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GFS 2011 Game 7 – Mariners at Rays (8/21/11)

We woke up on August 21, 2011, with the final game of the 2011 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip on tap for the early afternoon.   As a bonus, it was Kids Run the Bases day at Tropicana Field.  After the game, Tim and I would be hopping a flight back to Pennsylvania.

After packing up our hotel room, we were off to Tropicana Field.  I’m not sure if we were in the first 100 into the stadium parking lot because we were advised that it was family day at the ballpark and we were all free.  I got the feeling it was only the “families” that were free because there were people there taking money.  But, whatever, for the second game in three days, we parked at Tropicana Field free of charge.

My mom took a grandfather-father-son picture of our march through the parking lot to the final game of the Roadtrip:

When we entered the ballpark, some kids were taking BP on the field.  There weren’t any players on the field…well, maybe a Rays pitcher or two out in RF.

Tim and my mom hopped in line for the rays tank and I headed toward the Mariners dugout to see what, if anything was going on.  The game wouldn’t start for a couple hours, but the workers were already setting up the snack buffet in the group seating area down the RF line:

As I passed behind the Rays dugout, I got a picture of something cool that I had noticed the night before:

Season ticket holders at Tropicana Field get their names affixed to their seats on little black placards.

I had not really been down behind home plate yet over the last two days, so I got a panoramic shot from section 102 as I passed behind the plate:

I decided to pass some time behind the Mariners dugout in section 111:

I was hoping the Mariners would take BP after the kids, but when they finished up the groundskeepers immediately started disassembling the batting cage:

Soon, I noticed that Mariners G.M. Jack Zduriencik was standing below me in front of the dugout.  He was just standing around alone so I said hello.  We chatted a little and then I asked him if he signs autographs.  He said “sure thing,” so I tossed him a baseball that I have had in my backpack all season (a fan gave it Tim at Spring Training) with the plan of using it for autographs.  Since nothing was really going on, I decided to see if I could get a bunch of autographs on that baseball.

Eventually, the Mariners pitchers started trickling out onto the field and into LF.

One of the first guys onto the field was Dan Cortes.  I got him to sign the baseball and complimented him on his tiny pink lunch box that he’d been carrying out to the bullpen each game during this series.  That made him chuckle.  I asked what he keeps in there:  “just some snacks for the game.”

Josh Lueke signed the ball next on his way out to LF.  And the final on-the-way-out-to-LF autograph I got was from extreme nice guy Jamey Wright.  I told Jamey that we needed to
get a win today, he responded in a frustrated tone, “You’re telling me!!?”  I asked Brandon League on his way out to LF, but he said he’d sign on his way back to the dugout after throwing.  That was actually a good thing because Tim soon showed up.

As the pitchers were throwing, Tim, my mom and I moved further down the line behind the Mariners bullpen to watch the throwing.  At one point, Jamey Wright was walking around in the bullpen after finishing his warm up routine.  I thought he had his warm up ball so I asked him if he’d toss it to us.  He held up his hands and said he didn’t have a ball.  I pointed to a couple balls sitting on the foul line (extra balls in case someone lost their ball in the crowd or threw it out into CF).  He jogged over, grabbed a baseball and threw it to us.

Thanks, Jamey!

On his way back into the dugout, I snapped a couple pictures as Tom Wilhelmsen signed the baseball for Tim:

When Brandon League wandered by, Tim got his autograph and a picture with our 2011 All-Star closer:

One of the last guys throwing in LF was Josh Lueke.  As he headed toward the dugout, I called out, “Hey, Josh!” And that was all it took to get our second (and final) baseball of the day.

The last guy hanging out in the bullpen was Blake Beavan.  When I called out Blake’s name, he leaned straigh back and looked at us over his back.  I asked if he’d sign the baseball for us.  Sure he would, but I couldn’t get over to him because of the fancy seats and big empty space blocking my way.  A fan in those seats came over and ferried the baseball over to the bullpen so Beavan could sign the ball.

With nothing else happening in the bullpen, we relocated back to the dugout where Mariners coaches Jaime Navarro and Carl Willis signed the baseball.

Meanwhile, Tim passed time playing with his David Price (and Price’s dog) superhero action figure:

Zduriencik was still down by the dugout.  At one point, we saw a guy walking through the crowd who looked like Jack and was communicating with him with finger points, etc.  He then was led down onto the field and gave Jack a big hug:

My mom, dad and I were predicting that he must be Jack’s son.  After chatting with Jack, the guy hopped back into the crowd and ended up having seats exactly where we were standing.
So I asked him if he was Jack’s son.  Close, but no cigar.  The guy reported that “Jackie” is his cousin – actually, Jack is a first cousin of this guy’s mother (I believe).

Meanwhile, a bunch of Mariners position players had started stretching and throwing in shallow LF.  On his way back in to the dugout, new Mariner Casper Wells signed our baseball.

The last Mariner on the field after stretching was Brendan Ryan.  He signed autographs for a good 20 minutes solid out by the bullpen.  He signed so long that we decided to head out to see him.  After signing the final autograph on our baseball, Ryan posed for a picture with Tim:

Immediately after the picture, Tim remarked, “His hands are really warm!”

That was it for pre-game.  It was fun getting autographs for a change.  This is the most autographs we’ve ever gotten on one baseball.  Here it is:

Upper Left:  Jamey Wright (50), Jack Zduriencik, and Carl Willis;

Upper Right:  Dan Cortes (57), Josh Lueke (31), and Blake Beavan (49);

Lower Left:  Brandon League (43), Jaime Navarro (94), and Brendan Ryan (26); and

Bottom Right: Tom Wilhelmsen (54) and Casper Wells (33).

Thanks, guys!

Tim was all excited about wearing his *glow-up* glasses, but we realized that I left them in the car.  So we decided to go back the carnival game area to try to win a new pair.  The day before, we were the only people playing the games so there was no competition to win a prize.  But at this game, a bunch of other people joined us.  There were 5-6 people in the racing game.  But luckily, I guided my Ben Zobrist racer to the checkered flag.  We also played some whack-a-mole and bashed the Yankee mole a bunch.

The guy gave us two prizes today – more *glow-up* glasses AND a Johnny Damon bobblehead.  Tim didn’t care about the bobble head.  He was all about the glasses:

We had seats in LF (section 141) in the second row.  Check out how low the OF railing are at Tropicana Field:

We reported to our seats and watched Mariners starter Michael Pineda warm up in the outfield:

At the beginning of the game, settled in with some nachos…

…ready for our first Mariners win in 6 games this season.

The game started out great!  Franklin Gutierrez and Dustin Ackley hit singles.  Mike Carp followed with an RBI groundout.  And then Casper Wells hit a 2-run bomb…

…to put the Mariners up 3-0 in the first inning.  Doug Fister is a quality pitcher and he’s doing great things for the Tigers, so it was good to see Casper making a contribution for the Mariners.

Speaking of Casper Wells, he was stationed in LF just below our seats:

The Mariner added a fourth run in the top of the second inning.

Pineda pitched well:

But he had a little hiccup in the bottom of the second.  He gave up two runs on a pair of RBI singles by Matt Joyce and John Jaso.

