role of easy chair for both boys at once:

Hey, you can’t beat a day at the ballpark with two son’s snuggling up on you lap.

Over Easter weekend, Tim and I, my brother-in-law Kevin and nephew Gill watched the movie “The Big Year.”  If you haven’t seen it, go check out The Big Year.  It’s a very nice (and extremely positive) tale of a group of bird watchers who are in a contest to see who can spot the most birds during the calendar year.

We’ve always been into watching birds in our back yard, but we were never “birders” until we watched The Big Year.  Now, we are officially sub-amateur birders.  Every once in a while Tim spots a bird and tells me, “remember, we’re birders!” and instructs me to take a picture.  So, that’s a long backstory for very little payoff – in the second or third inning, Tim spotted…

…a pigeon!  This little guy was watching the game from the top of the stadium behind home plate.

After watching The Big Year, my father-in-law and brother-in-law told me we should do a “Big Year” in MLB ballparks.  Okay, here we go. We’re now at 1 species!

Around the third inning, we decided to go for a walk.  We ended up walking down toward the LF foul corner, and then we decided to walk down the switch-back walk way, all the way down to ground level.

As we started on our way down, I took this shot of the parking lot:

It was our first time parking here, so I figured I should capture it.  We were parking in the single row of cars between the two red arrows (in fact, I can see our car!).  As the big “X” shows, Shea Stadium used to sit right out there.  The Mets practically built Citi Field right on top of Shea Stadium.

I still very much prefer Shea over Citi Field.

Tim loves switch-back ramps!  After getting his picture with the Citi Field sign on the outside of the stadium…

…Tim ran and bounced down the ramp like an out of control airplane.

We stopped off on the second level…I think it has some silly name like Excelsior Level…and stopped into the Acela Club.  I bought our tickets on stub hub for two reasons: (1) they were the cheapest tickets I found online and (2) they said they came with access to the Acela Club, the Ceasar Club and the Promenade Club.  Unfortunately, if the tickets normal do have that type of access, any tickets that are run through stub hub come out lacking the special designations that normally allow you access to these clubs.  Anyway, we stopped in and I showed our tickets to the lady and asked if we had access.  She said our tickets didn’t say we had access, but she said they never turn people down who want to come in and see the Acela Club.  So we strolled through.

Here is the bar area:

My pictures of the dining area on the same level as the bar turned out all blurry.  But here is the view of the field looking down over several levels of dining tables:

This is a sit down restaurant.  Looks pretty cool, but not of interest to us, excepts as a new spot to walk through and check out what it looks like.

We continued on our way down the switch-back ramp.  I love spots like this where you get a little glimpse of the field:

You know what happens when Tim does something (anything)?  Kellan wants to do it too.  As we continued on our walk down, down, down, Kellan tried to do his own running airplane:

At the bottom of the ramp (we went ALL THE WAY down, below field level), we rode an elevator back up to the field level.  And then we walked over to the SRO area behind the seats and got a glimpse of the action:

It was still 1-0 Diamondbacks as the Mets batted.

We decided to head back out to the play area.  On the way, I got a shot of the new party deck from the opposite angle of our earlier picture:

Those big circles behind the party deck used to be on the old outfield wall.  The Mets apparently need all the help they can get to hit homeruns.

Despite the bloody knee, Kellan was not discouraged.  He ran around like crazy, with no spills this time…

…and Tim played more video game baseball.  In that picture, he is celebrating a homerun.

After leaving the video game area, we grabbed some ice cream helmets (check out the Mets awesome commemorative ice cream hemlets!), and headed to the picnic tables behind the bullpens.

This bullpen picnic area provides a terrible view of the game.  But it cool to check out from time-to-time because you can watch the relievers warm up…

…and from time to time someone will toss you a baseball.

And guess what?  This was one of those times.  Kellan was chattin’ up two bullpen attendant guys and they loved him.  I had no clue it was happening, but one of them headed into the Mets bullpen and came back with something special for Kellan:

Yowzers!  That’s one beautiful baseball.  I’m not sure how our day could be any better – playing catch outside the stadium, Byrdak, Bloomquist, fun times goofing around the stadium, and now a Mets 50th Anniversary commemorative baseball!  This was officially my favorite of the handful of games we have attended at Citi Field.

