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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…

.

…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!

A Pittsburgh Adventure (9/10/11)

On September 10, 2011, Tim and I headed off in our car for a weekend adventure to Pittsburgh.  The plan was for two games at PNC Park.  But the plan got cut short when our basement flooded in a storm and I was needed back on the home front.  But we still had a quality 28-hour
adventure.  Here is how it all went down.

He jumped on the PA Turnpike heading West toward Pittsburgh.  We ended up stopping off in Mechanicsburg, PA so Tim could see where his parents got married:

It’s a gazebo on the Liberty Forge golf course.  It had just opened when we got married back in 2003, and it was truly a beautiful sight for our wedding.  After a brief visit (which occurred during a bustling golf tournament), we grabbed an early lunch and hopped back in the car.

We arrived in Pittsburgh in the early afternoon and relaxed at our hotel before heading off to the park.  Our plan was to meet up PNC Park regular (and MLBlogger) Zac Weiss at the CF gate to see if we could get in early with the season ticket holders.  But the roads immediately around PNC Park confuse the heck out of me.  We ended up taking the wrong exit from the freeway, looping back around, and getting into a traffic-jam directly outside of PNC Park for 15 minutes.  By the time we parked and made it to the stadium, the gates had been open for
15-20 minutes and Zac was already in there.

We waited on the Riverwalk for a few minutes, and then heading into the LF seats…

…when the stadium opened for non-season ticket holders.  But the LF seats are small and they were relatively crowded.  We briefly bumped into PNC Park regular (and MLBlogger) Nick Pelescak.  After saying our hellos, I asked if the rest of the ballpark was open to everyone (there was almost no one in the park outside of the LF seats) and he confirmed that it was.  So Tim and I headed up the LF escalator and down into the LF foul seats.

The plan was to walk down to the cross-aisle toward the bottom of the section and then circle all the way around to the RF foul line where several Marlins were playing catch.  As we turned the corner into the cross-aisle, there were no other fans within 6-7 seating sections of us (except in LF, which is disconnected from the foul territory seats and not accessible without taking the elevator or spiral walkway).  Just then, a Pirates batter hit a foul ball right over our heads into section 132.  I quickly ran back up the stairway, cut into the seats and grabbed our first baseball of the day; with zero competition.

The very moment we made it to the RF foul line, former-Mariner Greg Dobbs was just finishing playing catch with monster-bomb-masher Mike Stanton.  We were right behind him as he left the foul line and started to walk toward CF.  I called out, “Hey, Greg!”  He turned around and saw us, an
“oh, there you are” expression registered on his face, and then he tossed us our second baseball of the day; again, with zero competition.

We decided to go down the foul line to the handicap-accessible seating area.  For some reason, it was almost completely empty for the duration of BP:

There were a handful of fans out there…including the aforementioned Zac Weiss, who can be seen in the background of the last picture wearing his black Pirates shirt.

Mike “The Beast” Stanton and Mike “Cammy” Cameron were hanging out along the foul line running sprints from the foul line out into CF:

When we first arrived in this spot, there was a baseball sitting on the warning track in RF.  As Cameron walked around in foul territory catching his breath after running a sprint, I asked him if he would pose for a picture with Tim after he finished his warm-up routine.  He happily agreed.  Then I pointed out the baseball on the warning track and asked if he could toss it to Tim.  He agreed again.  Cammy is the man.

Thanks, Mike!

After running a few more sprints, Cammy wandered over to the little doorway at the end of the section and posed for this picture with Tim:

He also signed the baseball he’d already given to Tim:

And then he signed about 200 more autographs.  The second he walked over to get a picture with Tim, every autograph hound in the stadium bolted straight for us.  There was quickly a group of ten people.  And then twenty.  And then…who knows how many.

While we were getting Tim’s picture with Cammy, we got to chat for just a few seconds.  I told him that my Dad caught one of his foul balls down in Miami on our Roadtrip.  I then told him it was cool that he was wearing number “24” now-a-days since he was previously traded to the Mariners for Ken Griffey, Jr.  He told me that he’d wore “24” when he was *young* – he did wear “24” when he broke into the Major Leagues with White Sox, but I got the feeling he meant he wore “24” when he was a kid, not just a young Major Leaguer.  Anyway, after mentioning Junior, I told Cameron that he did an amazing job coming in and filling Griff’s void after the trade.  He really did an outstanding job for the Mariners and us Mariners fans love him for it.

When Cameron finally started walking back to the dugout, a guy ran down the steps and called out, “One more, Mr. Cameron!?”  Mike responded something like, “Man, I just signed a ton!”  But he came back nonetheless and signed for this guy too.  He was so awesome.  I really couldn’t believe all the signing he did.  And many of the beneficiaries were the big-time autograph dudes who gave board with 5-6 of his cards, and he
signed every single one.  Mike is the man!