Of course, Tim wanted to go see the rays tank. On our way over there, we took a picture of the Ray breaking through the wall in the RCF concourse – Tim loved that thing:

When we reached RF, Ichiro was going to be up soon.  So we headed over to straight away RF (section 144)…

…, just in case Ichiro wanted to hit a homerun to us.  As we were waiting for Ichiro to hit us a homerun, I took this hilarious picture of Tim and his glasses:

And I got this picture of Tim telling me that Ichiro is No. 1:

Sadly, Ichiro did not hit a homerun, to us or to anyone else.  But Franklin Gutierrez followed with an RBI single, making the score 5-2 Mariners.

After Ichiro’s at bat, we headed over to section 150 to watch the sea life in the rays tank:

On the right (above), that is a baby horseshoe crab hitching a ride on his parent’s tail.

We decided to go up to the top of section 150 to check out of few things.  On our way up there, I got a cool picture:

It sort of looks like a picture of the rays tank from above (and it is, I guess), but just above the rays tank you can see Franklin Gutierrez reaching up to make a catch on drive by Ben Zobrist to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning.

During this game, I checked my twitter feed on my phone and found a cool message on there.  This seems like as good of place as any to insert this story.  While I got this message while we were out in RF, the picture that is featured in this twitter conversation is actually from the game on August 19th.  Check it out:

At the back of section 150, the last two rows of seats are missing.  I took this panorama from the corner spot at the highest point of the seating area in RCF:

In that last panorama, you might be able to tell that Tim is standing at the far left side of the picture and he is standing under a brick-looking part of the scoreboard.  Those are fake bricks.  From where Tim was standing, we could see up behind the scoreboard – to a random storage area:

Upon returning to our seats, Tim feasted upon his last ice cream helmet of the Roadtrip:

And we watched this dancing guy on the field:

The day before the dancer guy was a dancing grounds keeper.  He seems to be the Rays’ go-to dancer guy.

Things took an unfortunate turn in the later innings.  In the sixth, the Rays scored an unearned run (following an error by Dustin Ackley) on a sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist.  That made it 5-3 Mariners.

Jamey Wright replaced Pineda in the seventh inning and things quickly got worse.  The Rays made it 5-4 Mariners on an RBI groundout by John Jaso.  And then they loaded up the bases without one out for Johnny Damon.

Ichiro, Gutierrez and Casper Wells gathered together in CF…

…while Jeff Gray warmed up on the mound after replacing Wright.

Five pitches later, Damon hit what the umpires called a grand slam to RCF:

The ball plain as day clanked off of the yellow railing at the top of the OF fence and bounced high in the air and back onto the field.  While it was initially called a homerun (a grand slam), I was 100% certain that it would be reviewed and reversed.

And it was.  Damon was called back onto the field…

…and he had a little chat with 2B umpire Mike Winters before taking his spot at second base.  Despite the ground rule double call, all three runners scored.  So the play still resulted in the Mariners trailing 7-5.

After intentionally walking Evan Longoria, Wright was replaced by Dan Cortes…

…who quickly struck out Ben Zobrist and retired Casey Kotchman on a flyball to LF.

So the Mariners were now down by two, but not for long.  In the top of the eighth, Casper Wells led off with a single and then Wily Mo Pena crushed a 2-run homerun…

…to tie up the game at 7-7.

Dan Cortes pitched…

…around trouble in the eighth.  And it was a lot of trouble.  He ended up loading the bases with two outs setting up a show down with Johnny Damon.  Damon had already hit a ball on inch from being a grand slam.  But threw some kind of ironic miracle, Cortes got out of it.  Actually, it wasn’t his pitching at all.  He ended up air mailing the second pitch to Damon all the way to the back stop.  Matt Joyce came charging hard from third, but Josh Bard was able to get the ball back to a diving Cortes just in time to cut Joyce down at the plate:

In that picture, Cortes is in the process of slamming the ball down in frustration after making the out on the crazy play.

After three quick Mariners outs in the top of the ninth, Cortes was back to try to shut the Rays down in the bottom f the ninth.  My mom was dismayed that Cortes was still in the game.
I thought she should have some faith – Dan could do it!  But it turns out her dismay was warranted.  Cortes only threw one pitch in the bottom of the ninth, and Johnny Damon hit it into
the seats in RCF for a walk off homerun.

It was a particularly gut-wrenching way to have the Rays complete the series sweep against our Mariners.  With the loss, the Mariners record 2011 fell to 0-6 with me and Tim in attendance, including three walk off losses (two of which we entered the bottom of the final inning with the lead) and that crazy Adam Kennedy-induced loss in the series opener.
We are going to see the Mariners three more times this season and we just HAVE to avoid going 0-9.  That would be unbearable.

After treating our team so poorly over the last three days, the least the Rays could do was let Tim (and all of the other kids) run the bases after the game.  We got in a long line…

…and then Tim bolted around the diamond as I followed along “chaperoning” him:

After running the bases, we got a series of pictures before leaving the field and Tim decided to do macho cool guy poses (my least favorite pose) in all of them.  He must have been feeling like a real macho cool guy after running so quickly around the bases.

We started with the cool guy and Dad behind the plate pose:

Then I got an extreme close up of the Rays fancy fake grass:

Then it was time for a solo macho cool guy shot:

And then a cool guy with Dad and grandparents shot (the usher told me people weren’t supposed to come down from the seats and enter the field area, but he let my parents do it
anyway for this picture):

And then we said our good-byes to Tropicana Field…

…and headed to the airport so Tim and I could fly home to mommy and Kellan.  Before leaving my folks, we got an end of Roadtrip picture…

…to bookend the trip with our beginning of Roadtrip trip picture taken the previous weekend.

Overall (and despite the three Mariners losses), it was an incredibly great trip.  And it will likely be the last with the original Cook Grandfather-Father-Son line-up because Kellan should be joining the fun in 2012.

2011 C&S Fan Stats
26/4 Games (Tim/Kellan)
18/6 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals, Cubs, Angels, Indians, Reds, Giants, Tigers, Yankees, Marlins; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles, Angels, Mets, Indians, Yankees]
21 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1), Tigers (1), Marlins (2), Braves (2), Rays (3)).
72 Baseballs (16 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 4 Orioles, 4 Umpires, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 5 Phillies, 2 Mets, 2 Rays, 5 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 2 Easter Egg, 1 Glove
Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs, 5 Angels, 4 Indians, 2 Giants, 1 Tigers, 1 Marlins)
12/3 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; Kellan – Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium]
15/9 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; 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]
17 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, Jamey Wright, Jack Zduriecik, Carl Willis, Tom Wilhelmsen, Casper Wells)
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

GFS 2011 Game 6 – Mariners at Rays (8/20/11)

Our 2011 Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip continued on Saturday, August 20, 2011.  But before the game, we had some mini-golf and alligator feeding on the schedule.  For those in the Tampa-Saint Pete area and feel the need to feed alligators and play mini-golf, you better head on over to…

Smugglers Cove!  This was easily the coolest mini-golf place I’ve ever seen.  They have a pool filled with about 20 alligators in the middle of the course.  For a couple extra bucks, you can buy a pack of food to lower down to the gators.  They go crazy trying to be the lucky gator to get the food.  Fun times!

After mini-golf, we headed to Johns Pass for some lunch and to watch the pelicans fish in the bay.  More fun times!

We headed over to Tropicana Field in time to be there before the gates opened, but we missed being within the first 100 cars with four-plus passengers, so we had to actually pay for parking.

