MyGameBalls.com Ballhawkfest 2012 (6/9/12)

June 9, 2012 was a fun day.  My folks were visiting from Washington and we all headed out to Pittsburgh for Ballhawkfest 2012 featuring an interleague battle between the Kansas City Royals and the Pittsburgh Pirates or, as it would turn out to be, the Kansas City Monarchs against the Homestead Grays.

We had a full day on the 9th so we drove out to Pittsburgh the night before the game and stayed in a hotel.  The first order of the day was to play a little homerun derby.  PNC Park regular and mygameballs.com member Rick Sporcic had booked us an incredibly interesting ballpark called Officer Paul J. Sciullo III Memorial Field.  As you can see from this panorama:

There is a bridge directly behind/above the tall chain-linked centerfield fence.  And it was definitely in play.

The derby crew was small, but all the guys were cool.  In addition to me, Tim and my dad (my mom and Kellan played around in the shade in deep CF/RF), there was Rick Sporcic, his buddy Hunter Stokes, Ballhawkfest veteran Garrett Meyer, Ballhawkfest veteran Alex Kopp, and Alex’s dad Mark Kopp.

I was in the outfield most of the time and didn’t have my camera.  So I only got a few pictures, mostly taken by Tim and Garrett.

Here is Garrett taking some hacks against Rick:

I didn’t get any pictures of Rick hitting, but he was definitely the batting champ of the day.  In his second round, he hit approximately 800 homeruns.

Garrett got some cool pictures of Alex pitching to me:

I hit about 5-6 homeruns onto the bridge.  Several went to CF where the bridge wasn’t very far from home plate.  My best hit went to LF and I was surprised when it carried all the way to the bridge.  In the following photo, I’ve laid our derby park on top of PNC Park so I could see how far my longest homerun went:

I was shocked by how small the derby park was when I put it on top of PNC Park.  But, you know, any time you’re hitting a baseball over an outfield fence it is fun.

Here is another picture that Garrett took that shows one of my homers sailing onto the bridge:

One of the best parts of the derby (which I completely failed to capture on film) was watching my dad hit.  He was lacing some hard line drives all over the park and eventually hit one bomb to leftfield.

Good job, pa!

After two rounds of homerun derby, we finished up with Garrett pitching to Tim:

Tim put on a good show.  He even took some successful lefty hacks.

After lunch, we all headed over to a local restaurant.  Two noteworthy things happened at the restaurant.  First, the service was horrible.  We had to wait for our food…

…for close to an hour.  This ultimately resulted in our bill getting cut in half by the manager.  Second, Milwaukee’s Best, Nick “The Happy Youngster” Yohanek, and his wife April showed up.  They missed the derby because they had a morning flight in from the dairy lands of Wisconsin.

After lunch, even with the long delay, we had a good chunk of time before the gates would open at PNC Park.  My folks, the boys and I passed the time with a visit to the Duquesne Incline:

Eventually, it was time to head to PNC Park.  PNC was Kellan’s 12th MLB stadium.  This was also my mom’s first game at PNC Park.  I’m not sure of her stadium total, but let’s see if I can figure it out.  I’ve been to games with my mom at: Safeco Field, the Kingdome, The Big A (as a kid), Dodger Stadium, Oakland Coliseum, Veterans Stadium, Citizens Bank Park, Camden Yards, Fenway Park, new Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, and Tropicana Field.  Okay, so my mom might be tied with Kellan at 12…but, then again, she might have been to the Astrodome with my dad before I was born.  Hmmm…not sure.

Anyway, as we approached PNC Park for my mom’s and Kellan’s first time, my mom and Tim got their picture with the Willie Stargell statue:

And then we met up with the Ballhawkfest crew, which now also included Rocco Sinisi from Cincinnati and Zac Weiss from Pittsburgh.  We joined in with the rest playing catch on Clemente Bridge:

When the ballpark opened, Rick took over and ended up getting all of us non-season ticket holders into the stadium with the season ticket holders.

Thanks, Rick!

While almost everyone else huddled up in LF, we got Tim’s picture with the Pirate Pig…

…and then headed over to RF foul territory:

RF foul territory is a pretty good spot to hang out in during BP at PNC Park.  A lot of the time over there, it was just us Cooks or us and Zac Weiss.

When we arrived Jeff Francouer was playing catch with a football in front of the 1B dugout.  He was a little past 1B and his partner was close to home plate.  His partner tossed a few balls past him and I kept yelling, “Hit me, Frenchie!  Hey, I got a tight spiral!”  He thought it was pretty hilarious, but didn’t let me get in on the football tossing action.

Charlie Morton tossed us a baseball pretty quickly after we arrived:

Thanks, Charlie!

About thirty seconds later, a Pirates batter hit a foul down the line.  I caught it on one big hop.

Shortly thereafter, Juan Cruz tossed a baseball to Tim…

…and Tim made a nice catch on it.

Right after throwing the ball Tim, Cruz grabbed another baseball and tossed it to my mom.  So everyone had a baseball already:

Double thanks, Juan!

I gave my glove to my mom so she could patrol the line with my dad and the boys:

My mom didn’t get any other baseballs, but my dad could 4-5 on the day.

It was a great time down the line.  In addition to a bunch of baseballs, we pictures with three players.  First, Tim (and sort of Kellan) got a pitcher with hard throwing Kelvin Hererra:

I didn’t know it before this game, but Jose Mijares is super nice and really likes kids.  He saw Kellan standing along the wall with his glove and walked over and put a baseball into Kellan’s glove.  Then he handed out some high fives to both boys:

Thanks, Jose!

I really wanted to try to get a picture with Yuniesky Betancourt and/or Johnny Giavotella (to whom one of my friends from New Orleans had asked me to pass along a message that New Orleans is rooting hard for his success).  They ended up taking some grounders together:

And then Giavotella came over and posed for a picture with Tim:

And I passed on the news that his home town is rooting for his success (which I imagine wasn’t too much of a shock to him).  He seemed like a real nice kid.

While the Royals pitchers were running sprints in the outfield, Greg Holland…

…fielded a batted ball and tossed it over to me and Kellan.

Thanks, Greg!

Then righty-former-Mariner Yuniesky Betancourt went on a tear hitting foul balls down the RF line.  I caught one of Yuni’s one-hoppers.

My dad got one of his that was sliced into the seats just behind the handicapped seating area.   And then Tim snagged one that Yuni sliced into the seats right where my dad had already got one from Yuni.  It was the first *hit* baseball that Tim had ever snagged on his own:

And he loved that it had a nice scuff mark from hitting the concrete.

Tim’s baseball from Yuni was our last baseball of the day.  Tim and Grandpa both wanted to see if they could get Yuni to sign their baseballs (they never got near him) so they headed over to the wall just past the dugout:

While Yuni never stopped by, Humberto Quintero did, and he posed for this picture with Tim:

Toward the end of BP, my folks went off to tour the stadium a bit…

…while the boys and I hung out with Matt Peaslee and Erin Wozniak¸ who we know through Matt’s Pittpeas MLBlog and met in person for the first time last year:

Matt and Erin are good people, and huge Pirates fans.  Follow Matt on Twitter and you will always know when the Pirates win a ballgame (NOTE: Matt just tweeted that linked tweet exactly when I typed this part of this blog entry!).

After parting ways with Matt and Erin, we grabbed some ice cream helmets and headed out to LF for a group shot with most of the Ballhawkfest guys:

Everyone had success and BP.  All told, I think we combined to snag over 50 baseballs as a group.  Not too shabby.

After the group photo, we headed to the picnic tables by the Alleghany River to eat our ice cream…

…do some ballpark birding…

…, and play some catch.

And then it was game time.  We had some lovely seats in the four row of section 137:

When the teams took the field, we realized it was Negro Leagues throw-back day.  The Pirates were sporting Homestead Grays uniforms and the Royals were representing the Kansas City Monarchs:

I thought both uniforms really looked great, with a slight edge to the Monarchs uniforms.  I really liked the look of the red and grey Monarchs uniforms paired with the Royals royal-blue spikes (shown below).

We had the first five seats on the aisle…

…, which worked out great for Kellan (as we’ll see below).

Yuniesky Betancourt kicked off the scoring in the top of the third inning with a 2-run homerun to LF:

I also enjoy seeingYuni do well.  A lot of Mariners fans like to rag on Yuni, but I’ve always liked the guy.  I liked him as our short stop.  And I like him for being an incredibly nice member of the brotherhood of former-Mariners players.

Good job, Yuni!

I was all set to catch a game homer…

…or to help Kellan catch a between-inning warm up baseball.  But neither came to fruition.

Section 137 is only about 6 rows deep and Kellan spent almost the entire game walking up and down the stairs between rows A-F.  A lot of the time, he hung out right at the fence:

While Kellan was playing in the aisle, Tim and a blast (as he always does) with this grandparents:

I thought this was one of the funniest pictures of the night:

Kellan was working a strong game with the ladies sitting out in LF too:

By the way, did you see the Elivs Presley guy sitting in row C?  That was his gimmick because we were sitting behind Pirates leftfielder Alex Presley.

By the way, I should mention that the Royals scored their third (and final) run of the night in the top of the fourth inning to go up 3-0.

But then the Pirates came charging back with five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

That put the Pirates up 5-3, and that score would stick.

There was an odd play late in the game.  I can’t remember who the batter was.  But he hit a single to CF that Andrew McCutchen totally booted:

The ball rolled to the CF wall giving the batter second base for free.  But the batter came flying around 1B and bit the dust  — face first into the infield dirt.  He had a retreat to first base and, because he didn’t take second, McCutchen didn’t get charged with an error.

Here is a look at the “Monarchs” with their royal blue shoes:

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Around the 6th or 7th inning, we headed to the pizzeria behind the left bleachers.  This big pepperoni pizza…

…was only $21.  That would normally be expensive for a pepperoni pizza, but for ballpark pizza, that seemed incredibly reasonable.  I was thinking a whole pizza would cost $45 or something like that!

After eating, we took a little tour around the upper deck.  We stopped in at section 318:

Where we finally got a good look at the front of the “Grays” jerseys:

My camera has quickly been turning into a piece of junk this season.  It completed the metamorphosis at this game.  Here is a great family picture that my camera completely ruined:

Tim grabbed onto his grandfolks…

…and we headed out to section 301 down the RF line:

This is what it looked like from the cross-aisle in section 301:

We then hustled back to our seats and watched the rest of the game from our seats.  The Pirates held on and the Parrot came out to *Raise The Jolly Roger*:

But our day wasn’t finished just yet.  After the game, the boys saw their first concert:

A washed up and reduced to 3-members, Boyz II Men.

All-in-all, it was a great day!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

12/11 Games (Tim/Kellan)
17/16 Teams – Tim – Mariners, Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates; Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates
19 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3, Red Sox 2, Pirates 3
69 Baseballs – Mariners 9, Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 6, Orioles 6, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 6, Red Sox 6, Rays 4, Pirates 3
11 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 3, Dodger Stadium 4, Fenway Park 1
10/9 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens   Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park

1/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Sluggerrr; Kellan – Fredbird

5/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Johnny Giavotella, Kelvin Hererra, Humberto Quintero; Kellan – Willie Bloomquis
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
5 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki

 

Celebrating The Fentennial (5/26/12)

On April 26, 1901, a new American League franchise known as the Boston Americans played its first game at the good old Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds.  In 1908, the team changed its name to the Red Sox, and kept showing up at Huntington Ave. to play some ball.

On April 20, 1912, the Red Sox moved into some new digs over on Lansdowne Street, just over by the Back Bay Fens.  The owner called it Fenway Park.

The Red Sox celebrated Fenway’s opening day by beating the visiting New York Highlanders 7-6.  At the time, Babe Ruth was a 17-year-old high school student in Baltimore, and it would be a little more than two years before he would make his Major League debut at Fenway Park on July 11, 1914.  On a personal note, it would be seven years before the birth of my first-born grandparent, Leonard Flathers, in April 1919.

Fast forward 100 years to 2012, Babe Ruth is one of the most iconic baseball figures of all time and has been dead for 64 years, my grandpa is still going strong at age 93, and the Red Sox are still playing ball at a beautiful little treasure called Fenway Park.

I’m dubbing Fenway’s 100thAnniversary the “Fentennial” – and I declared long ago that there was no way that my boys and I would miss out on joining in the Fentennial Celebration.

So, on May 26, 2012 – the 100 year anniversary of a Red Sox off-day in the middle of a 21 game homestand – Tim, Kellan, Colleen and I rolled into Boston for the baseball portion of a fun little Memorial Day weekend.

It would be just me and the boys at the game.  Colleen had shopping and a movie on her agenda, but was primarily looking forward to a Sunday in Mystic, CT and at the beach.  We arrived in downtown Boston around 3:00 p.m.  The gates wouldn’t open for normal BP for several hours.  But I wanted to get in a little earlier than “normal.”  I knew there was a way to do it, but I didn’t know quite how it worked.

While Colleen took Tim to play in the fountain at Copley Square, Kellan and I headed to Fenway Park…

…to ask how we could join the “Red Sox Nation” and get into BP early.  The lady in the box office and a guy at Gate C both told us just to come back to Gate C at about 4:45 and there would be a lady with a clip board who would sign us up, and then we could scoot on into BP half an hour before the regular folks.  So that was the plan.

Before heading back toward the Prudential Center area, Kellan got his first look inside Fenway Park through a big screen at the Bleacher Bar in CF:

Then we walked back down Ipswich and Boylston Streets where we met up with Colleen and a fountain-drenched Tim.  We ate a delicious late lunch at McGreevy’s Irish Pub (http://www.mcgreevysboston.com/)…

…and then the boys and I headed back down Boylston (stopping along the way to get a picture with some Boston firemen) and Ipswich and arrived at Fenway Park…

…around 4:30.  I signed up for Red Sox Nation (at a cost of $15, which also got me some cool Fenway Park 100 Years keepsakes), and then Tim acted a fool standing against the outside wall of Fenway Park until our group of RSN members started to file into the park around 4:45.