I should mention that the Mets scored four runs while we were hanging out behind the bullpen.  It was the bottom of the fourth inning.  Mike Nickeas hit a 2-RBI single off of Corbin.  And then Josh Collmenter, who we watched warm up in the bullpen, came in and gave up a 2-RBI single to Andres Torres.

That made the score 4-1 Mets.

The Diamondbacks would get two back on a 2-RBI double by Paul Goldschmidt in the top of the fifth.  That made it 4-3 Mets.  Unfortunately for Tim and the Dbacks, that was all the scoring for the day.  Johan Santana earned the win for the Mets.

Next, we headed to the Mets Hall of Fame.  We’d been there before (well, Kellan hadn’t).  But they had something in there that was pretty cool, and I’m pretty sure it was new — a display of 50 years of Mets team programs:

We actually went to the Mets Hall of Fame because I wanted to get a picture of the boys with the Jackie Robinson “42.”  Of course, Tim didn’t feel like do a normal pose.  So he flopped all around the 42 and Kellan tried his best to emulate his big brother.  This was my favorite of the handful of pictures I got:

Lounging with 42!

My boys are goofy.

Anyway, we decided to head up to the Pepsi Porch.

In the top of the seventh, Santana got Justin Upton (who we were hoping would hit a big fly) to ground out weakly:

We just hung out in a handicapped seating area behind the seats.  The boys alternated between watching the action…

…and just dancing around like the silly boys they are.

It was getting late in the game, and I had designs on trying to a post-game Citi Field umpires ball, which is very difficult because they check tickets at all times, even with 2-outs and 2 strikes on the last batter in the bottom of the ninth.

On our way to the umpires tunnel area, we walked around the upper deck and go this silly picture behind section 420 (where we sat for all of 2-3 innings):

We watched the last inning and a half from the SRO area behind the section above the umpires’ tunnel.  It was a one run game and it got interest in the top of the ninth.  When Lyle Overbay reached first with one out, the Diamondbacks brought in Willie Bloomquist to pinch run…

…and he quickly swiped second.

Way to go, Willie!

But that was all see wrote.  The Dbacks couldn’t tie it up and they lost 4-3.

The second the game ended, we high tailed it down the stairs against the current of people flooding the exits.  But we managed to get through and reach the umpires’ tunnel before Jerry Layne entered the tunnel.  Layne ended up giving out three baseballs directly into little kids’ gloves, and then he just randomly tossed 3-4 more.  And luckily, we snagged one of them.

Although it was unintentional, thanks, Jerry!

Then we headed over to the dugout, and Diamondbacks bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock tossed us a baseball on his way in from the bullpen.

Thanks, Glenn!

After the game, we got a picture by the end of the visitors’ dugout:

This game was official getting ridiculous!  We had 8 baseballs including two commemoratives, plus interactions and autographs with Byrdak and Bloomquist.  It was crazy.

And it wasn’t quite done yet.

On our way out of the seat area, we walked behind the dugout and this guy…

…gave Kellan another baseball!

Thanks, guy!

Aye, aye, aye…this was our second biggest baseball total ever (tying Tim’s fourth MLB anniversary last September):

It was nice having the car right outside the stadium.  But I think this will be our last time driving to Citi Field.  It is more fun to ride the 7-train out from Manhattan.  Plus, it took forever to get out of the city on the roads from Queens.  The game ended around 7:30 and we got home around 11:20.

But a long and slow drive can’t change our mood:  this was a great day.  Tons of fun!

Hooray for baseball!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

4/3 Games (Tim/Kellan)
7/4 Teams – Tim –   Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks; Kellan   – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks
4 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1,   Orioles 1, Mets 2
23 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets   8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 3, Orioles 1, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4
3 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2
4/3 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens   Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field; Kellan – Nationals Park,   Camden Yards, Citi Field
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky   Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
3 Autographs – Willie   Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak

 

Tim’s Opening Day With Liberty Youth Baseball (4/14-15/2012)

It’s time for a different type of game entry:  Tim’s first organized baseball (t-ball) action!

This year, Tim is participating in the t-ball program of the brand spanking new, Liberty Youth Baseball (LYB) Little League.  Last weekend, Liberty celebrated its Opening Day on Saturday and Tim had his first “game” action on Sunday.  It was an absolute blast!  Let’s take a look.

