Results tagged ‘ Phil Cuzzi ’

Tim’s Fifth MLB Anniversary (9/12/2011)

On September 12, 2011, Tim had a rough afternoon.  He fell on the playground at school, banged up his knee, and had to go see the school nurse:

No fun.

But don’t you worry, things were about to turn around for young Tim.  Today was his Fifth MLB Anniversary and we were about to have an awesome evening of baseball at Camden Yards.

You might have noticed that Tim had a little turtle that he has been bringing to games the last couple months.  His name is “Shelly” (yeah, he’s a boy!).  Tim got Shelly at the Baltimore Aquarium the day after Kellan’s first birthday and he loves that little turtle like crazy.

On our drive to the ballpark, Tim devised a plan revolving around Shelly:

First, he wanted Shelly to get his first baseball at the game.  Second, he wanted to get a player to sign the ball for Shelly.  I told Tim we’d do our best to achieve these goals.

The first goal would not take long.  I bought cheap (super cheap) but good (really good) tickets on stubhub, but they were not “season” tickets, and we were running late and arrived after the ballpark opened and Avi Miller was already inside the ballpark.
So we were stuck in CF-RF for about 10 minutes upon entering the ballpark.

We wandered down into section 90 to see what was happening.  A few moments later, former-Mariner Chris Jakubauskas…

…saw me put on my Mariners jersey.  Jak ended up calling to one of his Orioles teammates who had a baseball.  The teammate tossed the ball to Jak and then Jak waved and then tossed the baseball to us.

Thanks, Jak!

Tim promptly declared that this baseball was for Shelly:

The last couple minutes before the rest of the ballpark opened to non-season ticket holders ticked by ever so slowly.  But finally we were permitted to make our way into RF foul territory and around home plate.  We were going to head down the foul line toward the LF foul pole.  By this time, the Rays were hitting and the Orioles had all exited the field.  As we past third base and the infield dirt, the batter hit a soft grounder that rolled to a rest in the grass behind short stop.  Rays pitcher J.P. Howell ran over from shallow CF, grabbed the ball, waved to us and made a long throw our way.

Thanks, J.P.!

Mere seconds after gloving the ball, a familiar voice came from behind us, “That’s J.P. Howell.”  It was our friend and future
Orioles Fan Hall of Famer Avi Miller.

Avi knew it was Tim’s fifth MLB anniversary.  Although he was wearing a Rays hat…

…, Avi announced that he had brought a Mariners hat in honor of Tim’s anniversary.  Very kind, Mr. Miller.

The three of us walked down the line toward the foul pole and a Rays batter hit a grounder down the line and directly to the on-field usher (Tom) who was standing directly in front of us.  Tom grabbed the ball and turned and gave it to Tim.  Big thanks, sir!

Avi headed back out into left field and Tim and I stayed put.  It was an unusually small BP crowd.  But after hanging out in foul territory for a bit, Tim wanted to head out into LF as well.

As Tim and I circled around the foul pole, a batter hit a baseball to the wall just below us.  There were really no fans anywhere around us.  When Juan Cruz walked over to retrieve the baseball, I said, “Hey, Juan.  Any chance we could get that baseball?”
Cruz looked right at us with a odd (but otherwise indescribable) expression, and then turned and walked away without saying a word.

So, we headed out to section 186.  Not too much was going on.  We chatted a bit with Matt Hersl.  We chatted a bit with Avi.  At one point, Avi asked if we knew a player’s name…

…it was Juan Cruz.  I told him that I was pretty sure it was Juan Cruz, but he’d given us a really weird look earlier so maybe I was wrong.  Hmm…maybe I’d call him the wrong name?

Nah…I looked in our little book where I record all sorts of stuff.  Yep, Juan Cruz had tossed us a baseball earlier in the season…and my list confirmed that his name was, indeed, Juan Cruz.

Eventually, someone hit a laser line drive homerun directly over our head.  I jumped for it and it probably sailed less than a foot over my glove.

Like two seconds, I heard someone yell (at us) from the field.  It was Juan Cruz!  I was utterly confused.  He was probably 2-3 sections over toward the LF foul pole.  He held up a baseball and pointed at us.  I wasn’t sure if he was looking pointing at us or someone else.  Tim was standing directly in front of me.  In fact, I had my hands on his shoulders as I looked at Cruz with a confused look on my face.  (A little backstory, I am incredibly terrible at deciphering what people with accents are saying, and Cruz is from the Dominican Republic, but for some reason it sounded like he was yelling with a thick southern accent).  He yelled
something that was completely indecipherable to me:

Cruz - “BLAH, BLAH, BLAHHHH!”