As he walked away, I asked Cameron if he got one of the Mariners 116 win, two-person McLemore and Cameron bobblehead.  He started to launch
into a longer explanation, and then stopped himself.  Bottom line, the answer was “yes.”  He got one.  So that’s cool.  When he said he has one, Tim yelled out, “I have one too!”  (Special thanks to Brian Powell for sending us his!).

After getting Tim’s picture with Cammy, we relocated to the shallow RF section of the handicap-accessible seating area.  A Marlins lefty ripped a foul grounder right at us.  Tim put his glove over the short wall and tried to scoop it up, but it went under his glove…and right into mine.  Tim immediately turned around with a frustrated look:  “Hey, I was gonna catch that ball!”  “But you didn’t,” I explained, “it went right under your glove, so I had to catch it!”

Tim couldn’t argue with my logic, and he was happy to have the ball despite missing out on the grounder attempt.

He had fun leaning over the wall and practicing so he could catch the next ball hit down the line:

(Note: In the last picture, Cameron is still signing autographs in the background).

Tim also got a kick out of the fact that he could easily lean over the fence and rub his fingers through the warning track dirt:

So we had connected with two former-Mariner Marlins (Dobbs and Cameron), but the Marlins had still another former-Mariner – Jose Lopez.  But
this is as close as we would ever get to Jose:

We spent some time during BP chatting with Zac Weiss:

Just before that last photo, Tim and I were at the back park of the handicapped-accessible seating area and Zac at the front (where he is pictured in that last photo).  A grounder came down the line and snuck past Zac on an unfortunate (for him) bounce.  I leaned as far as I could over the fence and scooped the ball off of the warning track.

As the Marlins cleared off the field, Zac, Tim and I headed over to the Marlins dugout on the 3B side.  Alex Sanabia (who gave Tim the 99thbaseball of his life last season) was standing at the top of the dugout.  He had a baseball and wanted to get rid of it.  He looked at Zac and must have thought “too old.”  Next, his gaze turned to Tim and he though “just right.”  So Sanabia tossed us our sixth and final baseball of the day.

Thanks, Alex!

PNC Park is pretty amazing for BP.  95% of the fans attending BP were out in LF the whole time.  There was lots of competition out there.  Meanwhile, 1% of the fans were in the RF handicapped-accessible seats and we all got some easy, no-hassle baseballs.  Great!

Ah, I forgot to mention, I thought we were going to get another baseball before the Sanabia  ball.  Zac, Tim and I were handing out talking (where we they are pictured in the last phone), and No. 21 on the Marlins drilled a one or two hopper right at us.  I thought it was going to take a nice big (and easy) bounce right to me for an easy catch.  Instead, it took a crazy back-spinning, low, sliding, superfast bounce right at us.  It shot like a rocket right over our heads and went all the way over the seats and into an area where they store groundskeeper-stuff.

After hanging out by the dugout for a bit, we got our picture with Zac:

And then we all  headed to the Riverwalk and then walked out to LF.  Once we got out there, we split up with Zac because Tim wanted to walk up the spiral ramp.  On our way, we ran into Nick Pelescak again and he took a walk with us.  We headed up the ramp and got Tim’s PNC Park bonus picture for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt:

We stopped at the top of the spiral ramp and chatted a while with Nick:

He’s a real nice guy and he’s hauled over 1,000 baseballs out of PNC Park and several other MLB ballparks over the course of the last couple years.

While in the upper deck, we took the occasion to check in with Tim’s first ever water fountain!  Back on September 29, 2007, Tim used this fountain for his first ever water-fountain drink of his life.  Since then, we check in on his first fountain whenever we’re in town.  On our 2010 trip, his water fountain reunion photo didn’t make the cut on the blog report.  So let’s check out both 2010 and 2011 now:

After heading back down the spiral ramp, Nick broke off to go find his wife and son and Tim and I went and bought some nachos.  Here is an ultra-serious looking Tim eating nachos in our seats for the game:

We got those seats in section 136, row C for just a couple bucks per ticket on stubhub.  That’s one of the perks of the end of the season – cheap tickets!