When we entered the ballpark, no one was on the field, but the batting cage was sitting behind home plate.  So we checked out the rays tank from the CF seats.  Eventually, Juan Cruz
and another Rays pitcher walked out to the bullpen and a few Mariners started trickling out onto the field by the 3B dugout.  I headed around the RF foul pole and asked Cruz if the Rays were going to take BP.  “No, sir,” he responded.

I continued walking over to the Mariners dugout.  By the time I got over there, pretty much the whole team was stretching:

A few minutes later, Ichiro started playing catch…

…with Chone Figgins along the 3B foul line.

Down below me, Jack Zduriencik, Dave Henderson and Dave Simms were hanging out in front of the dugout:

I had a baseball in my backpack that I had intended to use for autographs and I was thinking a Dave Henderson autograph would be pretty cool.  But “Hendu” denied my request with the excuse, “Jack told me not to sign autographs so we can focus (motioning toward the team) on these guys.”  I am 99.999% positive that Hendu was just feeding me a line, but, oh, well.

Unlike the Rays, the Mariners were going to take BP.  So I headed back out to CF and met up with Tim and my mom.  As we all headed over to the rays tank, Blake Beavan was kind enough to toss us a baseball.

Thanks, Blake!

The rays and horseshoe crabs were, once again, great.  Tim played director and made sure I got the perfect pictures of the little critters:

As we were watching the rays, another fan standing in the front row started chatting with us.  He told me to come down into the front row so I could get a baseball for Tim.  I told him that I couldn’t because you have to have front row ticket to stand up there during BP.  He pulled out a front row ticket and said, “Come on up.”  When the usher came over (ten seconds later) to boot me out, the fan said, “He’s with me, Paul.”  (FYI, I just made up the name Paul, I have no recollection what the usher’s name was).

Anyway, I successfully made it to the front row.  A few minutes later, one of my Mariners hit a homerun right to me.  It was going to be a pretty easy catch.  But at the last minute, an old guy sitting a couple seats over from me slid over, stuck his glove just barely in front of mine, and deflected the ball back onto the field.  It was a bummer.  I was excited about the prospect of catching a BP homerun two days in a row.

A few minutes later, my front row positioning paid off when Tom Wilhelmsen tossed us a baseball.

Thanks, Tom!

After getting that baseball, I thanked the fan for letting me hang out in the front row, and then my mom, Tim and I went on a ballpark tour.

We started by racing up a big outdoor spiral outside the LF foul corner side of the stadium.  Well, Tim and I raced and my mom walked.  We headed out to the deepest LCF corner of
the second deck seats – section 355:

We watched the rest of Mariners BP up there.  After BP ended, we got this picture of Tim in the upper deck before heading on our way:

During this weekend, Tim starting trying to look like a cool, tough guy in a lot of pictures.  That last picture is a perfect example of that phenomenon.  Looking past Tim’s tough guy expression, check out how low the closest cat walk is.  Its barely above the second deck seats.

The outfield concourses at Tropicana Field are decorated with a bunch of different themes.  In the LF second deck area, the concourse is designed like a street (with a disco ball above):

I personally didn’t realize this next thing until later in this game, but check out this picture of the catwalks:

The lowest catwalk is behind the foul pole in homerun territory.  If a ball hits that catwalk it would have already crossed over the outfield fence.  But the other catwalks are partially in fair territory.  As a result, there are little foul pole extensions hanging from the catwalks.  I thought that was pretty interesting.

It’s time for some panoramas.  Here is a panoramic view of Tropicana Field from section 345:

Heading into foul territory, I took this next panorama from section 323 while standing next to the bottom corner of the tarps that cover many of the upper deck seats:

Behind third base, here is the view from section 315:

Like on the field level, the upper deck concourses are split into inside/outside portions of the upper deck concourse behind 3B:

Tim and my mom stayed on the concourse level when I ran up to the last row of the upper deck behind home plate to get this panorama from section 300:

Right above me when I took that last picture is a walkway that runs from the back wall of the out to the catwalks and the centerpiece that hangs from the roof.  Just for kicks, I took this picture of myself while standing in the back row of section 300:

Next we wandered over to section 310…

…where Tim spotted a TV camera in the stands.  He walked over and got a close-up look at the camera set up.

Finally, we headed out to the RF corner of the upper deck – section 324:

From up there, we could see my Dad down below sitting in our seats in section 132.

After our tour of the upper deck, we headed outside and down the spiral ramp.  On our way we noticed several things:

(i) the Rays used the space in the middle of the ramp for storage of various things, (ii) we could see the CF entrance we had used to enter the ballpark both days, (iii) the columns we had previously noticed ringing the dome were designed like big baseball bats with MLB logos, and (iv) from the ramp Tim could pose with the top of a tall palm tree.

There are a bunch of carnival games in the field level concourse that Tim had been aching to play.  So after our upper deck tour, my Mom headed off to meet up with my Dad and Tim and I went to play some games.

On our way over to the games in the LF foul corner, we stopped into a room with a bunch of artwork:

The games were a big hit.  They have four games – whack a mole, a racing game where you have to roll a ball into single, double or triple holes to make your player advance, mini golf, and a throw-a-ball-into-a-basket game.  The best ones were whack-a-mole…

…and the racing game.  The moles on the whack-a-mole game were wearing MLB helmets.  Tim and I faced off against each other in a race to 250 points.  I ended up beating Tim because he would only whack the Yankees mole.  I tried not to destroy him, but at his only-bash-Yankees method it would have taken him about an hour to collect 250 points.

After Tim finished playing the games, the carny announced that Tim was entitled to pick a prize from the prize rack.  Although there were bigger and seemingly better prizes available, Tim had no trouble making his selection:

GLOW STICK GLASSES!!!

Tim loved them.  And he looked hilariously cute in them.

For example, see how they spice up this standard “posing with nachos” picture:

The game was another difficult one…in a completely different way than the day before.  We were never in this game.  Dustin Ackley hit a double in the top of the first, but that was all the Mariners could muster.

Our seats at this game were down the RF line and we had a great view of Ichiro:

In the bottom of the first, the Rays took the lead when Johnny Damon hit a triple and Evan Longoria followed with a 2-run homerun.  Unfortunately, the homerun gave us the opportunity to confirm our suspicion that the Tropicana orange sign squirts juice when the Rays hit a homerun:

Yep, it does.

While randomly looking around the ballpark, I noticed something…

…there are tons of wires connected to each other between the catwalks.  Tim actually thought there was a trapeze up there.  When I took that picture was the first time I noticed the foul poles hanging from the catwalks.  Weird, eh?

From our seats, we could see the season ticket holder who let me enter the sacred front row during BP – his seats are in the front row directly next to the Rays tank (he’s the guy in the black shirt):

Soon enough, Tim needed to go see the rays tank.  On our way, we checked out the rotunda-entrance-thingy:

The seats in section 150 by the rays tank…

…were pretty crowded.  We were going to have to go through the line to get inside to see the rays.  But first, the rays scored three more runs, the last of which scored on this sacrifice fly to Ichiro:

That put the Mariners down 5-0 through 3 innings.

After reviewing this sign…

…, it was clear that we had been feeding the rays incorrectly the day before.  We bought a tray of cut up fish and gave it another try.