Other than just enjoying ourselves and taking in the Fentennial Celebration, my goal of the day was to try to get one of the beautiful “Fenway 100 Years” commemorative baseballs.  That’s why I wanted to get into early BP, so the Red Sox would still be on the field and hopefully would be using the special baseballs.

The Red Sox pitch the early BP experience as an opportunity to go up onto the Green Monster, which I really wanted to do.  But I could tell the Monster was already getting crowded (we were toward the end of the RSN line) and I didn’t think Kellan would be able to see anything from up there.  As we approached the stairs to the Green Monster, I asked the usher-guy if we could just go into RF.  He said “sure thing.”  So that’s what we did.

There were only about 20 fans in the CF/RF bleachers.  We stashed Kellan’s stoller behind the Red Sox bullpen, and then found ourselves a spot along the visitors’ bullpen:

In a matter of about 2 minutes, Alfredo Aceves (who was playing 2-person pepper with another Red Sox player across the RF grass) tossed us his extra baseball…

…and then Franklin Morales tossed us a baseball he shagged off the bat of one of his teammates.  Neither of the baseballs were “Fenway 100” balls, but they were both much appreciated by the three of us.

Thanks, Alfredo and Franklin!

Now there was one thing standing in the way of our quest to get a Fenway 100 baseball.  The sun.  It was blazing down on us and there was no shade to be found in RF.  We were in trouble.  Tim wanted some shade and wanted it bad.

I looked around and there wasn’t anyone official looking who might stop us from heading into the shade at the back of the grandstand in the RF foul corner.  So we headed over there.

So we found some shade.  But we might as well have been in our hotel room.  We were a long way from the field and there was zero chance one of those Fenway 100 baseballs would come find us up there.

And then I noticed something:  the whole 3B/LF side of the ballpark was shaded.  There was no one over there and I was pretty sure we weren’t supposed to be able to go there, but there were no ushers around to tell us otherwise.

So we started walking toward home plate through the aisle at the back of the grandstand:

Look at all of that glorious shade over there, and all of that lack of people!

Well, no one stopped us.  So we headed down to the Red Sox dugout:

There were a bunch of fans on the warning track behind home plate and a few people in the stands around the dugout.  But it seemed like everyone sitting in the stands (which was very few people) were wearing Red Sox / Fenway Park employee polo shirts.  It seemed that these people were just hanging out watching some Sox BP until their shifts started.

We continued toward the LF foul corner and ended up here:

Eventually, an usher slowly made his way over to us.  He approached and asked –

Usher – “Do you have some sort of ID or something?  Are you supposed to be here?”

Todd – “We’re part of Red Sox Nation here for early BP.”

Usher (looking around at absence of any other fans) – “Are you supposed to be over here?”

Todd – “I don’t know.  It’s our first time doing this early BP…but we were over in RF and the sun was killing my boys so we walked over here to hide away in the shade.”

Usher (looking around with a “hmmmph” expression) – “Okay.  Have fun.”

Did I mention that people at Fenway Park are, almost as an absolute rule, awesome!?  They are.  I’ve been to a number of games at Fenway dating back to 2000.  Both with my boys (in 2009 and 2012) and with my wife before we had boy (2000, 2003, and 2005’ish), the people at Fenway have always been amazingly cool to us.  We’ve seen the Mariners beat up the Red Sox a bit while I was all decked out in Mariners gear and everyone has always been completely cool to me.  This usher fit the mold – another cool Bostonian at Fenway Park.

Not much was happening when we first got down the line.  There was one guy (who seemed like a coach) shagging balls in LF.  Tim and I were looking at the beautiful Green Monster just a short distance to our left when Tim pointed at the Monster and said, “I bet if Big D was still playing he’d hit it way over the green monster!”  That gave me a chuckle.

“Big D,” of course, is a star Red Sox hitter in a book Tim and I read a few months ago called “The Fenway Foul-Up,” which is the first installment of David A. Kelly’s “Ballpark Mysteries” series.  Interestingly, shortly after this game, I had a chance email exchange with David and he recently sent us autographed copies of the first four Ballpark Mysteries books:

The fifth Ballpark Mystery book (set at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City) just came out and we’re looking forward to reading it soon.  The first four books have all been fun to read with Tim.  So if you have kids and like reading about baseball, head over to Amazon.com and check them out.

Anyway, back to the game.  A couple years ago, I made an incredibly ugly and uncomfortable baseball glove.  For some reason, Kellan had grabbed it off of my shelf and was walking around with it a couple days before this game so I decided to bring it with us.  And when that Red Sox coach in LF fielded a baseball, I used my “Learned Glove” (my fake baseball glove company name) to catch our third baseball of the day:

It was also not a “Fenway 100” baseball.  But, again, it was much appreciated.

Thanks, (probably) Coach!

Eventually, I asked this guy if he had seen any of the Fenway 100 baseballs, and I mentioned we were hoping to get one.  After that, I saw him check the logos on most of the balls he fielded, but none of them were commemorative.  When the Red Sox cleared the field and the gates opened to the rest of the fans, it seemed very certain that we would not get a Fenway baseball.

The Rays pitchers ended up warming up right below us.  And it was pretty awesome when Matt Moore tossed us his (and Alex Cobb’s) warm up baseball:

Thanks, Matt!

It was starting to get crowded down the LF line, and we were completely out of water.  We decided to go fill up Kellan’s list water bottle in the concourse.  With a full load of water, we headed over to the visitors’ dugout to see what we could see:

We saw Ken Rosenthal reporting for Fox Sports (this was the Saturday game of the day for Fox).  Even better than seeing Rosenthal, we saw this cool plaque on the back of the dugout:

Click that to make it bigger and you can read the history of the Fenway Park visitors’ dugout and club house.

While it was cool to see the historical info on the plaque, the dugout wasn’t the place for us to be.  I spotted our next destination from across the ballpark:

SHADE IN THE OUTFIELD!

We walked the awesomely cramped and cave-like Fenway Park concourse…

…on our way to the back row against the wall in section 35:

I’m not exaggerating.  He hung out against the wall…

…the nice and shady wall.

I didn’t think we would get a Fenway baseball from the Rays and we already had four baseballs on the day, so we really made no effort to get another.  But the Rays would have none of that!  A Rays righty-batter hit a homerun that landed about 2-3 rows in front of us…

…bounced off the wall (I’m not sure if I can call it the “Monster” out there above the bleahers, but its definitely at least “Monster-Adjacent” or, like, the Monster’s twin brother) and then it bounced over me into a folded up chair.  No one else had a real chance at it.  It was an easy grab for our fifth baseball of the day – also not a Fenway baseball.

Hey, do you see that guy in the light blue sleeves in the left part of that last two-part picture above?  That is Alex Cobb.  Before this homerun, he had fielded a baseball and I saw that he tucked it into his glove, which he was holding in his arms (not wearing on his hand).

Anyway, while Kellan and I just relaxed and watched the world go by, Tim took about 20-30 pictures with my camera, including this one:

And the picture below on the left:

My guess is that those big metal discs are used to tie down the batters’ eye tarp, which was removed for this game.

Tim took this picture too (I think) of Alex Cobb and his two buddies:

Around this time, Cobb turned around and looked at the bleachers.  He gave absolutely no indication that he had any plans.  He was just looking at the bleachers.  But I knew he still had that baseball in his glove.  Without standing up or making a sound, I simply raised my glove in a “here’s your target” motion.  And Cobb pulled out the baseball and (essentially, I had to get out of my seat to catch it) hit the target.

Thanks, Alex!

Wow – it was our SIXTH baseball of the day, and also not commemorative.   We seemed like we had exceeded our quota.  How could we get any more to get one of those commemoratives?  It’s not like we get an unlimited number of baseballs, you know?

Anyway, BP wrapped up.  We decided to head all the way back over to the LF foul corner so the boys could give a thorough inspection of a really big and cool lego Fenway Park on display in the concourse.  On our way, an usher took these to pictures of us (as an attempt at a MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt Fenway Park bonus picture):

I like both pictures, but the Fenway sign is a bit too far away and small.  We would have to try again.

Kellan’s little umbrella stroller was still hanging from the railing behind the Red Sox bullpen.  When we went to grab it, a guy who appeared to be the Red Sox bullpen catcher was walking around in the bullpen:

He walked toward the bullpen bench and out of sight below us, and then he flipped a baseball over the bullpen that seemed to come flying out of nowhere.  It came right to me and I caught it with my bare left hand as I held Kellan in my right arm.

Thanks, guy!

Wow – SEVEN baseballs, and no Fenway 100 Years commemoratives.  It seemed like it just wasn’t meant to be for us to get one.

We meandered slowly on our way over to that lego Fenway Park.  We headed up the stairs in the RF foul concourse and got Tim’s picture with a “Go Red Sox” sign painted on the wall:

We walked the aisle behind the grandstand seats again, and then headed down toward the bullpen like we had done early in BP.  This time, we stopped and had a fan take our Fenway Park bonus picture:

And finally we made our way to the lego Fenway:

Pretty cool!

Next, it was back to the water fountain where Tim filled his hat up with water about 5 times and doused his head with cold water, and I poured some water on Kellan’s head to cool him down too.

I’ve never been in the “upper deck” at Fenway, ever.  It’s pretty crazy and very unlike me.  But it’s just so small and it has always seemed like you needed tickets up there to get there, so I have never even really made an effort to get up there.  So we decided to go check it out.

But our attempt was cut short when we saw Big League Brian from the grandstand and had to go say hello:

Big League Brian hangs out on Yawkey Way “outside” Fenway Park.  I put the “outside” in parentheses because it is literally outside of the stadium, but it is “inside” the gates and is considered to be “inside” the ballpark.  You can go freely in-and-out to Yawkey Way throughout the game.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, our Big League Brian side trip to Yawkey Way made it so we never made it up to the upper deck.  Instead, we headed back to RCF for the start of the game.

I like to snap a picture of the first pitch of a game.  As you can see below (top left), the match up was Josh Beckett vs. Carlos Pena…

…but just as the first pitch was delivered and I squeezed down on my picture button (top right), a fan walked in front of me.  And then another fan, and another fan, and another fan.  It was not until the fourth pitch of the game (bottom left) that I got a clear view of home plate, and that pitch sent Pena back to the dugout (bottom right) as Beckett’s first strike out victim of the night.

We pulled the old switcheroo at the game.  We’d eaten a late lunch at McGreevy’s so we started our ballpark eating activities with an early dessert…

…, which came in commemorative Fenway 100 Years ice cream hemlets!

From a fan perspective, the beginning of this game was pretty ridiculous.  We were about 3-4 rows from the back wall of the stadium, and almost as far as you could get from home plate, but no one seemed to be in her or her assigned seat in our section (well, we were in ours).

A group of six brides maids and a soon-to-be bride showed up to claim their seven seats in the row behind us.  But the entire row was full.  A guy sitting in the middle of their seats announced that his seat was in the middle of our row, but someone was in his seats.  Everyone looked everywhere.  No one knew what to do.

Eventually, one of the brides maids got the Fenway seat police involved:

The guy in the red shirt delivered the message, “Hey, work it out guys.  Yeah, you’re in the wrong row.  Move.”  And the brides maids finally sat down and stopped blocking our view.

Speaking of our view, here is what Fenway Park looks like from section 39, row 47, seat 1:

We had seats 1-2 in our row.  Kellan was a non-paying, seatless customer.  Miraculously, in a packed house, seats 3-5 in our row were empty pretty much all night.

But early on Kellan wasn’t interest in seats 3-5.  He wanted to hang out on the steps and chat up the girl in red just across the aisle from us:

He was working a pretty solid game of *I’m a cute little kid* and she was watching him much more than she was paying attention to the game or her man-friend.  As you can see (above to right), he also spent some quality *hanging on daddy’s leg* time.

Before too long, it was time for the second half of the old switheroo – pizza for dinner.  On our way to find it, we cozied up with a fake Wally statue…

…and we added a 2007 World Series Champs smashed penny to Tim’s smashed penny collection.:

When I asked Tim which of the four smashed pennies he wanted, his response was swift and certain: “Hall of Fame.”

Tim often thinks that pictures of trophies (like the WS trophy featured on this smashed penny) are a sign of the Hall of Fame.  I’ve never corrected him because it’s cute.

We also hit up the RF team store, which featured a heavenly blast of air conditioning toward the back center of the store.  It was incredibly hot (possibly hotter for me since I was lugging Kellan around a fair amount) and our several stops in the team store throughout the night offered a much needed bit of heat relief.

Anyway, pizza was a hit:

By the time the boys (and I) finished their pizza, half of our row seated to have cleared out giving Kellan lots of room to play…

…and access to three new female fans to sweet talk.  He was a big hit with the ladies inhabiting the Fenway Park bleachers.

Maybe it was his wicked mullet…

…that endeared him to the fans, or maybe a combination of the mullet and a cute little personality.

One of the fans out there offered to take a photo of us:

In the photo, Tim decided to lift his knee to his waist and hang from my arms.  The picture turned out great.  Easily our best of the day.  It will be a great reminder of our participation in the Fentennial Celebration!

By the way, as far as taking pictures of groups of people goes at Fenway, I think you really have to wait until it is dark out.  Every time I have visited Fenway, the sun just floods the ballpark from above the grandstand behind home plate.  The air gets visibly thick and heavy, and it really works a number on pictures.  For example, in our first and second Fenway Park bonus shot above you can hardly see the Fenway Park sign because of the sun.

Not too long after finishing our pizza, we decided to do some more exploring.  We would never return to our seats again during the game.

We walked the concourse from RF to behind 3B.  Here is a picture of how cave’ish it is around 1B:

Along the wall, they have pictures of the historical Red Sox logos.  Tim had to pose with the batting *red sock* (above middle) and had fun acting like he was lifting the 1909-11 “Boston” and the 1912-30 “Red Sox” (above right).  That last picture is one of my favorite of the day.  Tim’s got a great sense of humor.

We headed up the stairs on the 3B side up to the aisle behind the field level grandstand seats.  We then walked right behind home plate…

…and back toward 1B.