Here is a view of PNC Park from our seats:

Tim cut the serious act, and had some fun goofing around and eating nachos in the LF seats:

And then he did some random posing:

When the game started, it was all Marlins.  Actually, the Marlins did not muster much offense either.  But it did not matter because Anibal Sanchez was on fire.  He was making the Pirates look silly – like this hapless hack back Derrick Lee:

Meanwhile, Tim was licking left over cheese off of his index finger and pretending that it was exploding in his mouth – like this:

Facing off against Sanchez, the Pirates had Jeff Locke make his MLB debut.  Locke pitched five innings, gave up five hits, and three runs, and collected his first career loss.  I got this picture of Locke’s first career Major League swing:

With one out in the bottom of the second inning, Neil Walker hit double.  And that was all she wrote for the Pirates.  Anibal Sanchez threw a complete
game 1-hitter.

In the top of the third inning, we went to go get ice cream helmets.  Tim got mint chocolate chip and I got (the incredibly delicious and highly recommended) Pirates Buried Treasure.  Check out the cool view from the ice cream helmet line:

Ah, yes.  PNC Park is incredibly beautiful.

The Marlins scored three runs while we were in line for ice cream.  They were, ultimately, the only runs of the game.  And we had no clue they even occurred.  When we got back to our seats – after walking through this blue light area –

…there were runs on the board.  And that’s all we knew.  We saw Nick and Zac at the back of one of the sections in LF and I asked them if they caught any homeruns when we were off buying ice cream.  They didn’t.  And that is all I know about those three runs – they were three Marlins runs during which the crowd made absolutely no noise (so as to tip me off that anything was happening on the field) and they did not result in Nick or Zac catching any homeruns.

Just like last season, I enjoyed a “Pirates Buried Treasure” helmet and Tim had a mint chocolate chip helmet:

Here’s what it looked like from our seats after the sun went down:

After eating our ice cream, Tim wanted to roam around the ballpark and check out the river.  We headed out to the Riverwalk area and Tim got a run-by head patting from the Pirates Parrot:

He posed with a picture of a P-shaped bush behind the bullpens…

…and then we headed down toward the river.  This big barge arrived on the scene:

I am pretty sure it is the fireworks barge for the post-game fireworks.

We wandered through a little picnic area behind the batters’ eye:

And we checked out the view of the Roberto Clemente bridge:

Finally, we found a little nook in the picnic area that Tim thought resembled a bullpen.  So we took turns pitching to each other…

…using the drain as home plate.

While I was pitching to Tim, he missed a pitch and it rolled to the steps behind our home plate.  When he went to retrieve, an elderly Japanese couple were walking by.  The man noticed Tim’s Ichiro shirt as he passed by and called out to his wife an excited, “ICHIRO!” with a point at Tim.  He then
doubled back and walked a small loop around Tim to make sure he’d seen it correctly.  After confirming his initial belief, he walked back to his wife and pointed at Tim with increased excitement, “ICHIRO!”  And he looked over me with an approving smile.  It was pretty cute.

After our bullpen session, we headed back to the LF seats.  We hadn’t missed a thing – well, except a couple more Pirate strike outs – it was still 3-0 Marlins.

As I sipped a local brew with a snazzy pin-striped and Pirate-logoed can, an usher kindly took our photo standing in the concourse behind section 136:

It was time for more adventuring, and this was the last we would see of section 136 for the night.  So I took one more panorama from the concourse before we started walking:

Tim wanted to see the upper deck some more.  So we wanted around the big spiral walkway in LF:

There is a really small section of seating above the LF bleachers, just below the scoreboard, that I have never visited.  In the past, it has always been chained off for private parties.  I think it is called the “Pirates Deck.”  As luck would have it, it was open to the public during this game.  So we headed down the stairs at the back of the spiral walkway and entered the Pirates Deck.

The deck was almost empty.  We headed to the last section in deep LCF and got Tim’s picture:

And then I took a panorama of PNC Park from the front row of section 339:

On our way out of the deck area, we noticed a switch-back ramp leading up to two seats perched behind the back row of the seats.  It looked like an elevated perch for the King and Queen to sit and watch the competition down on the field.  Since it was empty, we walked up the ramp and Tim asked me to take the following series of photos:

After the King’s Perch, we headed to the seats behind home plate.  There was another little handicap-accessible seating area right behind home plate.  We claimed a spot and watched the game from there for a bit.  Standing was fine for a bit…

…but eventually Tim got the urge to climb on the railings…which I strongly discouraged.

After getting Tim off the railing, I got a panorama of PNC Park from section 316:

After exchanging a few texts, we met up with fellow MLBlogger Matt “PittPeas” Peaslee and his girlfriend Erin:

I suggested that pose in the classic Peas-pose (that you should no doubt recognize if you’re read his blog).  Upon review, it appears that I need some work on my Peas-pose.  My arms are way too high and straight.  Tim’s Peas-pose needs some work too; he’s just doing a “we are the champions”
celebration pose!  Matt is a great guy.  It was good to finally meet in person.