It all started at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday with a photo session for the t-ball league.  Liberty has approximately 350 kids in its first season.  The older kids make up 30+ teams, but the sixty 5-6 year old t-ballers are all just one big group.  They’re learning baseball as a group and will split into make-shift “pick up” teams on game days.  It seems like a good plan so far.  But it made it interesting for the “team photo” — it was the whole t-ball league.  They started by lining up in height order:

Looking back at the photos, it looks like Tim was the 8th tallest kid.  That’s him above sporting “55″ on his back.

Here is the group:

If you click on that picture and find Tim (4th row, 4th from the left), you’ll notice he is making a hilarious face.  That boy is too funny.

If one thing can be said about Tim’s personality (well, many things can actually be said about it), it is that Tim is not a follower.  Every t-baller (and I imagine every kid in the league) did this standard pose for their individual pictures:

But Tim wasn’t satisfied.  He also wanted a “glove” picture.  So, as far as I can tell, he was the only kid to get a second picture in his own unique pose:

So look for that basebal card when you’re opening your packs of Topps cards this season.

After pictures, there were games and general clowning around for a while:

And then we all lined up in the parking lot for a little Opening Day Parade.  Tim was excited:

We marched through the local streets (can you spot Tim?)…

…around a couple blocks, and then back into the field area through center field:

The Reading Phillies mascot, Screwball, was present and was slapping a whole lotta “fives” in the outfield.  Of course, Tim went in for a hug instead of a high five:

The t-ballers were last in line during the parade and when we marched into the infield the rest of the teams were already lined up in dramatic, semi-circular fashion.  We joined the group — can you spot us (hint: I am visible, but Tim is not in the following picture)?

They had a nice ceremony on the field, including the presentation of our official Liberty Youth Baseball banner:

Tim has seen a lot of Major League pregames — 116 to be exact as of the time of this Opening Day Ceremony — so he knows what to do during the national anthem and other moments of silence:

After the ceremony, Tim pitched a little “bullpen” to me (with a big rubber bouncy ball that he won at one of the Opening Day carnival games)…

…and Kellan worked on  his footwork on the pitching rubber.

Tim’s good buddy, Austin, is also in the t-ball league and they showed off their new digits:

I was proud of Tim for blazing his own trail.  I was 99% certain he would pick number 51 for his jersey because Ichiro is his favorite player.  But he wanted to do his own thing (maybe he was realizing “51″ will be retired by the time he reaches the Mariners!).  Five is Tim’s favorite number.  He’s always asking to sit in seat number “5″ at games.  He also likes Tim Lincecum…although, all he knows about Lincecum is (1) his name is Tim, (2) he is from Seattle, and (3) we saw him during BP on his birthday in SF.  Anyway, Tim is number 55 and I picked up my own “55″ Liberty t-shirt jersey to show my support for my new favorite baseball player.

Tim and I took off after the Opening Ceremony and headed to the Mets at Phillies game (note that we both wore our Liberty shirts at various times during that game).  Two more Liberty notes regarding that Phillies/Mets game:  (1) we saw another Liberty baseball player at the LF gate before BP and (2) Phillies starting pitcher Vance Worley sponsors one  of the teams in the Liberty league.

Anyway, we were right back at it the next day.  Sundays are game days and this was Tim’s first.

The kids all stretched and did some drills (disguised as a game of “simon says”) and then we broke into 6 teams.  First, each team practiced some hitting and fielding.  Each kid cycled through the tee while the rest of his team practiced doing the “alligator chomp” to catch the resulting grounders.  A bunch of us dad’s help out with coaching duties.  I was pulling double duty, coaching (keep in that atheletic position kids!  alligator chomp!) and Tim’s personal baseball documentarian.  Tim was the second to last hitter on his team.  On his first swing…

…he blasted a line drive over the other 7 kids and into the bushes down the RF line.  He then blasted a bunch of grounders that all found holes in the “defense.”  I caught most of them behind the line of fielders, and a couple of them resulted in a big chase:

After the final batter took his hacks, we faced off against another team for two extended innings in Tim’s first “game.”  The rules were drastically modified.  This was all about getting the kids playing the game and figuring out what they’re supposed to be doing.  The rules:  all nine batters hit each inning.  If you got a runner out at first (or another base), who cares.  They just stayed on base so they could get some experience running bases.  Everyone just took one base per at bat, except the last batter each inning who just got to run until the cows came home…or until they got the ball to homeplate to stop him from scoring.