By the way, as far as I know, the score was still 0-0 at this point.  Actually, although we watched a lot of the game, we missed almost all of the scoring.

To summarize, the Red Sox scored a single run in the bottom of the sixth on a single by Will Middlebrooks that scored David “Big Papi” Ortiz.  But the Rays came back with two runs in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist and a single by Luke Scott.

Both starting pitchers (Beckett and David Price) were “dealing,” as they say.

They boys were in *explore* mode and I was in *follow the boys* mode.   Right where the back of the grandstand opens up (to a hotdog stand, etc.) on the 1B side, Tim and Kellan found a ramp that I’d never noticed before.  And they started climbing:

When we got to the very top (a place I’d never been before at Fenway) there was an usher standing by some doors.  I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to be up there or not.  I started to tell the boys to head back down, but then I figured, “what the heck, let’s keep going.”  The boys turned left and walked down a walkway (above in the bottom right) behind, well behind whatever we were behind.

We had turned a corner to the right so I could tell we were now walking toward LF.  And then we popped out behind section 2 of the pavilion:

Beautiful!

I’d been to Fenway Park probably a dozen times and everything we saw over the next several innings was completely new to me.  I love it.

There is a bunch of standing room behind the pavilion seats.  And it is a GREAT view of Fenway Park and the ballgame.

Midway down the walkway, another fan offered to take this crazy picture of me and the boys:

Tim is throwing a curveball in that shot!

Here is the view from the SRO behind section 6 of the pavilion seats:

This was the first time I had ever looked down on the Green Monster seats.  It looked like this:

And David Price looked like this…

…and he pitched to some dude on the Red Sox.

This must have been the bottom of the seventh inning, because I remember that the Red Sox were losing.  That means that batter is Kelly Shoppach.  He fouled that ball down the RF line before hitting a double to CF.

We could walk down to section 10 before this upper section turned into suites and we could go no further.  Here is the view from section 10 (right next to the first suite):

And here is Mike Aviles flying out to CF…

…and Dustin “Lasers” Pedroia taking a pitch before hitting a single to LF.

After Pedroia’s at bat, we backtracked toward the ramp and then went the other way, toward RF.  We popped out here, behind section 1 of the pavilion:

Tim did some staged cheering…

…and we had a great view of Big Papi’s inning ending at bat.

We watched the top of the eighth inning from the SRO area behind section 8, where it looked like this:

Kellan was chilling out on my shoulders the whole half-inning and a group of 20-something fans thought it was absolutely great to see a father and two sons in Mariners gear having a great time watching the Rays and Red Sox at Fenway Park.  They were giving out high fives to Kellan and then offered to take this picture:

After a rousing sing-along of “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of 8th inning, we headed back down to the field level.  To scout out the lay of the land and plan for a post-game umpire baseball attempt.  We watched the top of the ninth inning from the SRO area behind 1B.  Well, I half watched it and half scouted out the umpire tunnel situation (visually on the field and electronically by searching Zack Hample’s blog on google).  Basically, all I could tell was that it was at the 3B dugout.  But I wasn’t sure which end of it – both ends seemed to have a tunnel, at least from where I was standing.

As I scouted out the umpire tunnel, Tim and Kellan hid inside Fenway’s steal framework…

…and generally monkeyed around.

As the top of the ninth ended (with the Rays still winning 2-1), we made our way to the concourse under the field level seats.  We walked all the way around to the last tunnel on the 3B side (which is between home plate and 3B).

The goal was to get have home plate umpire Ed Rapuano toss us a beautiful, game rubbed-up “Fenway 100 Years” baseball that had spent time in his baseball pouch on the field during a regulation Fentenntial season game.  The whole set up was confusing and did not instill any confidence that we could succeed in our task.

First off, the tunnel into the field level seats is a ramp.  Unless you are at the top, you can’t really see much of anything inside the stadium.

Second, I couldn’t tell how far down the 3B dugout was from us, or which aisle we should go down assuming we could even get to the dugout area after the game.  I was envisioning a Red Sox loss and having to swim upstream through a river of exiting Red Sox fans.

Third, there were three ushers at the top of the ramp.  They probably would have let us walk right by and find an empty seat, but I didn’t want to risk them stopping us.

So we just stopped at the top of the ramp along with the ushers.  Kellan was still on my shoulders, at the ready with his glove on his hand (not that he can actually catch anything with it).  Tim was at my side, also ready and also with glove on hand.

Francisco Rodney came in to nail down the win for David Price and the Rays.  Eight pitches later, he walked the leadoff batter and potential tying run, Daniel Nava.

Nick Punto pinch hit for Kelly Shoppach and successfully bunted Nava over to 2B.  He was in scoring position with one out and the double play was out of the mix.  I didn’t want the game to get tied up and head into extra innings.  Frankly, I was looking for a game-ending double play.  But now that wasn’t going to happen.

Up came Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  On the 0-1 pitch, Salty blasted a ball to RF.  I turned to Tim, “WALK OFF!  Come on, let’s go!”

It was amazingly perfect.  A home team loss can kill an umpire baseball opportunity.  A walk off homerun, however?  Pure umpire ball magic!

There was not a single person in the cross aisle as we scurried over to the dugout.  Nor was there a single person in the aisle as we cut down the steps of section 63 toward the home plate end of the dugout.

Saltalamacchia was still rounding the bases.  The crowd was going WILD!  It was pure Fentennial pandemonium.  And all the while, Ed Rapuano was camped at home plate waiting for Salty to score the winning run for the Sox.

Meanwhile, the other three umpires all gathered right in front of us.  BINGO!  We’d picked the right end of the dugout!

As Rapuano strode to the umpire tunnel after calling Salty “safe” on the homerun, we seemed destined to finally get a Fenway 100 Years baseball of our own.

But Rapuano completely ignored the crowd as I shouted out, “Mr. Hickock!”

OMG!  Where did that come from?  I had my Umpire Ed’s mixed up.

Just at Rapuano started to disappear as he descended the stairs into the tunnel, I finally spit out the right name, “MR. RAPUANO!!!!”

His head half disappeared, and then it quickly rose again.  His face was still half under the cover of the dugout roof when he flipped us the most beautiful baseball we have seen all year:

BOOM!  SUCCESS!  Ed Rapuano made our day!

Thanks, Mr. Rapuano!

After another fan took our picture (above to left), the boys celebrated with high fives and dancing:

The historical significance of a centennial celebration – the first US sporting stadium to ever celebrate a centennial – made this easily the most exciting commemorative baseball that we have ever got at a game.

Thanks, again, and again, Ed Rapuano!

YES!

As we continued to celebrate and just drink in the moment (the first and so-far-only Red Sox Fentennial walk off win!) something funny happened.  The Rays relieves and bullpen staff filed into the dugout, and outta nowhere one of the catchers (not sure if it was a player or the bullpen catcher) tossed us another baseball!

Thanks, guy!

That baseball miraculously tied the most baseballs we have ever got at a MLB game (excluding one game in Cleveland where we found SEVEN easter eggs).

Wow – for a game not involving a win by our beloved Mariners, could this night get any better?  Seriously, could it!?

After the celebrated died down a bit and people started filing out of the ballpark, I realized that we had to go all the way back to our seats at the top of the RCF bleachers – a LONG way away from the 3B dugout – because we had left Kellan’s stroller at our seats.

It was a festive atmosphere as we made our way through the concourse-cave against the current of fans:

In fact, it was so festive that that lady in the grey tank-top waved at us while I took a finally photograph of the cavecourse.

People at Fenway Park truly are great.

When we made it back to RF there were a couple people in straight away RF taking picture with the red Ted Williams homerun seat.  But that was it.  When Tim went up to get Kellan’s stroller (he is in the following picture can you spot him?)…

…there wasn’t another soul up there with him.

As Tim retrieved Kellan’s stroller I witnessed something funny.  An usher went over to the Red Sox bullpen where some grounds crew guys were working on the mound.  The grounds crew guy gave the usher a baseball and then the usher stuffed it in his pocket and left.

Hey, the home team bullpen is a great place to find a commemorative baseball and (by this point) we were literally the only people left in the bleachers.  So when Tim returned with Kellan’s stroller, we walked by the bullpen on our way out.

I saw a grounds crew guy and asked, “Got any spares down there?”  He looked over to the other grounds crew guy (the one who had given the usher a baseball) and asked him the same question.

That grounds crew guy popped his head over the bullpen roof and looked at us.  Without hesitation, he held up two fingers and asked, “You need two right?”

“Sure,” I responded.

We walked town to the CF end of the bullpen to meet him by the fence.  He handed one baseball up to Kellan and another (along with a fist bump) to Tim.  And then he explained, “You know, I don’t want them fighting over one ball at home!”  Good plan!

And, double thanks, grounds crew guy!

Again, neither were commemorative, but both were very much apperiated.

As Shaggy would say on Scooby-doo, “Zoinks!”  We were walking out of Fenway Park with ELEVEN baseballs, a new personal record (and according to MyGameBalls.com we tied Zack Hample for the most baseballs ever in a single game at Fenway Park – history made at the Fentennial!)

As the boys slept soundly in their hotel beds, I took this picture of our spoils from our one day joining in the Fentennial Celebration:

I wish we could come back again this year, but it doesn’t look like it.

But, hey, Fenway Park’s 100th Anniversary, you ask?  Yeah, we were there!  And we had more fun than anyone else in the ballpark!

Next up, Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary in 2014!  Sign us up now!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

11/10 Games (Tim/Kellan)
16/15 Teams – Tim – Mariners, Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays; Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays
16 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3, Red Sox 2
62 Baseballs – Mariners 9, Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 6, Orioles 6, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 2, Red Sox   6, Rays 4
11 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 3, Dodger Stadium 4, Fenway Park 1
9/8 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch   Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park1/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Sluggerrr; Kellan – Fredbird
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky  Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
5 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki

 

2012 Cook GFS Game 6 – Mariners vs. Rockies (5/19/12)

On May 19, 2012, we headed back to Coors Field on a grey and drizzly morning for the sixth and final game of the 2012 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip.

When we headed into the ballpark, it felt like only about 10 other fans joined us.  And there was no one on the field.  The tarp was out.  The batting cage was nowhere to be found.  There would be no BP to speak of.

Luckily, we did not have to wait too long for some on field entertainment.  Pretty quickly, the Mariners pitching corps popped out of the dugout and headed to the CF grass next to the visitors’ bullpen.

As the Mariners pitchers stretched and chatted amongst themselves…

…Kellan and I were the only fans in the front row section.  There were a couple fans above us in the bleachers.  The only other people in the front row were my dad, Tim, Dan and Emily, and they were chatting amongst themselves over in LF at Dan’s seats:

This was our view out in CF:

When the Mariners paired up and started playing catch, the closest Mariners to us were Hisashi Iwakuma (along the warning track in RCF) and Brandon League (in the CF grass):

While the M’s played catch on the field, Kellan pushed his stroller around, stomped in puddles, and just hung out and watched the action on the field:

Eventually, League short hopped Kuma with a hard throw.  The ball trickled past Kuma and was scooped up by his interpreter.  Kuma pulled a second baseball out of his pocket and he and League played catch for a few more minutes.

Once they finished playing catch, League tossed the ball they were using to a guy in the bleachers behind us.  League then motioned to Kuma’s interpreter for their original warm up ball.  He tossed that ball to us, and it was a Dodger Stadium commemorative ball!

Thanks, Brandon!

After getting the baseball from Brandon, Kellan and I stayed put for a few minutes.  But when I looked back over to LF, Dan gave a big *come over here* wave.  When Kellan and I reached Dan’s seats, he introduced me to a guy from mlb.com who said he wanted to interview me about our Roadtrip.  He ended up shooting a five minute video interview (during which I felt like I was continually looking off camera to check on Tim and Kellan who were running back-and-forth).  I’ve never seen that video turn up anywhere.  But later the same day of the game, the following blurb popped up on MLB.com’s Cut4 page:

When the interview wrapped up, the only Mariners still playing catch were Tom Wilhelmson and Charlie Furbush.  And they were playing extreme-long-toss – from the LF foul line to the RF warning track.

When they finished up and started to walk off…

…, one of them (I think Furbush) tossed the baseball to my dad…actually, he completely air mailed him, but it stayed in the front row where we were the only fans who could get to it.  It was also a Dodger Stadium commemorative baseball, my dad’s second!

Once Furbush and Wilhelmson wrapped up their long-toss show, there was absolutely nothing happening on the field.  So we just hung out for a bit and watched Felix and Brandon League…

…get in some work in the bullpen.

Eventually, Munenori Kawasaki and Anthony Suzuki (Ichiro’s interpreter) started playing two person pepper along the LF line:

Tim, Kellan and I headed over there to watch since nothing else was happening.  After playing some pepper, Muni ran some sprints.  Check out those fancy shoes he is wearing.

When he wrapped up the running, Muni and Anthony started walking back to the dugout, and all of the fans hanging out down the line were completely silent…except us.

I called out a simple, “Hey, Muni!”  He looked over and then did an exaggerated backspin to crow-hop before gentling tossing one of the two baseballs he’d been using to us.

Thanks, Muni!

After he tossed the baseball to us, another fan got brave and asked for an autograph.  He ended up coming over and signing a bunch of autographs, including signing the baseball he’d just thrown to us:

I’ve thought for a while that it would be cool to get a Japan-born Major Leaguer to sign a baseball in Japanese (Iwakuma did this for my dad at spring training).  So, as Tim handed the baseball to Muni, I asked if he would sign in Japanese.  He responded (essentially), “No Japanese!  This is America!  Only English!”

No problem, an English Muni-autograph was just fine for us.

Thanks, again, Muni!

My dad was still out in LF and he took this picture of us as we walked back to LF:

Check out all of those fans!  Man, it was packed!

