Results tagged ‘ Justin Smoak ’

Spring Training in AZ and PA

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

…, this one of new Mariner Jesus Montero…

…, this one of Felix (the catcher)…

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

…, this one of Dustin Ackley…

…, this one of Hisashi Iwakuma…

…, this one of King Felix pitching…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariners Season Finale (9/28/2011)

All good things have to come to an end.  Even the baseball season.  And so the Mariners 2011 season ended on September 28, 2011, and we were there for it.  This is the story.

The line-up was different for this game.  Kellan had a few sniffles, so we didn’t want him to get sick.  So Colleen and Kellan sat this one out.  Meanwhile, my brother and sister-in-law were expecting the birth of their first baby any day so my mom stayed home in case the baby wanted to make an appearance that day (he didn’t).

So it was me, Tim, my dad, and my best buddy Paul at this game.  Paul would come straight from work and meet us at game time.

If I ran the Mariners, there would definitely, absolutely, without question be batting practice on the final day of the season.  Sadly, I do not run the Mariners so, despite the fact it was a night game, I was uncertain and doubtful that there would be batting practice.

I tweeted to some Mariners and Mariners personnel in hopes of figuring out whether it would be worthwhile arriving two hours before game time.  Word finally came in from Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims…

…but it was too late.  We arrived early for (no) BP.

No problem.  Nothing wrong with several hours of hanging out at Safeco Field, even if nothing is happening.

And that is exactly what was happening.  Nothing.

When we arrived, there were two Mariners playing catch along the RF foul line.  Before the rest of the stadium opened for the fans, the two Mariners were long gone.  We did not see another uniformed Mariner for about an hour-and-a-half.

We headed into the infield seats and did some quality hanging out:

We did *a lot* of hanging out.  We stayed down the RF line hoping some Mariners would come out to play catch.  It wasn’t happening.  We grabbed some seats and just chatted to pass time:

Eventually, a Mariners groundskeeper came walking by on his way to the outfield.  He walked right up to us and stopped in front of Tim –

Groundskeeper:  I bet you arrived early because you wanted to see batting practice, right?

Tim:  Uh, huh.

Groundskeeper:  You probably wanted to catch a baseball, right?

Tim:  Uh, huh.

And then the groundskeeper pulled our final baseball of the season out of his pocket and handed it to Tim:

Thanks, Groundskeeperdude!

A bunch of A’s pitchers came out and played catch down the LF line.  We didn’t even budge.  We didn’t want to miss out on any time with our Mariners, in case the Mariners happened to come out and play catch.

So, we hung out some more.  And I took this panorama from our spot in section 112:

Tim spent some time leaning over the short wall and playing with the warning track dirt:

Eventually, we gave up on the Mariners coming out – which was disappointing.  I think the Mariners need to realize that their fans want to see the guys on the last day.  It’s the end of a long grueling season for them and I understand that they are ready for a break and time to rest.  But for the fans it is the last chance to see their guys until next season.  So, hey, come on.  Come out and be seen one last day.  Rest tomorrow!

Anyway, we pulled up stakes and headed to the kids’ play area:

It could very well be Tim’s last time playing in the Mariners kids’ play area.  There is a height limit, and Tim was only one inch below it.  Next season, he’ll likely exceed it.  So Tim enjoyed his time in the play area.

Eventually, we reported back to the RF/1B line to see if any Mariners were going to make a pre-game appearance.  I really figured that tons of Mariners would be out signing for fans – that is what the fans want on the last day of the season!  But it still was not happening.

We headed behind home plate for a panorama:

I got a better picture than the night before of the new Dave Niehaus sign:

Of course, I had to take a picture of the beautiful Safeco Field clock/sign above the LF bleachers:

Ah, it’s a great looking stadium sign out there.  I could look at it all day.

Eventually, it really, truly did seem as if a bunch of Mariners were going to come out and do some pre-game autographing.  We staked out a spot just past 1B.  Shelly was ready with his blue sharpie:

We got our first signs of Mariners life – Chris Giminez and Jason Phillips made their way to the bullpen:

I was just taking the picture of Phillips and Giminez, but check out the situation that was unfolding on the out-of-town scoreboard?  The A.L. wild card was still up for grabs.  It would either be the Red Sox or the Rays.  They were tied going into the day.  And when Phillips and Giminez made their way out to the Mariners bullpen, the Red Sox were leading the Orioles 3-2 in the top of the seventh and the Yankees were leading the Rays 7-0 in the bottom of the sixth.  Things were looking good for the Red Sox.

We like to get an autograph or two, but at this game I really wanted to collect a bunch of them.  I had a plan.  While my dad and Tim held our ground along the 1B line, I ran out to the bullpen.  I did not know what my new nephew’s name would be, but I wanted to get a personalized signed baseball for him.  Jason Phillips hook up me big time:

He signed the baseball on one side and wrote a personalized message (“Welcome to Life Mr. Cook!”) across the sweet spot of the ball.  By the way, this was a ball that Casper Wells had thrown to some fans the day before.  They dropped it into the gap and an usher eventually gave it to my dad and Kellan.

I reported back to Tim and my dad (can you spot them?)…

…with the baseball in hand.  Now all I needed was for a ton of Mariners to add their signature along with Phillips’ signature.  If that plan did not work, it would be a pretty weird “welcome to life” memento for my nephew.

Miguel Olivo came out to sign autographs, but he never moved from one spot.  Neither did we.  So we missed out on Olivo’s signature.

A bunch of Mariners did eventually come out to play catch and stretch:

And one of them (Kyle Seager) signed the baseball and Tim’s hat.  Tim also got his had signed by this Mariners ball girl:

We still had a dismal two signatures on our baseball as game time approached.  So before heading to our seats, Tim and I headed back to the bullpen and we struck Mariners gold over there.  The guys in the bullpen were awesome – not just for me.  The bullpen was doing what the whole team should have been doing during the whole pre-game – they were signing and signing and signing, and greeting and thanking fans.  It was great.  In all, I believe we got 10 signatures. Unfortunately, I did not keep a picture of the whole thing, but I think my nephew’s baseball was signed by:  Jason Phillips, Kyle Seager, Brandon League, Chance Ruffin, Tom Wilhelmsen, Shawn Kelley, Jamey Wright, Jaime Navarro, Josh Lueke, Steve Delabar.

With the signed baseball in hand, we reported to our seats.  And look who was there to root of the Mariners with us:

It’s Paulie!

It is always great to take in a game with Paulie.  This would be the second season in a row that we’d close it out the Paul.

The game was a good one, but did not go the Mariners way.  The A’s right fielder Jai Miller hit a 2-run homerun in the top of the second inning and the 2-0 score held up all night.  Gio Gonzalez pitched a dandy for the A’s.  He threw 8 innings and only gave up two hits.  Not much you can do in terms of scoring runs when you’re only collecting 2 hits over the course of the game.  But we had a heck of a time at the game nonetheless.

With not much action to photograph, I at least managed to get a good shot of Justin Smoak…

…wearing his face-protecting batting helmet extension.  While it kept his mended face safe, it did not help Justin collect any hits.

A couple innings into the game, Tim and I went to get our final ice cream helmets of the season.  We went to the ice cream place by the home plate end of the Mariners Hall of Fame.  I had passed through the Hall of Fame the previous day, but Tim had not.  So we took a stroll through it on our way to get ice cream.

Tim posed on the pick-off-a-homerun-ball wall:

In the Ichiro’s locker display, we saw the baseball that Ichiro slapped into history for his all-time single season record 262nd hit of 2004:

Tim posed with the Peanut Man memorial:

I sure wish Rick could have been here to toss us some peanuts at this game.  He will be forever missed at Safeco Field.

The Mariners Hall of Fame is small.  But there are some cool things to see in there.  Tim posed with a display showing the innards of a baseball:

They had a Safeco Field inaugural game ball from 1999…

…along with an Ichiro game-used bat.

Accompanied by a list of Mariners gold glove winners, they had Harold Reynolds’ 1988 Gold Glove Award:

This Alvin Davis game-used bat is nice…

…, but the 1977 Mariners inaugural game ball was even better.

Just before grabbing our ice cream helmets, Tim posed with “Bone”:

When we returned to the stands, I took a panorama from our seats in section 144:

I got these tickets on stubhub for cheap, cheap, cheap!  Cheap tickets on stub hub is the best thing about the end of the season.

Tim thoroughly enjoyed his mint chocolate chip ice cream helmet:

But it made him hyper and cold.  So we threw on my sweatshirt:

We were really hoping to see at least one more hit from Ichiro.  But it wasn’t in the cards.  He flew out in his second to last at bat of the season…

…and he finished the season with 184 hits and a .272 average.

Paul has incredibly awesome season tickets just a couple rows behind the Mariners dugout.  This results in him not exploring the stadium much.  All season, he had never been out to “The Pen.”  So I took him out there so he could check it out:

As the game rolled on, we did a lot of scoreboard watching.  By the end of the night, at lot of people were claiming this was one of the best days of baseball ever.  The Red Sox folded in the ninth and ended up losing to the Orioles.  Meanwhile, the Rays marched back from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Yankees 8-7 on a Evan Longoria homerun that punched the Rays’ ticket to the post-season, and ended the season for the Red Sox.

Mike Carp went down swinging in the bottom of the ninth to end the season for the Mariners.  After the game, Paul got a season-ending shot of me, Tim and my dad:

And my dad got one with me, Tim and Paul:

And that was our 2011 baseball season.  Great times!  Bring on 2012!

2011 C&S Fan Stats
33/8 Games (Tim/Kellan)
22/11 Teams [Tim – Mariners,   Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves,   Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals, Cubs, Angels, Indians, Reds, Giants, Tigers,   Yankees, Marlins, Pirates, Athletics; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles, Angels, Mets,   Indians, Yankees, Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics]
24 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Mariners   (1), Orioles (3), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1),   Tigers (1), Marlins (2), Braves (2), Rays (3), Pirates (1)).
108 Baseballs (25 Mariners,   7 Rangers, 8 Orioles, 5 Umpires, 4 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 6 Phillies, 2 Mets, 6   Rays, 8 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 2 Easter Egg, 1 Glove   Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs, 5 Angels, 4 Indians, 2 Giants, 1 Tigers, 9 Marlins,   1 Pirates, 4 Athletics)
14/6 Stadiums [Tim – Camden   Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark   in Arlington, Citi Field, Great American Ball Park, Comerica Park, Yankee   Stadium, Sun Life Stadium, Turner Field, Tropicana Field, PNC Park, Safeco   Field; Kellan – Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Citizens Bank Park,   Nationals Park, Safeco Field]
19/10 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix   Hernandez***, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael   Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders,   Chad Durbin, Russell Branyan,   Brandon League***, Brendan Ryan, Mike Cameron, Brandon Guyer, Russ Canzler,   Rich Harden; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin   Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders, Tony Sipp, Chad   Durbin, Rich Harden]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard   Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
24 Autograph(s) (Michael   Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino, Aroldis Chapman, Jack   McKeon, Brandon League, Jaime Navarro, Brendan Ryan, Dan Cortes, Josh Lueke,   Blake Beavan, Jamey Wright, Jack Zduriecik, Carl Willis, Tom Wilhelmsen,   Casper Wells, Mike Cameron, Brandon Guyer, Russ Canzler, Scott McGregor,   Steve Delabar, Rich Harden, Kyle Seager)
1 Bat* (Milton   Bradley)
9/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim –   Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird, Mr. Redlegs, Gapper, Slider,   Sebastian (U. of Miami), Homer, Raymond; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
3/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L.   West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in   Arlington), N.L. East (Citizens Bank Park, Shea Stadium, Citi Field,   Nationals Park, Sun Life Stadium, & Turner Field), A.L. East (Oriole Park   at Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium (1923), Yankee Stadium (2009), Fenway Park,   Rogers Centre, Tropicana Field); Kellan – N/A]
2 Line-up Cards (Royals vs.   Rangers; Indians vs. Orioles)
*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.