Todd – (confused) What!?

Cruz – “BLEE, BLAH, BLAHHHH!”

Todd – (even more confused and not even sure if he was yelling at me or someone else!) “What!?”

Cruz – “BLEE, CAH, BLAHHHH!”

Todd – (really embarrassed by this point) “What!?!?!?!?!”

Cruz – (pointing at Tim directly in front of me) “BEEEEE CAREFULLLLLL!!!!”

Ah, ha.  Finally, it all made sense — he didn’t want to hit Tim with his throw!

Todd – “Oh, okay!”

And then he threw me a strike.

Thanks (and sorry), Juan!

After the baseball from Cruz (already our fourth of the day), the main highlight of the rest of BP was that James Shields made a ridiculously awesome catch, leaping high over the wall in LCF to pick off a would-be BP homerun.

Wait, there was another highlight during BP.  Tim got his picture sitting in one of Camden Yards’ two orange seats (the one where Cal Ripken, Jr.’s 278th homerun landed), and then Shelly got his picture in the Ripken orange seat too:

Wait, again, there was still one more highlight of BP.  At one point, Tim and I were chatting with one of the Orioles regular leftfield ushers (Miss Kelly).  After attending a bunch of O’s games over the last couple years and hanging out with Avi and some of the
other LF regulars, Kelly clearly recognized us.  But I was pleasantly surprised when she actually knew Tim’s name!  “Wow,” I thought to myself, “If an usher knows us by name, I guess we are officially *quasi-Camden-Yards-regulars!”  I like it!

After the Rays cleared the field, the extremely small crowd of BP-goers cleared out of LF except for us, Avi and one or two other guys.  There were tons of BP homers strewn about the ground in the Orioles’ and Rays’ bullpens.

After a while the pitchers, catchers, and coaches headed out to the bullpens.  Former-Mariners pitching coach and current Orioles pitching coach was kind enough to toss us a baseball from the Orioles bullpen.

Thanks, Rick!

Adair also noticed our Mariners shirts and stopped to chat a bit. He asked Tim who his favorite player is (Ichiro) and his favorite pitcher (Tim faltered, but then agreed when I suggested Felix Hernandez).  I told Adair the story of my mom getting one of the Rick Adair prank t-shirts that Ken Griffey, Jr. had made during spring training in 2010.  He got a kick out of that.

After Adair left, another Orioles coach (or a guy who at least seemed to be a coach) came over and started talking to some fans and signing some autographs.  We decided to put Tim’s pre-game autograph plan into action.  It worked perfectly, and now we are proud to say that Tim’s little turtle Shelly is the proud owner of a baseball from Rick Adair bearing a personalized autograph from Orioles Hall of Famer Scott McGregor:

Nice!  Thanks, Scott!

It was getting close to play area time.  But we hung out for a few more minutes.  Eventually, Rays coach Jim Hickey entered the visitors’ bullpen:

There were still probably three BP homers laying in the grass.  Avi asked Hickey for one and he responded, “You’re too old!”  He then turned and weakly tossed a ball in our direction.  But it didn’t clear the fence and it bounced down into the stairway that leads from the back of the bullpen down to the bullpen bathrooms.  His second toss was on the money.

Thanks, Jim!

Interesting side note, someone else later tossed the other ball (the one that Hickey failed to get over the fence) to Avi.

That was it for our field-area pre-game festivities.  We’re typically pretty good at getting 1 or 2 baseballs during BP.  But due to the incredibly small BP crowd, we amazingly came away with six baseballs!  It was pretty crazy.

Aside from a game in 2010 when we got 10 baseballs (including 7 easter eggs), we had never gotten  more than 7 at a single game.
Interestingly, we had come into this game sitting on 191 baseball since Tim’s first game.  Coming into the game, I did not even consider the possibility that we would have a chance to approach the 200-plateau at this game.  But with six baseballs in our backpack, I began to wonder.  I jokingly told Avi that *all we needed* was to get 3 baseballs during the game to hit 200.
There was still no way I thought it could happen, but in the back of my mind, I thought it would be pretty cool to do it because Tim had gotten his first baseball on September 12, 2006 and his 100th exactly one year earlier on September 12, 2010.  How cool would it be to hit 200 on September 12, 2011?  Pretty cool, was my thought.

But enough with the wild speculations, we had a play area to get to.

Tim started out by posing for (another) picture with one of the big bird bobbleheads (this time with his trusty companion, Shelly):

And then he played like a mad man:

As play areas go, Camden Yards is always a fun one.  Lots of things to do and not too crowded to have fun.