Guess who was the first last batter?  You guessed it:  Tim.

His number worked to his advantage because we had them bat in numerical order and his “55″ ranked him as the highest number:

So, the cards were stacked in his favor…the plan was to just keep running, but Tim hit a *legit* t-ball grand slam — his hard grounder zipped past all of the fielders and into deep RCF.  I took a video of his at bat.  Here are some screen shots….

….BOOM!

…and the follow through:

Tim has practiced running a homerun about 80,000 times in our backyard.  I had to yell, “Don’t pass him!  Don’t pass him!” as Tim motored toward home on the heals of his teammate:

In true Tim fashion, with the ball just being relayed to second base, Tim slid into home, touching the plate about a quarter of a second after his teammate.

I don’t know much about t-ball.  I certainly didn’t realize where all the balls would be hit.  But it ended up that Tim picked the prime positions.  In the bottom of the first inning, he played pitcher and fielded probably 4-5 of the 9 batted balls:

I must admit, it was incredibly exciting when Tim and the first basemen combined to successfully throw at least one runner out at first — a lot has to go right for that to happen in your first inning of organized t-ball!

In his second at bat, Tim put a nice swing on the ball…

…and made it safely to first.

Tim steadfastly denies this (although he has no alternate explanation), but it sure looks like he was calling himself “save” a step before hitting first base…

…with the right fielders still en route to retrieve the baseball.  Just for kicks, Tim kept sliding into every base, completely unnecessarily:

By the way, Kellan was “coaching” with me in the outfield during the second inning…

…and at just shy of 2-years-old, he was roughly the same height as one of Tim’s teammates.  Kellan’s a big boy!

In the second inning, Tim played second base and, again, ended up fielding 4-5 of the other teams’ 9 batted balls:

In our back yard, Tim has always loves hitting, hitting and more hitting.  He hardly wants to play catch.  But, man oh man, was he having a great time playing defense at his game – which I really loved to see.  Between plays when he would catch (or smother and pick up) a grounder, he would do an exaggerated celebratory dance.

As the second baseman, Tim actually showed good baseball instincts.  We were telling everyone to simply throw the ball to first, but he kept wanting to throw to second base (which is hard because the short stop didn’t realize what was going on and was never covering the bag — and no one except Tim was expecting him to do so.

The defensive highlight of the day was a bouncing ball hit toward second base.  Tim ran to his right and cut off the ball.  It bounced almost head level and Tim snared it out of the air, and ran down the runner heading to second base.  Actually, the two of them ran right by the base…

…and Tim tagged him coming and going.  It was a pretty cool play to watch.

After the game, Tim asked, “Who won?”  He wasn’t very satisfied with the answer that we didn’t keep score.  But, as they say, it was the “having fun” part that counted, and Tim definitely had a lot of fun, and so did I.

And that is the story of Tim’s first Opening Day and t-ball game.

Bonus picture:

That is a Ken Griffey, Jr. whiffle bat that looks just like Griff’s real bat.  If you were to visit our house, chances are that Kellan would unintentionally swing that sucker into your shins.  That boy swings bats and walks around with his glove on his hand constantly.  Yep, he’s my boy too.

First Baseball Action Of 2012

Since we live about 75 miles from the closest MLB stadium, every game we go to is sort of like a mini-roadtrip.  We like roadtrips!

With our first game still a couple weeks away, Tim and I took our first mini-roadtrip of the season this weekend.  We had tickets to the Phillies’ April 4th “On-Deck Series” game.  It is a pre-season exhibition game played at Citizens Bank Park.  We attended an On Deck Series game once before — in 2008 (at the end of that entry).  But this year it is on a Tuesday night and we can’t make it.  On stubhub, the tickets were selling for next to nothing.  So it was either exchange the tickets or waste them.  I called the Phillies and they said I could exchange the tickets for a later date, but there were two catches (1) it had to be done in person at Citizens Bank Park and (2) it had to happen at least 48 hours before the game (which meant we had to do it on Saturday).  I asked my wife if there were anything kid-friendly family events we could do on Saturday in Philadelphia, but she didn’t know of anything.