***2011 All-Star

The Best Mariners Game of 2011 (9/26/2011)

For the second season in a row, we decided to end our season at Safeco Field with our Mariners taking on the Oakland Athletics.  The first game of the series as September 26, 2011.  The crew on hand would be Colleen, Tim, Kellan, my mom, my dad and me.  The night started earlier for my dad, Tim, Kellan and me.  We headed down early for BP, and Colleen and my mom joined us.

It is old news at Safeco Field, it was my and the boys’ first time checking out the *new* “The Pen” area at Safeco Field.  It is on the field level in straight away center field (below what would otherwise be called the *field level* concourse) and it opens 2.5 hours early.  The rest of the ballpark opens 2 hours early.  I think it is a great move by the Mariners because in years past, Mariners fans only got to see about 5 minutes of Mariners BP when the whole stadium opened only 2 hours early.

We entered the ballpark through the LF bullpen level entrance and made our way to the singles patio (SRO area) directly over the CF wall.  We parked Kellan’s little stroller at the back of the patio and my dad held him.  I don’t have any pictures or video to show it, but within moments the four of us were all smiling and waving for the TV camera as the Mariners pre-game show went to commercial.  And then we got our game faces on.  My Dad and Kellan went right on the wall to watch the Mariners hit.  Tim and I hung
out behind the TV camera well for a few minutes, but then we relocated behind the Mariners bullpen.

Almost immediately after we reached the Mariners bullpen, my dad and Kellan walked over to meet us and my dad pulled a baseball out of his glove to show me.  “I caught it on the fly!,”  he announced with a smile.  I was excited because on the drive to the ballpark we had discussed catching BP homers on the fly, and my dad said he’d never caught one at Safeco Field.  Very cool.

Then it dawned on me:  he caught a BP home on the fly WHILE HOLDING KELLAN!  WOW!  I wish I would have seen it.  It must have been incredibly awesome.  FYI, he explained that he was a ball that barely cleared the wall and required my Dad to reach down over the railing to grab it.

Like two seconds later, a Mariners employee walked by and handed Tim our first baseball of the day.  She explained that it was Shawn Kelley’s warm up ball.  That is pretty
cool.

Oh, by the way, we entered this game with 96 total baseballs on the season.  I truly never thought we would ever in our lives get 100 baseballs in a season.  But with 3 more (after the Shawn Kelley ball from the Mariners employee) we would reach the amazing milestone.

Anyway, my dad handed Kellan off to me right as the rest of the ballpark opened.  My dad headed to the seats in CF (just to the RF side of the batters’ eye) and Tim, Kellan and I headed to section 106 in RF.  Intentionally set up shop behind Michael Pineda (because he is awesome)…

…and before long, guess what happened?

I’ll give you a hint:  it looked sort of like this:

That’s right.  I caught a BP homer on the fly WHILE HOLDING KELLAN!!!

Kellan was having quite a day!

It felt awesome!  When I made the grab, I immediately held my glove high over my head in victory!  A couple fans cheer for the catch.  And best of all, Pineda gave me a celebratory fist pump!  With my glove still held aloft, I turned toward CF and *showed* the catch to my dad (who can be seen under the little yellow arrow two photos above).

The three of us should have stayed put, but instead we headed over toward RCF to chat with my dad.  When I looked back to the spot where I caught the homer, another guy caught another homerun standing in the exact same spot!  Ah, well.  One homer on the fly with Kellan was good enough for me.

Soon, the Mariners cleared the field and the A’s pitchers came out to play catch down the LF line.  We decided to walk all the way around the ballpark around the RF foul pole, toward home plate (where Tim got his picture with this big Ichiro baseball card)…

…and down the 3B/LF foul concourse.  Eventually, we cut through the seats and diagonaled through some sections trying to make our quickest route to the railing above the A’s pitchers.  As we cut through the last full section before reaching corner, an A’s batter hit a line drive that landed right in the middle of the section about four rows below us.  A bunch of fan scrabbled for it as Kellan, Tim and I continued on toward the railing.  But as we reached the last seat in the
section, I looked down and the baseball popped out at us.

And, holy cow, it was the elusive Angels 50th Anniversary Commemorative baseball!

That was pretty crazy.  We had been trying to get one of these baseballs all season.  We had actually gotten 5 baseballs from the Angels this season, but all 5 were normal ROMLBs.

Even crazier, that was our 99th baseball of the season.  I could not believe it – one more and we would reach the 100 baseball plateau!

But No. 100 would not be all fun and games.  Things were about to get scary.

We made it to the railing right above the A’s pitchers.  I was holding Kellan in my left arm.  Tim was standing to my left with his hand on the railing.  Just then, I noticed a fellow-MLBlogger, Wayne Peck, about 10-15 rows below us.  I had never met Wayne before, but we had communicated through our blogs and twitter.  When I saw him, I called out his name and he came up to say hi to us.

And then I committed a cardinal sin of BP:  I took my eyes off the batter and turned to my right to shake Wayne’s hand as he approached.  Right as Wayne and I clasped hands, several of the A’s pitchers yelled, “HEAD’S UP!!!”

I turned back to the field (still holding Kellan in my left hand and with Tim was literally standing leaning against my left hip).  I scanned the area and surrounding area and I saw NOTHING!  And then…

DIIIIINNNNNNGGGG!

A liner buzzes in and clanks off of the railing.  I thought it got all railing at first.  But then Tim broke out crying.  The ball hit right where his pinky knuckle met the railing.  It pinched Tim’s hand really hard against the railing and bounced onto the field.  I knelt down to comfort him and look at his hand (still holding Kellan).  It was a little bit red and obviously hurt a lot.  I turned to start taking him out of there when this guy arrived on the scene:

I cannot remember his name…it was something unique.  By the way, those pictures are from the following day when we visited the scene of the accident.  Anyway, this guy came to our aid and led us to the First Aid office.  Now, get this, as we walk out of the section with the usher leading the way, an A’s pitcher (I have no clue who) called out to me and tossed me the baseball that had just smashed Tim’s hand.

The little meany was both our 100th baseball of the season and another Angels 50th Anniversary commemorative.

I truly couldn’t believe it.  Who gets a milestone baseball with this kind of crazy story behind it?  Just Tim, I guess!

Anyway, we were ushered off to the First Aid room.  With Tim still whimpering in pain, the walk to the First Aid room was like torture.  Kellan started feeling like he weighed 200 pounds and I couldn’t do much to comfort Tim while holding him.  I quickly called my dad and told him where to come meet us with Kellan’s stroller.

As they started checking out Tim’s hand…

…my dad and Wayne both arrived at the First Aid office to check on Tim.  I handed Kellan off to my dad so I could talk to the first aid people.  Tim’s hand puffy and red.  But I think we were pretty lucky.  I’m pretty sure it was more of a glancing blow getting some of the meat of Tim’s hand and a lot of the railing.

The first aid people were very nice.  They gave me some advice about what to do for Tim’s hand and they gave Tim an ice pack for now and one for later.  They told me that I might want to go get an x-ray the next day if it kept bothering Tim.

Then the First Aid guys did a little whispering and the bearded-usher left.  He reappeared a few minutes later with a you-just-got-drilled-with-a-BP-foul-ball prize pack for Tim.  It included a Felix Hernandez t-shirt, a funny M’s hat that Tim loved, a pennant for Tim to color with crayons, and, most notably, a baseball that the usher had run down and got from the Mariners dugout.  You know, it is an odd way to get a baseball at a game, but since Tim had to endure a lot of pain to get it, we counted it!  No. 101 for the season.

As the usher handed removed it from the bag and handed it to Tim, I said, “Don’t’ let this be an incentive to get hit by any more baseballs!”

So, yeah, it was a crazy and scary situation.  I hate thinking about what could have happened.  In the end, I made a big mistake in not waiting to watch the pitch before turning to shake Wayne’s hand.  It could have plunked any of us square in the head.  So we have to be thankful that it was just a minor injury.  Tim took it like a champ and handled the bad situation really well.

Big thanks to the usher and First Aid people.  And to Wayne for coming and checking on Tim, very cool.

Anyway, we eventually made our way back out to the field.  Tim had been hit right at the beginning of A’s BP so they were still hitting when we got back to the field.  Tim was
understandably scared and did not want to go down by the field.  So Tim, Kellan and I grabbed some seats toward the back of one of the sections on the 3B side…

…while my dad and Wayne went back to the LF corner.

As Tim iced his hand, we checked out more goodies in his goody bag.  There were baseball cards and some posters (one for Tim and one for Kellan) featuring Justin Smoak.  Tim was super excited that the posters were *autographed* (they were not real autographs, but part of the poster).

After a little while, we decided to go to the very back of the seats in CF…high enough up that we did not think any baseballs would be able to reach Tim.  One our way out there, we got a picture with the Mariners Moose…

…and with the new (and really cool) Dave Niehaus statue:

Here are my boys hanging out with their grandpa in row 34 out in CF:

We were, indeed, high enough up in the seats that nothing came even remotely near us.

Once BP ended, we headed off to the play area where both boys had a lot of fun:

Finally, just before game time, we headed back down to “The Pen” where we eventually met up…

…with Colleen and my mom.  Check out that cool seating area in The Pen!  I have never seen open flames in a public area of a MLB ballpark.  Very cool, Mariners.

While we were in The Pen, we stopped by and said hello (once again) and got a picture with Wayne (and his wicked awesome Big League Chew t-shirt!):

And then we grabbed some delicious nachos and reported to our seats in section 108:

Tim and Kellan cannot get enough of their grandma and grandpa.  They always have a blast hanging out with them at a Mariners game:

Here was our outstanding view from the second row of section 108:

We were hoping to witness Kellan’s first Mariners win of his life and Tim and I were trying to break a nasty 10‑game Mariners losing streak dating back to last season.  The game did not start out ideally.  With Jason Vargas on the hill, Jemile Weeks led off with a double, he advanced to 3B on a groundout by Coco Crisp, and then scored on a single by Hideki Matsui.

While the Marines batted in the first inning, I noticed a familiar face patrolling RF for the A’s:

It was Michael Taylor, who played AA-ball for the Reading Phillies a couple years ago.  We saw him play as an R-Phil and he could definitely put on a show with the bat.  He got heckled mercilessly during this game by a four fans about 2-3 rows directly behind us.  Thankfully they kept it clean while having a whole lot of fun at Taylor’s expense.