It was quiet and peaceful in the stadium.  The grounds crew was using the quiet time to tidy up the outfield grass:

We still had a long time until the game was scheduled to start.  So we headed over to the Blue Moon Brewery restaurant in the RF foul corner concourse.  I had a big, tasty BBQ sandwich…

…but Kellan wouldn’t let me simply sit and enjoy it.  Instead, while Tim and grandpa hung out at the table, I ate on foot while watching Kellan run up-and-down and up-and-down and up-and-down this ramp:

After lunch, we headed back out to the OF.  My took Tim to get some pizza (he didn’t want to eat in the Brewery), and Kellan and I checked out the tunnels under the OF bleachers:

We noticed a funny site as the Mariners relievers approached the bullpen before the start of the game:

They had to stop and wait for the band that played the national anthem to finish marching by before they could get to the bullpen.

As the band belted out the national anthem, the boys were ready to get to the baseball:

Rockies pitcher Christian Friedrich’s (who is pictured in LF before Tim in the first game picture from our last entry) first pitch to Dustin Ackley was called a ball…

…and we were underway!

I am quite happy to report that this game was all Mariners.  And the scoring got underway when Kyle Seager belted a 2-run homerun in the top of the second inning:

With the 2-0 lead in hand, the Mariners never looked back.

Of all the games to which I have taken both boys together, this was by far the easiest because Kellan fell asleep while I was holding him in the first or second inning:

And he just kept on sleeping until THE SIXTH INNING!

For most of that time, Kellan and I sat with Don the Rockpile Ranter and his son, Hunter:

It was great chatting with these guys.

Sadly, I did not get a picture of the “Bring Back Helmer” sign that Hunter periodically held up for the TV cameras.  (It looked a whole lot like this).

I hardly took any pictures while sitting there holding Kellan.  But I did manage to get a shot of Ichiro out in RF:

And one of Ichiro drilling a line drive toward short stop:

If you click on that picture, you can see the ball just to the left of Ichiro and just barely above his head level.  Unfortunately, Tulowitzki made a diving catch on the ball.

But it didn’t matter.  The Mariners were already piling on the runs.  They scored 2 more in the third inning, 1 in the fourth (on a single by Jason Vargas!)…

…, and 4 more in the sixth.  That made the score 9-0 Mariners.

Don didn’t like the score so much, but I sure did.  And Kellan would have too if he was awake.

Eventually, I headed further out toward LCF to see my dad and Tim.

Kellan was still fast asleep, but it was ice cream time for Tim:

Want to see essentially those same exact two pictures again, but this time as one picture?  Okay, here you go:

Kellan woke up just in time for Don to catch a Rockies shirt in the T-shirt launch.  He ran up into the bleachers to make the grab and he handed the shirt to us on his way back down:

Kellan was mighty satisfied holding it all wrapped up in cellophane.  But he was still a little cranky from his nap.  When I unwrapped the shirt, Kellan gave me a piece of his mind.  Apparently, he wasn’t ready to see it unwrapped quite yet.

In the sixth inning, the Rockies brought Eric Young in to play CF as part of a double switch.  I took some pictures of the Rockies outfielders, but really I just wanted to show how tiny Eric Young seems to be:

My dad spent most of the game chatting with Rockies regular Robert Harman:

Before this trip, I knew about Robert from the Rockpile Rant and an article Zack Hample wrote about Barry Bonds’ final career homerun.  Robert was very nice and he and my dad got along swimmingly during the game.

Here are some pictures I took in the tunnel under the bleachers in LCF:

Top left:  There is some sort of security office under there, right around the corner from the women’s restroom.

Top middle: There was a brief rain shower late in the game.  The game wasn’t delayed at all, but we hid out for a few minutes in the tunnel where this was our view of the field.  We ended up putting our backpacks in the tunnel for the rest of the game to keep dry.  It is definitely convenient having your own personal tunnel like this for a game!

Top right: Tim, Emily and Emily’s friend played tag in the tunnel.  This was just one of the many things they did to entertain themselves in the tunnel.  Kellan tried to mix it up with the big kids a bit too.

About 5-10 minutes before the rain, the Rockies scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.  The final two runs came on a homerun hit by Wilin Rosario that sailed right over our heads into about the sixth or seventh row of the bleachers behind us.  I was hoping it would ricochet back down to us (my Dad had caught a Miguel Olivo BP homer like this the day before and Robert got a Michael Cuddayer game homer like it earlier in the season), but the crowd swallowed it up, never to be seen again by us folks down in the first row.

It was too bad this homerun couldn’t have been hit in the eighth inning instead of the seventh, because almost no one was left in the bleachers after the rain…

…and the ball almost certainly would have bounced back down to us.

The Mariners got one run back in the eighth on a passed ball to Kyle Seager that scored Ichiro.  That made it 10-3 Mariners, which would hold up to become the final score of the game.

The previous day, I had noticed that Michael Saunders…

…tossed the CF-LF warm up baseball into the crowd in the ninth inning.  There were zero fans in the front row out in CF by the batters’ eye.  So I figured that Kellan and I ought to head over there in the ninth so Saunders would have a target.

It was a solid plan.  After finishing his ninth inning warm up tosses with Casper Wells, Saunders turned and threw a strike right to us.  Another Dodger Stadium commemorative!

Thanks, Michael!

Sean Kelley and Steve Delabar each pitched a scoreless/hitless inning of relief to cap off the game.  Another wonderful Mariners win!  That made them 2-0 for us on the season.

After saying our good-byes to Dan and Robert (Don had left during the rain because he feared for his super-nice camera’s safety), we got an usher to take our picture:

Then we walked around to home plate…

…and got an usher to retake the family photo the fan had botched the night before:

The key to that picture was that Tim had his foot up on the step above us.  He thought this made the picture look very, VERY cool.

Outside the stadium, I got a shot of my three Roadtrip mates outside Coors Field:

And then we headed over to the 15th Street Mall for some dinner.

On our walk back to the hotel, my dad and Tim were locked in battle in a fierce game of “yellow cab” (the objective being to spot as many yellow cabs as possible) when we walked by Coors Field for the final time:

“YELLOW CAB!” (in the foreground)  “YELLOW CAB!” (across the street)

The yellow cab battle continued as the fifth installment of the Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip slowly walked down Park Road to our hotel and into the sunset

It was an OUTSTANDING trip.

Let the planning begin for the 2012 GFS Roadtrip!

2012 C&S Fan Stats

10/9 Games (Tim/Kellan)
14/13 Teams – Tim – Mariners, Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals; Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals
14 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3
51 Baseballs – Mariners 9, Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 5, Orioles 6, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 2
10 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 3, Dodger Stadium 4
8/7 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field1/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Sluggerrr; Kellan – Fredbird
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
5 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki

 

2012 Cook GFS Game 5 – Mariners vs. Rockies (5/18/12)

Friday, May 18, 2012, marked a big baseball milestone for me and Tim.  When we entered Coors Field to watch our Mariners take on the Rockies, we were able to check the Rockies off our list of MLB teams we have seen play a home game.  The Rockies were the 30thof 30.  So, now we’ve seen them all.

But before we could make our personal baseball history, we needed drive from Kansas City to Denver.  We woke up in Kansas City on May 17 and hopped in the car.  When we pulled out of Kansas City on I-70, our GPS foreshadowed a long day.  By the time my dad pointed it out to me, the GPS was telling us that we had 514 miles to drive until our next turn.

A ton of those miles represented the trek across Kansas, a state that was new to all four of us (well, my dad might have passed through on a train years ago).  Aside from a looooooooooong, straight road with a 75 mile per hour speed limit, this is what Kansas looked like:

By all accounts, the best thing is all of Kansas is this little park in Wakeeney, KS that features a retired F-14 Tomcat fighter jet just sitting in the grass:

We all around Eisenhower Park (home of the jet) to stretch the legs and get some energy out of the boys after a nice lunch at the Wakeeney McDonalds.  Fun times in Kansas!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all fun and games in Kansas.  Tim watched back-to-back-to-back movies on his portable DVD player while Kellan napped.  The prolonged starring at a small TV screen while cows, fields, and windmills whizzed by his window resulted in Tim starting to feel a little car sick by the time we reached Colorado.

Before long, he was much more than a “little sick.”  His head was spinning and it made for an ugly end of the drive.

Once we were checked into the hotel, he was feeling a bit better.  He hadn’t eaten a thing in a while, so we headed out on foot…

…we walked past Coors Field where Tim posed with a fire hydrant.  But the walking didn’t sit well with his car sickness.  It came out of hiding and attacked him again as we neared the Blake Street Tavern:

The food was very tasty at Blake Street.  I was quite happy to see that it is a University of Washington alumni bar (as well as several other universities).  I also liked that they had a South Park pinball machine.

After dinner, I carried Kellan home and my dad pushed queasy Tim back to our hotel, which was just a little under a mile down the road from Coors Field.  We called it a night and hoped that Tim would be feeling better the next day.

The next day we woke up and took it nice and leisurely.  Rockies season ticket holder and Top Ten All-Time Ballhawk (as announced in Zack Hample’s “The Baseball”), Dan Sauvageau, advised us that the 16th Street Mall was a good place to check out for some food.  So we did.  And it was.

After a late lunch, Kellan rested (not quite napped) while Tim and grandpa went swimming.

And then it was game time.  Well, it was close enough.

We were going to be sitting with Dan and his daughter Emily.  We headed out from our hotel on foot with the plan of meeting Dan and Emily at the LF gate around 4:30.

I have been excited to get to Coors Field for a long time.  I’m a loyal reader of the Don Chilcote’s Rockpile Rant on MLBlogs.  In addition to taking amazing game action photos, D’s Rant makes you feel like the Coors Field regulars are like a big extended family.  And, you know what, they sort of are.  His blog also made me feel like I was going to know (or at least recognize) everyone out in the outfield at Coors Field.  And, you know what, I sort of did.

D made us feel right at home before we even reached the ballpark.  As Tim, Kellan, my dad and I walked up Park Avenue toward ballpark on Blake Street, D cruised by in his car on his way to the stadium.  His trademark khaki Rockies bucket hat made it clear that it was the Rockpile Ranter himself welcoming us to Denver with a fist pump and a loud shout from his speeding car window.   I gotta say, it was a cool experience to be greeted by a Coors Field regular before ever setting foot inside the ballpark.

Thanks, D!

On our walk past the home plate entrance, we stopped to get a picture with my 35th, Tim’s 33rd and Kellan’s 10th MLB stadium:

As we waited for Dan and Emily to arrive and the gates to open, Tim and I played catch, tossed baseballs off of a wall…

…, and did a little birding under a little under-pass next to the gate.

Now, the call Sean Casey “the Mayor” on MLB Network.  But the MLB Network is based in Secaucus, New Jersey.  Out in Denver, Dan Sauvageau is “the Mayor” – or at least he’s the unofficial Mayor of Coors Field.  He knows everyone – fans and stadium employees alike.  He helps other fans navigate the strict bag-checking process at the gate.  He brings tootsie pops for seemingly his entire section.  And he’s generally just incredibly knowledge, helpful and nice about every aspect of the Coors Field experience.

And if Dan is the Mayor, Emily is the first daughter of Coors Field.  She has been to more than 425 Rockies games.  Everyone knows her.  And watching her navigate LF, it appears that that Coors Field is her second home.  She’s one lucky little girl!

Anyway, aside from hooking us up with amazing tickets for the game, the first perk Dan got us was the ability to enter the stadium through a tunnel under the OF seats:

My pictures don’t do the experience justice at all.  It was extremely cool to walk through the LF gate and, instead of heading up the stairs to the concourse, entering a door and walking the tunnels under the stadium where stadium employees were preparing for their work day.

After a short walk, we popped out of a little tunnel and found ourselves at our seats:

Is that pretty or what?

Yep, we were literally sitting right on the LF wall.  The front row is a wide handicap-accessible seating area with a single row of seats running from the LF foul pole to the batters’ eye in CF.  Dan’s seats (and ours) are in prime time homerun territory, straight away LF.

Here is a panorama that I took from row 1 in the LF corner (section 151) that shows the field and a bit of our fancy front row seating area:

In that last picture, there is a kid in a red hat and shirt standing to on the far left.  He is in the “second” row.  It is elevated a few feet above our row.  The people sitting in rows 2 and above in LF cannot access the first row.  It is crazy and awesome.

And we thoroughly loved it.

As you will see below, this could be most ideal seating section in all of Major League Baseball, particularly for people with little kids.

Before too long, the Mariners and the Rockpile Ranter showed up in LF:

We spent some time chatting with D at this game, but even more the next day (as we’ll see in our next game entry).  D is one cool dude.  A great guy to kick back with and watch some baseball.

D usually sits up in the “Rockpile” in deep CF (hence the name the “Rockpile Ranter,” but he’s friends with Dan and the rest of the guys in the front row and Dan lets him come down into the front row during BP (and games when he has extra tickets).

Now, there was one bad thing about Coors Field.  Well, not really Coors Field, but our experience at Coors Field.  While chatting with D, I set my camera (which had been having its share of troubles lately) on the OF wall, in the little crevasse between the yellow pad and the green railing), and it crashed to the ground when Tim bumped into the wall.

It was a silly move on my part, and I paid the price.

I didn’t notice the problem at first.  But I did notice when Lucas Leutge finished playing catch along the LF line.  As he walked away, I called out, “Hey, Lucas” and then flashed my glove.  He turned and walked toward us.  When he got close enough, I put down my own glove and pointed at Tim.

And Luetge hit Tim with a gem:

BOOM – Dodger Stadium commemorative baseball!  Wow!

Thanks, Lucas!

The ball actually bounced out of Tim’s glove and he caught it in the inside of his elbow (what’s that little area called?).  Tim was quite happy with the unique catch.

And we were both thrilled to see the commemorative logo.  I didn’t know when, if, how we would ever have a chance to get our hands on a Dodger Stadium baseball this season.  Now we know, Mariners/Rockies at Coors Field!

Tim, Kellan and I then swung around to foul territory once the rest of the stadium opened up so we could watch high-socks-buddies, Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmson play catch along the line:

But we didn’t stay there long because we saw Ichiro…

…run out to RF.

We knew the odds would not be good, but we wanted to try to get a baseball from Tim’s favorite player at this milestone game.