As game time approached, we grabbed a hot pile of nachos…

…and our awesome $5.00 tickets from stubhub:

Actually, that view is from row four of section 10, and our seats were actually about 10-15 feet to the left in row 4 of section 12.  Anyway, the seats were awesome, and there was a constant possibility that the ballgirl would catch a foul grounder and give it to Tim.

I mean, check this out:

The ballgirl was sitting just on the other side of the guy in the blue shirt and blue hat.  She did get a grounder early and gave it to
the son of the guy in orange directly in front of Tim in that last picture.  But we didn’t stick around in these seats (we need our freedom to move around!) long enough to see if she’d eventually give Tim a foul ball.

Here’s an interesting picture:

I took it because the Orioles’ first base coach’s last name is “Kirby,” and that is also the name of our awesome black lab (interesting fact:  my wife and I met at a dog park thanks to Kirby!).  The picture is also interesting because it shows home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.  Cuzzi has given us a post-game baseball once before.  Hmm…I wondered if he might do it again.  We’ll have to wait and see.

The Rays got on the board first in this game.  In the top of the third inning, the Rays scored three runs on a 2-RBI double by Ben Zobrist and an RBI single by Sean Rodriguez.

Despite the awesome seats and very real possibility of getting a foul ball from the ballgirl, Tim wanted to roam.  And so, we roamed.  First, we tracked down the highly accessible Orioles Bird:

Then it was time to grab a 5th Anniversary ice cream helmet.  We decided to head out to LF:

Here is a panoramic view of Camden Yards from our very, temporary seats in section 80:

When Evan Longoria stepped to the plate, I sent Avi a less than prophetic text declaring that I was about to catch Evan Longoria’s homerun (note:  Avi, in fact, caught Evan’s first homer of the 2011 season).  In reply, Avi mentioned that he was sitting a couple sections to our left; over by the bullpens.  So, after Longoria failed to hit a homerun to me, we relocated to section 86, where Avi delivered on his promise to wear a Mariners cap in honor of Tim’s 5th MLB anniversary:

Over the next several innings, we sat in a lot of different seats in section 86, but here is just one of our short-time views of the ballpark from section 86:

We spent a lot of time during the game hanging out by the Rays bullpen.

Right below us during a big portion of the game, was Rays bullpen catcher Scott Cursi:

That hyper-crazy look on Tim’s face was induced by a three-pronged attack on his senses – chocolate ice cream, chocolate sprinkles, and chocolate sauce!  Only on his MLB anniversary!

I had no clue what Cursi’s name was, but Avi did and he passed on the info to me and Tim.  Had it stuck in my brain a little better, it
might have paid off in a big way.  In the bottom of the sixth inning (with the O’s trailing 4-1), Orioles catcher Matt Weiters hit a homerun that was hearing almost right to us.  But it was a tiny bit to our left (toward centerfield) and not quite far enough to reach us.  The homerun landed in the Orioles bullpen, bounced over the wall into the Rays bullpen, and right to Scott Cursi.  We were literally the closest people to Cursi at the time.  I wanted to ask him to toss the homerun ball up to us, but “Scott” just couldn’t get off of my tongue.  Before I could recall his name, he rolled the ball back toward the bullpen bench.  It rolled past the bullpen and to a police officer stationed at the other side of the bullpen.  The cop set the ball down against the back wall of the bullpen for a few seconds.  Eventually, one of the players gave him the “it’s okay” sign, and he tossed the homerun ball to a fan above the bullpen.  Shucks!

At one point, Tim went down a couple rows and visited with…

…Avi, Flava Dave (glove on head) and Tim Anderson (Markakis jersey).  In the picture above, Tim is taking great joy in pointing out the Dora the Explorer backpack in the Rays bullpen.

So, late in the game we were still sitting on 197 lifetime baseballs.  I continued to tell Avi in jest that “all we need is three more balls
before the end of the game” to reach 200!  But it wasn’t looking it was going to happen – and why would it?  I doubt we have ever got three baseballs after the start of a game before – certainly, we have never gotten three baseballs after the seventh inning stretch.

But this was Tim’s Fifth MLB Anniversary!  Magic was in the air!

In the seventh inning, Scott Cursi gave a baseball to a Rays-fan Dad who was celebrating his daughter’s first birthday game (hey, if it was also her first game, she has a great MLB anniversary!).  After he tossed up that  baseball, I called down, “Hey, Scott, it is not my boy’s birthday, but it’s a really special day for him.  Any chance he can get a baseball too?”  Cursi responded in the affirmative.  Then he walked over to his equipment bag (bullpen catchers always have a bunch of loose balls in their
equipment bags!), pulled out and examined two different baseballs, and then tossed one of them to us.