Then I headed over to the RF side of the tank and got this picture of Ichiro from the rays tank area…

…and this picture (and many others) of Tim and my Mom waiting for some rays to swim by for petting:

After we returned to our seats, I got one of my favorite pictures ever:

Those glasses are just too funny!

One of the Mariners highlights of the day was Tom Wilhelmsen…

…who pitched three hitless innings.  Aside from hitting Desmond Jennings (the first batter he faced), Wilhelmsen was pitched a perfect 4th, 5th and 6th innings.

Here is another picture – of Tim just chatting up his grandpa – that is hilarious due to Tim’s “glow up” glasses:

Wilhelmsen got all three batters in the sixth inning to fly out to RCF, including this fly out to Ichiro:

In the seventh, Tim and I took another walk in the OF concourse.  I got a refill (probably my fourth) of my $9.00 all-you-can-drink diet pepsi.  Then Tim spent some time coloring on the community coloring wall:

And then he played some of the games in the RF concourse:

After more game playing, we checked out the cross-aisle behind the field level seats on the 1B side:

We got this panorama from behind section 120:

We then happily watched as Trayvon Robinson smacked a single on this swing…

…and Ichiro followed with a single of his own on this swing:

Sadly, three batters later the inning ended without any Mariners crossing home plate.

When we returned to our seats, we finally got a panoramic view from section 132:

Then I noticed that the Rays have two retired numbers that almost seem like they are part of a billboard:

42, of course, is for Jackie Robinson.  12 is for Rays *legend* Wade Boggs.  Boggs, of course, is a Hall of Famer.  He was an amazing hitter with a .328 career batter with 3010 hits to his credit.  He played 11 years for the Red Sox hitting at a .338 clip with 2098 hits.  He played 5 seasons for the Yankees hitting .313 with 702 career hits in New York.  In Tampa Bay, he played two seasons, hit .289 with a mere 210 hits.  Neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees have retired Boggs’s number.  So, hmm…it seems like the Rays must have just been aching to retire a number.

Anyway, the Rays scored three more runs in the bottom of the eighth putting the Rays up 8-0.

Despite the bleak circumstances facing the Mariners, Tim was still behind our guys.  He started a rousing chant…

…of “GO MARINER! GO MARINERS! GO MARINERS!”

In the top of the ninth, we scooted over behind section 128:

So we were just a little closer when Kyle Seager struck out swinging to end the game.  After the game, we got and usher to take our picture by the Rays bullpen:

Before leaving the ballpark, we headed back to the rays tank to say our good-byes to the rays for the night.  On our way, I got this panorama from section 138:

When we reached the tank we found that all of the rays were asleep:

Its hard to tell from that picture because the outside of the tank is so dirty.  But a bunch of the rays were all lined up at the top of a ridge in the sand sleeping.

Finally, on our way out of the ballpark, we got Tim’s picture in the two yellow seats in RF:

The yellow seats commemorate the first home run in Devil Rays history, which was hit by Wade Boggs on March 31, 1998, and Wade Boggs’s 3,000th hit.  Interestingly, Boggs hit only 9 homeruns for the [Devil] Rays.  So, 22.2% of his homeruns for the Rays are memorialized with yellow seats.

2011 C&S Fan Stats
25/4 Games (Tim/Kellan)
18/6 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals, Cubs, Angels, Indians, Reds, Giants, Tigers, Yankees, Marlins; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles, Angels, Mets, Indians, Yankees]
20 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1), Tigers (1), Marlins (2), Braves (2), Rays (2)).
70 Baseballs (14 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 4 Orioles, 4 Umpires, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 5 Phillies, 2 Mets, 2 Rays, 5 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 2 Easter Egg, 1 Glove Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs, 5 Angels, 4 Indians, 2 Giants, 1 Tigers, 1 Marlins)
12/3 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; Kellan – Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium]
13/9 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; 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]
6 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino, Aroldis Chapman, Jack McKeon)
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.

Ballhawking Prankology 101: The Plant

In case anyone who reads this blog hasn’t seen this yet, I thought I would share the guest column I wrote recently for myGameBalls.com.  Enjoy:

Here are a couple bonus pictures.  First, Tim with one of the FeMeBe baseballs:

Here is a photo by Avi Miller of Jeremy Guthrie standing in LF with the FeMeBe baseball in his glove pre-toss-up:

Here is a group shot from the myGameBalls.com “Ballhawkfest 2011″ featuring the FeMeBe baseball:

Finally, Avi and I did not tell Zack about the prank or the article.  We wanted him to find out about it through normal channels…just however the news would reach him.  I’m still not sure how the news got to him, but a few hours after the article was posted this message from Zack showed up on Twitter:

That’s all for now.  Go Mariners!

Rangers Last In The A.L. West (5/28/2011)

At the ripe old age of *little five*, Tim has finally closed out the A.L. West stadiums.  When we entered Rangers Ballpark in Arlington over Memorial Day weekend, it was our fourth and final A.L. West Stadium to check off of our list.  Safeco Field (2006-10), Oakland Coliseum (2010), Angel Stadium of Anaheim (2010), and Rangers Ballpark of Arlington (2011).

It is the first MLB division that we have closed out.  By the end of the season, two more (N.L. East and A.L. East) will join the A.L. West on the closed-out list.

This is the story of how we finally closed out the A.L. West.

On the morning of May 28, 2011, Tim and I woke up at my buddy Jason’s house (Thanks, Jason , Erin and Ainsley!  Welcome to the world, Isla, thanks for loaning us your brand new room!), Tim played around a bit with Jason’s daughter Ainsley, and then we hit the road north to Arlington, Texas.

The drive is long (4.5 hours), flat and straight.  Here were the highlights:

Top Left  – A big Sam Houston statue…Really big;

Top Right – Day and night speed limits;

Bottom Left – Tim did lots of napping after a long and fun-filled day in Houston; and

Bottom Right – It was flat and hot out there…our dashboard thermometer said it got up to about 96 degrees during our drive

We stayed at a hotel about one mile from Rangers Ballpark, which just happens to be right across the street from Six Flags.  About half an hour before the gates opened for season ticket holders, Tim and I hopped into the car, drove less than a mile, paid $10 to park, and walked about a quarter mile to the home plate entrance at Rangers Ballpark.

We did not have season tickets, but we had plans to meet MLBlogs and myGameBalls.com friend Brian Powell, who is a season ticket holder.  Brian got us in early and the fun began.

As I mentioned, upon entering Rangers Ballpark, Tim and I reached a milestone.  We finished off visiting each A.L. West stadium (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angels Stadium, and Rangers Ballpark).  It felt good to finally close out a division.

Now, I did a fairly shabby job of covering theaction during batting practice.  Itotally failed to photograph the empty bleachers during BP.  So here is a picture from later in the game
that sort of shows the set-up of things:

That really shabby looking panoramic view is looking out at Rangers Ballpark from the back of section 52.  The outfield is split into three sections.  Brian led us into the seating
around in the left field corner in section 54.  We walked across the elevated LF sections and said “hello” to myGameBalls.com member and Brian’s buddy, Dirk Elliott.  Then we kept on our way toward CF.

We finally stopped in section 52.  It was me, Tim, Brian, and one other guy in the whole section.  That guy’s wife and son showed up from time-to-time, but mostly it was just the four of us in the three left centerfield sections (section 52-54).