But Hector Noesi was too nice.  He tossed us a baseball before Ichiro had a chance to do it himself:

Oh, yeah, can you tell my camera was broken from that last picture?  The black triangles on the top/left and bottom/right are pieces of the shutter than cover the lens when the camera is turned off.  In the fall, the front of my camera was bent in and it wouldn’t let the lens open properly.

Oh, yeah:

Thanks, Hector!

After getting a baseball from Noesi right in front of Ichiro, we knew we wouldn’t be getting one from Ichiro too.  So, we watched him a bit, and then we headed back to LF.

Pretty much right when we reached LCF, Blake Beavan tossed us another Dodger Stadium baseball!

Thanks, Blake!

While just standing around watching BP, I noticed something cool.  The back of Tom Wilhelmson’s right sock had a MLB logo sewn onto it:

My dad had been hanging out in LF chatting with Dan and waiting to catch a big fly.  After getting the toss up from Beavan, Kellan and I headed back down to the LF corner while Tim stayed with his grandpa.

At some point, I was wearing Kellan’s little kid glove and Kellan was just walking around checking stuff out…

…and then one of the Mariners batters launched a near homerun right at us.  Ten minutes after the fact, I was already fuzzy on the details.  I might have picked Kellan up, but I’m not sure.  I might have just stepped by him and shielded him from the baseball heading toward us.  Ultimately, I thought it was going to fall short.  It did, but not too short to evade my kid glove.  I reached far over the wall and made a snow cone catch on the fly!

In that picture above to the right, Kellan is checking out the baseball.  I took that right after catching it…but I’m still unclear on if I picked up Kellan and handed him the baseball before taking the picture (which seems un-natural and not something I would do)  or if I was already holding him and just handed him the baseball.

Me making a clean catch on a batted ball is a very rare occasion for me.  I was thrilled to make the catch while wearing Kellan’s glove.  Immediately upon the catch, I held my glove over my head and both my dad and D gave me congratulatory nods…and it sure seems like I was holding Kellan when that happened….but who knows.

Kellan and I then headed back over to LCF, and guess what?  Tim was holding a baseball that Charlie Furbush had given him, completely unsolicited.

After catching the homer, Kellan and I headed back over to LCF and chatted with my dad, my dad and Dan.  I noticed that Tim was holding a baseball.  Turns out that Charlie Furbush, who was standing in LCF with Casper Wells…

…walked over and handed a baseball to Tim.  Meanwhile, Jason Vargas and King Felix were standing around in LF.  When Vargas fielded another one of those fancy Dodger Stadium baseballs and tossed it to my dad.

Thanks, Charlie and Jason!

A few minutes later, my dad caught a Miguel Olivo homerun on the ricochet.  It landed up in the seats above us and bounced down to my dad on a big hop.

When BP wrapped up, Kellan and I were standing in CF right next to the batters eye.  As the Mariners started clearing the field, I noticed that there was one lone baseball left on the field.  It was sitting in the grass in (very) shallow CF.  Blake Beavan was in CF and he was the last Mariner to start running toward the dugout.  As he started running, I called out, “Hey, Blake!”  When he turned to look at us, I pointed at the baseball and flashed him my glove.  He gave me a *a-okay-buddy* hand gesture and started running toward the baseball.  Just then Iwakuma swooped in from RF and grabbed the baseball.  He was just trying to be helpful, cleaning up the Mariners mess.

I’m not sure if Beavan said something, but then Kuma turned turned and lateralled the baseball back to Beavan who was about 15 feet away and approaching rapidly.  Beavan received the ball like a quarterback in the shotgun, and then he immediately spun and launched a long arching pass in our direction.  It was right on the spot.  And as I squeezed my glove around the very last baseball of BP, Beavan gave an exaggerated Kirk Gibson walk off homerun arm pump to celebrate his fine pass.  And I gave Beavan a “you the man” point with my index finger and shouted a big:

Thanks, Blake!

And that was BP.

We had some plans for post-BP/pre-game.  We met up with Dan and Emily and headed…

…to the seats in the LF corner.  There was a little league parade going on around the warning track.  We went to see if Tim and Emily could get into an on-field kick ball game that the Rockies run after BP some days (maybe every day, I’m not sure).  Unfortunately, the Rockies had already selected two of the little league teams to play kick ball.

So we split up again.  Tim and my dad headed to the kids play area and Kellan and I headed out to CF to watch Kevin Millwood warm up in the Mariners pen:

I have never been a Kevin Millwood fan.  Little did I know he was about to pitch a complete game shut out two hitter!

Check out the cool view from the concourse above the batters’ eye and visitors’ bullpen at Coors Field:

Next, we headed over to section 142 and watched the Mariners position players do their final warm ups for the game.  A nice fan offered to take our picture:

And I took a panorama from the stairway between sections 142 and 141:

So it was game time.  We reported back to our seats in the first row of section 153.  And it was wonderful.  You might have noticed from our game reports that we move around a lot at games.  We do it because the boys don’t want to just stay put in the seats for 9 innings.  But in these seats, my dad and I could stay put and watch the game while Tim and Kellan ran around and played in the nice wide “row” behind us.

Kellan started off the game by running back and forth with his stroller…

…, which resulted in Coors Field’s famous beer vendor, Captain Earthman, taking note and chatting up Kellan a bit.

The 2011 season was pretty rough for me and Tim when it came to seeing the Mariners in person.  The M’s were 1-8 when we were in attendance, including 6 consecutive losses to start our season, two walk-off losses, and the Mariners’ historic 17th consecutive loss in late-July 2011.

To put it mildly, we were hoping for a better in-person Mariners season in 2012.  And we really wanted a Mariners win at this milestone game.  Well, the Mariners started things off great for us.  With one out in the top of the first, Michael Saunders drove a triple into the OF.  Ichiro couldn’t get Saunders home with this week groundout:

But Kyle Seager followed with an RBI single.  And just like that Kevin Millwood had all the run support he’d need on this night.

Our seats were truly great.  They were just to the foul-line side of where Carlos Gonzalez and Mike Carp were stationed out in LF:

The low point in the game had nothing to do with the game itself.  Kellan was sitting on my lap eating some nachos when he decided he wanted to sit in his stroller.  As I set things up for him, he stepped on the corner of our nacho tray causing most of our nachos to fall on the ground:

That’s a definite nacho foul.  And very sad.  Kellan was fine with it because I let him eat all of the remaining nachos.  Wouldn’t you know, it was only my share of the nachos that ended up on the ground.

Millwood mowed down the Rockies in the bottom of the first, and then Mike Carp hit a homerun into the batters’ eye in the bottom of the second to make the score 2-0 Mariners.

As the Mariner did their thing, the boys did their thing in our spacious front row:

The Rockies’ scoreboard was behind us in LF and it is a nice looking scoreboard topped with a big Rockies’ logo:

In the top of the third, Ichiro recorded our first *Ichiro hit* of the season:

But he was stranded on base.

I wandered around the front row a bit and took some photos.  Here is the view out in the LCF corner (section 158):

One of the perks of our front row seats is that they have special mens and womens restrooms in a tunnel under the seats in LCF.  I took this panorama from section 155 while standing in the tunnel leading to the front row restrooms:

The kids were permitted to do just about anything they wanted to do during the game, except touch the OF wall during each inning (they could touch it all they wanted between innings).  Tim, Emily and Kellan spent a lot of time rolling one of Tim’s cloth training baseballs back and forth to each other behind our seats:

Our usher, Barb, had to remind Tim just to roll, and not throw, the baseball.  But all-in-all, the kids were free to go crazy having fun.  And they had lots and lots of fun:

And then it was time for ice cream:

Dan grabbed my camera and got a nice family photo (except my dad is hiding behind Kellan) while the boys were chowing down on their ice cream:

In the top of the sixth, Ichiro hit another single.  He then stole second and took third on a throwing error.  He then scored the Mariners third run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Kyle Seager.

So it was 3-0 Mariner going into the bottom of the sixth.  And, amazingly, Millwood still had not given up a single hit.  He retired the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth inning too.  But then Marco Scutaro hit a weak grounder to Kyle Seager at 3B.  Seager booted the ball.  I thought it was an error, but the official scorer was stumped.  If it was ruled a hit, Millwood’s no hitter would be gone.  The scorer just sat and thought about it for a while.  And then Jordan Pacheco took the official scorer off the hook – he hit a solid, no doubter single up the middle.  The no hitter was gone, no matter how the scorer would ultimately rule on the Scutaro-to-Seager play.

Pacheco decided he would take 3B on the hit, but Michael Saunders had a different idea.  He gunned Pacheco down at 3B to end the inning.  Millwood would go on to pitch a complete game shut out without giving up another hit.  So, had Seager made that tough, but completely doable play, we would have seen a no hitter!

After the no-no was gone, I decided it was time to run around and see the ballpark a bit.  I started by running up to the Rockpile.  Quite fittingly, I ran into D as I ran up the steps into the Rockpile.  He was holding court with some of his fellow Rockpilers.  I said a quick hello and then headed up to the last row of section 402, where it looked like this:

The concourse below the Rockpile seats juts out a big around the seats on either side.  I got this picture from the concourse on the RF side of the Rockpile:

And then I headed to RF.  Up in section 201, it looked like this:

From the second deck, I could see my dad and the boys hanging out with Dan and Emily:

And then I headed up to section 301:

I had to go all the way over to section 314 before I could get all the way up to the top of the upper deck.  It looked like this up there:

And it looked like this from the aisle behind home plate and between sections 331 and 300:

This was the scene from section 332:

Millwood was unstoppable as he pitched to Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton in the bottom of the seventh:

Over in section 346, it looked like this:

I turned to the side and these purple seats…

…told me that I was one mile above sea level.

I took one last panorama from the upper deck, in section 346…

…before heading back down to the field level.

Back in the front row, I took another panorama from section 151:

Heading into the top of the ninth, Kyle Seager took advantage of the spacious outfield.  The play developed so slowly that I had time to pull my camera out of my pocket and find Carlos Gonzalez in the LCF corner retrieving the first triple of Seager’s young career:

Like Saunders before him, Seager also scored following his triple, thanks to John Jaso sacrifice fly.  That made the score 4-0 Mariners.

The kids were still having a heap of fun playing around behind the seats:

Heading into the bottom of the ninth, I was pulling for Millwood to complete the shut out.  The Mariners were on their toes playing some great baseball behind Millwood.  Actually, Seager wasn’t even on his toes, he was levitating an inch or two off the ground:

I’m not sure if he came in for defensive reasons or what, but Casper Wells…

…played the last couple innings in LF.

Millwood secured the win when he induced Cargo into a line out to 1B on this swing:

Mariners win!

There were four happy Mariners fans out in LF:

Check out those happy totals behind us:

Although the win was tucked safely in our back pockets, we still had work to do at this game.  We still needed our Coors Field bonus picture for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt.  Unfortunately, like Busch Stadium and Kauffman Stadium, there are not many “Coors Field” signs inside Coors Field, which is funny because there are about 80 of them outside the stadium.  But I had an idea.

On our way to the stop where I thought we could get the picture, I took some pictures of some cool seats:

How do you like that, a one-person bleacher bench!  On the right, I just liked the Rockies logo on the side of the chair.

So, here you go, here is our Coors Field bonus picture:

Nice assist by the garbage can, eh?

Before heading back to the hotel, we got a panorama in the aisle behind home plate between section 131 and 130:

Then we got one more group shot.  We asked a lingering fan to take the picture for us.  I mentioned that I would like him to get the scoreboard in the background.  All I meant was that I didn’t want him to zoom in on us and not get the stadium in the background.

Well, he focused on getting the scoreboard, and not so much on getting us all in the shot.  Here is his handiwork:

So there you go.  A wonderful night at Coors Field.  The Mariners run their record to 1-0 with us in attendance in 2012.  Millwood flirts with a no hitter but settles for a 2-hit complete game shutout.  And Tim and I reached the milestone of having seen all 30 MLB teams play a home game.

Great night!  And there was more to come the next day.

2012 C&S Fan Stats

9/8 Games (Tim/Kellan)
14/13 Teams – Tim – Mariners,   Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks,   Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals; Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins,   Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs,   Cardinals, Royals
13 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1,   Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 2
48 Baseballs – Mariners 6, Marlins   4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 5, Orioles 6, Athletics 1,   Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 2
8 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 3, Dodger Stadium 2
8/7 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens   Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch   Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards,   Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field1/1 Mascots Photos – Tim –   Sluggerrr; Kellan – Fredbird
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky   Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
4 Autographs – Willie   Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was beautiful.  Our view looked like this:

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

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

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

Thanks, Alcides and Yuni!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo taken after the game started)

I was thrilled!  I shouted out a big:

Thanks, Jim!

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

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

Nope.

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

Thanks again, Jim!

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

Well, wouldn’t you know, he did…

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

Sweet!

Quadruple thanks, Jim Presley!

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

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

Tim and I swooped in and capitalized big time:

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

Thanks, Brian!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big thanks to Rick Adair!

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

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

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

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

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

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

…were shagging fly balls in CF and LCF.

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

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

Avi – “Ryan.”

Todd – “Oh…wait, I gotta go.”

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

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

Avi – “Any time, sir.”

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

Thanks, Ryan and Avi!

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

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

Doh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…who were apparently very enthusiastic with their waving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I checked out the fountains…

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

I got this panorama from the walkway behind section 101:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I got panoramas from section 321:

And another from the stairway between sections 315-316:

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

Maybe next time!

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

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

And this one from section 417:

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

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

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

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

Here’s a pretty sight:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…this one from between sections 435 and 437…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…on a double by Alex Gordon.

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

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

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

This was our view:

View nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That made it 3-2 Royals.

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

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

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

He sat the Orioles does in order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Angel!

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012 C&S Fan Stats

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

2012 Cook GFS Game 3 – Cubs vs. Cardinals (5/15/12)

On Tuesday, May 15, 2012, we were right back at it for another Cubs-Cardinals rivalry game, the third game of the 2012 GFS Roadtrip.

The game was an odd 12:45 start.  My dad and I debated what to do with regard to attending *BP* or just showing up for the game.  We both suspected there would be no BP.  In the end, my natural sense of “its-just-wrong-to-show-up-at-game-time” prevailed.  We decided to take our chances with there not being BP.

