Results tagged ‘ Rob Johnson ’

2010 GFS Roadtrip Game 5: Mariners at Padres (6/13/10)

On June 13, 2010, two factors [incredibly awesome seats + extremely relaxed stadium staff during Kids Run The Bases] combined to result in one of the longest, more picture laden game reports that we have ever produced.  Here it goes.

We woke up at the KOA in Chula Vista and hit the local Denny’s for breakfast.  Then we came back, got ready for the Mariners game at Petco Park and used the spare time we had before the game to play in the KOA’s play area:

1 - morning fun at KOA playset.JPGIt was an afternoon game, so it was still morning when we got to the park.  I know an extremely cool guy named Al who lived most of his life in our area in PA, but now lives in San Diego.  Back in November 2009, he mentioned that he has the ability to get incredibly awesome seats at Padres games and offered to get them for us for this game.  I was unsure if it would actually happen so I bought cheap outfield tickets before the season started to be sure we had tickets.

Al was planning to join us for at least part of the game so we arranged to meet him at the stadium.  But we arrived about 45 minutes before him.  So we used the cheap outfield tickets to head inside for BP.  After Tim collected his Padres batting helmet giveaway, we headed in and found there was no BP today.  Even worse was the fact that Tim couldn’t play in the Beach because it was closed.  There was a “breakfast in the park” event on the warning track and I guess they didn’t want loud kids right next to the people who were literally eating breakfast at tables on the warning track.

Only two Mariners were on the field when we arrived.

Mr. Ryan Rowland-Smith was doing his running and stretching routine in LF…

2 - RRS getting a sweat on.JPG…and Ichiro was stretching and playing catch with his interpreter in shallow LF:

3 - Ichiro warms up.JPGSoon, Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman came out to play some catch.  While they were playing, I noticed that my Dad had wondered off.  I wasn’t sure where he had gone.  When Figgins and Kotchman finished playing catch…

4 - figgy kotch and dads baseball.jpg…Kotchman walked back to the dugout.  As I watched him approach the dugout, I saw that my Dad was the only person standing directly above the dugout — and he was wearing a Mariners shirt.  Kotchman rewarded him with the his and Figgins’ warm up baseball.

Tim and I headed over to the dugout to hang out with my Dad.  The stadium was empty and it was a cool “morning in the park” type atomosphere.  People were quietly getting ready for a day of baseball.  At one point, a guy started mowing the infield:


5 - petco lawn care.JPGThe Padres helmets came with number stickers.  I put “18” on the back of Tim’s helmet.  When we were standing behind the dugout with my Dad, Tim asked me to put a “5” on the bill of his helmet.  Then he told me to put a “1” in front of the “5.”  I did…

5a - Ichiro 15.JPG…and then Tim said, “5-1 just like Ichiro!”  He was a little bummed out when I told him that we’d really done “15” — Milton Bradley — not Ichiro’s “51.”  A second later, Al called us and we left the stadium and met him out front.  Because we’d be entering the stadium again on new tickets, I told Tim he would get another helmet and we could put Ichiro’s “51” on it.

We headed out the exit in LF and then we circled…

6 - rounding petco park.JPG…around to the main entrance by home plate.  Inside the main entrance, there is a big, cool, rock waterfall wall:

7 - petco waterfall wall.JPGMy Dad, Tim, Al and I headed to our seats, which were in the 18th row directly behind home plate.  They were amazing seats.  A bunch of Mariners pitchers were playing catch down the 3B line, so Tim and I headed over there while my Dad and Al hung out chatting in our seats.

We stayed in the same place and watched a couple different sets of M’s pitchers play catch.   First, Jason Vargas (foreground below) and Luke French (background below) played right in front of us.  At one point, French threw a low and inside (for a righty) pitch that Vargas couldn’t handle…

8 - french vargas.jpg…it trickled right by Vargas and into my glove.  I immediately scooped it up and tossed it back to Vargas — he needed the ball and I couldn’t stand in the way of my team’s pitchers getting their work in.  When I tossed the ball back to Vargas, I asked if we could get the ball back when they were finished.  He said, “Maybe.”  Unfortunately, the maybe turned into a “no” because Vargas and French got into a deep discussion about grips on the ball (see inset picture) and they kept handing the ball back and forth as they walked back to the dugout.