Thanks, Scott!

I was super-excited.  Could 200 actually happen on Tim’s MLB anniversary?  We relocated down by Avi and the guys next to the Orioles bullpen.  Avi had seen us get the ball from Cursi.  “Just two more!”, I reported!

In the eighth inning, our buddy Chris Jakubauskas started warming up for the Orioles…

…he was pitching to Orioles bullpen catcher (and Avi’s chum) Ronnie Deck.  Avi was optimistic that Deck would assist us in reaching the 200-plateau on Tim’s MLB anniversary.  When Jak threw his final pitch, he walked off  of the mound without waiting for a return throw from Deck.  Ronnie jumped to his feet, and I yelled out, “Hey, Ronnie, can we get the baseball, please!?”
Ronnie took 2-3 almost exaggerated running steps toward the bullpen bench, and then stopped on a dime, spun, and tossed us the baseball over the fence.

199!

Holy cow, I thought, this might actually happen!

We knew what had to happen.  “We’re heading to the umpire’s tunnel, I announced to Avi, Flava Dave, and Mr. Anderson!

Luckily, this was one of the least attended games of the season.  The crowd was particularly sparse with the O’s trailing 5-2 going into the ninth inning.  The ushers were checking tickets and we were able to take the ideal seats beside the umpire tunnel:

As the ninth inning progressed, Tim and I chatted with the guy who sits beside the tunnel and punches the buttons that displays the pitch information (speed and kind of pitch).  I tried my best, but I failed to correctly decipher a single pitch.

As the game drew to a close, I kept waiting for kids to storm the tunnel area, but it wasn’t happening.  Finally, Mark Reynolds struck out to end the game…

…and Phil Cuzzi walked back to the net behind home plate.  After the field crew quickly opened the entrance to the tunnel, Cuzzi stayed put.  He was waiting for his three colleagues to join him before he exited the field.

The mustachioed usher on the other side of the tunnel had brought a little girl down to make an attempt for an umpire ball.  But the little girl and Tim were the only kids in sight while Cuzzi waited for the other umpires.  I looked around expecting a flock of kids to run to the tunnel.  It never happened.

As Cuzzi ducked under the net and entered the tunnel walkway, it was just the little girl and Tim who were waiting for him.  I could not believe it.  Our 200th baseball seemed like a guarantee at this point.

First, Cuzzi placed a baseball into the little girl’s hands.  Next, he turned around and spotted Tim.  He reached out and placed a beautiful, rubbed up gem of a baseball into Tim’s (actually Kellan’s) baseball glove.

YES!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Cuzzi!!!

On the fifth anniversary of Tim’s first baseball, and the first anniversary of our 100th baseball, Tim held up his glove with a smile and displayed our 200th baseball:

I truly could not believe it.  Aside from the 7-easter egg fluke game in Cleveland, we had never got nine baseballs at a game.  It was like the baseball gods were smiling down on Tim trying to make his 5th MLB anniversary as special as possible.

Mission accomplished, baseball gods!

As the fans filed out of the stadium and the relievers made their way to the dugouts, Tim got a post-game photo with Flava Dave:

And then we spotted a couple Rays players lingering along the foul line wall.  He headed over there and Tim autographs from
and Tim’s picture with rightfielder Brandon Guyer…

…and third basemen Russ Canzler:

Before heading for the gates, we got a final Father-Son Camden Yards picture by the dugout:

When I looked back at the field on our way up to the cross-aisle, I noticed something funny – Brandon Guyer had jumped the wall and was standing with the fans (who I suspected were his friends and family) in the seats:

On the way out, we stopped on Eutaw Street so Tim and Shelly could say good-bye for the offseason to Ken Griffey Jr.’s deep RCF homerun maker:

And (okay, that other picture wasn’t the *final* father-son picture), I took a parting shot of Tim and I on our way out of the gates:

It is always sad when we know we will not visit Camden Yards until the next season.

Tim said his respects to Babe Ruth…

…and then we called it a night.

It had been an amazing…

…Fifth MLB Anniversary for Tim.

September 12th is quickly becoming one of my very favorite holidays!

2011 C&S Fan Stats
29/5 Games (Tim/Kellan)
19/8 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals, Cubs, Angels, Indians, Reds, Giants, Tigers, Yankees, Marlins, Pirates; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles, Angels, Mets, Indians, Yankees, Phillies, Braves]
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)).
91 Baseballs (16 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 8 Orioles, 5 Umpires, 2 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, 6 Marlins,
1 Pirates)
13/4 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Citi Field, Great American Ball Park, Comerica Park, Yankee Stadium, Sun Life Stadium, Turner Field, Tropicana Field, PNC Park; Kellan – Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Citizens Bank Park]
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

Camden Yards: Infield, Outfield & All Around

Since Kellan’s birth in mid-July, our family has been crazy busy.  Tim and I only went to one game in July.  But we had big plans for August.