As we approached the stadium, I pointed out a bunch of statues to Tim and mentioned that we should go check them out after the game, since there would still be plenty of day light after the game.  Tim decided he couldn’t wait.  He wanted to check them out ASAP.

My Dad and I agreed that he and Tim would go check out the statues while Kellan and I went to check out *BP* — or, more likely, pitchers’ pre-game warm ups.

Tim got creative and my dad took some wonderful posing-with-statues pictures at Busch Stadium’s LF entrance:

Meanwhile, Kellan and I headed into the stadium to find, in addition to several Cubs pitchers warming up down the LF line, the batting cage was set up for BP!  We headed down the LF line.  When the first set of pitchers finished throwing…

…super tall, Cubs pitcher Chris Volstad tossed us his warm up baseball.

Thanks, Chris!

Outside the stadium, Tim and my dad continued with some more serious statue poses:

Cut back to the field, there were still two sets of Cubs pitchers warming up along the LF line.  There were a couple autograph seekers camped out down the foul line, but no one else seemed all that serious about catching a baseball.  I figured our odds of getting another warm up ball were decent, provided that the pitchers didn’t notice that we got the ball from Volstad.  To avoid that scenario, we moved about 10 rows back and walked over to the next section further away from the pitchers.

When Casey Coleman finished throwing with his Rafael Dolis…

…(he is the Cubs pitcher on the left)…I called out, “Hey, Casey!?” and I gave him a solid glove-flap when he looked at me.

BOOM – he chucked us his warm up baseball.

Thanks, Casey!

Back outside, Tim and Grandpa wrapped around the 3B side of the stadium and got a few more statue and other memorial pictures:

Meanwhile, Kellan and I (well, really, it was just my decision) decided to head out to RF where there was a tiny patch of shaded seats.

By the way, I ought to mention that I was fearful of the sun all day.  The sun is Tim and Kellan’s kryptonite.  Kellan seemed to like the relief from the sun:

This is what Busch Stadium looked like from our temporary spot out in section 127:

Before long, Tim and my dad met up with us in RF.  Not soon after that, Shawn Camp…

…made a long toss to us after fielding a ball in RCF.

Thanks, Shawn!

And he wasn’t done with us just yet.

The sun was still creeping in on us.  So we retreated to the back of section 130:

Eventually, my dad and Tim headed down to the first row in the RF corner.

Kellan and I (again, really it was my decision) decided to head out to CF.  Before I could even take a panorama, Tony Campana…

…tossed us a baseball.

Hey, thanks, Tony!

So, it was on to LF for us.  On our way, we ran into Fredbird:

Kellan and I landed in section 172:

But it was just too sunny.  We gave up pretty quick there.

Meanwhile, my dad and Tim were still in the RF corner…

…and so was Shawn Camp.

Tim remembered Camp’s name from ten minutes earlier when he’d thrown a ball to us.  So when a ball was hit into an opening in the RF wall and Camp (for some odd reason) went after it, Tim waited for him to return with the ball.  And then my precious, wee-little Tim called out, “Hey, Shawn, can you toss me the ball, please!?” (NOTE:  I was 300 feet away and have no clue of the actual words, so I’m paraphrasing here).  Camp responded in the affirmative.

And Tim gloved this baseball (and he and Grandpa went behind home plate so he could pose with it):

Thanks, again, Shawn!

And congratulations to my big boy, Tim, for getting this baseball 100% on  his own!

Meanwhile, out in brutally hot and sunny LF, our main activities consisted of me taking pictures of the visitors bullpen…

…Kellan trying to run up the stairs to the concourse.

I took Kellan’s hint – he wanted out of the sun.

We walked the concourse toward CF where there is a “Welcome to Busch Stadium” sign…

…past the concession stands and tables in the deep CF concourse…

…and into the nice, completely shaded little-kids’ play area:

Kellan was the ONLY kid in there for a while.  Eventually, Tim and Grandpa met us there and Tim and Kellan were the only kids in the play area, which was good for Tim.  But the second another little kid showed up, the attendant told Tim he was too big for the play area.

So, while I took a panorama from the field from the play area…

…Grandpa took Tim to the speed pitch:

His best throw was 26 m.p.h., which he beat last year.  But, hey, it is early in the season.  He’s still getting “stretched out.”

The previous day, my dad hadn’t explored the upper deck at all.  So we decided to explore up there as the game drew near.

We headed up the switch-back-ramp.  On the second deck, I popped into the stairway between two suites and sections 230-229 to get this panoramic view of Busch Stadium:

We then got a picture of Tim and my dad with a “Busch Stadium” sign, which is on the back of the scoreboard:

And a partial panorama from the upper deck concourse:

Kyle Lohse’s first pitch of the game to David DeJesus???

It was a ball.  His second pitch resulted in a line drive single to CF.

By default, we decided to watch the first inning unfold from the upper deck concourse in RF.  As Tony Campana strode to the plate…

…Kellan practiced hanging from a railing.

Lohse’s first and only to Campana also resulted in a single to CF:

While all of this unfolded, our view from the concourse behind section 428 looked like this:

Lohse threw four pitches to the next batter, Starlin Castro.  But Starlin turned that fourth pitch around for a third consecutive single to CF:

DeJesus scored on the play:

The Cubs followed Castro with a run-scoring double play (LaHair), double to CF (Alphonso Soriano), an RBI single to CF (Ian Stewart), and a fly out to RF.

Three outs and five hits to CF into the game, the Cubs led 3-0.

While the Cards muddled through the top of the first, I got a nice picture of Tim and Busch Stadium:

In their half of the first, the Cardinals scratched out three hits and plated two runs of their own.  But we didn’t really see any of it because, after the top of the first, we walked around the upper deck a little bit so my dad could check it out.

My dad took this shot of Tim…

…with another St. Louis arch.  This one was notable because it was the only “Pujols” I saw displayed in the ballpark.  I am sure there are others somewhere, but they did a pretty good job of removing his presence around the stadium.

The fans were not quite as good.  Many of them were still wearing Pujols jerseys and t-shirts, and at least a handful of those fans had used magic markers to put a big “X” through the “Pujols 5” on their backs.  It’s too bad.  The guy will undoubtedly go down as one of the best baseball players ever and he did incredible things for these guys while wearing a Cardinals jersey.

By my dad’s and my standards, it was a hot day, but no big deal.  By Tim’s standards, it was like we were walking on the surface of the sun.  Our seats were down on the field level in section 167.  They were really nice tickets that I never should have bought for this day game.  They were in the direct sunlight.  I knew Tim would be miserable if we went down there.  So we did just the opposite of what happens every day at MLB ballparks, we put our nice field level tickets away and we *snuck* up to the very last row of the upper deck down in section 440, which is down the 1B line.

This was our view:

It was actually really nice.  Great view AND completely shaded.

It was made even a bit cooler by some nicely timed ice cream helmets:

Since we had eaten a nice breakfast not too long before coming to the game, I told Tim we could do a “switcheroo” and get ice cream first and lunch second.  He was all for the switcheroo plan.  In fact, he has suggested it at some other games since this one.

While we were eating a group of about 15 college gals came to claim their seats in the last row.  So we had to move up to the second to last row.

The Cardinals scored again in the bottom of the second to knot up the score at 3-3.

Eventually, I asked Tim who he wanted to win.  He was *crushed* the night before when he had picked the Cardinals and then they lost.  He had a new plan today.  He would wait to see the outcome of the game and THEN he would decide who he was supporting.  Ah, a fool-proof method.  He had to win!

While the boys chomped on their ice cream, I decided I should get some action shots.  Here is one of the most interesting action shots I have ever captured:

I was completely confused about what happened on the play.  So were the Cubs.  They argued.  The umpires deliberated:

But eventually they stuck with their initial call: Campana tried to pull back, but bunted the ball foul for strike three.  He was out of there!

With two down in the top of the third, I was all set to capture another LaHair homerun.  But after hitting a couple foul balls…

…he grounded out to Cardinals first basemen Matt Carpenter.

In the fifth inning with the score still tied at 3-3, we decided to grab some pizza for lunch and give our actual seats a try.  They were beautiful:

But Tim just could not hack it.  He was miserable.  He couldn’t even last a half inning in the sun.  I was fine leaving our seats mere minutes after sitting down in them because the lady directly behind me (who I will estimate was approximately 24 years old) literally dropped 2-3 f-bombs in every single sentence that came out of her mouth.  I’m not easily offended…and I guess I wasn’t really offended here either, but this lady was ridiculous.  In a ballpark full of kids and with two of them sitting literally 2 feet in front of you, an adult should know that they should note drop 100-200 f-bombs in a span of 10 minutes.  I’m not joking with that number.  Without any exaggeration, she dropped an f-bomb about every 5 words or so AND she talked constantly AND really loudly.

So, yeah, the seats were great, but I was fine getting my boys out of the pounding sun and profane atmosphere.

We needed shade, so we took refuge here…

…in the concourse just inside of Gate 4.  It was a nice time and place for to call home and chat with mommy a bit.

Oh, I should mention that Matt Holliday hit a tie-breaking solo homerun in the fifth to put the Cardinals ahead 4-3.

After thwarting my efforts to capture his tenth homerun of the season a few innings earlier, Brian LaHair hit a blast in the top of the sixth that tied up the score, once again, at 4-4.

After eating and chatting with Colleen, we ended spending the rest of the game in the shady little kids’ play area in CF:

In Cardinals and Cubs swapped runs again in the seventh inning to make it 5-5.

While Kellan played, I was able to watch the action over the front wall of the play area enclosure.  I was standing there in the eighth when Matt Carpenter put the Cardinals ahead 6-5 with this homerun:

If you click on that picture, you can see the homerun ball on the very top edge of the picture, directly above the catcher’s glove.

All the while, Kellan kept playing, sometimes in a manner that made him look like he is made of plastic:

After Carpenter’s homerun, Tyler Greene hit a triple and then Carlos Beltran pinch hit for the pitcher and drew an intentional walk.

That set up another cool action shot.  Rafael Furcal followed with a hard hit grounder to 3B:

Greene got caught too far off the bag, there was a brief run down, and the Starlin Castro eventually tagged out Greene:

During some of the action, Grandpa took Tim to one of the big kid attractions – a cage where you could hit baseballs hanging from a metal arm.  Tim had a great time taking some hard whacks at the ball and making it spin around the arm over-and-over-and-over:

And Kellan, he just kept playing in the play area:

Leading off the top of the ninth, Alphonso Soriano stepped to the plate.  The announcer on the flat screen TV just above us commented that “Fonzie” can turn around a pitch pretty quick so Cardinals closer Jason Motte better pitch him carefully.

Well, he apparently did not, because “Fonzie” turned around the second pitch he saw for a deep, game-tying homerun to RF.

So it was 6-6 going into the bottom of the ninth.

For a dad who wants to watch the game, but has two kids who cannot stand the scorching hot sun and want to play around, this covered play area really was idea.  I got tons of great action shots from my little spot on the play area wall.

But then some oblivious fan ruined my best one of the day:

It was a walk off double by Yadier Molina that scored Matt Holliday from second.  As you can see, I captured Yadier a fraction of a second before he made contact with the game winning hit and right at the same time as this lady walked into my shot.  (Queue the Debbie Downer sound effect).

Tim didn’t care about my photographic misfortune.  By the end of the game, he was again set on the Cardinals winning.

Moments after the game ended and the other kids started to clear out, Tim leapt to the top of the big baseball glove toy and claimed victory as his:

ALL HAIL KING TIM!

Before leaving the stadium, I took one last Busch Stadium panorama from section 505:

And a nice lady who ended up asking us about our Roadtrip and as quite happy we had the opportunity to see a Cardinals win in St. Louis took our picture:

On our way out, I snapped this picture of a little baseball field in the bricks way out behind CF:

I’m not sure if it serves a purpose or is just nice to look at.  It definitely is the latter, but it seemed like whenever we walked by it during these two games at Busch Stadium they had booths or some type events taking place on here – as opposed to having some kids playing whiffleball (which would have been better).

On our drive out of St. Louis we were heading West and would not pass through town again.  So I got a last photo of the Gateway Arch…

…and then we drove off into the sunset.

The next day we would hop in the car and drive to Kansas City for our one and only game at Kauffman Stadium.  More good times were definitely on tap, as we’ll see in our next entry.

2012 C&S Fan Stats

7/6 Games (Tim/Kellan)
11/10 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals
9 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3
33 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 3, Orioles 1, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1
3 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2
6/5 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
3 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak

 

2012 Cook GFS Game 2 – Cubs vs. Cardinals (5/14/12)

So, we had a great first day of the Roadtrip in Minneapolis.   But when we woke up May 13, 2012, it was time to start the “road” phase of the trip.  This trip featured less driving days than some past trips, but the drives were generally longer.  On May 13th, we drove all the way from Minneapolis to Saint Louis.  It was about 550 miles total, cutting across Iowa and into Missouri.

Here are a couple photo highlights from the big drive:

Top Left: We grabbed some free breakfast at the hotel and hopped in the car to eat on the road.

Top Right:  Somewhere in Iowa, we passed this statue-thingy of three fighter jets.  Pretty cool.

Bottom Left: My Dad logged more miles behind the wheel than I did, but I spelled him for a good chunk of driving during the middle of the drive, at which point he did some reading.

Bottom Right: There wasn’t much to see in Iowa.  This big fish in a gas station parking lot was one of the highlights.

There was a surprise waiting for us in the St. Louis area.  My dad had booked the “Kozy Kaboose” for us at the St. Louis West KOA campground:

That caboose behind Tim was our hotel room!  It had a queen sized bed and a couch with a pull-out bed (which looked incredibly uncomfortable, but it was actually just fine).  Tim absolutely loved the caboose surprise.

Good work, Pa!

So, all we did on May 13 was drive, play at the caboose and play area right behind it, and go out to dinner at the local Applebees.

But we had a REALLY BIG day lined up for us on May 14, 2012.