The game was sailing by quick.  After parting ways with Matt and Erin, Tim and I headed down the spiral walkway behind home plate.  We planned on making an attempt for a post-game umpire baseball.  It was the ninth inning, but for whatever reason, I thought it was still the eighth.  After I got this photo from the concourse of Andrew McCutchen striking out…

…I realized it was the ninth inning and there was only one out left in the game!  We scrambled to get into position, and post-game fireworks made it the easiest post-ninth-inning-third out trip ever from the concourse down to the umpire tunnel (because everyone stayed seated for the fireworks), but we arrived about 5 seconds too late.  Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna had unloaded his entire baseball poach by the time we got into position.  Oh, well.

The silver lining is that we were in the perfect spot (and found a couple open seats) when the fireworks started about 5 minutes later:

The fireworks show was great, and no one enjoyed it more than Tim (and Shelly):

To my amazement, the Pirates did not clear out the RF seats for the fireworks show.  Check out how close it looked like the people in right field were to the fireworks:

After the fireworks show, an usher took a final father-son shot of us before we left the ballpark:

And then I noticed a cool “125th season” logo on top of the Pirates dugout:

I wonder why the Angels got a 50th Anniversary commemorative baseball, but the Pirates did not get a 125th season baseball?  I’m guessing it is because they were not the “Pirates” the entire 125 seasons – since it says “Pittsburgh Baseball.”  Anyway, it is too bad. That would have been a cool commemorative baseball.

After the game, we spent the night in a Pittsburgh hotel, and then did one *touristy* thing before heading home.  We had heard of the Duquesne Incline from some friends.  So we decided to check it out.  While watching BP, I discussed the Duquesne Incline and discovered there are two inclines in town – the Duquesne and the Monongahela.  So we did ‘em both.

First, the Duquesne Incline:

Essentially, it is a two track train that runs up a really steep hill in Pittsburgh.

At the top, there is a look out spot with a phenomenal view of Pittsburgh:

Following the river from left-to-right and taking the left (upper) fork, PNC Park is on the left (upper) side of the river between the first and second (Roberto Clemente) bridges.

Here’s a good view of the crazy incline train cars:

The two cars are pulled up the incline on big steel cables.  They appear to be balanced against each other, when one is at the top, the other is at the bottom, and they always meet in the middle.

The Monongahela incline also provided a spectacular view of Pittsburgh (although with no view of PNC Park):

And there was a sign at the top pointing the way to ice cream:

After devouring some tasty cones, we rode the incline train back down to the bottom…

….and hopped into our car for the ride home.

Although we wanted to go to the Sunday game (featuring Kids Run The Bases), it was still a great little weekend father-son get-away.

2011 C&S Fan Stats
28/5 Games (Tim/Kellan)
19/8 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals, Cubs, Angels, Indians, Reds, Giants, Tigers, Yankees, Marlins, Pirates; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles, Angels, Mets, Indians, Yankees, Phillies, Braves]
22 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1), Tigers (1), Marlins (2), Braves (2), Rays (3), Pirates (1)).
82 Baseballs (16 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 4 Orioles, 4 Umpires, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 6 Phillies, 2 Mets, 2 Rays, 8 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 2 Easter Egg, 1 Glove Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs, 5 Angels, 4 Indians, 2 Giants, 1 Tigers, 6 Marlins, 1 Pirates)
13/4 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Citi Field, Great American Ball Park, Comerica Park, Yankee Stadium, Sun Life Stadium, Turner Field, Tropicana Field, PNC Park; Kellan – Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Citizens Bank Park]
16/9 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix Hernandez***, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders, Chad Durbin, Russell Branyan, Brandon League***, Brendan Ryan, Mike Cameron; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders, Tony Sipp, Chad Durbin]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
7 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino, Aroldis Chapman, Jack McKeon, Brandon League, Jaime Navarro, Brendan Ryan, Dan Cortes, Josh Lueke, Blake Beavan, Jamie Wright, Jack Zduriecik, Carl Willis, Tom Wilhelmsen, Casper Wells, Mike Cameron)
1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)
9/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird, Mr. Redlegs, Gapper, Slider, Sebastian (U. of Miami), Homer, Raymond; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
3/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L. West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in Arlington), N.L. East (Citizens Bank Park, Shea Stadium, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Sun Life Stadium, & Turner Field), A.L. East (Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium (1923), Yankee Stadium (2009), Fenway Park, Rogers Centre, Tropicana Field); Kellan – N/A]
2 Line-up Cards (Royals vs. Rangers; Indians vs. Orioles)
* includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.***2011 All-Star
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