Here’s the best photo I managed to take that shows the set-up:

In that picture, Tim and Brian are hanging out in section 53 and in the background (with the red arrow) is Dirk in section 4.

Two seconds after taking off my back pack, Josh Hamilton blasted a BP homer about 7 rows over our heads.  I ran up a couple rows and picked it up for our first baseball ever at Rangers Ballpark.  It was very cool to get a baseball from Hamilton.

A few minutes later, Brian and Tim were further down toward section 52 (where I took that last picture), when another Ranger blasted a homerun into section 53.  I ran for it, but I ricocheted off of the seats in the second or third row and back onto the field.  Neftali Feliz saw me run for the ball, gloved it off of the ricochet and immediately tossed it back up to me.

Thanks, Neftali!

The other guy in the section was focused on running onto Greene’s Hill to try to catch BP homeruns.  I wanted to give it a shot too.  So Tim and I hung out by the edge of the grass for a while in section 52.  While we were standing around waiting for a homerun to be hit into the grassy batters eye, Tim pipes up –

Tim: “There’s a baseball!”

Todd:  “What?”

Tim: “There’s a baseball in that thing!”

Todd: “What?  Where?”

Check this out:

I asked the other guy in the section if it was cool for me to run down into the camera well to grab the baseball.   It was.  Moments later, we had this ball in hand.

Tim has told numerous people the story about finding this ball.  And at the end of the story, he always concludes (as if it is a punchline to a great joke), “Then daddy showed him the baseball, and Brian laughed!”

Good stuff.

By the way, this baseball was unlike any other ball we acquired in Texas.  It had a Rawlings-printed “Practice” stamp below the MLB logo, but it did not say “Training Ball” like the Nationals baseballs.  It makes me curious to know how long the ball had been in this little box.  But, we’ll never know.

After a while, Dirk came over to join us in LCF.  We had read about Dirk’s fishing pole ball retriever device on myGameBalls.com and he knew that Tim was really hoping to get a chance to try it out.  Dirk asked Tim if he wanted to give it a shot, and Tim responded enthusiastically in the affirmative.

There were no baseballs in the gap, so Dirk just tossed one of his own baseballs down there.  And then he took Tim under his wing to teach him about baseball fishing:

It was the first time either Tim or I had ever used a ball retrieving device, and Tim loved it.  He was even more excited two minutes later when Brian and Dirk pulled a surprise gift for Tim out of one of their back packs; they had made him his very own Mariners baseball fishing pole:

We were blown away!  Tim absolutely loves his Mariners fishing pole.

Thanks, Brian and Dirk!  You guys are awesome!

It was crazy hot at Rangers Ballpark.  So we relocated over to the Rangers bullpen area in right centerfield.  Tim used the shady spot above the bullpen to practice casting with his baseball  pole:

I noticed former-Mariners Mark Low and Arthur Rhodes…

…standing in RF in front of the Rangers bullpen.  It is great to see former-Mariners sticking together.  I was wearing a Mariners t-shirt, but not my jersey because it was so hot.  But standing behind two former-M’s, I figured I better put on the jersey.  Mere minutes later, Arthur gave us a wave and then he hooked us up with our fourth baseball of the day.

Thanks, Arthur!

Soon, a BP homerun found its way into the Rangers bullpen.  It was way out there.  The pole is really meant for baseballs below you in a gap, but we figured that I should try casting for it.

Brian got some pictures from behind me as I cast Tim’s contraption out into the Rangers bullpen from the first row in center field:

I needed to knock the ball close, but it was a no go.  I was getting nowhere with it.

We relocated to the seats behind the bullpen where Tim has been practicing casting his pole.  As I failed over-and-over again, I got an ear full from an (apparent) Rangers regular.  An older lady who sat in the first row at the CF corner of the bullpen both Saturday and Sunday.  She was mocking the Mariners patch on Tim’s baseball pole.

Here we are chatting with her and an usher who came down to watch us:

I was having absolutely no luck knocking the ball closer to the back of the bullpen.  At one point, I told the usher, “I think I’ll try to hook that chair (in the bullpen), knock it over, and use it to pull the ball closer to me.”

A great idea, I thought.

I hooked the chair pretty easily:

But the chair was WAY to heavy and it wouldn’t budge.

Yer gonna break your line!,” hollered the older Rangers fan.

I turned to her with a smile, “I’m not really a fisherman.”

You don’t say!?,” she replied with a sarcastic Texas accent.

At this point, the usher intervened.  There was no way I was going to unhook the chair without snapping my line and losing the ball retriever on the end of Tim’s pole.  So the usher hopped down into the bullpen and grabbed the baseball (he can be seen in that last picture walking toward the baseball).

He walked over to hand the ball up to Tim.  I asked if he could just put the ball on the ground below us so we could fish it out.  “I think you’ve tried enough,” he responded as he handed the baseball up to Tim.

So, our first retriever effort was a failure.  But Tim has the baseball to go along with the story:

Okay.  BP was finished.  It was time to walk around a little bit.  But just a little bit, because it was so incredibly hot.

We headed over to section 44 to get a panorama of Rangers Ballpark from the extra wide stairway:

There are a bunch of kids’ games behind the batters eye, and Brian had given us a bunch of tokens to play some of the games.  (Side note, it is pretty weak that the Rangers sell tokens so kids can play games after paying to go to the game).  Anyway, Tim really wanted to play the games, but the lines were huge.

So it was time to check out the upper deck.  We headed to section 303.  There was a great view of the Rangers bullpen from up there:

It was so high and steep that Tim was scared to be up there.  But he put his fears aside for this picture:

Finally, I got this panoramic view of Rangers Ballpark from section 303:

Whenever we hit a new stadium, we’re all about seeing the whole thing.  Normally, we would have walked all the way around the upper deck at this point.  But it was crazy hot (I might have mentioned that already) and Tim was not digging being up so high.   So we called it quits on the tour.  Yep, we were way off of our new-stadium-game.

So we headed back down to the field level.

On the way down, I got this picture of the concourse from high above:

There was still a huge line for all of the kids’ games.   So we just passed through and got Tim’s picture with Nolan Ryan:

We must have looked like we were going to melt because an usher came up and told us that we could head into the Rangers Hall of Fame if we needed some air conditioning.

Great idea.  Here is a little peak into the Rangers Hall of Fame:

I love Tim’s look of disapproval in the top left picture.  Yeah, we’re Mariners fans, Rangers.  We’re just in here for the air conditioning!

Nah, despite wanting the Rangers to lose every game they play, it was nice to see their Hall of Fame.

The game was about to start so we headed to the concession stand for some nachos.  On the way to grab the nachos, we spotted this Rangers fan sporting a mean part of antlers:

Nachos in hand, we reported to our seats.  Well, actually, our seats were in the sun, so we sat section 50, row 9, seats 1-2.  We actually sat in these same exact seats both Saturday and Sunday.  They’re awesome:  (i) nice and shady, (ii) great view, and (iii) easy access to the Rangers bullpen and the concourse.

Tim grabbed my glove to pose for a photo with our view of the ballpark:

After former-Mariner Adrian Beltre put the Rangers up 2-0 with a double in the bottom of the first inning, Tim and I headed to the kids’ play area.  It was time for Tim to take some hacks at Rangers Park:

After cycling through the outfield shagging balls, Tim got his turn at bat.  He got about 5 or 6 pitches and he hit them all.  Like this one:

And this one:

Finally, on his last pitch, Tim hit a homerun directly to me.  It was my first clean catch of a homerun ball all season!