I decided this would be the perfect day for us to wear the Roadtrip t-shirts I had made for us.  They were plain white t-shirts with the following photo on the chest:

I made that picture from 13 different photos.  It includes elements representing each of the four stadiums we would visit on the trip:  Rocky Mountains (Colorado Rockies), the “twins” shaking hands over the river (Minnesota Twins), the St. Louis Gateway Arch with a humungous cardinal sitting on top (St. Louis Cardinals), and a lion (king of the jungle) wearing Sluggerrrrr the mascot’s crown (Kansas City Royals).  It also features a Mariners compass logo that I drew on my computer using a real baseball, and with a Cook & Son Baseball Bats logo overlaid on the Mariners logo.  Finally, it features a picture of me (from the 9/27/11 Mariners game in Seattle) holding Kellan (from the 5/12/11 Mariners game in Baltimore) standing with my Dad (from the 8/13/11 Marlins/Giants game at Sun Life Stadium), and Tim (from the 9/27/11 Mariners game).  Oh, yeah, and the Rocky Mountains are rising up behind the outfield wall at Safeco Field (from the Safeco tour we took in 2009).

I made the shirts just for fun and, if I do say so myself, they were a big hit on the trip.  People in St. Louis loved them and complimented us a lot throughout the day.  So, if you were otherwise going to wonder what was on our shirts in the following photos, there is your explanation.

We started off in the morning by grabbing some food in the car and driving into St. Louis to visit the famous Gateway Arch.  I had heard you could take an “elevator” to the top and I was very curious about how that works.

We parked in a cool little area of the city (if you are standing under the Arch and facing the city, we parked in the section just to the right of the arch)…

…and we walked over to hop a ride up the arch.  The middle and right picture above show us in our tiny little “pod.”  When you get inside the arch, it looks like there are 8 tiny elevator doors descending down some steps (with the high point toward the outside of the arch and the low point (elevator no. 8) toward the middle side of the arch).  The door opens and you climb into a tiny pod with five seats.  It is essentially like a ferris wheel car.  You can feel that you are dangling from a connection at the top of the pod.  Instead of going straight up, you start by going sideways toward the outside of the arch, then the 8 pods lift up like a dangling string of pearls.  The pods have a glass door so you can see the inside of the arch as you ascend toward the top.  And it is a crazy mess of stairways and sheet metal.  When the pods reaches the top, pod 1 is then at the highest point toward the middle of the arch and pod 8 is at the lowest point toward the outside of the arch.  We were in pod 7 on the way up.  Hopefully that all makes sense.

Here’s a photo that hopefully gives you a sense of things:

In that picture to the left, Kellan and I are climbing the stairs at the top of the arch – going up from pod 7 to the observation deck.  The picture to the right is a screen that is at the top of the stairs and shows the status of the pods on the two sides of the arch – we went up the “south tram” (which was the only tram in use while we were there).

I thought the observation deck would have a flat floor – nope.  It is an arch and there is nothing flat about it, as you can see in the top left photo below:

As shown in the top right and bottom left photos above, there are a bunch of tiny windows that you can look out of for some amazing views of the city.  Or, as shown in the bottom right, you can look straight down 630 feet!

The arch and the observation deck are triangular in shape.  To look out the windows, you have to lean out over (or lay down on) the slanted outer wall.  It is well worth it.  Check out this view:

When we had our fill of the observation deck, we hopped into pod no. 8 and made our way back down to earth.  We walked far enough away to get some fun pictures of the arch.  Like these:

And this great one of Tim holding up the arch:

Way to sell it, Tim!

With plenty of time (hours and hours) until gates opened for the evening’s game, it was time to head to another activity.  We had no other plans when we woke up, but on the drive to the arch, my wife texted me and said we should go to the “City Museum.”  I asked the lady in the Arch gift shop about it and she said we would LOVE it.

She was right!

The City Museum is a huge museum of stuff for kids.  It is a like a huge playground.  Everything in the museum was found in the city of St. Louis and it was all built into the museum by a group of artisans who created the museum.

It was too crazy and huge to even photograph properly, so I’ll just show you this photo of Kellan climbing some stairs several stories above the ground:

All that I can say is, if you’re in St. Louis and you have kids GO TO THE CITY MUSEUM!

Oh, what the heck, let’s show you some more City Museum pictures:

We got tired and sweaty at the City Museum.  Luckily, we still had time to go back to the caboose and nap a bit before the game.

Around 3:00 p.m., we drove back into the city (it was about a half hour drive for us) for the game.  We are some not all that beautiful city pictures as we approached the stadium:

We parked in a lot beyond CF and then jumped in line at the CF gate (Gate 5):

Right as the gates were supposed to open, a worker arrived inside the gate and told everyone in our line that Gate 5 wouldn’t open for another hour.  So we all had to find another gate. We picked Gate 4, which is in the LF corner.

That was probably better anyway, because I planned to head into foul territory anyway.

We were going to be sitting in section 168, which is right in the LF foul corner.  Gate 4 lets you into the stadium just around the corner from section 168.  So it was easy access to where we wanted to go.

Upon entering the stadium, Tim and my dad headed out to LF and Kellan and I went down the LF foul line, right to the corner spot.  Very soon after arriving there, a ball was hit foul, kicked off of the stands well in from us and came to rest in shallow LF.  There were no players even remotely near the ball.

And then something ridiculous happened.  I looked on my phone to find that number 48 on the Cubs was Rafael Dolis.  He was in LF pretty close to the warning track and a LONG way from that baseball.  Fully expecting nothing to come from it, I called out, “Hey, Rafael!”  Dolis looked at us and I turned and pointed to the ball in shallow LF and gave him a “hey, why not go grab that and toss it to us?” shrug.

That was the first ridiculous part.   The second ridiculous part was that it worked.

Dolis started a long slow, incredibly slow, walk toward the baseball:

That is Dolis both coming and going on the left side of that picture.  He walked all the way over to the ball and was immediately met by chorus calls from fans closer to the infield shouting for the baseball.  He turned to them and pointed at us, “Its for them!”  And then he tossed it to us.

Holy cow!  Thanks, Rafael!

I was truly shocked he walked all that way just to hook us up with that baseball.  It was very much appreciated.

With a Busch Stadium baseball in hand, Kellan and I retreated to the shady seats behind the Cubs (3B) dugout…

…while Tim and my dad stayed in sunny L (that is them in the first row at the bottom of the stairway).

Here was our view of Busch Stadium from behind the 3B dugout:

Tim and my dad headed out to CF.  Nothing was hit their way and eventually an usher decided that Tim deserved a baseball.

Eventually, we decided to brave the sun again and we headed to the RF foul corner.  Tim and my dad came and met up with us and we watched BP for a few more minutes.  But it was pretty hot and we were thinking of just heading back to the shade behind 3B.

Just before doing so, a Cubs lefty sliced (or would it be hooked?) a foul ball down the RF line.  We were on the wall in RF, which was probably 7 rows back in the seating configuration.  All of the people in the first row or two (by the corner spot) were totally oblivious to their surroundings.  I truly thought this ball was going to nail someone in the side of the head.

I screamed, “HEADS UP!”  Everyone looked around frantically and the ball smashed down on the warning track and bounced high over about 10-15 people.

I was holding Kellan and *we* immediately broke down the row of seats.  I made it just far enough to make a fully-extended backhanded catch of the one-hopper, all while Kellan clung to my body wrapped by my throwing arm.

Here is where we were when we caught it:

A female usher came down and congratulated me on catching the baseball and added, “Thank you for not dropping your son!”  “Hey, no problem, “ I responded.

Almost as soon as we reached the shade behind 3B, BP was finished.  We decided to walk further down the LF line until we found an usher who (loved our Roadtrip shirts and) was kind enough to take our picture for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt – Busch Stadium bonus picture!

That tiny little “Busch Stadium” sign was the best we could find in the ballpark for the bonus shot.  It turns out it would get harder and harder to find a stadium sign inside the stadiums as this trip progressed.  Interestingly, there are “Busch Stadium” logos on all of the garbage cans and in the upper deck concourse, but this was the best we could do by the field.

After getting our picture, we visited our seats.  They were great!

But we didn’t stay long because there was a parade of kids going around the warning track and we wanted to get close because it was being led by…

…Fredbird!

That was as close-up we would get to him at this game.

Before the game, the four of us took a big lap around the entire field level concourse looking for a play area.

Along the way, we found cool looking hand operated (by apparently inaccurate) out-of-town scoreboards in the concourse down the 1B line:

The AL board said the Mariners were tied 3-3 with Oakland, but they were actually playing the Red Sox later that day, and they had just arrived in Boston from a series in New York.  So I have no clue when these scores were last updated.  That *old* Busch Stadium sign was attached to the NL out-of-town scoreboard.

We found a little kids play area (not for Tim) in CF, which was nice and shady.  But it was for little kids only so we kept walking.  Just behind the play area, we found this muscle car on a pitchers mound:

For some reason, Tim has been excited to point out muscle cars everywhere we go lately.  So he wanted a picture pitching with the muscle car…and Kellan likes to copy everything his big brother does.

Once we finished out loop around the field level, Tim decided he was starving and he declared he wanted pizza for a second game in a row!  We hadn’t even been paying attention to the food as we walked, so we started our second loop around and made it all the way to home plate before we found pizza.

We reported to our seats…

…and Tim artistically ate his pizza while Kellan slammed a tray of nachos (with my assistance):

The game was entertaining.  Jake Westbrook was on the hill for the Cardinals…

…and he hung zeros on the board through the first four innings (until the Cubs put up a 4-spot in the top of the fifth inning).  By the way, that is David DeJesus batting in the picture above to the right.

Tim decided he wanted the Cardinals to win.  Personally, I was hoping the Cardinals would get destroyed so all of the fans would go home early and the stadium wouldn’t be as crowded.  For the record, I hope that at all games except Mariners home games and Yankee road games.

For some reason, I don’t really care for Cardinals leftfielder (and big time slugger) Matt Holliday.  I just don’t like how he carries himself.  Maybe I’m completely wrong.  But he just seems a bit smug to me.

So, I was amused when he botched an incredibly easy fly ball to LF:

Hey, the guy can mash.  But his glove leaves much to be desired.

Each MLB stadium has its own policy regarding at what age (or height) a kid needs his own ticket.  I am all for no buying Kellan a ticket whenever possible.  Luckily, the Cardinals allow all kids THREE and under into the ballpark for free.  That’s great!

But the stadium is so packed, that you actually do have to keep the little ones on your lap – like this:

…or standing in front of you – like this:

But it worked out just fine for us at this packed rivalry game, as you can see from these pictures…

…of Kellan enjoying some fruit snacks…

…while Tim punches out an all-star ballot (not actually voting) and looks around his thirty-first Major League Baseball stadium.

The Cubs sent practical joker, Ryan Dempster, to the hill…

…and he hung zeros on the board for the first five innings (until the Cardinals put up a 4-spot of their own in the sixth inning to knot it at 4-4).  By the way, that is David Freese taking his cuts above to the right.

After eating, I needed to go tour the ballpark and take pictures.  Tim decided to join me while Kellan (apparently against his wishes) stayed behind with Grandpa.  Kellan loves spending time with his Grandpa, but his is a MAJOR daddy’s boy (and I love it!).  He always wants to be with me.  It’s really awesome. In fact, if I am walking down the street with him and a bunch of other people, he gets upset if anyone but me pushes his stroller.  What can I say, I have the magic touch with that boy.

Anyway, unbeknownst to me (because I didn’t noticed my dad calling my cellphone), after a few minutes of being fine, Kellan had a melt down and cried uncontrollably (he’s good at that) until he and grandpa met up with me and Tim again.

Sadly, that took a while because Tim and I were having a great time touring around.

First, we headed to the second deck where we found some baseball team-themed Saint Louis Arches and Tim did his “Yesssss! I just won”…

…and “jumping for joy” poses!

He did more jumping for joy…

…and more winning poses as we found more Arches and Cardinals wall art in this odd little concourse area tucked behind the fancy clubs on the second level.

As we walked by, we saw this World Series trophy through the window of one of those fancy clubs:

I couldn’t tell what year it was from.

In both LF and RF, the concourses jut out a bit past the last section of seats on each of the upper levels.  This provides a nice standing-room only opportunity for the fans.  We took this panorama from the concourse extension on the second deck in LF:

And then we turned and I got these pictures of Tim and the real Arch…

…and Tim and the outfield.

Then we headed up to the third deck and got another end-of-concourse panorama:

If you know Busch Stadium from TV, this is right next to the section with the “Big Mac Land” sign.

After taking the panorama, a fan asked if we wanted a picture.  Of course, we did:

And 30 seconds later, look who we found patrolling the concourse behind Big Mac Land:

Tim meekly told Ronald, “I went to McDonald’s today and ate a happy meal.”  Ronald thought that was just *great*!

From the third deck in LF, you can walk down to the third deck seats or up to the four deck seats.  We headed up to the very top of the upper deck in the LF corner for this panoramic view of Busch Stadium:

Then we continued on toward home plate.  As you get closer to 3B, there is an escalator up to a higher concourse – once you go up the escalator, you then can walk *down* into what LF left would be the third deck, but in the infield is the second deck (hopefully that makes sense – the point is that the *second* deck in LF does not extend into the infield seating – it is replaced by suites.

Anyway, once you get up the escalator, you have officially reached the *highest* concourse in the stadium.  Around 3B there is nothing above it, but once you get closer to the home plate, a *new* upper-deck rises above this *highest* concourse – this all seems very confusing.  Just click on and look at the full-sized versions of some of our panoramas and it will make sense.

Anyway, at the back of the concourse around 3B, you can pose with the giant “St. Louis Cardinals” sign that is facing out of the stadium…

…and you can look down on a statue and big autographed baseball of Stan Musial on the ground outside the stadium.

Here is a panorama as we neared 3B:

Then we took this panorama closer to home plate, where the upper-upper-upper deck begins:

[Recall, all this while, Kellan is crying and pitching a major fit for grandpa while Tim and I are having a lovely time getting to know the ins-and-outs of Busch Stadium – poor Grandpa and Kellan!]