Of course, our view in the top of each inning was a bit better – we were right behind Ichiro:

In the second inning, we got a great picture of Tim with our Angels 50th Anniversary commemorative baseballs and the Safeco Field clock/sign for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt:

After helping me and his grandpa catch those BP homers before the game, Kellan was all set to catch a game homerun of his own:

The boys had lots of fun getting their mommy into the Mariners spirit too:

Early in the game, my cousin Nathan texted to let me know that my other cousin (and his sister) Annie was at the game in my parents’ normal seats on the 3B side.  My mom and Colleen headed off to the team store to do some shopping (or browsing at least) and Kellan and I headed off to see Annie.  On our way, Kellan and I stopped off at the Mariners bullpen to what was going on…and I got this cool picture of Kellan sitting on the SRO counter:

The last time we saw Kellan was just a few days after Kellan was born.  It was great seeing her again.  Happily, we successfully turned our backs to the field for this picture…

…without getting nailed in the backs of our heads with a foul ball.

There was, however, a pretty amazing foul ball when we were chatting with Annie.  A’s first basement Chris Carter became only the second (or maybe third) person ever to hit a foul ball over one of the structural arches in Safeco Field’s roof.  It looked a little like this:

Carter’s foul landed in the staircase at the OF side of the 3B dugout and bounced incredibly high off of the cement before a lucky fan won the jump ball for it.

After spending an inning or so with Annie and her friend, Kellan and I headed back toward our seats…but, once again, we stopped off at the Mariners bullpen.  This time, we ended up chatting briefly with Cook & Son Hall of Famer Jason Phillips.  I had not seen Phillips during BP, but he mentioned that he saw me and Kellan catch our homerun during BP.  I thought that was pretty cool that he didn’t know we were going to be at the game, but recognized us as we caught the BP homerun.

When we returned to our seats, the score was still 1-0 A’s.  Kellan decided to pull out his Justin Smoak poster and take a bunch of hacks like he was at the plate:

And I think Kellan’s practice hacks helped warm up the Mariners bats.

With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Miguel Olivo bashed his 19th homerun of the season.  It was an impressive shot to LF, and it tied up the game 1-1.

With the game tied up, Tim watched the Mariners up close with grandma’s binoculars:

Jason Vargas was still on the mound for the Mariners and he was looking really strong.  And his offensive-minded teammates gave him some additional run support in the bottom of the sixth inning.  The inning started very unimpressively, with a swinging strike out by Ichiro and a pop out by Luis Rodriguez.  But Dustin Ackley followed Rodriguez with a single.  Mike Carp followed Ackley with another single.  Then big Justin Smoak stepped to the plate and unleashed a deep blast to RCF:

Party time!  With Smoak’s homerun, the Mariners pulled out to a 4-1 lead!

But the 3-run lead gave us little comfort.  Tim and I had seen the Mariners let leads slip away multiple times this season.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, I was trying to get another picture of Ichiro just standing around doing nothing in RF.  Right as I pressed the button to take the picture, Scott Sizemore hit a shallow fly ball to RF.  I captured Ichiro…

…right when he started to break in and to his left to run down the baseball.

There were a lot of empty seats around us.  Our actual seats were in the third row, but me and the boys jumped around a lot from the first to the fourth rows.  Late in the game, Kellan and I spent a lot of time in the first row where my little No. 51 watched closely the Mariners big No. 51:

Meanwhile, Tim was having tons of fun with his grandma:

And then it was business time…

…the ninth inning arrived.  Kellan has been just three sweet outs away from his first Mariners win before just to have it slip away.  In Baltimore earlier in the season, the Mariners took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the 13th inning just to have Brandon League blow the win after Jason Vargas had pitched an incredible game.  I understand that I have no control over the Mariners on-field play.  But I have felt partially responsible for that loss.  It would have been Kellan’s first Mariners win, but Tim and I went to try for an umpire ball and left Kellan and Colleen alone in our seats.  I should have been holding Kellan at the very moment that he witnessed his first Mariners win.  I think the world knew that and intervened to make sure Kellan experienced his first Mariners win the right way.

Well, it was go time once again.  Vargas had once again pitched an absolute gem.  He threw eight innings, gave up 5 hits and struck out 10 Athletics.  Enter the ninth inning and Brandon League.  League has had a great season.  That blown save in Baltimore was smack dab in the middle of League’s roughest patch of the season, it was the third of four straight blown saves/losses for League.

Well, League brought the drama with him to the mound.  He gave up a lead-off single to Coco Crisp.  League then struck out Hideki Matsui, but Crisp stole second and third
in the process.  He scored the A’s second run of the game on a ground out by Josh Willingham.

So there we were, just one out away from Kellan’s first Mariners win of his life.  But then Scott Sizemore hit a double, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Kurt Suzuki.

Things were getting super-tense.

I was holding Kellan tight and hoping for the best.  And Suzuki answered our prayers.  He jumped on the first pitch and hit a weak grounder Luis Rodriguez at short stop.  Rodriguez fired the baseball across the diamond and Justin Smoak’s glove clamped down on the 27th out of the game.

MARINERS WIN!  MARINERS WIN!!  MARINERS WIN!!!

Oh, yeah, MARINERS WIN!  M-A-R-I-N-E-R-S…

…WIN!  Yes!

MARINERS WIN!

Here are three happy Mariners fans basking in the glory of this historic MARINERS W-I-N:

And it was a historic game.  It was Kellan’s first win, it snapped a 10-game Mariners losing streak for me and Tim, my dad and I both caught BP homers on the fly while holding Kellan, and we caught (well, sorta) our 100th baseball of the season.  Historic!

We marked the occasion with a family picture:

And a picture with the Ichi-Meter (and Ichi-Meter lady):

By the way, the 183r of those Ichiro hits occurred in the seventh inning of this game.

On the way out of the ballpark, Tim got his picture with Ichiro (and Shelly):

Did I mention:  MARINERS WIN!?

2011 C&S Fan Stats
31/7 Games (Tim/Kellan)
22/11 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals, Cubs, Angels, Indians, Reds, Giants, Tigers,
Yankees, Marlins, Pirates, Athletics; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles, Angels, Mets, Indians, Yankees, Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics]
23 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (3), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1), Tigers (1), Marlins (2), Braves (2), Rays (3), Pirates (1)).
101 Baseballs (19 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 8 Orioles, 5 Umpires, 4 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 6 Phillies, 2 Mets, 6 Rays, 8 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 2 Easter Egg, 1 Glove Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs, 5 Angels, 4 Indians, 2 Giants, 1 Tigers, 9 Marlins, 1 Pirates, 3 Athletics)
14/6 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Citi Field, Great American Ball Park, Comerica Park, Yankee Stadium, Sun Life Stadium, Turner Field, Tropicana Field, PNC Park, Safeco Field; Kellan – Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Safeco Field]
18/9 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix Hernandez***, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders, Chad Durbin, Russell Branyan, Brandon League***, Brendan Ryan, Mike Cameron, Brandon Guyer, Russ Canzler; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders, Tony Sipp, Chad Durbin]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
21 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino, Aroldis Chapman, Jack McKeon, Brandon League, Jaime Navarro, Brendan Ryan, Dan Cortes, Josh Lueke, Blake Beavan, Jamey Wright, Jack Zduriecik, Carl Willis, Tom Wilhelmsen, Casper Wells, Mike Cameron, Brandon Guyer, Russ Canzler, Scott McGregor)
1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)
9/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird, Mr. Redlegs, Gapper, Slider, Sebastian (U. of Miami), Homer, Raymond; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
3/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L. West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in Arlington), N.L. East (Citizens Bank Park, Shea Stadium, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Sun Life Stadium, & Turner Field), A.L. East (Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium (1923), Yankee Stadium (2009), Fenway Park, Rogers Centre, Tropicana Field); Kellan – N/A]
2 Line-up Cards (Royals vs. Rangers; Indians vs. Orioles)
*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.

***2011 All-Star

GFS 2011 Game 5 – Mariners at Rays (8/19/11)

On the morning of August 19, 2011, we woke up at our hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Our game wasn’t until 7:00 p.m.  So we dined on some free breakfast at the hotel, and then relaxed and played at the pool for a while…

…before heading to the beach for some more relaxing and playing.

At 4-something o’clock in the afternoon, we headed to Tropicana Field.  One thing that I didn’t know about, but stands out prominently when you see Tropicana Field is that the dome is tilted.  Our first thought was that the high side of the roof was the outfield where homeruns and outfield fly balls would reach their apex.  On second thought, we contemplated that the
high side of the roof might be home plate where baseballs would be hit straight up from home plate.

Anyway, we would find out soon enough.  First, we had to pay $15 to park in the ballpark lot:

Wait, wait…turns out we were among the first 100 cars with four-or-more passengers and, therefore, we parked for free!  Cool.  None of us had ever experienced anything like that before at an MLB game!

Walking through the stadium parking lot toward the main entrance, we stopped for a photo in front of a big Rays *twinkle* — I don’t know what else to call that thing.  So I’ll call it a *twinkle*:

Oh, lookie there, its our Roadtrip guest:  my mom!

Tim was super-psyched to have his grandma join us for some baseball and other fun in the Tampa Bay area.  She is, hands down, one of Tim’s favorite people in the world.

We arrived before the doors (they were, in fact, doors, not gates) opened.  So we hung out below some palm trees outside of the CF entrance:

Upon entering Tropicana Field, Tim and I closed out the A.L. East stadiums.  We have now been to Camden Yards, old Yankee Stadium, new Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Rogers Centre, and Tropicana Field.  This is our final new stadium of 2011.  To date, Tim and I have been to 29 stadiums together (I have also been to the Kingdome and Veterans Stadium) and
there are only three teams (the Cardinals, Royals and Rockies) that we have not seen play a home game.  We will finish those teams off in 2012 – although we will also have to back track to Minnesota (Target Field) and Miami (new Marlins ballpark) before we can say we have been to games at all current-MLB stadiums.

Back to this game, I was under the impression that fans would be confined to the outfield concourse during the first half hour after the doors opened.  So the first thing we did was head upstairs to a little lookout above the rays tank:

I had told him about it and Tim was super-excited about the rays tank.  And the excited did not fade through the weekend.  Here is a view of the field from the lookout above the rays tank:

I immediately noticed something:  there were fans in the outfield stands.  This was a Friday night game.  I guess they must not do the confined-to-the-concourse thing for weekend games.  Anyway, there was no reason to be at the lookout if the stands were open.  So we headed down to the RCF seats right next to the rays tank:

Check that out.  Rays are swimming by literally three feet away from those seats.  How awesome is that?  These are officially Tim’s favorite seats at any MLB ballpark.  (And, as I type this, he reminds me that he didn’t love them just for the rays, he loved the horseshoe crabs too!).

About seven minutes after gates opened (according to the time stamp on the following photo), Jake McGee…

…welcomed us to Tropicana Field with a toss-up.  FYI, David Price is the guy running to the left, McGee is the guy acting like he is about to make a backhanded catch.