So Tim and I decided to make an afternoon of it.  No big plans.  Just drive to Philadelphia and exchange the tickets.  But we found ways to have some fun along the way and the 5+hour trip ended up being a great time.

I lived in Center City Philadelphia for three years while I was in school.  Instead of driving to Citizens Bank Park, we decided to drive to my old stomping ground.  We parked next to one of my old pizza places, Lazaro’s Pizza on South Street by the Graduate Hospital, and got some lunch:

You gotta love Lazaro’s!  We hit the pavement with our pizza in a box.  We headed down South Street toward Board.

If you’ve never been to Philadelphia, you might not know that it is the number one spot in the country (who knows, maybe the world) for murals.  They have thousands of really amazing murals all around town.  Instead of old broken down buildings covered in graffiti, they have cover their broken down buildings with amazing pieces of art.  Here is one building I used to walk by every day on my way to the subway — the Royal Theatre:

We passed the Royal and walked a couple more blocks to Broad Street where we hopped on the Broad Street subway line:

Tim loves trains and subways.  Broad Street runs north-south throught he middle of Center City.  I used to ride the Broad Street line north every day to my alma matre Temple University…

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…and at the very last stop to the South, which is now called AT&T Station and was formerly the just called the Pattison Avenue stop, is all of Philadelphia’s major sports facilities: Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field, and the Wells Fargo Center (formerly the CoreStates Center, First Union Center, and Wachovia Center).

Tim loved the ride down.  He sat in the very front seat and chowed down on his big and thin Lazaro’s pizza:

It is hard to tell from the pictures, but his seat had a window that looks out the front of the train:

Yep, he loved it.

When we exited the subway and walked up the stairs, we found ourselves just down the street from Citizens Bank Park:

There were lots of cars around because the Flyers were playing an afternoon game — at least that is what it seemed like.  We walked through the Phillies main parking lot and stopped to get Tim’s picture with Connie Mack:

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That statue has a bunch of information on it about the Philadelphia A’s.

Then Tim played catcher for Mike Schmidt:

And while I exchanged our “On Deck Series” tickets for some regular season tickets against the Rockies — hopefully, Jamie Moyer will pitch and get the win! — Tim inspected the Robin Roberts statue:

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We decided to walk all the way around the stadium.  In CF, we could see that Richie Ashburn was in mid-season form and looks excited to run right into the regular season:

Tim loves fire hydrants (for some reason), so he was excited to get a picture with this Citizens Bank Park fire hydrant:

In LF, the Phillies opening day line-up cards were telling a confusing story.  I’m not sure if this is the remnants of the last game from 2011 or a partial listing of opening day 2012…

…, but i certainly can’t imagine that Joe Blanton will be the opening day pitcher this season.

Tim did his best “Lefty” pose with the Steve Carlton statue outside of the LF gate:

And we generally passed time by playing catch on our walk around the stadium:

Before heading out, Tim posed with some football statues…

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…I have no clue who any of these football people are:

Then we grabbed the same front seat on the Broad Street line north…

…and we headed home.

Fun times.  Next time, we’ll be sure to see a game too.

C&S Baseball Museum

Last season, MLBlogs switched from the entirely free mlb.com to the potentially expensive wordpress.com.  The switch probably didn’t affect the bulk of mlbloggers.  But for those of us who take thousands of pictures at the ballpark, it was definitely not a good development.  When the switch took effect, I already had about four times the storage allowed for a free wordpress account.  I didn’t want to lose any of my blog content.  So I started PDF’ing all of my entries and uploading all of our panoramas to our personal site.

Well, I kept uploading and uploading and uploading…and it turned into something that I think is pretty cool:  The Cook & Son Baseball Museum.  Check it out, and enjoy:

Spring Training in AZ and PA

It’s sad to be in Pennsylvania while my parents are in Arizona with the Mariners and are sending us pictures like this one of Ichiro…

…, this one of new Mariner Jesus Montero…

…, this one of Felix (the catcher)…

…, this one of Smoak, Carp, Ichiro (with pink-lined shoes), Rick Griffin and Guti…

…, this one of Dustin Ackley…

…, this one of Hisashi Iwakuma…

…, this one of King Felix pitching…

…and this one of a foul ball my dad caught today and then got signed in Japanese by Ikawuma:

As explained by our friend Nao:  “top, “岩” (IWA=rock); 2nd, “隈”, (KUMA=corner, shadow); 3rd, “久” (HISA, eternity); bottom, 志(SHI, will).”