Anyway, we headed up to the very top of the *upper-est* deck in the stadium (behind home plate) for this panorama:

Is that a great looking ballpark or what?  I love the arch in the background and the arch mowed into the outfield grass.

We continued walking around the stadium toward RF.  This is what the concourse looks like behind the upper-deck:

As we approached the RF corner, I pulled and my phone and noticed that my dad and called and texted.  His message was simple, “come help with Kellan.”  My response was probably too ambiguous, “We’re coming from RF upper deck.”  I meant, “Hold on!  We’ll be there ASAP, but we have a long way to walk.”

We snapped one more, sun obscured, panorama from RF before heading down the elevator:

We ended up meeting in the LF concourse.  Kellan was still letting loose with the water works, but he was instantly completely fine the second he saw me.  The second my Dad passed him over to me, he was happy and ready for some ice cream – we met up at the ice cream stand.  This was the real deal – Ben & Jerry’s.  We decided on some delicious mint chocolate chunk:

Tim decided he wanted some blue cotton candy instead of ice cream.  This was fine by me because it meant we could get this “blue tongued” shot for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt:

However, by the end of the game, I had officially declared:  NO MORE COTTON CANDY!

It made Tim way too hyper…something his father suffered from as a boy, too.

We got back to the seats in time to see the Cubs score their four runs in the top of the fifth innings, which was highlighted by a homerun by former Mariner Bryan LaHair:

LaHair is having himself quite the season so far.  This was his 9thhomer of the season.  Prior to this season, he only had 5 homeruns in his career.

Kellan was all chilled out now that I was back with him in the seats.  In fact, he was straight up lounging:

After a while, Kellan got restless.  So I took both boys back up to the upper deck by 3B.  The plan was to tire them out running up the switch-back ramp.  And it worked.  We got one more panorama up there:

Tim did some silly-sugar induced posing…

…and I got a shot of the upper deck rising above the upper-concourse.  And then we headed back to our seats to finish out the game with my dad.

As we approached our seats, I took a shot of Tim showing the little triangular area at the end of the field level cross-aisle that is right behind section 168:

It is nice for standing when you don’t want to sit.

While we were watching the rest of the game, Tim was quick to spot King Felix when we flashed on the scoreboard:

Kellan was primed and ready (with Grandpa’s glove) to catch a foul ball…

…but no one, not even David Freese…

…could find us in the stands

A think night panoramas look great, so I got another shot from section 168 late in the game.

After the Cardinals tied the score at 4-4 in the sixth, the Cubs came back with a run in the eighth on a single by Alphonso Soriano and an unearned run in the ninth on a throwing error by 2012 World Series hero David Freese.

After the game, we got another group shot…

…which would have turned out better had Tim not been so sad that the Cardinals (who he picked to win at the beginning of the game) had lost.  At the next game, he would devise a new strategy to avoid such post-game disappointment.

On the way out of the stadium, I took an almost-empty-stadium panorama from the cross-aisle behind section 167 (one section closer to home than section 168):

And finally, as my Dad ran all the way back to our seats to retrieve Kellan’s water sippy-cup (well, it is a little more advanced than a “sippy cup”), I took a final panorama of the night from the CF bleachers:

And that was all she wrote.  Forty-five minutes sitting through a horrific post-game traffic jam and we were on our way back to the caboose excited to come back within about 12 hours for more Cardinals-Cubs baseball.

2012 C&S Fan Stats

6/5 Games (Tim/Kellan)
11/10 Teams – Tim –   Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue   Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles,   Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals
7 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1,   Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 1
28 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets   8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 3, Orioles 1, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4,   Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 2, Cardinals 1
3 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2
6/5 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens   Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch   Stadium; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field,   Busch Stadium
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky   Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
3 Autographs – Willie   Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak

 

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.

2012 Cook GFS Game 1 – Blue Jays vs. Twins (5/12/12)

The 2012 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip is extra special for several reasons.  First, it is the Fifth Anniversary of the GFS Roadtrip.  Second, we have expanded the GFS roster to include Kellan. And, finally, by checking off Busch Stadium (Cardinals), Kauffman Stadium (Royals), and Coors Field (Rockies), Tim and I would finally have seen all 30 MLB teams play a home game – we had already seen all 30 teams play a road game.

I wanted the Mariners to be involved in the game when we saw our final team play a home game.  During the offseason, I decided it would happen in Colorado when the Mariners visited the Rockies in May.

The Roadtrip kicked off on May 12, 2012.  We started in Minnesota.  It is the first city we have visited on two separate roadtrips.  We went to the H.H.H. Metrodome during its final season in 2009.  And now we were back to check out Target Field.

But first, we had to get to Minnesota…

…and this will officially be Kellan’s final “infant on lap” trip.  He’s getting to be huge these days.  But we have a nice flight nonetheless and were greeted by my dad at the gate.  His flight had landed about half an hour before ours.

After a brief rest in our hotel room, we took to the streets of Minneapolis on foot – destination Target Field:

We arrived before the gates opened.  The crowd at the RF (Kirby Puckett) gate was getting big already.  We got some pictures with a couple statues (Kirby and Kent Hrbek)…

…and then headed around the stadium to the shaded Tony Oliva gate.

Our first inside view of Target Field was from the left field corner and the Twins were taking BP:

The Blue Jays were already stretching by the dugout.  Soon, they started to walk down the foul line to play catch.  Luis Perez…

…gave us a smile as he walked by so I asked if he’d pose for a picture with Tim and Kellan.  He said he would after he played catch.  I asked, “Ah, then, could we get your warm up ball when you’re done too!?”  He said yes and then headed off to play catch.

But then he must have decided he didn’t want to forget about us, because he walked back over to us a minute later and handed Kellan our first ever baseball at Target Field.

Thanks, Luis!

One of our big goals of this game was to get Rajai Davis to sign Kellan’s first MLB pitch picture.  We soon spotted him playing catch just behind third base.  Unfortunately, he was on the field side instead of the foul line side.  Anyway, Kellan and I went over there on the off chance we could hook up with Davis:

In the picture above to the left, Rajai is all the way out in CF playing long toss.  While we were watching Davis play long toss, the on-field security guard to the right grabbed a ball that had been hit against that protective screen and he walked over and handed it to Kellan.

Thanks, Security Guard!

That was it for BP as far as baseballs go.

And we never got any closer to Davis.  He drifted off into CF after finishing playing long toss.

Kellan and I headed back toward the corner spot where Tim and my dad were still waiting on Perez to finish playing catch and come back for a picture…

…, but it was too hot and sunny and Tim surrendered to the sun.  He was going to burst into flames if he waited any longer for Perez.  So, sadly, we did not get a picture with a Blue Jay.

Instead, we headed toward home plate.  We noticed that they let you down into the dugout seats (inside the Moat) during BP.  Here is a panorama from within the moat:

Next, we grabbed some water for the boys.  And then Tim and grandpa headed off to the team store and Kellan and I headed to the shady spot in RF.  On the way, he fell asleep:

Tim and grandpa met up with us and we hung out here for the rest of BP:

Once BP ended, we headed up to the upper deck in the outfield to check out the stadium.  An usher was kind enough to take a nice picture of us:

That picture was taken here:

Tim can be temperamental about getting his picture taken sometime…probably because he’s been photographed  about 100,000 times in six years.  Anyway, I wanted to get our Target Field bonus picture for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt, but for some reason Tim was adamant that he didn’t want to be in it – just Kellan.  So, this was “take 1” of the bonus picture:

Here is what it looks like from the front row of the section just below the CF Target Field sign:

While we were up there, we found a couple of the statues from past all-star games and Tim did funny poses with both:

As we continued to circle around to LF, Tim and I headed up to the tippy-top of the stadium.  Check out how steep the steps are in the LF upper deck seats:

Here is what it looks like from the back row up there:

Behind 2B, they had a softball homerun hitting contest set up.  Two fans faced off against the hardest hitting mascot ever:

The mascot blasted 6 bombs on 7 swings, including one that hit the back wall of the upper deck.

Then we found another all-star statue.  I think this one might be for this season:

After that picture, Tim declared he was extremely hungry.  Instead of nachos, he wanted pizza.  We walked and walked and walked before we found pizza, but finally found it.  And we also found the most awesome food item in the history of Major League Baseball…

The NACHO HELMET!

For the record, our nacho lady only filled ours half way, which was plenty for me and Kellan, but every other  nacho helmet I saw all day was overflowing the top of the helmet.  We ate our nachos in our seats in the last row (row 10) of section 141:

I really liked these seats.  They were great.

Joe Mauer, P.J. Walters and (I’m guessing) the Twins pitching coach headed in from the bullpen for the game to start:

These three dudes were all set for the first pitch of the 2012 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip:

And this was it:

We were desperately needing a water refill, which required me and Kellan to walk all the way behind home plate to find a water fountain.  On the way, we saw Jose Baustita bat up close:

All game long, the concourses were absolutely packed:

For the first 3.5 innings, it was a scoreless pitchers’ duel between P.J. Walters and Drew Hutchinson (two guys I had never heard of before this game).  To that point, this foul ball by Joe Mauer was one of the offensive highlights of the so-far uneventful game:

Eventually, Kellan needed to get moving.  We headed to Target Plaza so he could stretch his travel-weary legs:

After running around for a while in Target Plaza, we headed upstairs in CF.  At the deepest part of CF, this is what the concourse looks like:

While I took some pictures, Kellan worked his arm muscles and abs:

Then we took a look at the bullpens:

And deep LF:

And straight away LF:

Then it was time for another leg workout.  Kellan ran up and down this ramp from the field level to the upper deck about 3-4 times:

At the top of the ramp, Kellan wanted a solo picture posing with the Twins pig:

And then it was more running.  He ran a lot!

Eventually, we headed back to our seats through the field level concourse.  I took a picture from the concourse behind the odd seats in deep RCF:

They are tucked under the upper deck seats.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Hutchinson loaded the bases and then walked in the first run of the game for a 1-0 Twins lead.

Before sitting down again, Kellan and I grabbed some two-toned dipping dots helmets:

Those are some sweeeeeeet helmets.  I love ‘em.  These are our first two-tone helmets.

You can see this in some of the panoramas, but I figured I should take a picture of the “have’s” seating on the fancy side of the moat:

On the last game of the 2011 GFS Roadtrip, Johnny Damon hit a ball off the top of the RCF wall at the Trop.  They called it a homerun.  I could tell with my unaided eyes that it had hit the bar on the top of the fence and bounced back onto the field without leaving the ballpark.  They reviewed it.  And eventually Damon was told to head back out to second base.

In the top of the sixth inning of this game, Jose Bautista became the second player in as many GFS Roadtrip games to hit a disputed shot to the wall:

With my unaided eye, I could tell it bounced in the bushes above the OF wall and it should be a homerun.  I was right.  After stopping for a few minutes at 2B, Jose was told to finish his trip around the bases:

The boys were growing restless and I still needed to tour around the upper deck in the infield.  We decided to make it a four-man trip.  First, we headed to a little hallway on the second deck on the 1B side where Tim got his picture with a model:

And then we headed all the wall down the RF line in the upper deck – where the usher told me to reposition myself to take these pictures (I must have been blocking the view of some people in a downtown building because there was nobody (and no seats) behind me):

Then we walked around the upper deck:

There were a lot of people in the concourse up there too.  Unluckily, as you circle around home plate, there is an elevated walkway so you can stay out of the concourse.

Circling around home plate, I asked an usher to take our picture…

…and he warmed me that the sun would blast us in the face in the photo.

As we walked, I continued to take photos of the field…

…and of my boys and dad:

As we walked, we saw an awesome play.   Someone hit a foul pop up behind 3B.  The Jays short stop Yunel Escobar rushed back to make the play, but he bobbled the ball up into the air and Jays left fielder Jose Bautista swooped in to snatch it out of the air for the rare 6-7 put out:

Tim and I climbed to the highest seats in LF for this picture:

And at the bottom of that section, I snapped this cute picture of Tim, Kellan and my dad:

As we headed back to the RF corner to head down to the lower level, Joe Mauer launched a deep drive.  It was the craziest I have ever heard a crowd go for a double:

We headed back to our seats, but then I realized I never went up into the RF bleachers.  So Tim and I headed over there.  On the way, we took this picture of the worst SRO area ever:

All you can see is the right fielder and a TV screen.  On the plus side, it is completely shaded (under the  RF bleachers).

The connection between the RF seats and the CF seats makes for some crazy angles at Target Field.  I wish I had done a better job photographing it.  But I did get this awesome picture of two lone seats at the top of a mini-flight of steps:

Then we *scaled* the RF bleachers.  It was like rock climbing, I would imagine.  At the top I got this panorama:

And this photo of nervous-from-the-height Tim:

Here are some fun angles that make it look like the bullpen is at the bottom of a hole:

And then it was time to slowly walk back down the steep steps:

Approaching the stairs down to Target Plaza, I got this picture of the plaza…

…and one of Tim in front of the Twins Live set.

Late in the game, Bautista was on first base and I was just sure something was about to happen.  I was right, they tried to pick him off first unsuccessfully:

It was dark now and the ballpark signs looked great – check it out:

The Blue Jays had pulled ahead to a 2-1 lead, and they held on to win the game, which pleased Tim.  He had declared the Blue Jays to be his team to win early in the game.

After the game, I had an usher take a family shot of us…

…and it took Tim a few minutes to realize I had duped him into posing for a Target Field bonus picture.  Haha!!

On our way out of the stadium, Tim (in quite possibly his oldest looking picture ever) showed his respects for the Great Willie “Ballgame” Bloomquist (#18):

So there you go.  One game down on the Roadtrip.  Another great night and another great stadium.  In the morning, we would drive to St. Louis for a couple games between the Cardinals and Cubs at Busch Stadium.  It would prove to be a super long drive, but well worth it.

2012 C&S Fan Stats

5/4 Games (Tim/Kellan)
9/8 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins
6 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2
25 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 3, Orioles 1, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1
3 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2
5/4 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target 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

 

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

 

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