About five minutes later, we all circled around the stadium to the Mariners dugout on the 3B side.  Ichiro was playing catch…

…with Chone Figgins along the 3B line.  My Dad was hanging out above the dugout (where Miguel Olivo tossed him his warm-up baseball).  My mom and Tim headed over to hang out with my Dad, and I relocated down the LF line where the Mariners pitchers were just starting to play catch:

Unless you have these super-fancy tickets along the foul line, fans cannot get down to the field by the bullpens.  Its not as bad as in Miami where normal fans cannot get to the field anywhere in fair territory.  At Tropicana Field, any fan can get down to the front row on the field between the dugouts and the bullpens, but then these big party areas set back the normal fans about 20-30 feet from the field.

As would become a recurring theme of this weekend, Tim wanted to go back out to the CF seats so he could watch the rays in the rays tank.  My mom took him out there and my Dad and I hung out by the Mariners bullpen.

I went to section 137…

…by the foul pole, and my Dad hung out in…oh, probably…section 133 or so by the bullpen mounds.  My Dad’s positioning paid huge dividends:  Michael Pineda tossed him a baseball.  Pineda has had a rougher go of it in the second half of the season, but I think he is going to develop into a dominating MLB pitcher.

A few minutes later, Dan Cortes (who is standing above and slightly to the left of the bald security guard in the last picture) finished playing catch with Josh Lueke.  When I called out his name, Cortes happily tossed me his unofficially rubbed up and dirty baseball.

Thanks, Dan!

I’ve chatted with Cortes a few times this season.  He seems really nice.  He’s at the stage that he’s excited to be in the big leagues and he is ready to spend a little time chatting to fans who recognize him.

When the pitchers finished playing catch, they disbursed across the outfield.  I spend a few minutes hanging out in LF, but it was somewhat crowded and I was alone.  I figured it would be more fun to go meet up with Tim and my mom in CF.  I started toward a tunnel to run out to the concourse, but then I figured I might as well walk to the LCF side of the batters’ eye in the seats.  I could then run down into the concourse and head over to the RCF seats.  The decision paid off.

In deep LCF, Tom Wilhelmsen was all by his lonesome shagging baseballs.  Wilhelmsen is in a similar place as Cortes – happy to be in the major leagues.  But add to the mix that fact that he was out of baseball for about 6 years.  Two years ago, he was a bartender in the Phoenix area.  Now, he is a Major League baseball player.  What wouldn’t he have to be happy about?

As I passed behind Wilhelmsen, a ball was driven into the deepest part of LCF.  I called out Tom’s name and flashed him my glove.  He then disappeared from sight for 3-4 seconds and returned ready to fire me a strike.

Thanks, Tom!

When I reached the rays tank, Tim was excitedly watching (and “oooh’ing” and aweing about) the rays and, to my surprise, he was holding a baseball.  Turns out that Justin Smoak spotted Tim and my mom in the seats watching the rays and tossed up a baseball.  It was the first baseball Tim’d ever gotten outside of my immediate presence!  Oh, my young boy is growing into a man.  *weep* *weep*

And then it was time for one of the most exciting BP moments or our season.  My Dad was in straight away right field.  I relocated to RF after Jason Vargas tossed him his warm up ball in LF.  We all decided to go hang out over there when we saw that Ichiro was shagging fly balls out there.

You can only go in the front row in the outfield during BP if you have front row tickets – my guess is that it is a safety issue.  The railings are ridiculously low.  Anyway, we couldn’t get into the front row.  So Tim and I were standing together in the second row directly behind Ichiro.  Oddly enough, Tim was actually standing directly in front of me – i.e., we were both standing in front of the same seat in the second row.

One of our lefties spanked a ball over Ichiro’s head.  It ended up on the warning track directly in front of us.  As Ichiro came back for it, Tim and I both called out to him and politely asked for him to toss the baseball to us.  As he grabbed the baseball, he looked up right at us.  He saw Tim decked out in Mariners gear.  Our eyes connected.  And he tossed the baseball right to us.

But there was a problem.  There were grown men on either side of me in the front row.  For us to get the baseball, one of two things would have to happened.  The first option was if, noticing that the baseball was plainly for a little kid (Mariners fan) who had asked for it, the two guys would just let it sail between them so we could catch it.  That option was a no go.  Both seemed intent on depriving Tim of the baseball that his baseball hero had decided to toss right to him.

The second option was for me, without the ability to enter the front row, to someone beat out two grown men standing closer to Ichiro and catch the ball before them.  And that’s what would have to happen.  As the ball sailed to me, the guys crashed in from both sides.  Luckily, neither guy reached out toward the field for it, they just moved laterally.  Their gloves came together like a curtain trying to shut us out.  But I leaned WAAAAY forward (Tim slid to the side so I didn’t smash him into the seat in front of me) and my pushed through the narrow opening between their gloves.  The two guys essentially caught my wrist, and on the other side, my glove caught the baseball.

I pulled my glove back really having no clue if I got it or not.  I opened my glove and we found the baseball inside.  We were ecstatic!  We yelled out a huge:

THANK YOU, ICHIRO!!!

And I held the ball up for my parents to see.  Two seconds later, handed the ball to Tim and he posed for a picture with Ichiro (and one of the would-be Ichiro-ball interceptors) in the background:

After our initial celebration, Tim ran up to his grandma and I headed to the back of the section where I got a second picture showing Tim, the Ichiro baseball, my mom and my dad (blue hat and green backpack):

This was already one of our best batting practices ever.  To cap it off, I caught a Kyle Seager (I am pretty sure it was Seager) homerun on the fly at the back of the section.  It was pretty exciting since I almost never catch balls on the fly (in fact, this was my first of the season).  The ball was hit about 10 feet to my left.  I ran over there and it was coming directly to two guys (probably 22’ish years old).  Neither had a glove, but both hopped up and made a quarter-hearted attempt at catching it.  But in the end, I think both were scared to try to catch it bare handed.  So they let it sail directly between them and straight into my glove.

It was pretty cool and my Mom gave a big cheer from the bottom of the section.  So that was cool.  Seager really got a hold of that one.  The ball ended up mildly lopsided from the force of the hit.

And that was it for BP.

Then, Tim had a great idea…

…“Let’s go see the rays tank!”

On the walk to the rays tank (or to the line for the rays tank), we passed under this interesting lamp:

That’s the arm of “Raymond,” the Rays’ mascot.  Although many people are down on domed-stadiums (not me, I love ‘em!), no one can credibly say that the Rays haven’t done a great job making their concourses interesting for fans (particularly kids).  There are tons of things to see and do in the various concourses that circle Tropicana Field.

It took awhile, but we finally made it to the front of the rays tank line:

Oops…we forgot about the upstairs waiting area.  What is this, the Empire State Building line?

In the second floor waiting area, Tim posed (quite hilariously) with some rays painted onto a bench:

We were sure to obey all of the “Rays Tank rules”:

Anyone can go in and pet the rays for free.  But for $5 (that goes to the local aquarium), you can feed the rays too!  Tim preferred the “drop it and let them find it” method of feeing the rays:

Mostly, he just wanted to watch them from close up:

If you had food, the rays would flock to you and stick their faces and wings above the water.  Meanwhile, the horseshoe crab and its baby walked around the bottom of the tank and didn’t bother anyone.  Of course, I had to keep an eye on the field to see if my Mariners would reappear.

And they did.  While we were in the rays tank area (you only get 8 minutes in there, something I did not yet know at this point), Felix Hernandez came out to warm up.  I entrusted Tim to his grandparents’ care and headed off to watch Felix.

After the rays tank, but before meeting up with me down the LF line, my parents took Tim to play in the RF concourse:

And soon enough, this picture showed up on my phone (via text from my mom):

That is Raymond, the Rays’ mascot.  But interestingly, it isn’t the normal Raymond.  The normal Raymond is fuzzy, like most mascots.  This Raymond was a big inflatable guy.

This was my view of Tropicana Field from section 127…

…as I watched Felix run through his pre-game routine.  By the way, at Tropicana Field, odd numbered sections are on the 3B/LF side and even numbered sections are on the 1B/RF side.

During the singing of the National Anthem, Felix looked like a true all-star…

…complete with stars shaved into the side of his head.

In recent history, the Mariners bullpen has featured a rookie with a pink back pack.  Well, for this series, I featured two pink back packs, another silly kids’ backpack (that will be shown later), and a tiny little pink lunch box…

…carried by Dan Cortes.

We sat in section 129 at this game.  This was our view:

And this is what we looked like (or at least three of us) at the beginning of the game:

Although we sat in section 129, we were supposed to sit in section 131.  But there was a problem.  This big dude in the Hawaiian shirt (row K) was sitting in our seats:

Going into this game, the Mariners were 0-3 for me and Tim this season with two walk-off losses.  We yearned for a Mariners win like nobody’s business.  We were hoping that Ichiro…

…would start it off hot for the Mariners.  Unfortunately, he popped out foul to the catcher.

We were in need of food.  So between innings I headed out to the concourse.  The field level concourse is interesting at Tropicana Field.  It is split between an inner concourse – primarily just for walking from here to here – and an outer concourse that doubles as a food court of sorts.  Here are two pictures of the food-concourse on the 3B side…

…where I found our nachos…

…and a all-you-can-drink diet coke (actually, it was probably diet pepsi).  And I drank a whole lot of diet pepsi to make sure I got my money’s worth.

While we were eating our nachos, the Rays’ mascot, Raymond, made an appearance about two sections down from us.  I asked Tim if he wanted to get his picture with Raymond and, of course, he did.  So we put the nachos down and sprinted down to sections toward home plate and got this photo with Raymond:

Two minutes later, Raymond was standing two rows behind our seats taking pictures with fans.  Oh, well.  The chase was part of the fun.

One of the newest and most exciting young Mariners, Trayvon Robinson…

…, was playing LF and was standing directly out from our seats most of the game.  After the Mariners failed to score in the top of the first.  Robinson made a brilliant diving catch on a liner to LCF to retire the first Rays batter of the game in the bottom of the first.

The game was scoreless through the first and second innings.  Robinson then led off the third with a double to RF.  He took second on a groundout by Ichiro.  Trayvon then scored the first run of the game when Franklin Gutierrez grounded to short stop Sean Rodriguez who threw the ball way (also allowing Gutierrez to take second).

It was time for Tim and I to go on a little adventure.  He wanted to go see the rays tank and I wanted to go take Tim’s picture with his Ichiro baseball and the Tropicana Field sign for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt.

On our way to the sign (or what I thought was the sign), we stopped off in section 144 to take this panorama:

I thought that the *Tropicana Field* sign was really cool looking, with a big orange and straw logo.  Tim decided on a catching-the-Ichiro-baseball pose and I thought the picture turned out great:

At the time, it did not occur to me at all that the sign did not say “Tropicana Field.”  No, not at all.  Of course, it is plain as day, it is just a Tropicana juice sign!  Aye, aye, aye…

As we continued on our way toward the rays tank, we took some pictures of the interest set up at Tropicana Field.  First off, the RF seating section is really small.  Tons of batters were hitting BP homers to the very back of the seats because there just are not many rows of seats in RF.  One reason there aren’t many seats is because they have this cross-aisle behind some of the sections in RF (close to the foul pole):

I have no clue what the blue risers are behind the cross-aisle.