It all started on August 8, 2010, when Tim and I hopped in our trusty Prius and headed down to Camden Yards to see the Orioles take on the Chicago White Sox.

We had one major goal for the day:  get Tim’s picture with former Mariners ace Freddy Garcia.  I loved Freddy as a Mariner, and I thought it would be great to meet him.  And what better place than at Camden Yards?  I don’t know if there is another stadium where the players are as accessible as they are in Baltimore.

One problem, we didn’t have “season tickets” that would allow us to get into the main part of the stadium half an hour early.  And our man with the season tickets hook-up, Camden Yards regular Avi Miller, was home ill.

So, we hung out in the shady seats in RCF for the first half hour…

1 - hanging in the shade.JPG…it really didn’t matter too much though.  There was no batting practice and almost no one was on the field.  One Oriole was running in deep RF, and he gave Tim a wave a said “hi” as he ran by at one point.  A little later, a couple White Sox came out to play catch in shallow LF.  I used my camera to zoom in on them, and Freddy was not among them.

When the stadium finally opened, we headed over to the 3B line to watch the remaining White Sox play catch.  I did not recognize any of them…

2 - Erick Threets.JPG…but I noticed that one of them had “68” written on the heal of his spikes.

Eventually, Mr. 68 headed back toward the dugout.  He tossed a baseball to a kid in a White Sox shirt and another to a kid in a Mariners hat…

3 - Thanks Erick.JPG…when we got home, I discovered that Mr. 68 has a name:  Erick Threets.

Thanks, Erick!

There was NOTHING happening on the field.

We headed over to LF for no apparent reason.  While over there, we ended up getting a special picture — with Babe Ruth — for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt.  Then we got a picture of the two of us in the cross-aisle…

4 - LF corner.JPG…Tim looked kind of bored, huh?  Yep.  So it was time for the play area:

5 - play area 8-8-10.JPGWe hung out over there for a while, but then I had an idea.  There is something special that the O’s do before pretty much every game.  The O’s Bird heads out to LF and plays a little whiffleball with kids he pulls out of the crowd.  He does all sorts of funny stuff, like throwing a base when the kids are running the bases.

Its been my goal all season to get Tim involved, but it hasn’t happened.  In the car ride on the way down, I asked Tim if he’d like to try to play whiffle ball with the Bird. I had to prep him for the possiblity because he takes his base running seriously.  I feared that he would get upset if he didn’t understand that the Bird likes to do things such as throw the bases while a kid is running the bases.  It was good that I prepped him, because he didn’t understand why the Bird would do that.  I told him it was just to be funny and play a joke on the kids.  Tim liked that and he was excited to try to get in on the whiffleball.

When I remembered it, I asked Tim if he still wanted to try to play whiffleball with the Bird.  He did.  So I suggested we head back into the stadium.  Right when we made it down the LF line, I saw two O’s employees walking out with an equipment bag.  I flagged them down and asked if Tim could get in on the whiffle ball action.  The answer was “YES!”  Sweet.

When the Bird arrived, the guy I’d asked came over and pulled Tim out of the stands…

6 - whiffle1.JPG…as they walked toward the home plate along the foul line, the guy told Tim what to expect, and handed him a big orange bat…

7 - whiffle2.JPG…then the Bird unleashed a two handed double pitch.  Tim swung hard right between both balls…

8 - whiffle3.JPG…one of which (as you can see) actually went behind his head.

Essentially, each kid just takes one hit and then rounds the bases.  Tim was ready for the next pitch…

9 - whiffle4.JPG…he drilled a hard line drive right off of the Bird’s leg.  And then it was off to the races!

As Tim rounded first, the Bird ran to second base…

10 - whiffle5.JPG…I was hoping the Bird would fling the base far out into the outfield so Tim could run way out there to touch the base wherever it landed…

[TIME OUT:  I have to mention that the last picture is one of my favorites.  As Tim is rounding first, you can see Juan Pierre and Alex Rios walking in shallow CF, Carlos Quentin is at the far right walking toward the foul line, and a couple Orioles are playing catch in deep CF.  How cool is that?  The next kid actually hit the ball to “RF” and Alex Rios fielded it and gunned it back to the Bird.]