While Tim was waiting in line to hit in Rangers Park, Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli and Endy Chavez hit back-to-back-to-back homeruns.  We couldn’t see the homers at all.  We just saw the fireworks and saw “homerun” flashing across the LCD boards along the 3B line.

Next up, it was time to hit in this little batting tee thingy:

This time while we were in line, Adrian Beltre hit an unseen homerun.  We were missing a lot of action.  The Rangers were leading 6-0.

But the worst part about standing in line for this batting tee thingy was that (as Tim reports it), that boy in the red shirt said, “you can do it little kid!  Hey, I’m not *little* kid!”

So we missed a whole bunch of homeruns.

When we were back in our seats, the action looked more like this:

That’s an awkward Adrian Beltre foul ball.

With our long trip to the kids play area, this game was flying by.  At some point, Tim asked where Brian was.  He wanted to go see him.  After exchanging a few text messages with Brian, we were on our way up to section 232 to meet up with Brian, his daughter Sarah, and his mom and aunt.

On our way up a long and tall escalator in the 1B side concourse, I got this cool picture that shows the various levels of the inner-stadium:

At the top of that picture is the suite level, next is a thin slice of the playing field, then it’s the back of the field level seats with a little elevated concourse area (or maybe it’s a party area) behind the seats, and (finally) at the bottom is the actual field level concourse.

Brian’s seats for the game were pretty sweet.  And we grabbed couple seats right next to his.  It looked like this:

Between innings, Tim and I got a picture with Brian (who is sporting his Happy Youngster t-shirt):

The Rangers also had a running of the mascots race – like the presidents in D.C., the sausages in Milwaukee or the Pierogies in Pittsburgh:

Nolan Ryan won this race.

While we were up there, it was also a prime opportunity to get Tim’s picture with the “Rangers Ballpark in Arlington” sign behind home plate:

Brian’s seats were perfect for taking pictures of batters.  Like this one of Josh Hamilton:

When Hamilton hit a double, Elvis Andrus…

…scored eighth Rangers run of the night.  Hamilton and Nelson Cruz scored the 9th and 10th Rangers runs of the night…on the fifth Rangers homerun of the night:

That was it for Brian and his crew.  They had to leave a little early.  So we too left section 232.  We headed back toward CF via the scenic route.

First, we got this panoramic view of Rangers Ballpark from section 242:

Next, we headed to the all-you-can-eat second deck in RF, where a stadium attendant took this shot of us from the concourse in deep RCF:

Then I got this panoramic view from the front of sections 251/252:

This is what it looks like up in the all-you-can-eat seats:

Finally, we headed back down to the field level and the CF bleachers.  On our way, we stopped to grab Tim a chocolate ice cream helmet.  We’d definitely been *watching* the game, but for some reason I didn’t realize what inning it was.  When we closed on the deal and took possession of Tim’s first Rangers ice cream helmet, there was one out in the top of the ninth…and the home team was winning big!

Uh, oh.  Tim was going to have to eat this huge mint chocolate chip ice cream helmet fast.

We decided to sit in the first row behind the Rangers bullpen to finish off the game.  Just as we settled in, Tim realized there was something fishy with is ice cream utensil:

What the spork!?  Yep, it was Tim’s very first spork of his life.  25 stadiums and 1 spork.

I quickly realized that no one was warming up in the bullpen, but there was a stray baseball laying on the ground by the bullpen home plates.

I started to take a panorama from the first row of section 48 and…

…the game ended.  Rangers win.  Darn.

The Rangers relievers high-tailed it out of there.   I mean they were gone in a flash.  And when it was all said and done, I realized they had left the stray baseball sitting on the ground by the
bullpen home plates.

I picked up Tim and we headed over to the first row of section 52.

Now, I had never used the “glove trick” before, never even attempted it, but I had rigged a glove up for it and brought it on this trip because I knew Rangers Ballpark was glove-trick-friendly and we needed a picture using a ball retrieving device for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt.  We’d already got the picture of Tim fishing for a baseball with Dirk, but now we had a prime opportunity to try out the glove trick.

It took me a minute or two to swing the glove out and knock the ball closer to me.  It was probably 8-10 feet out.  One my second or third attempt, I successfully got the ball up to chest level.  I went to grab it from the glove, and accidentally knocked it out.  But instead of falling into the bullpen, it fell into the 10 (or so) foot deep gap.

So, I repositioned myself and tried again.  With a small crowd watching me, the pressure was on.  I quickly got the baseball half way up from the ground before I jerked my string and the ball fell to the ground again.

At this point, an usher came down to the first row.  I pleaded to him, “I’ve never done this before.  Can I just try to get this baseball?”  “I’m gonna watch you do it,” he responded.  Cool!

On my next attempt, I nailed it.  As I slowly raised the glove from the ground, the usher counseled me, “easy now, easy now!”  And easy did it.  I got the ball to chest level and *carefully* reached out and secured it with my hand.

The small crowd let out a little roar.  And I held the ball aloft in victory!  Our first ever glove trick!

Tim posed with the baseball and his still almost-full ice cream hemlet:

In that picture, the guy in the white shirt and red hat is the usher who watched us get the baseball.  The little kid in the red also watched with amazement as we retrieved our sixth and final ball of the day.

Ah, Rangers Ballpark of Arlington, you are a good one.  In fact, as I rank the A.L. West Stadiums, you are second:

1.  Safeco Field

2.  Rangers Ballpark of Arlington

3.  Angels Stadium of Anaheim

4.  Oakland Coliseum (a distant last place)

2011 C&S Fan Stats
10/1 Games (Tim/Kellan)
12/2 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros and Royals; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles]
5 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies, Rangers)
33 Baseballs (4 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 3 Orioles, 2 Umpire, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 4 Phillies, 1 Mets, 1 Rays, 2 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 1 Easter Egg, 1 Glove Trick)
5/1 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington; Kellan – Camden Yards]
11/7 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; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
3 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe)
1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)
3/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
1/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L. West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in Arlington); Kellan – N/A]
*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.

Minute Maid Makes 24* (5/27/2011)

* [Note: The number 24 has a special signficance to me.  It is Ken Griffey, Jr.'s number.  And it has been retired on this blog -- I dare you to try to find a player wearing the number 24 on this blog.  This is the story of Tim's 24th MLB stadium.]

I’ve wanted to get to Texas for some time now.  More specifically, we just had to get to Minute Maid Park and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  And that’s just where we were heading for Memorial Day weekend this year.

We started off in Houston.   My buddy, Jason, from high school lives in Houston and used his connections to get us ridiculously awesome tickets in the Diamond Club at Minute Maid Park.  Jason and his daughter were going to join me and Tim for the game, but Jason had to  leave unexpectedly.  So Tim and I were on our own.  Luckily, we know what to do when
we find ourselves in a new stadium.

After hitting up the awesome Children’s Museum of Houston, we found ourselves outside of Minute Maid Park…

…about half an hour before gates opened.  We walked around the stadium to get a lay of the land.  And, boy, was Texas hot…I don’t advise walking anywhere, for any distance, in the heat of Texas.