We stopped in the cross-aisle behind section 135 to get this panorama:

In foul territory down the 1B line there is a party area similar, but not identical, to the party area down the 3B line:

Once you get to the scoreboard and big screen in RF, the cross-aisle ends, and the blue risers turn into black risers:

But enough of that.  There were rays to watch:

And Tim had blast watching them:

If you happen to have tickets in section 150 next to the rays tank, if you are able to look away from the rays, this is what your view of the field would look like:

As we were circling back around the cross-aisle toward home plate, it was the top of the fifth and King Felix had yet to give up a single hit to the Rays.  With the Mariners still leading 1-0, Ichiro led off the fifth with a single:

With Ichiro still on first, we got this panorama from the cross-aisle behind section 116:

But then Franklin Gutierrez grounded into a double play.  An Adam Kennedy strike out later, the top of the fifth inning was history.

We headed out to the concourse and bought some ice cream helmets.  As we walked the inside concourse around home plate toward our seats, we got a shot of the weird tunnels into the seating area behind home plate:

Very odd, indeed.

Back in the seats with Grandma and Grandpa, the ice cream was quite tasty:

Unfortunately, the Rays tied it up 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth with a run manufactured by B.J. Upton.  After singling on a weak grounder past Adam Kennedy at third, he stole second, stole third, and scored on a bunt by John Jaso.  The worst part about it is that Upton should have been out at first.  Adam Kennedy didn’t get in front of the ball.  Instead he ole’d it right into a single.  Unfortunately, this would not be Kennedy’s only botched play on the day…so stay tuned.

The Mariners reclaimed the lead in the top of the seventh on a lead-off homerun to RF by Kyle Seager:

That *should have* been all the support that Felix needed for the win.  He was, as usual, dominating:

In the eighth, Tim and my Mom headed back to the rays tank…

…and then things fell apart for the Mariners.

More precisely, things fell apart in the bottom of the eighth when Johnny Damon stepped to the plate with two down and a runner on first:

One more out and the Mariners would head to the ninth with the 2-1 lead intact.  Felix pumped strike one and strike two over the plate.  One more strike and the Mariners could stick a fork in the eighth.

But then Damon hit a grounder between third and short stop.  Kennedy moved like a slug over to get it.  He double or triple or…I don’t know…infinity-clutched the ball.  I yelled, “AAAAAAHHHHHHH, GET RID OF IT!!!!!!”  And then Johnny Damon crossed first base safe.

I could not believe it.

Any other day, Kennedy makes that play.  Kyle Seager, Chone Figgins, Jose Lopez, Adrian Beltre, Scott Spiezio, Jeff Cirillo, David Bell, Russ Davis, Mike Blowers, Edgar Martinez, Jim Presley, Jamie Allen, Manny Castillo, Dan Meyer, Ted Cox, Bill Stein, and anyone else who has ever played a single game at 3B for the Mariners would have made the play.  In fact, they would have made the out at either 2B or 1B.

But this was this day, and it was Adam Kennedy (who had already cost Felix a run) was at third, and the play was not made.

As great as King Felix is, he does not always respond well to boneheaded misplays.  And he did not respond well at this game.  So Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist both followed with RBI singles.  A few minutes later, game over.  Mariners lose.

It was a tough, tough loss.

As the relievers headed back to the dugout, I got this picture featuring a pink backpack and the new R2D2 backpack:

As the ninth inning was playing out, I realized something – the Tropicana sign wasn’t the Tropicana Field sign.  And Tim was way out there in CF by the rays tank.  I texted and called
my Mom to ask her to come back to meet up with us.  But her phone was in his bag and she didn’t  hear it.  So, just in case we didn’t get another baseball at Tropicana Field, my Dad took a Tropicana Field bonus picture of me…

…and when my Mom and Tim finally arrived (and the lights had been turned down), I got a bonus picture of Tim.

And then we got a group photo with the lights out:

Tim requested that it be a *thumbs up* photo.

See all of those people on the field?  On Friday nights, the Rays turn off the main lights, turn on some disco lights and dance music, and let fans leave the game by walking across the field to an exit in CF.

We headed down to the field and got a picture of Tim on the warning track with the dugout behind him:

We got another picture of Tim standing on the LF foul line:

And then Tim started to dance like crazy.  It was all I could do to get him to stop dancing long enough to take this picture behind second base (doing an 80s b-boy pose)…

…and this on-field Tropicana Field bonus picture (this is the official photo we submitted to the scavenger hunt):

Then, as Tim went back to throwing his hat in the air and dancing, I took a 360 degree panorama from behind 2B:

If you click on that picture to enlarge it, you can see Tim dancing on both sides of the panorama.

I took this same picture, but my Dad did a better job of it – a worm’s eye view of the center of Tropicana Field’s roof:

After Tim did a bit more dancing, including some break dancing on the big screen…

…we called it a night.

We’d be back again the next day (August 20, 2011) hoping for our first Mariners win of the season.

I have to say, despite the crushing Mariners loss, I really liked Tropicana Field.  I grew up among rumors of the Mariners moving to St. Petersburg to play in this very building.  Because of that, I’ve always had negative feelings about Tropicana Field.  But I grew up going to and absolutely loving the Kingdome.  And like the Metrodome in 2009, I felt right at home at Tropicana Field, a great little domed stadium.

2011 C&S Fan Stats
24/4 Games (Tim/Kellan)
18/6 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals, Cubs, Angels, Indians, Reds, Giants, Tigers, Yankees, Marlins; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles, Angels, Mets, Indians, Yankees]
19 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1), Tigers (1), Marlins (2), Braves (2), Rays (1)).
68 Baseballs (12 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 4 Orioles, 4 Umpires, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 5 Phillies, 2 Mets, 2 Rays, 5 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 2 Easter Egg, 1 Glove Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs, 5 Angels, 4 Indians, 2 Giants, 1 Tigers, 1 Marlins)
12/3 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Citi Field, Great American Ball Park, Comerica Park, Yankee Stadium, Sun Life Stadium, Turner Field, Tropicana Field; Kellan – Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium]
13/9 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix Hernandez, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders, Chad Durbin, Russell Branyan; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders, Tony Sipp, Chad Durbin]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
6 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino, Aroldis Chapman, Jack McKeon)
1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)
9/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird, Mr. Redlegs, Gapper, Slider, Sebastian (U. of Miami), Homer, Raymond; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
3/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L. West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in Arlington), N.L. East (Citizens Bank Park, Shea Stadium, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Sun Life Stadium, & Turner Field), A.L. East (Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium (1923), Yankee Stadium (2009), Fenway Park, Rogers Centre, Tropicana Field); Kellan – N/A]
2 Line-up Cards (Royals vs. Rangers; Indians vs. Orioles)
*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.

Mariners Baseball In The U.S. Capital (6/21/2011)

When the 2011 season scheduled was released, I was extremely excited to see that the Mariners would be making their first trip to Nationals Park.  The downside was that the three game series was mid-week, with one game being a day game.  I really wanted our whole family to attend one of the games so both Kellan and Tim could see the Mariners in only their second trip to D.C.  But real life was not cooperating.

As the series approached, it was certain that we could not attend the second or third games the series because I would be on a brief business trip.  The first game looked like it was effectively out too.  But something happened during the day of the game that all of a sudden made the game possible.  It was such a late call, however, that Colleen (and therefore Kellan too) wasn’t prepared to make the trip down.  So around 3:30 p.m. on June 21, 2011, Tim and I hopped in the car hoping we could at least catch the tail end of BP.

And that is exactly what happened.  We walked in and saw literally two minutes of BP before the Mariners cleared the field.  In fact, it was so quick that we didn’t even get a single BP picture!

With the field empty, we headed into the infield to see if any Mariners were milling around over there.  They weren’t.

So, we hung out down the 3B line and watched the field for a bit.  After a while, the one and only Jason Phillips popped out of the dugout and headed out to the bullpen.  We said our hellos and how-you-doings as he passed by on his way to the bullpen.

Once his colleagues joined Jason out by the bullpen, we snapped this picture of Doug Fister and Chris Gimenez stretching out:

Soon, Adam Kennedy made an appearance down the 3B line:

Kennedy gave Tim a friendly wave, which is always cool to get from a Mariner.

Soon some more Mariners joined Kennedy, including Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley.  This was the first road game of Ackley’s career.  And when a guy in a Mariners fan called out his name and asked for an autograph, he came over…

…and signed for a few minutes.  We didn’t have a baseball yet so we didn’t ask for a signature.  And for some bizarre reason, I didn’t even think of asking Ackley if he would pose for a picture with Tim.  Man, I must have been off my game!

Anyway, before the game started, we headed out to the LF and sat behind the Mariners bullpen.  Actually, before sitting down, we peered down into the bullpen.  Bullpen coach Jaime
Navarro walked by just then, saw Tim, and motioned to us as if to say “hold on, stay right there.”  He then disappeared and reappeared with…

…this lovely Rawlings Official MLB baseball, which he tossed up to Tim.

Thanks, Jaime!

Okay.  It was game time and we were primed for our first Mariners win of the season.  This was only our second Mariners game of the year, and they lost the first game 2-1 to the Orioles in the 12th inning.  It was part of Brandon League’s stretch of losing 4 consecutive games.  Ouch.  So, we needed a win in a big way.

Things started out beautifully.  Tim’s favorite player, Ichiro spanked a single into LF:

Tim then told me to take a picture of Ichiro on first base.  So I did:

Ichiro then took second on a weak ground out by Brendan Ryan.  As Ichi stood on second, Tim told me to take a picture of Ichiro scoring.  And a few seconds later, Adam Kennedy singled
to CF and Ichiro scored:

FYI, Ichiro is directly behind Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos in that picture.  His left leg is visible to the immediate right of Ramos.

Things were going great so far!

The Mariners scored a second run in the first inning when Dustin Ackley …

…singled to RF in this career debut road at-bat.

Doug Fister then came in and shut down the Nationals in the first.  In the process of Fister shutting down the Nats, I got this picture of Ichiro playing RF.

After one inning, the Mariners led 2-0.  We liked it.

We also liked this huge pile of chili nachos that we got before the top of the second inning:

Although it resulted in a nice action shot…

…Ichiro grounded out in the top of the second.  But the Mariners tacked on a third run in the third inning on a Dustin Ackley RBI ground out.  And this is what the scoreboard looked like after three innings:

Not only was the 3-0 score a happy sight, but it was nice to see “Seattle Washington” on the board as well.

Between innings, Screech rolled by on his lazy guy walking machine:

Between innings, we were also happy to find A.L. MVP candidate Larry Bernandez sitting nearby:

Larry Bernandez is an instant Mariners legend that hit the scene this scene.  Great to see him in the OF at this game.  Also, check out the cool 3D effect as Larry’s face matches up with his sign holder’s face!

During the bottom of the third inning, we needed to go on a water run.  As we strolled through the 3B side concourse after filling a bottle with water, Ian Desmond hit a deep fly ball that
Franklin Gutierrez caught to end the third inning.  We were in the concourse above the Mariners dugout, so we scurried down the stairs and nearly caught the ball after Guti flipped it about six rows deep into the crowd.