…Instead, the Bird just stood there as Tim approached to touch second.  Then, the Bird grabbed the base and used it like a matador’s red cape…

11 - whiffle6.JPG…Tim ran back and forth trying to kick the base out of the air…

12 - whiffle7.JPG…as the Bird did his best “oley!  oley!” routine.  After a couple passes, Tim actually did kick the base out of the air, which I think surprised the Bird.

Tim immediately bolted for third.  He thrives on eluding would-be taggers.  The Bird chased behind Tim trying to tag him…

13 - whiffle8.JPG…before Tim scored, the Bird tossed a ball at him, but missed.

Tim scored!  And then he kept running straight back to me.  He was only out there for a minute or two, but he had a blast and absolutely loved it.  He wants to do it again! 

After whiffleball, a former Mariners great (but not Freddy Garcia) was signing autographs down the foul line.  I had totally forgot that slick fielding former M’s short stop Omar Vizquel plays for the White Sox this season.  But, guess what?  He does.

And here he is signing the baseball that Erick Threets had given to Tim earlier in the day: 

14 - Little O Autograph.JPGNow here is something interesting (at least to me).  We’re not big autograph guys (we’re picture guys).  In fact, before reading it on other MLBlogs, I had never even heard the term “the sweet spot.”  But, over the past two seasons, Tim and I have collected about 10-15 autographs on baseballs that we’ve caught at games, and Omar is the first and only player to ever sign his name on the sweet spot.  Every single other player has signed his name on…whatever they call the non-sweet spot.

As I said, autographs are good, but we’re picture guys.  So this was the real prize:

15 - tim and Little O.JPGFor the record, that is Tim and a future Hall of Famer.  I know his offensive numbers aren’t all that special (actually, his hit total is pretty special), but I would put Omar Vizquel up against any short stop in the history of baseball.  The guy is absolutely incredible with the glove.  I seriously do not think there has been a better short stop in the game, at least during my life time.  And guess what?  Omar’s offensive numbers are as good or better than Ozzie Smith’s numbers.  So for my money, the guy is a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Bottom line:  when we weren’t able to get a picture with Freddy, this picture with Omar more than made up for the disappointment.

A few minutes later, we watched Omar show off some of his fancy glove work… 

16 - watching a glove master.JPG…along the foul line.  Omar can catch a baseball by letting it just tap the heel of his glove to deaden the throw before his bare hand swipes the ball out of the air.  Its truly amazing, and incredibly hard to do.  I’ve only been able to do it a couple times in my life.  I should have taken a video of it because Little O was doing it here and trying to teach his teammate (not Ramirez, but the guy out in CF) how to do it.  If you ever want to learn a thing or two about catching a baseball, you should seriously consider just taking a seat and watching Omar during pre-game warm ups.

By the time the game started, we’d already had a full day’s worth of fun.

It seems like we are always on the RF/1B side of the stadium at Camden Yards.  I wanted to switch it up.  We started off the game in the handicapped accessible seats in the cross-aisle behind section 62.  We were standing in the cross-aisle and I asked the usher which way was north so I could figure out which direct the sun would be moving.  I told him we wanted to avoid the sun.  He suggested we sit  in the handicapped accessible seats behind the section he was working, which were shaded at the time.

Here was the view:

18 - camden section 62 handicap seats panorama.jpg

Tim pointed out the pitchers mound for me…

19 - tim in 62.JPG…oh, there it is.  Thanks, buddy.

Then, Tim took over the controls of the camera.  Here are some samples of the shots he took:

20 - photos by tim.JPGThe pitching match up was Mark “Send ‘em Home Early” Buehrle vs. Jeremy Guthrie.

In the top of the first, Guthrie gave up a single to Alex Rios and a double to Paul Konerko, but escaped without giving up any runs.  Buehrle sat the Orioles down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first.

The first scoring of the day occurred in the bottom of the second inning.  O’s left fielder Felix Pie drove a solo homerun deep into the flag court yard in RF.

Two batters later, Cesar Izturis…

21 - Cesar Izturis 1000.JPG…collected his 1,000th career hit on a little dunker of a single to CF.  After the O’s announced the milestone on the scoreboard, Izturis received a nice round of applause from the crowd.

As the all-time greats go, 1,000 hits is nothing.  But when you think about it, to be able to collect 1,000 hits in major league baseball is pretty special.  So congratulations to Cesar.

In the bottom of the third, I was all set to try to get an action shot of Omar Vizquel adding another hit to his impressive resume (as of today he has 2,778 hits).  Unfortunately, I had to settle for this picture…

22 - omar swinging.JPG…of Omar about to hit a foul ball.  Omar did actually get a hit in this at bat and I did get a picture of the swing, but Tim walked in front of the camera.  It would be the only picture Tim blocked on the day, and it would be Omar’s only hit.  Oh, well.