Okay.   That’s a lot of fun in Arizona.

But, while we don’t have any Mariners here in Pennsylvania, we do have baseball!

This past weekend, Tim and I headed to our favorite local ballfield with our buddy Greg for some catching, throwing and hitting.  Tim focused on the hitting.

He had a lot of fun with his new baseball bats.  Here is a single to right:

A little fun with photo editing resulted in this picture of Tim’s batting motion:

Near the end of our practice, I got two two pictures that did not require any photo editing (although they may look like they did).  Tim took a mighty swing but came up empty on this pitch from Greg:

FYI, that is a cloth Rawlings training ball so it did not hurt when it nailed me behind the plate (I was using a camera only, no glove).

And I saved the best for last.  Tim’s wicked 6-year-old bat speed made his new metal bat look like a flimsy piece of swing cheese on this swing:

While we are quietly longing to be in Peoria with our Mariners (and Grandma and Grandpa), an afternoon playing baseball at the park is a great alternative!

Tim’s Baseball Log

The offseason has been pretty quiet over here at Cook & Son Bats’ Blog.  But I have received a few comments lately about “my book.”  It is not your ordinary book, and I haven’t really discussed it much (if at all) on the blog.  So now seems as good a time as any to explain a little bit about “The Baseball Log”:

Pictured above, that is Tim’s (the original) Baseball Log in the middle and Kellan’s and my Baseball Logs on either side.

Tim was born in early 2006.  In October 2005, I was eagerly awaiting his birth when my wife’s grandmother passed away.  We had to drive down to Virginia for her services.  My wife stayed with her family for a few more days, but I had to head back to Pennsylvania for work.  Whenever I am on a long drive alone I do a lot of thinking.  On my drive home, I did a lot of thinking about all the fun times I expected to have with Tim going to baseball games in the future.  And I thought a lot about all of the great times I shared with family and friends at the Kingdome watching the Mariners while I was growing up.

Growing up in the suburbs of Seattle, I attended between 10-30 Mariners games a year while I was growing up.  I have a lot of very specific memories of those games:  Ken Griffey, Jr. breaking his arm making a miraclous catch in deep RCF, Game 1 of the 1995 ALCS, catching my only two live game foul balls, seeing Bo Jackson hit two homeruns in a game, Griffey’s 8-game homerun streak, Randy Johnson’s 19 strikeout performance featuring a monster bomb by Mark McGwire, Mike Greenwell singlehandedly beating the Mariners with a 9-RBI performance, a fan running out to CF to ask for Kirby Puckett’s autographs during a game, Nolan Ryan giving up a leadoff hit to Harold Reynolds and then pitching a complete game 1-hitter, and temporarily giving up on the M’s and starting to leave a game against the Yankees in late 1995 but running back into the field level seats in time to watch Griffey blast a monster game-winning homerun.

But for each of those specific memories, there are 10 games or more of which I have absolutely no memory.

As I drove, an unanswerable question came to mind:  “What is the Mariners record in the games I have attended?”

I have no clue and no way of figuring out the answer.

I needed to make sure my son didn’t suffer the same fate.  I wanted to make amazing baseball memories with him…and actually remember ALL OF THEM!  And in that moment while dwelling on that unanswerable question, I invented the answer:  The Baseball Log!

I’m good at tinkering and making stuff.  But I’d never made a book.  It took a lot of thought and planning.  I determined what I wanted to be included in The Baseball Log, and then I figured out how to make it.  I started with fancy resume paper, a thin slice of wood, a side of leather (that I had used to make a baseball glove), some glue, a needle and thread, a leather stamping set, and a computer and printer.  I put it all togther…

…and I made Tim’s one-of-a-kind Baseball Log:

For more than a year, Tim owned the only Baseball Log.  But I started thinking that other people out there might like a Baseball Log of their own.  So I did some research about online self-publishing companies.  I decided on “eBookstand Publishing.”  I did some revising and reformatting.  And, boom:  the “commercial” version of The Baseball Log was born.  I dedicated the book to the biggest baseball inspirations of my life at the time:

FYI, if I had decided to add one more item to that list, it would have been “Spike Owen.”  My original favorite player of all-time.  Curse you Red Sox for stealing my guy!