There were about 8 empty seats right where Guti flipped the ball, so we decided to sit down and give it one more shot at a third out ball.  But before we knew it, we ended up spending five innings sitting in those empty seats.

On this pitch, Franklin led off the top of the fourth with a solid single into CF:

Franklin then stole second and Chris Gimenez…

…, shown here with all-round good guy Greg Halman, struck out swinging.  That led to an 8-pitch at-bat by Mariners pitcher Doug Fister:

On the 8th pitch, Fister bounced a singled into RF and Gutierrez came around to score the fourth Mariners run of the game:

Ichiro and his classic pre-pitch pose…

…followed Fister, but grounded into an inning ending double play.

I don’t know what’s going on in this picture, but Tim looks hilarious:

See all the Mariners fans and people wearing baby blue behind us?  More on them later.

Fister was pitching lights out all night.  I was thinking he could pitch a complete game shut out:

In the top of the fourth inning, Adam Kennedy hit in yet another run.  At that point, the Mariners lead 5-0.  What a game!  We were having a great time!

In the middle innings, I shot a bunch of pictures of Tim in our seats.  Here are a couple of them:

And then I decided to take one with my cellphone to post on Twitter…

…and a couple minutes later the @Mariners replied: “What a handsome young man.”

Thanks, Mariners!

The Nationals finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning when Ian Desmond crossed the plate following a Roger Bernadina single.

On this swing, Ichiro led off the top of the sixth with his second hit of the night:

But he was stranded on base after stealing second base.

Inning-after-inning Justin Smoak tossed third-out-baseball-after-third-out-baseball to the same people:

I’m not sure if he was tossing them to the older gentleman under the red arrow or the younger girl under the red arrow.  Either way, it didn’t matter.  The younger guy under the yellow arrow leapt high in the air and intercepted three of the baseballs (and his dad intercepted another when the yellow-arrow-guy was out of the seats).

Over the course of several innings, I struck up a little conversation with the guy right behind me.  That whole row had super thick southern accents.  I asked the guy behind me how all of those folks became Mariners fans with such thick southern accents.  Turns out, they were Dustin Ackley’s friends and family visiting from North Carolina.

The three girls behind us looked like sisters and my understanding is that they are Ackley’s cousins.  The guy also pointed out Ackley’s father sitting nearby.  His mom and grandparents and a whole slew of other Ackley-people were sitting around us too.  And the Mariners knew it because they were trying like crazy to get a third-out ball to these guys.  One of the balls, in the bottom of the sixth inning, was a double-play ball started by Ackley.  But the Ackley-people got robbed by the guy in front of them every time, and they went home empty handed.

Aside from watching their quest to get a third-out ball, the most interesting thing about sitting by these folks is that they all called Ackley “Dusty” the whole time.  Here’s hoping that Dusty* has a long and stellar career as a Mariner.

Late in the game, Tim got a scrumptious ice cream helmet:

In the top of the ninth, Tim posed with Ichiro:

We were bursting with excitement for the Mariners win that was only three Nationals outs away in the bottom of the ninth.

As the Mariners were warming up for the bottom of the ninth, Tim and I slid into some seats right behind the 3B end of the Mariners dugout.  When Justin Smoak tossed the infield warm up ball in toward the dugout, it bounced off of the netting and back into the middle of the warning track.  But Michael Pineda hopped out of the dugout and grabbed the baseball.  I called out “Hey, Pineda!  Michael!”    He looked up, saw Tim and me above the dugout, and flipped the extremely dirty infield warm up ball to us:

Thanks, Michael!

It was the ninth and the end of a long day, but Tim was still choke full of silly faces:

As things got started in the ninth, King Felix looked our way and gave us a little nod:

A few drops of rain started to fall, and Tim laid back in his seat to track the rain on its way down to earth:

As for the game, even though it was not a save situation and Fister had thrown only 99 pitches and given up 3 hits, Brandon League game came in to attempt to finish out the game.   Jason Werth led off the inning and reached first on an error by Justin Smoak.  Then League walked Roger Bernadina.  Not a good way to start the ninth, but I felt okay with a four run lead.

Ryan Zimmerman then grounded into a double play sending Werth to third with only one out to go in the game.  I was feeling good at this point.

And then I had a stupid, stupid idea.  League worked Jerry Hairston to a 2-strike count.  I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to take a picture of Hairston striking out to end the game for the Mariners win?”  I snapped this picture:

Ball 1.

Then I quickly started thinking that trying to take a picture of the final out of the game was a great way to jinx the Mariners.  But it was too late.  The jinx was on.

Harrison singled to center to score Werth (unearned run number 1 of the inning).  5-2 led Mariners.

Former Mariner Michael Morse then drilled a line drive off of Brandon League’s leg.  League had to leave the game:

No one had been warming up at all.  David Pauley had to jump up and head to the mound cold.  Even though he would get unlimited warm up pitches, it seems like pitchers who come in following an injury to the previous pitcher always struggle.  Pauley was no exception.

Danny Espinosa singled to RF scoring  Harriston (unearned run number 2 of the inning).

Wilson Ramos (who??) crushed a walk-off home run deep into the RCF seats (unearned runs 3, 4, and 5 of the inning).

Mariners lose.  We sat there stunned.  It was painful.  As I sat with my head hung in disbelief, the Mariners looked equally dumbfounded.  Most of the team just stood there for a minute.  Then Adam Kennedy slowly walked off of the field and his teammates started to follow him.

Such a great day of Mariners baseball turned so ugly at the end.

It had truly been a great evening at the ballpark with Tim…right up until the 26th out was recorded.  Aye, aye, aye…

2011 C&S Fan Stats
 
14/2 Games (Tim/Kellan)
14/4 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals, Cubs and Angels; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles, Angels and Mets]
9 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1))
43 Baseballs (6 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 3 Orioles, 2 Umpire, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 5 Phillies, 2 Mets, 1 Rays, 2 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 1 Easter Egg, 1 Glove Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs, 2 Angels)
6/2 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Citi Field; Kellan – Camden Yards, Citi Field]
11/7 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix Hernandez, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
4 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino)
1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)
3/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
1/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L. West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in Arlington); Kellan – N/A]
1 Line-up Card (Royals vs. Rangers)
*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.

Spring Training VII: Mariners Intrasquad & FanFest

Okay.  We’re two games into the regular season and I have finally reached our final Spring Training entry.  This is a split entry between a Mariners intrasquad game and the Mariners/Padres Fan Fest at the Peoria Sports Complex.
 
Mariners Intrasquad Game
 
We went to Spring Training for the first week of full-squad work outs.  The first game against another team was the day we left.  But two days before we left, the Mariners played an intrasquad game.  I’d never been to a Major League intrasquad game.  It was pretty cool.  And the Mariners won!
 
The game was on the main Major League practice field (M1).  It was our first opportunity to see Mariners top prospect (and new 5th starter), Michael Pineda, in action.  Here he is pitching to Jack Wilson in the first inning:
1 - Pineda to Jack Wilson.JPGAnd here is Pineda pitching to the Mariners other top prospect, Dustin Ackley:
2 - Pineda to Ackley.JPGI didn’t take many pictures at the game because this is what it looked like from “the crowd” behind home plate:
3 - sparsley populated foul territory.JPGI really wanted to get a foul ball, even it is was with almost no competition at an intrasquad game on a practice field.  Tim clowned around in the grass while I played for foul balls:

4 - Tim clowning around in grass.JPGAnd he met a little friend (just to the left of Tim in the last picture) named Sean to play around with.  My dad and Sean’s dad, the guy with the blue shirt and glove right in the middle of the picture, were my main foul ball competition.  Both my dad and I only played for fouls until we got one, then we concentrated on watching the game.  As that last sentence implies, yep, we both got one.
 
Here is a diagram of our foul balls snags:
5 - Foul balls for everyone.jpgMy dad generally set up in the grass behind the 3B dugout — about 1/2 way back.  I set up on the walk way (where the long yellow arrow beings) for righties and I shifted behind home plates for righties.
 
My dad ended up getting a foul ball from Chone Figgins in the bottom of the first inning.  He had moved all the way back to the beginning of the short yellow arrow to chat with the “usher” who works by the entrance to the Mariners clubhouse building.  Figgins blooped a little looping foul right over me.  It was either mine or my dad’s for the snagging.  But I had to chase after it, while it was naturally traveling right to my dad.  He scooped it up while I was still about 20 feet behind the ball.
 
A couple innings later, I was on the walkway when Dustin Ackley (lefty) came to the plate.  When he popped a foul straight back, I figured there was no chance I would get it.  But for some reason, the 5-10 guys over in that direction stood motionless while I ran from the walkway all the way to the back corner (next to M7) and scooped up the foul ball.
 
Here is the Ackley foul ball:
6 - ST5 - Dustin Ackley (Intrasquad Foul Ball).JPGPineda was out of the game and I’m not sure who pitched it.  It’ll be cool to have this baseball in years to come when Ackley (hopefully) develops into a star player for the Mariners.
 
After getting that foul, I stopped playing for fouls and met up with the rest of my family at the 3B stands.  I ended up holding Kellan for the rest of the game, and when Mariners “bat boy” Jason Phillips saw us, he tossed a baseball over the fence to us.  That guy is great to us!
 
Thanks, Jason!
 
Kellan ended up falling asleep in my arms as I watched the rest of the game through the fence behind home plate.  Check out this view that you normally just don’t get of major leaguers in action:
7 - Watching Mariners like a high school game.JPGAs shown in that last picture, the Mariners had a two-man umpiring crew working the game.  I’m not sure who they were, but they seemed like regular MLB umps.  However, they could be the guys who work the various rookie/fall/etc. leagues that are played in Arizona throughout the year.  Anyway, despite the high school sized crowd, the umps made the game feel much more official.
 
About ten feet to my right as I watched the game behind home plate was a contingent of top Mariners brass — minority owner/majority owner rep Howard Lincoln, GM Jack Zduriencik, and an unidentified third guy.  After the game, Jack Z. took a minute to chat with me and pose for a picture with me and a folded-up, sleeping Kellan:

8 - Jack Z TJC and sleeping Kellan.JPG
Two guys got picked off second base during the intrasquad game, I told Jack Z. that my advice for the season was to work on not getting picked off 2B.  He shrugged in an “Oh, boy!” manner and said something like, “Oh, yeah, we’ll definitely be working on that.”
 
During the game, when Michael Saunders got picked off second (he just broke for third even before first movement), the third unidentified Mariners exec. busted out in laughter and exclaimed, “Ha!  Does he think he’s wearing an invisible suit!?  He think he’s wearing an invisible suit!”  It can’t be good to have the bosses mocking your boneheaded move like that!
 
A momemt after parting ways with Jack Z., Jack called back to us to introduce us to his wife, Debbie.  It was funny because she wasn’t standing there when I was chatting with Jack, and its not like Jack and I are hang out all the time, but for whatever reason he thought he should come back to introduce me to Debbie.
 
One last game note, although I didn’t get any pictures because I was playing for fouls, Ichiro lead off for Pineda’s team and was 2-2 on the day with two singles.
 