Behind left field, we found a cool little park where Tim took some fake hacks and ran some bases…

…but, beware, there is no third base in this park.  Third base would be in the middle of the street.  This wasn’t a satisfying explanation for Tim; he’s not accustomed to stopping at second base.

A little background before we head into the game.   I knew that Willie Bloomquist played for the Diamondback and I have a Willie Bloomquist Mariners t-shirt jersey.   So I decided to wear it just in case Willie might take notice.

When the ballpark opened, we headed into the Diamond Club, through the restaurant, down the tunnel, through the seats, down to the first row, and right out onto the warning track behind home plate:

For some reason, a doorway onto the field was open and a bunch of people were out there, so we just walked out there.  We weren’t actually supposed to be out there unless we had special passes (which we didn’t) so a few seconds later, we were back in the seating area.  But when we were out on the warning track, we noticed that Willie Bloomquist (under the yellow arrow above) was standing around getting ready to play catch.

I called out, “Hey, Willie” and when he looked over at us, I showed him the “Bloomquist” / “16” on my back.  He gave me a big thumbs-up.

We looked around and quickly realized that the Diamond Club was the most pointless place in the world to be in during batting practice.  So we headed back through the
Diamond Club and out toward left field.
Nothing was doing down the LF line.
So we headed back to the dugout to watch Willie Bloomquist hit.

After he finished hitting, he and his group of
hitters hung out on the dugout steps and signed autographs for a while.  While Willie was signing, someone overthrew a
baseball to Matt Williams (who was hitting fungo to the right side of the
infield) and the baseball came to rest just behind Willie.  I called out, “Hey, Willie!” and he looked at
me like “what do you want me to sign?”  I
asked, “Hey, could we get that baseball right behind you?”  He laughed, looked away and kept signing
autographs.  About a minute later, he
walked out of the dugout, grabbed the baseball, autographed it and tossed it up
to me and Tim.

Thanks,
Willie!  You da man!

With our shiny new Willie Bloomquist baseball in
hand, Tim and I posed for a picture before heading off to see the stadium:

Ah, I love checking out a new stadium.  And this was a beautiful one.  My only regret (well, semi-regret) was that
the roof was closed.  It’s a great
looking stadium when it is opened.  But,
it was closed due to the stifling heat…and I have to admit I was happy to have
the air conditioning running on full blast.

Before heading on our way, we paused another second
to get our first panorama of Minute Maid Park…from section 116:

One screwy thing about having the roof closed was
that it made the lighting really crazy.
It looked fine to human eyes, but the sun streaming in through the
windows in LF really overpowered my camera on some shots…like the last one.

We walked toward CF via the 1B line and RF.  We got this panorama of Minute Maid Park as
we passed through section 120:

When we reached the RF corner, I finally noticed the
train in LF.  When I pointed it out to
Tim (he loves trains), we stopped to get his picture with the train in the
background:

Here are panoramic views of Minute Maid Park from
section 134…

…section 152…

…and finally section 156:

The reason we were heading toward CF was so Tim
could check out the hill a/k/a “Tal’s Hill”).
Section 156 is the closest seating section to hill, but the Astros’
bullpen completely blocks your view of the hill.

The area right behind the CF wall (and the Hill) is
a restaurant and bar.  I didn’t know what
the story was with the restaurant.  There
was a hostess out front so I asked her if Tim and I could go down into the
restaurant seating area so we could check out the Hill.  She initially thought I meant that I wanted
to take a picture of Tim standing out on the hill.  “No, no, no…we just want to go down into the
seating area so we can take some pictures of the hill.”  No problem.

So, here we go – Tim and Tal’s Hill:

FYI, that flag pole is in play.  The hostess wasn’t paying attention to
us.   So we just hung out down there for
a few minutes.  Tim grabbed some railing
and took a big gander at Minute Maid Park:

I was hoping one of the batters would launch a ball
out toward the hill.  Eventually, someone
did.  And the only player who was wearing
a jersey with his name on the back, Zach Duke, ran over to grab it.

“Hey, Zach!”

And that’s all it took; Mr. Duke hooked us up with
our second Minute Maid Park baseball.

Thanks,
Zach!

Next, we continued on our way around the
stadium.  The concourse down the LF side
of the stadium is just a narrow walkway…

..along the right side of the walkway was the glass
outside wall of the stadium, and to the left was a bunch of Astros history:

In an arch in deep LCF, there is an overhang where
fans can stand high above the warning track.
For some reason, there is a huge gas pump inside the arch:

From the overhang, I took our Minute Maid Park bonus
picture for the mygameballs.com photo scavenger hunt:

And I got this shot of Tim with the field behind him:

And finally, a panoramic view of Minute Maid Park
from the overhang:

The overhang is way above the field level.  And our man, Willie Bloomquist, was down
below shagging fly balls.

A little further down the LF walkway, we wandered
into the “Crawford boxes” and got this panoramic view of the ballpark:

It was time to go up top.  We took an escalator to the upper deck.  From the upper deck concourse, fans can
access the 300 level (below) and the 400 level (above).  Here is a picture of Tim from the walkway
just behind the 300 level:

And then we got this panoramic view from the cross
aisle behind section 307:

While we were walking toward home plate, I got this
shot of the big screen at Minute Maid Park:

That is one HUGE screen – it is three sections
wide!  And its picture is crystal clear.

Finally, we got this panoramic view from behind
section 318…

…before heading downstairs and into the “Diamond
Club”:

Here is a hot of the main entrance Diamond Club:

Here is a look at the buffet area and bar:

All food and non-alcoholic drinks were free for us
in the Diamond Club!  And those people
served us about 10 little bottles of water.

My favorite part of the food area – the Nacho Bar:

In the photo two above, a big beam is shown right in
the middle of the bar.  Well, here is a
shot of the other side of the beam – more bar area and several big screen TVs!

We grabbed some honey biscuits (delicious), a huge
soft pretzel (crazy delicious), and a huge pile of beefy-and-cheesy nachos (oh,
yeah!), a couple bottles of water (I think we drank about 12 bottles of water
during this game), a big glass of lemonade (I drank about 5 during the game!),
and headed out to our seats in the Diamond Club.  Neither Tim nor I had ever sat in such big
and cushy seats for a game:

This panorama shows our ridiculously awesome view of
Minute Maid Park from Diamond Club section A, row 6, seats 1-2:

I was hoping that former President Bush (41, not 43)
would be in the house so we could ask him to autograph a baseball.  But the usher assigned to our section (shown
in red pants and khaki pants in the last picture) explained that George and
Barbara had just left for Maine for the summer.
Too bad.  A presidential autograph
would have been awesome.

Anyway, we headed to the first row right behind home
plate to get Tim’s picture:

Tim’s still got a bit of honey biscuits in his mouth
in that last picture.   There was too
much to eat for him to stop eating long enough to take that picture.

When the game started, I decided the main picture
goal was to capture Justin Upton hitting one of his monster bombs.  Unfortunately, Astros pitching and Upton’s
bat wouldn’t cooperate with my camera.
But here is one of my efforts from the first inning:

Sweet view, eh?
Yeah, we could get used to that.

Anyway, Upton was hit by a pitch in the top of the
first inning.  Other than the HBP, the
D-Backs had nothing going in the first.
But the Astros would get off to a fast start.  Lead-off man, Michael Bourn, led off the
bottom of the first with a single.