Anyway, here are the basics of The Baseball Log.  The overwhelming majority of the book is simply page after page after page after page of empty boxes for the owner to fill in their own baseball memories.  Here is a look at the first page of Tim’s Baseball Log:

As you can see, it has spaces for the date, line score info, site of the game, companions with whom you attended the game, and game notes.

I forget the specific number, but I think the commercial version of The Baseball Log has room to record approximately 1,000 games.  Here is a look at a random page of my Baseball Log, which includes Griffey’s 601st homerun, Felix Hernandez’s grand slam off of Johan Santana, and the first game of the First Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip:

NOTE:  The 3-4 games listed on that page are the last two games that I have attended without Tim accompanying me.

Of course, the Baseball Log has a couple pages for the owner to record his or her favorite team’s (hopefully, the Mariners) record in games he or she attends:

The top book in that picture is Tim’s Baseball Log, the middle one is mine (you can see I have attended two more Mariners games than Tim since he was born…and the Mariners won both of them), and the bottom book is Kellan’s (poor guy has only seen 1 Mariners win so far!)

I made one upgrade that I really like in the commercial version of the Baseball Log.  Tim’s book has pages for recording when Tim has seen each team play a game.  I reformatted those original pages into the “Touch ‘em All Checklist” where the owner of the book can record the date of the first home and away game for each team he has seen.  Below, you can see that I (and Tim) have seen every MLB team play a road game, and every team except the Royals, Cardinals and Rockies play a home game…

…we will complete this list in May 2012!

There are pages to record Hall of Famers who you have seen play in person…

…once some of the players Tim has seen play retire and are inducted into the Hall of Fame, he will be able to reference the relevant games by page number in the “Memorable Games” column.

I had one more idea that has never panned out…but I still love it.  My hope was that fan assistance office or front office receptionists at the various MLB stadiums would have “received” stamps that they use to stamp incoming mail.  If so, my plan was to get our Baseball Log’s stamped like passports…

…to date, I have yet to find any MLB stadium that had a stamp for our books.  I have discussed this with a guy in the Phillies front office and he loved the stadium passport idea.  Still, nothing has come of it.  But wouldn’t that be great to be able to get a stamp at each stadium you visit listing the name of the team/stadium with the date included?  I’d love that.

The Baseball Log also has spaces to record your favorite players by year, and a bunch of blank pages at the back for autographs (although we have never attempted to have anyone sign our Baseball Logs).

I’ll share one last picture with you.  When I self-published the book, I decided to make it a sturdy hard backed book — just like Tim’s Baseball Log — so it could (hopefully) endure a lifetime of use.  Because it is a hardback, I got to design a dust jacket.  As shown in the top picture, I used a baseball — one I snagged at the Kingdome — and I did some editing to remove the normal writing on the baseball and replaced it with “BASEBALL LOG.”  Here is a picture of the actual baseball that is pictured on the front cover:

I just realized tonight when I took this picture that I took the cover photo of the baseball on July 16, 2007 — exactly three years to the date before Kellan was born.  Awesome!  Makes me feel that Kellan had a little influence on the book years before he was born.

So, there you go:  The Baseball Log.

It is not for everyone.  In fact, it is not for most people.  Even most dedicated fans.  But for the right person, it can be really awesome.

If you happen to be one of the very few people out there who have purchased your very own Baseball Log, I hope you are really enjoying it.

If you don’t have a Baseball Log but would like one.  You can check it out here: http://www.ebookstand.com/book_cart.php?id=2133&order=cart — or here: http://www.amazon.com/Baseball-Log-Todd-J-Cook/dp/1589094719/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327373869&sr=8-1

Cook & Son Baseball Stadiums and Roadtrips

Did a little doodling on a map of the U.S. today.  Check it out:

This map shows all of the stadiums that Tim and I have visited since his first ballgame back on September 12, 2006.  We live outside of Philadelphia, PA (to the west) and its a great spot for a baseball fan who isn’t scared to hop in the car and drive a few hours.  The red lines on this map show drives that Tim and I have made to baseball stadiums.  Obviously, several of the red loops do not start in Pennsylvania.  Those are roadtrips we have taken (usually with my dad on the annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip) after flying to a starting point (i.e., Chicago, Oakland, Houston, and St. Petersburg).