Mariners/Padres Fan Fest
 
On our last full day in Arizona, we attended Mariners/Padres Fan Fest at the Peoria Sports Complex main stadium.  My folks, Tim and I headed over first and Colleen and Kellan joined us after Kellan’s morning nap.
 
When we entered the stadium, Tim was handed a little string backpack with baseball cards, a promotional baseball, and a sharpie from a local baseball card store.  The Padres were on the field.  Right off the bat, I split off from my folks and Tim so I could run over to the Mariners practice fields and see if the guys were practicing before Fan Fest.  They weren’t.  It was the first day of minor league camp and the only guys on the practice fields were minor leaguers.
 
So, I ran back to the main stadium.  I hung out in RF and scanned the stadium for Tim and my folks.  I could not see them anywhere.  While I looked, San Diego Padre Aaron Cunningham…
9 - aaron cunningham.JPG…tossed me a completely unsolicited baseball over the RF bullpen.
 
Thanks, Aaron!
 
Finally, I decided that they must be in the concourse behind the infield grandstand.  Once I headed over there, I found them fairly quickly.  They had been checking out all of the kids stuff set up in the concourse.
 
My mom took these cute pictures of Tim:
10 - funny poser tim.JPGI think they’re both hilarious.
 
They hadn’t played any of the games set up yet, so I got to watch Tim while he tested his skills at a weird batting contraption:
11 - hitting contraption and big baseball.JPGHe also tested his catching skills at a little pop fly station…
12 - catch and throw stations.JPG…and his pitching skills at a pitching station.
 
While Tim took some hacks at the batting tee station…
13 - getting in some tee work.JPG…I chatted briefly with a guy who I thought might be Jack Wilson’s dad (he had a “family pass” and his last name was Wilson), but it turned out he is Josh Wilsons dad.  The funny thing is that he REALLY looked a lot like Jack Wilson.
 
I had heard that the Mariners would be on the field around 11 a.m., and the time was fast approaching.  Colleen and Kellan had arrived by this time.  I grabbed Kellan and headed over to the 1B foul line where players enter the stadium from the clubhouse.  Last season, the “professional” autograph seekers boxed out all the kids during Fan Fest.  So this year, they had a rule that only kids and their adult companions could get into the first couple sections down the 1B line — the best autograph area once the players enter the stadium.
 
The rest of the family met up with us before too long (before the M’s arrived), and Colleen got this picture of Kellan waiting patiently for his Mariners to arrive:
14 - TnK waiting for mariners.JPGWhile we waited, my mom and Tim went over Tim’s kids passport — you got a stamp for each of the throwing, catching, hitting stations and could enter to win something if you did them all — and then my mom pointed out the best spot for Tim to get some autographs:
15 - Gma and Tim plan strategy.JPGAnd that’s just where we set up shop:
16 - Gpa and Tim set up.JPGSoon, our Mariners arrived:
17 - Mariners arrive.JPGAs previously featured in its own entry, the first Mariner we connected with at Fan Fest was Kellan’s first pitcher, Luke French.
 
Tim was all excited about his free promotional baseball.  He got it signed by a bunch of players.  Among them was Jamey Wright…
18 - chatty Jamey Wright.JPG…who literally took 1-2 minutes to chat with each kid as he signed autographs.  He was very cool.  Way to go, Jamie!
 
Tim got an autograph and some bunny ears from the one and only Mariners Moose:
19 - The Moose.JPGAfter all the Mariners had passed by, we got this shot of Tim and Kellan with thier West Coast grandparents:
19a - Grandfolks and Grandkids.JPGHere is a look at Tim’s autopgraph baseball (its too bad he didn’t use a ROMLB for these autographs!):
19b - Tims cheap autoball.JPGAs best as I can tell:
Top Left (top to bottom):  The Mariner Moose, Jamie Wright (#50), and Matt Tuiasosopo (#27).
Top Right (top to bottom):  Chone Figgins (#9), unsure, unsure.
Bottom Left (top to bottom):  unsure, David Aardsma (#53), unsure.
Bottom right (top to bottom):  Justin Smoak, Luke French (#25), Michael Pineda (#36).
 
Next, it was time for the Mariners to take some BP.  My goal for the day was simple:  Catch a homerun hit by Ichiro.
 
I failed.
 
Ichiro hit several homeruns to RF (where we were).  But all but one landed in the bullpen.  My dad should have caught the one that landed on the grass berm, but he was mugged by some out-of-control fan who made everyone miss the ball on the fly (my dad made no effort to dive on the pile for the baseball in the grass).
 
Although I have read that he doesn’t consider himself a particularly good golfer, one of Ichiro’s BP homeruns was a hole in one:
 
20 - Ichiro hole in one.JPGAs illustrated in the picture above, Ichiro’s homerun was coming right at me, but it fell short, hit the back wall of the bullpen (about 5-10 feet below me) and bounced directly into a box on the ground (I think it was the control box for the hose hanging on the fence).  Very impress, Ichi!
 
While Ichiro’s group was batting, Adam Moore was alone in RF shagging baseballs.  When he spotted me and Tim behind the bullpen, he hooked us up with this baseball (which I think, but am not 100% positive, was hit by Ichiro):
 
 
20a - ST8 - Adam Moore.JPGIn my quest to catch an Ichiro homerun ball, I didn’t come up entirely empty handed.  I did manage to make a clean “on the fly” catch of a Justin Smoak homerun along the RCF end of the bullpen:
21 - smoak HR.JPGAfter Ichiro finished hitting, I was certain that he would call it a day and head back to the Mariners clubhouse.  But, to my surprise, he grabbed his glove and headed out to RF.
 
While I was still thinking Ichiro was going to pack up and leave, Tim, my mom and I relocated back to the 1B foul line in hopes of getting a picture with Ichiro on his way out of the stadium.  While we were hanging out over there, Brendan Ryan hit us two foul balls:
                    22 - ST10 - Brendan Ryan.JPG  
23 - ST11 - Brendan Ryan.JPG
 
The first Ryan foul bounced high off of the warning track over a teenaged kid (probably 13-14) and right to me and Tim.  The second Ryan foul ball rattled off of several fans gloves, including that same kid.  I felt bad for him and tried to give him the baseball.  But he declined, explaining that he has about 100 of his own already.
 
Eventually, someone hit a ball down the line and Ichiro looked right at me like he was going to throw it to me.  But Tim had wandered off about 15 feet and Ichiro didn’t seem him.  My mom and I could see the thought process go through Ichiro’s brain, “Oh, I thought that guy had a little boy.  Oh, well, I’ll toss it to that kid over there instead.”
 
My mom and I looked at Tim and in unison we both said, “Oh, Tim, Ichiro wanted to give you that baseball but he couldn’t find you!”  For the next ten minutes, Tim didn’t stray from us at all.  And when the next ball got hit right down the RF line, Ichiro ran over, scooped it up and tossed it right to us:
24 - baseball from Ichiro HOORAY.JPGOur first baseball ever from Ichiro.
 
THANKS, ICHIRO-SAN!
 
Ichiro is hands down Tim’s favorite player.  So its awesome to get a baseball from him.  Tim put his Ichiro baseball right next to his bed with an Ichiro baseball card in a display case next to it.
 
Here is  close up of our Ichiro baseball (below to left)…
                25 - ST12 - Ichiro.JPG    
26 - ST13 - Jack Wilson.JPG
 
…and our final baseball of the day from Jack Wilson (above to right).  The Wilson baseball was funny.  We were back in RF and everyone collectively decided it was time to head out to get some lunch.  As we were leaving the berm in RF, Jack was retrieving a baseball from the warning track just below the bullpen.  I called down, “Hit me over the shoulder, Jack!”  Jack looked up, hiked the ball to himself, rolled out of the pocket to the right, and threw a post pattern to me up on the berm.
 
Thanks, Jack!
 
Thirty seconds later, Jack threw a laser to my dad as he crossed the bridge over the players entrance to the field.  Thanks again, Jack! (on behalf of my dad).
 
Before leaving the stadium, Tim pitched and hit some baseballs at the last pitching and hitting stations.  On one of his final swings, Tim jacked the ball literally out of the Peoria Sports Complex (over that building behind the hitting station):
 
27 - Tim leaves the Complex.JPGThe Moose was watching Tim pitch at the pitching station and afterwards we got this cool picture of Tim and the Moose:
27a - Moose featuring Tim.JPGAfter lunch, we stopped back in at the stadium, but all of the Mariners were gone.  We got some pictures of the Dave Neihaus tribute sign (also a patch the Mariners are wearing this season, which is also featured in our blog banner up top this season):
28 - Mom and Dave MYOHMY.JPGFinally, on our way out to the parking lot, I took some pictures of the Peoria Sports Complex scoreboard…
 
And that was it.  The next morning, I drove by the complex and saw some Mariners milling around by the clubhouse building.  But there was no major league work out due to the first Spring Training game later that day.  Later that day, we caught out plane back to Pennsylvania.  It was a great time at Spring Training, and we left more excited than ever for the regular season to start about a month later.

Spring Training VI: Practice Pictures

After a brief detour through the Metrodome, its back to Spring Training.  We still have a few more reports to go from the desert.  This one has no real *story* per se, its just a bunch of pictures.  It does, however, have a theme:  practice.  We took a bunch of nice pictures of Mariners doing the hard work of preparing for the 2011 season and its time to share them.

Each morning, the entire Mariners major league camp would report to practice field M3 for a big stretching routine:

1 - pitcher stretching.JPGYou can always expect to see the guys playing a lot of catch at Spring Training:

2 - Ichiro throwing.JPGAbove, Ichiro is playing catch with…hmm…probably Milton Bradley on practice field M1.

The Mariners coaching staff hits hours of fungo to the Mariners infielders during Spring Training.  Here, Justin Smoak gloves a grounder on the first day of full team workouts on M2:

3 - Justin Smoak grounder.JPGJosh Wilson got into the action right next to Smoak:

4 - Josh Wilson grounder.JPGAcross the diamond, Chone Figgins — back at his native third base — got hand cuffed by this grounder, but made the play:

5 - Chone Figgins handcuffed by grounder.JPGBetween fields M1 and M2, there is a little half field (infield only).  Here, Dustin Ackley practices taking grounders at second base on the short field:

6 - Dustin Ackley grounder.JPGThe pitchers spend a lot of time re-learning how to field their position during Spring Training.  Here, big Michael Pineda practices his pick off move as a bunch of his colleagues watch:

7 - Pineda drills.JPGThis next picture is hilarious to me.  This was the first day of full squad workouts and the coach (cannot remember which one) said, “First grounder of the season!” and then hit this ball to King Felix Hernandez a/k/a Larry Bernandez:

8 - Felix first grounder of 2011.JPGThe look on Felix’s face is priceless.  FYI, despite his surprised look, he did catch the ball.