A couple innings later, we found ourselves sitting in LF where this was our view:

23 - camden section panorama.jpgWe had never sat in LF at Camden Yards so it was nice to take in the view from this spot while we ate some nachos:

24 - Tim in LF at OPACY.JPGUnfortuantely, there were no homeruns to LF while we were out there.

However, we did see Omar hit again (in the top of the 5th inning) while we were in LF:

25 - more cuts by Omar.JPGHe whiffed on that pitch, but eventually hit into a fielder’s choice and then scored the second run of the game on a single by Alex Rios.  That knotted the score at 1-1.

The score did not stay tied long.  And we didn’t stay long in LF.  Tim wanted to move back into the shade.  So we went and grabbed an Orioles Ice Cream Helmet and relocated to another set of handicapped accessible seats, this time in the cross-aisle behind section 47.

Here was our view:

26 - camden section 47 panorama.jpgAnd here is Mr. Perfecto 2009, Mark Buehrle:

27 - Mark Buehrle.JPGOf course, Tim was enjoying his chocolate ice cream helmet with sprinkles:

28 - ICH time.JPGAs I said, the score did not stay tied 1-1 very long.  In the bottom of the sixth, the Orioles took a 3-1 lead on the strength of back-to-back RBI doubles by Nick Markakis and Ty Wigginton.

All of the Birdland faithful were hoping that Adam “Not Pacman” Jones could make it back-to-back-to-back RBI doubles, but, alas, he could not.  With this not mighty enough swing…

29 - Adam Jones flies out.JPG…the former Mariners top prospect flew out to Carlos Quentin in RF:

30 - to Carlos Quentin.JPGBy the way, Tim really latched onto Quentin during this game.  During pre-game warmups we were discussing the players we were watching and I pointed out Quentin.  Tim started talking about “Carlos” like they were old buddies.  Each time Quentin came to the plate, Tim would mention, “Hey, its Carlos.”  And after this catch, we discussed how Tim’s good friend “Carlos” caught that high pop fly.

Fan favorite Jeremy Guthrie was still in the game and he was “dealing”…

31 - Jeremy crazyleg Guthrie.JPG…he was also putting so much pressure on his front leg that I feared it might snap in half on each pitch.

After Little O bunted this Guthrie offering foul…

32 - Omar the bunter.JPG…Jeremy got Omar to ground out to 3B to end the 7th inning.

Leading off the bottom of the 7th inning, Cesar Izturis started in on his second thousand hits by driving a 2B to deep LCF for his 1,001st hit.  After advancing to 3B on a passed ball, Izturis scored the O’s fourth and final run of the day on a single by Brian Roberts.

Guthrie was back on the hill in the 8th inning, and he mowed down the ChiSox 1-2-3, including this harmless ground out by Paul Konerko… 

33 - Paulie Konerko grounds.JPG…for the second out of the inning:

34 - out to SB.JPGIn the top of the ninth inning, Tim and I started the process of relocating behind home plate to make an attempt at getting an umpire ball from Phil Cuzzi…

35 - Phil Cuzzi.JPG…(BTW, how do you pronouce his name?  Cooou-zee or Kah-zee?)

While scouting out seats from the cross-aisle slightly shaded toward 1B, someone (can’t remember who) hit a foul ball DIRECTLY to the handicapped accessible seat that I had been sitting in for the last several innings.  All I would have had to do was stand up and make the uncontested catch.  Bummer.

Anyway, this was our view for the bottom of the ninth inning:

36 -Alexei Ramirez.JPGGuthrie was out and O’s closer Alfredo Simon was in.  After retiring the first batter of the inning, Simon gave up a single to Alexei Ramirez…

37 - Alexei Ramirez grounds out.JPG…and then a homerun to Ramon Castro.   That made the score 4-3 Orioles.  But that was all she wrote.  Simon would get the next two batters (Brad Lillibridge and Juan Pierre) to secure the win for Guthrie and the save for himself.

Something else interesting happened during the ninth inning, the ushers on both sides of the umpire tunnel were actively assisting kids in trying to get an umpire ball.  One usher stopped by and told Tim and a girl sitting behind us “The umpire’s name is Phil, you should ask him for a baseball when he leaves the field” while another usher on the other side of the tunnel brought three little kids down to the second row and sat them right on the tunnel with instructions to ask Cuzzi for a baseball.