Bourn then scored with one out on a double…

…by Hunter Pence.
Pence then scored on a single by Carlos “El Caballo” Lee.

Another fun part of our Diamond Club experience was
that we were sitting about 20 feet from three MLB Authenticators:

They are the three guys sitting behind the little
yellow ramp (two bald guys in blue shirts and a bigger guy in dark grey).  On the first pitch of the bottom of the first
inning, Michael Bourn broke his bat.
After grabbing the broken bat, the bat boy ran it over to wall by the
yellow ramp and one of these guys jumped up and grabbed it.  The bigger guy with the dark grey shirt then
filled in a bunch of information on a form on his clipboard.  This went on all game with balls fouled
straight back off of the screen and broken bats (I think there was only one
other broken bat).

A fourth MLB (or more likely Astros) employee would
come out of the tunnel (the Diamond Club tunnel) every once-in-a-while and
would take the newly authenticated items from the Authenticators.  When he was standing around with the Bourn
bat between innings, we got this picture:

[Note: the Astros guy has a wicked Rollie Fingers
‘stache].

Between innings at one point early in the game, the
ball that made the final out of the inning ended up on the ground on the 1B
side of home plate.  We home plate umpire
Ted Barrett moseyed over and grabbed it, Tim and I ran down to that little yellow
ramp and yelled, “Hey, Ted!”  He was about
15 feet away, but completely ignored us.
He tossed the ball to the ball boy instead.  After Barrett tossed the ball into the
dugout, the authenticator sitting closest to the dugout got out attention and
declared, “if you hold tight, we’ll make sure you get one later in the
game.”  Sounded good to us.

During the game, we noticed there was an engineer
standing in the train out in deep LCF:

Although they look more like pumpkins, I think the

train’s coal car is full of oversized (Minute Maid) oranges.

In the top of the fourth inning, I took another
panorama from out seats to show our view in “game” conditions:

The most action we got on any of our Justin Upton
homerun attempts was catching this foul in mid-air before it slammed into the
net in front of our section:

In the middle innings, and with the Astros leading
6-2, Tim said he wanted to go explore the stadium a little.  So we headed toward the kids play area.  On the way, we grabbed some ice cream products
(chipwich for Tim and Snickers ice cream bar for me) from a freezer full of
free goodies in the Diamond Club hallway and then we got this panoramic view
from the concourse just behind section 122:

The Kids Play Area at Minute Maid Park was amazing:

We have seen a lot of Kids Play Areas at MLB
stadiums (this was Tim’s 24thstadium) and I think this one probably
ranks first on the list.  It was
huge.  And Tim had a blast.   The Astros also were thoughtful enough to
put a large flat screen TV in the kids area (you hear that, Nationals) so
parents could still watch the game.

After Tim burned off about 500 calories running
around like a maniac in the play area, we headed to the second deck in RF (just
below the big screen).  From the handicap
accessible seating area behind section 255, this was the view of Minute Maid
Park:

Next, we headed back toward the Diamond Club and got
this panorama from the big cross aisle behind Section 119:

Next, we headed back into the Diamond Club and got
some more waters.  Just for kicks, we got
another picture of Tim behind home plate.
This time, Tim couldn’t find the time to put down (or swallow) his water before this
picture:

When we got back from exploring, we found that the
Diamondbacks had taken the lead 7-6!
How’d that happen?  Well,
baseball-reference.com explains that part of it happened via a pinch hit and
run scored by Willie Bloomquist.  Nice
job, Willie.

Let’s check out a couple random features of Minute
Maid Park:

Left: The out of
town scoreboard is a full 9-inning hand operated scoreboard.  That must make for a lot of work for the
operators throughout the course of the game.

Right: I was
perplexed for a while because I couldn’t find the visitors’ bullpen.  The Astros bullpen is in deep RCF (as
pictured above).  But where were the
Diamondbacks’ relievers?  The answer:  behind these bizarre garage-like doors.  Odd.

Late in the game, a Diamondback broke his bat and
their batboy took the bat back to their dugout on the 3B side.  I thought that was odd because he’d picked it
up pretty close to the MLB Authenticators’ seats.  I wondered if they only authenticated bats
from the home team or something.  But
between innings, the middle authenticator walked out a half step onto the
warning track and called the bat boy over with the broken bat:

By the way, it was late in the game now and we still
had not gotten a ball from the MLB Authenticators.  When the bat boy brought them a foul ball in
the 8th inning, the guy who had told us he’d get us a ball pointed us out to
the middle guy (the guy pictured above), but that guy gave the ball to a little
girl who can relocated to the front row when those seats were vacated.

Former-Mariner J.J. Putz came in and closed out the
game for the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth:

Good job in this game, former-Mariners!  The Diamondbacks won by the final score of
7-6.

Immediately after the game, Tim and I were standing
around down by the on deck circle, just watching the post-game action.  The ball boy ran out of the Astros dugout and
brought two more baseballs to the MLB Authenticators.  The middle guy (pictured above) waved me down
and tossed one to us.  Here is Tim with
his baseball from the MLB Authenticators:

A minute or two later, we went over and thanked him
for the baseball and asked if it had been a foul ball in the game.  Yep, it was a foul ball in the ninth
inning…although the bat boy did not tell him who hit it – possibly because they
knew it was going to Tim.  I should have
asked him to authenticate it first!

Thanks,
MLB Authenticators!

Soon, the Minute Maid Park roof started opening in
preparation for post-game fireworks:

Before they turned off the lights for fireworks, an
usher took this picture of us (with Tim celebrating a great day at Minute Maid
Park and me looking seriously because the guy didn’t seem to understand how to
use my camera):

The fireworks weren’t on par with the shows the
Indians put on at Progressive Field, but it was a good show and Tim really
enjoyed it:

A cool touch was that the Astros let about 15-20
players’ kids down onto the field for fireworks.  They all lined up laying on their bellies in
foul territory down the 1B line.  Their
mothers sat about 10 feet behind the group of kids, and during the fireworks
show 2-3 Astros came out to watch the fireworks with their families.  After the fireworks, the players’ kids all
ran the bases.

It was time to head out.  Before we could head to the car, Tim needed
to stop to get his picture with this cool…

…blue and green fire hydrant that he’d noticed
before the game.  It is just outside of
the third base gate in case you want to get your picture with this amazing fire
hydrant.

So, the first day of our trip was awesome.  Tim woke up at 6:00 a.m. eastern time, and
was wide awake until after 11:00 p.m. central time…after a drive to the
airpoint, 4 hour flight, 2.5 hours at the kids museum, and a great evening at
the ballpark.  Tim is a trooper.

2011
C&S Fan Stats
9/1 Games (Tim/Kellan)
11/2 Teams [Tim – Mariners,
Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves,
Diamondbacks and Astros; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles]
4 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2),
Nationals, Phillies)
27 Baseballs (4 Mariners, 3
Rangers, 3 Orioles, 2 Umpire, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 4 Phillies, 1 Mets, 1
Rays, 2 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator)
4/1 Stadiums [Tim – Camden
Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park; Kellan – Camden
Yards]
11/7 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;
Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt
Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard
Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
3 Autograph(s) (Michael
Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe)
1 Bat* (Milton
Bradley)
3/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim –
Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s
Bird]
*includes
Spring Training
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