Cook & Son Hall of Famer Jason Phillips was working the fungo a bunch the week we were in Peoria.  Here is an action fungo shot of Jason on M4:

9 - Jason Phillips fungo.JPGErik Bedard has been a pleasant surprise this Spring.  He is flat out pitching like a stud and finally looking like he might live up to the original hype.  Here he is getting in his work in the mega-bullpen between M3 and M4:

10 - Erik Bedard bullpen.JPGThree or four mounds over from Bedard, King Felix was strutting his Cy Young-stuff:

11 - Felix Hernandez bullpen.JPGIn a little strip of random grass between M2 and M7 (the half field), Ichiro, Dustin Ackley and a couple other guys played a little pepper:

12 - Ichiro and Ackley pepper.JPGSomeone peppered a hot one Ichiro’s way and Ichi had to make an acrobatic catch at close range:

13 - catching pepper.JPGWhat makes this next picture cool was unintentional and hard to decipher.  However, if you click on the picture to enlarge it, you will see that I captured two balls in the air — Figgy gunned a ball to Justin Smoak that appears in the upper lefthand corner of the photo and Brendan Ryan his underhanding a second baseball to 2B:

14 - smoak and two balls in air.JPGAs I said, lots of pitcher fielding practice.  Here, Jason Vargas, Luke French and Brandon League handle hot shots back up the box:

15 - vargas french league.JPGAnd here is another hilarious picture of King Felix fielding his position — he did not catch this one:

16 - Larry Bernandez.JPGBut Ichiro caught this one (during outfielder practice on M5):

17 - Ichiro catch.JPGYou can get so close to your favorite players during Spring Training that its almost ridiculous.  Here, Tim played in the warning track dirt just behind Ichiro waiting his turn at the plate:

18 - Ichiro stretch pre-batting.JPGOne day, the guys all came out to practice and the outfielders reported to M6.  Ichiro was all set to play catch with Milton Bradley when he realized he’d forgot his glove in the clubhouse.  Ichiro’s interpreter, Anthony Suzuki, bolted off to the clubhouse and came cruising back with Ichiro’s glove:

19 - Anthony Suzuki glove retriever.JPGMichael Saunders tracks this ball in the birght Arizona sun during outfielders practice on M6:

20 - Saunders ranging.JPGMore pitcher fielding practice — Erik Bedard doesn’t show the best form while snaring this grounder from the short stop position:

21 - Bedard grounders by short.JPGOne last group of photos, all of Ichiro.  I took the picture of Ichiro in the top left (below)…

22 - Ichiro up close.JPG

…Tim took the other three from close range.

So there you go, a look behind the scenes at Spring Training practice.   For my money, practice is where the fun is at Spring Training.

Spring Training IV: Player Pictures

A great thing about Spring Training is that its much easier to meet, chat and get your photo with players on your favorite team.  We love to get pictures with Mariners, and that was a major goal during our recent trip to Peoria.  So, let’s take a look at what we got.

At Mariners Spring Training the best spot for getting your picture with a Mariner is in the long strip of grass leading from the batting cages behind the Mariners administrative office to practice field M3.  There is a roped off strip down the length of the grassy area where the players walk out to the practice fields.  That is where we got most of the following pictures.

First up, we ran into Adam Moore:


1 - Adam Moore ST2011.JPGAt Tim’s first Spring Training in 2008, Adam Moore was the first professional baseball player with whom Tim ever got his picture.  So it was cool to have a little “reunion” picture in 2011.

Moments later, it was Garrett Olson’s turn to pose with Tim:

2 - Garrett Olson ST2011.JPGGarrett is a good guy.

The Mariners have two superstars — Ichiro and Felix Hernandez.  We’ve wanted to get a picture with Ichiro for a long time.  But its almost impossible.  Felix, however, is another story.  We got our picture with him in 2009 at Fenway Park.  Tim was happy to meet up with Felix again in Peoria:

3 - Felix Hernandez ST2011.JPGBy the way, this is as close as we got to a “picture with Ichiro”:

ichisan ST2011.jpgBefore this trip, neither Tim nor I had ever got our picture with a major league manager.  Well, new Mariners manager Eric Wedge was all over the place at Spring Training.  And he was happy to lean in real close and smile big for this picture with Tim:

4 - Eric Wedge ST2011.JPGNote:  In that picture, Tim is looking at me (taking this same picture on my camera) and Wedge is looking at my mom.  This was a common problem during Spring Training.  We got a bunch of pictures where one person is looking at one camera and the other is looking at another camera.  Oh, well.

Our first baseball of spring training came from Mariners reliever, Chris Seddon.  Moments later, Chris was posing for a picture with me and Tim:

5 - Chris Seddon ST2011.JPGIt was actually quite funny.  We took a first picture with Chris and me standing up straight behind Tim.  Then Chris suggested that we get down on Tim’s level, which resulted in the picture above.  Personally, I get a chuckle out of it each time I look at Seddon leaning with his hands on his knees and smiling for the camera.  Seddon also took time out to say hello to the King of Camden Yards, Avi Miller:

Thanks, Chris!

Moments later, David “The D.A.” Aardsma rolled by on his flatbed golf cart and posed for a picture with Tim:

6 - David Aardsma ST2011.JPGD.A. had surgery recently and was on crutched at the beginning of our trip.  However, by the end of our trip he was off the crutches and hobbling around under his own power.  At the end of the trip, we also got DA to sign a baseball for us:

 

ST6 - Jason Phillips (David Aardsma auto).JPG

Thanks, DA!

I was quite excited to get this picture of Tim with Mariners phenom, Michael Pineda:

7 - Michael Pineda ST2011.JPGBefore this trip, I’d never seen Pineda in person.  Let me tell you, you cannot miss him.  He is HUGE!  If he wasn’t crouched down with Tim in this picture, his knees would probably be at Tim’s head level!  (Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but he is huge).  Pineda also signed this baseball for us:

STFAN1 - Michael Pineda auto.jpgThanks, Michael!

Former and new Mariner Miguel Olivo was extremely nice to Tim:

8 - Miguel Olivo ST2011.JPGAfter signing a baseball for us, Miguel crouched down and started chatting with Tim.  He tried to shake Tim’s hand, but Tim was holding a fist full of authentic Arizona rocks.  Instead of a handshake, Miguel was treated to a look at the rocks Tim had collected during catcher’s BP.  Here is a look at the baseball Miguel signed for us:

ST1 - Chris Seddon (Miguel Olivo autograph).JPGFor our first foray into the 2011 MyGameBalls.com Photo Scavenger Hunt competition, Tim got this picture with Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik:

9 - Jack Zduriencik ST2011.JPGJack is great.  He’s extremely nice and accessible.

He always gets excited when I mention we live in Pennsylvania, where he was raised.  The first time (of many) we saw Jack on this trip, it was just barely drizzling.  Jack was passing by us when he asked me “did you bring this [the rain] with you?”  This is a common question that anyone from Seattle gets asked whenever they are in another state and it starts raining.  I personally have had to answer this question about 40,000 times in my life.  I responded, “Not me, we just flew in from Pennsylvania.”  Jack was already past me (driving a golf cart) when he heard this and he immediately stopped and came back to ask me where we live in Pennsylvania.

Another top Mariners executive (and minority owner) was usually hanging around the fields during our trip.  It was Howard Lincoln, Mariners Chairman, CEO, minority owner, and representative of the Mariners corporate majority owner, Nintendo.  This picture of Tim and Howard Lincoln is another MyGameBalls.com Photo Scavenger Hunt picture:

10a - Howard Lincoln ST2011.JPGNote:  In this picture, Tim is standing on the back of a golf cart.  If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see a tag hanging over the steering wheel that says, “Jack Z.”  Yep, that was the golf cart Jack was driving when he asked if we brought the rain with us.

As already shown in our recent entry, we had a great interaction and got several pictures with…

10 - Milton Bradley ST2011.JPG…Milton Bradley.

The day we got the Milton Bradley bat was crazy.  Its the same day we got the Luke French autograph (featured in our last entry).  It was the same day as the Howard Lincoln picture.  And it was the same day as the next six player pictures.

First up at the end of the daily workout session, Franklin Gutierrez a/k/a “Death to Flying Things”:

11 - Franklin Gutierrez ST2011.jpgA day or two later, Franklin flew back to Seattle to see a doctor about some mysterious stomach issues he has had since last season.  Franklin also signed a baseball for us:

STFAN2 - Franklin Gutierrez auto.JPGThanks, Franklin!

Next up, Mainers firstbaseman, Justin Smoak:

12 - Justin Smoak ST2011.JPGIf Smoak lives up to his potential, the Cliff Lee trade will end up being a great deal for the Mariners.  So, we’re really pulling for Smoak to find his stroke at the major league level.

This was as good as we could do with respect to getting our picture with top Mariners prospect Dustin Ackley:

13 - Dustin Ackley ST2011.JPGAckley signed this baseball for us but then had to run:

ST4 - easter egg (Dustin Ackley auto).JPGThanks, Dustin!

We also didn’t get a traditional, posed picture with Mariners outfield prospect, Greg Halman:

14 - Greg Halman ST2011.JPGHalman was great.  He really liked Kellan.  He called him “cutie.”  It was pretty funny.  By the way, that ball Halman is signing was thrown to us by Halman earlier in the day.

Thanks, Greg!

We had a nice chat with local Seattle product and all around good guy, Matt Tuisasosopo:

15 - Matt Tuiasosopo ST2011.JPGTui was extremely outgoing and fan friendly all week.  He even chatted up Tim from third base one day during infield drills.

Tim was right with us during these last five pictures, but he didn’t want to get in any of the pictures.  I was bummed about it because we’d still never had a picture with both Tim and Kellan and a player — every picture has either been one or the other.

That all changed when Ryan Langerhans passed by us.  Tim asked Ryan to sign our Greg Halman baseball and then all of us posed for this picture:

16 - Ryan Langerhans ST2011.JPGHere is a look at that baseball:

ST3 - Greg Halman (Halman, Tuiasosopo, Langerhans and Smoak autos).jpgUpper right:  Greg Halman 56, Matt Tuiasosopo 27

Lower left:  Justin Smoak 17

Lower right:  Ryan Langerhans

Thanks, guys!

At Mariners/Padres Fan Fest at the Peoria Sports Complex’s main stadium, Tim got this picture with Greg Zaun:

17 - Greg Zaun ST2011.JPGIt’s Tim’s first picture with a Padre.  See that baseball Zaun is holding?  The first 400 kids at Fan Fest got a little back pack with Mariners and Padres baseball cards, a baseball, a sharpie and some other stuff in it.  The baseball wasn’t a ROMLB.  It was some random brand with an advertisement for a baseball card shop on it.  It wasn’t a great baseball for autographs, but Tim ended up having a bunch of people sign it.  Actually, its unfortunate he didn’t use our spare ball that a fan gave Tim a couple days earlier for all of those autographs.  Oh, well, Tim was quite happy to collect a bunch of autographs on his door prize baseball.

As shown in our last entry, Kellan got his picture taken with his first pitcher, Luke French:
18 - Luke French ST2011.JPGLuke also signed Tim’s door prize baseball.

Thanks again, Luke!

Our final picture with a Mariner was this group shot with the Mariner Moose, also at Fan Fest:

19 - The Moose ST2011.JPGAs you can see, Spring Training was excellent in terms of getting pictures with Mariners.  We didn’t get our picture with Ichiro, but we knew that was a long shot, even at Spring Training.  Other than Ichiro, the only player who I really wanted to get a picture with, but failed to do so, was Mariners pitcher, Jason Vargas.  But maybe we can track him down during the regular season.  We will see.

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