Cuzzi came off the field after the final out and handed one baseball to one of the kids the usher had sat on the 3B side of the umpires tunnel.  Then he approached Tim and placed a second baseball in his glove…

38 - Here comes Mr Cuzzi.JPG…which Tim promptly dropped (his hand isn’t big enough to squeeze his glove closed), so Cuzzi fielded the booted ball and replaced it into Tim’s glove again:

39 - Thanks Mr Cuzzi.JPG

Thanks, Mr. Cuzzi!

Hey, guess what?  It was time for Kids Run the Bases!

The O’s held the promotion exclusively for members of the O’s Dugout Club.  We visited the extremely helpful and nice O’s fan assistance office to inquire about how Tim could become a member so he could run the bases.  It costs $12 and comes with all sorts of goodies.  But the lady in the fan assistance office (probably rightfully thinking we were in from out of town and were not O’s fans) suggested that we could probably run without Tim becoming a member of the club.  So, we saved our $12 and did not join the club.

I was a little nervous because almost every kid in line was wearing some evidence of being a member of the club, everyone but Tim.  But it didn’t matter.  They made no effort to check to see if people were members of the club.

When we reentered the stadium to run the bases, the usher who is usually out on Eutaw Street spraying fans and giving out baseball cards was spraying people with his water bottle in the concourse.  But he wasn’t handing out any baseball cards…that is, he wasn’t until we arrived.

As Tim approached to get sprayed, I said to him, “You gotta say “‘Hit me!'”  Immediately upon saying that to Tim, the usher (whose name, I think, is Greg??), proclaimed, “He said the MAGIC WORDS!”…

40 - Hit Me with Ramon Martinez.JPG…and he handed Tim a Ramon Martinez baseball card from his baseball card pouch.  Tim was quite happy to receive the card.  Little things can really make a kid’s day.

It was time to run some bases.  As Tim waited in the line at first base (the O’s were making the effort to space out the runners, which we always appreciate), I got a shot of the visitors dugout:

41 - OPACY visitors dugout.JPGThen I focused all of my picture taking efforts on Tim.  I always feel that Kids Run The Bases is one of the hardest times to get good pictures.  But it worked out well at this game.

I got this shot of Tim stomping on second base:

42 - stomping on 2B at OPACY.JPG

Third base also cooperated with my camera:

43 - rounding 3B at OPACY.JPGAnd after almost completely missing the shot, home plate was friendly to my camera too:

44 - scoring at OPACY.JPG

Before heading up into the stands, we posed for a few pictures on the field, including this one…

45 - Cuzzi Ball at Camden Yards.JPG

…with the baseball from Phil Cuzzi.

To recap:

  1. Whiffle ball in the outfield with The Bird;
  2. An autograph from and picture with former Mariner and future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel;
  3. Kids Run The Bases; and
  4. Father-Son fun.

Wow – It was an excellent day!  Not only that, it was a truly excellent weekend of baseball fun (this was the Sunday immediately following our campout in the Reading Phillies’ outfield).

Fun, fun, fun.

Thank you, Baseball.  We missed you!

2010 Fan Stats:

19 Games

17 Teams (Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Angels, Twins, Athletics and White Sox; Phillies, Dodgers, Pirates, Braves, Mets, Brewers, Padres, Giants, and Nationals)

16 Ice Cream Helmets (Orioles (3), Phillies (2), Padres (2), Pirates (2), Mets, Dodgers, Athletics & Nationals)

40 Baseballs (6 Mariners, 2 Angels, 3 Athletics, 3 Brewers, 3 Nationals, 2 Blue Jays, 7 Umpires, 2 Phillies, 1 Mets, 4 Braves, 1 Orioles, 1 Dodgers, 1 Padres, 1 Giants, 2 Twins, 1 White Sox)

10 Stadiums (Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, PNC Park, Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, Dodgers Stadium, PETCO Park, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, AT&T Park)

13 Player Photos (Jamie Moyer, Ryan Rowland-Smith (2), Omar Vizquel, Chad Cordero, Mike Cameron, Joel Piniero, Frank Catalanotto, Billy Wagner, Jeff Suppan, Tommy Hanson, Jered Weaver and Scott Olsen)

2 Retired Player Photos (Jim Palmer, Bert Blyleven)

1 Umpire Photo (“Cowboy” Joe West)

9 Autographs (Ryan Rowland-Smith (2), Omar Vizquel, Chad Cordero, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Joel Piniero, Frank Catalanotto (2), Billy Wagner (2), Jeff Suppan, Tommy Hanson, Jeff Weaver and Scott Olsen)

6 Kids Run The Bases (Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, PNC Park, PETCO Park, Camden Yards)

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