In order, (not counting my countless games at the Kingdome and numerous games at Veterans Stadium before Tim’s birth) Tim and I have visited the Stadiums in blue in the following order (order of first trip to a particular stadium):

  1. Safeco Field (’06-’11)
  2. Citizens Bank Park (’07-’11)
  3. Camden Yards (’07-’11)
  4. Yankee Stadium (1923) (’07)
  5. PNC Park (’07, ’08, ’10, ’11)
  6. Great American Ball Park (’08, ’11)
  7. Progressive Field (’08-’10)
  8. Shea Stadium (’08)
  9. Chase Field (’08)
  10. Citi Field (’09-’11)
  11. Nationals Park (’09-’11)
  12. Yankee Stadium (2009) (’09-’11)
  13. Fenway Park (’09)
  14. Wrigley Field (’09)
  15. H.H.H. Metrodome (’09)
  16. Miller Park (’09)
  17. U.S. Cellular Field (’09)
  18. Rogers Centre (’09)
  19. Oakland Coliseum (’10)
  20. Dodger Stadium (’10)
  21. Petco Park (’10)
  22. Angel Stadium of Anaheim (’10)
  23. AT&T Park (’10)
  24. Minute Maid Park (’11)
  25. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (’11)
  26. Comerica Park (’11)
  27. Sun Life Stadium (’11)
  28. Turner Field (’11)
  29. Tropicana Field (’11)

Meanwhile, Kellan is on his way through the MLB circuit too.  So far, he has been to ten games at six MLB stadiums:

  1. Safeco Field (’10-’11)
  2. Camden Yards (’11)
  3. Citi Field (’11)
  4. Yankee Stadium (2009) (’11)
  5. Citizens Bank Park (’11)
  6. Nationals Park (’11)

Back to the map, the 2012 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip is outlined in green on the map.  This will be Kellan’s first year on the roadtrip.  We’ll meet my dad in Minnesota for a game at Target Field (Tim’s 30th stadium), then on to St. Louis for two games at Busch Stadium (Tim’s 31st), to Kansas City for one game at Kauffman Stadium (Tim’s 32nd, which will close out the American League for us), then we’ll cap it off in Denver for two games at Coors Field (Tim’s 33rd).    Coors Field will be huge for us because it will mark the completion of our (first) trip around the MLB circuit — Tim and I we will have seen each team play at least one home game.  Hooray.  (Of course, we’ll still have to get back to Miami to check out the new Marlins Ballpark).

So there you go.  More fun times ahead for us at a bunch of great MLB ballparks.

Puerto Rico League Baseball

So, once again, Ryan Rowland-Smith has proved himself to be an extremely cool guy.

RRS is currently down in Puerto Rico playing winter ball for the Leones de Ponce trying to prove himself to the MLB teams and earn himself a 2012 contract.  I was thinking about the concept of a pitcher using winter ball to help find his way onto a Major League roster and a question quickly leapt to mind:  “What is the Puerto Rico League baseball like?”

A few years ago, the thought would never have crossed my mind.  But a while back I bought a case of the official FeMeBe (Mexican League) baseballs at my local Rawlings store.  Their texture and feel is so different than an Official MLB ball that I could see it impacting a pitcher’s effectiveness or technique.  I’m not a pitcher so I really have no idea if the FeMeBe has an real impact on pitchers…but the idea got me thinking about the Puerto Rico League baseballs RRS is hoping will help him propel himself back into the Majors.  What are they like?

So I took to Twitter in hopes that I could find out some information by going straight to the source.  I sent a tweet RRS’s way…and he sent one right back:

And sure enough, a few days later RRS delivered:

 

Cool, eh?  [And, come on, RRS, no need to apologize!]

The baseball looks very similar to an MLB baseball, and very different than the FeMeBe baseballs.  Let’s hope these little pearls help RRS land himself back in a Major League uniform in 2012, preferrably a Mariners uniform!

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