Next, David Aardsma and Brandon League started stretching right in front of us.  The D.A. gave Tim a smile and a little wave…

9 - aardsma waves league stretches.JPG…which Tim thought was pretty cool.  After playing some warm up catch, League started pitching to Aardsma with the D.A. crouched on the foul line.  Early on, a pitch trickled by the D.A. and I scooped it up.  As I tossed it back to Aardsma, I asked if we could get it back after they finished playing catch.  He gave me a more definitive answer than Vargas, “Yeah.”

As we waited for League and Aardsma to wrap up, former All-Star Chad Cordero walked by and was happy to sign an autograph and pose for a picture with Tim:

10 - tim and chad cordero.JPGTim was working on another All-Star ballot while we watched the pitchers warming up.  League was still pitching to Aardsma.  Eventually, Tim asked me if I would pick him up.  For the first time, I took off my glove (set it on the wall) and bent down to pick up Tim.

WHHHHHHHIZZZZZZ BAAAAAANGGGGGGGG!!!

The hard tossing Brandon League uncorked a wild and blazing fast ball past Aardsma.  From the corner of my eye, I saw it skip off the outer edge of the warning track.  As I lifted Tim up, the ball violently hit the very top of the padded wall…at literally the top inch of the wall.   People shreaked as they thought the ball was going to smash me and Tim.  Had the wall been an inch shorter, it would have slammed into my side.   And it would have really hurt, I could tell.  An usher came to ask us if we were alright.  Luckily, the wall was just high enough and the ball bounced back onto the grass on the 3B side of Aardsma.

Soon, League and Aardsma switched positions and League was crouched on the foul line catching the D.A.

The day before, Ryan Rowland-Smith had told us that he has daily discussions with Cliff Lee about pitching.  Today, we watched first hand as…

11 - RRS working with Cliff Lee.JPG…RRS worked with (and learned from) Lee.

Eventually, Aardsma snuck a pitch by League and, for the third time, I scooped the ball up off of the warning track and threw the ball back.  This time, I asked League if we could get the ball when they were finished.  Instead of making us wait to find out the answer, he walked over and grabbed his wild pitch ball that had almost taken me out, and he tossed the baseball to me.

Thanks, Brandon!

Soon thereafter, Lee and RRS headed over to RF so RRS could do some work off of the mound in the M’s bullpen.  We decided to head over there as well.  Actually, we didn’t know they’d gone over there.  We just saw action in the M’s bullpen and figured we should see what was happening.

When we got over there, Lee was chatting up a Padre in the OF grass right next to the bullpen and RRS was pitching to Cook & Son Hall of Famer Jason Phillips:

12 - CS HOFs RRS and Phillips with autos.jpgBetween pitches, Phillips saw us and said hi.  After RRS finished his work, Jason came over to the fence and chatted with us a bit.  It was nice to chat with him.  As we were splitting up, I asked if I could get his picture with RRS and he asked if we wanted a baseball.  So, after he hooked us up with a ball — our ninth overall from Phillips and our 7th stadium getting a ball from him — he went to grab Ryan.  But Ryan was busy talking to Rick Adair.  When RRS was finished, he said hi to us and I asked if I could get his picture with Phillips.  So, he grabbed Jason and they posed for the picture above.

Ryan knows that Jason is a Cook & Son Hall of Famer because he saw it on our blog, so he understood why I wanted their picture together.  But I have no clue if Jason knows about the C&S Hall of Fame.  I guess I should ask him later this season.

After the picture, Tim and I started heading back to our seats and Tim tapped me on the leg and quietly asked, “Can I ask Jason Phillips something?”  (FYI, Tim pretty regularly asks me extremely quietly if he can ask people questions).  We headed back over to the bullpen and I got Jason’s attention and said, “The little guy has something he wants to tell you.”  Tim yelled out, “My favorite baseball players are the MARINERS!”  That gave Jason a big smile.

Then we headed to our seats.  Check this out:

13 - Tim 51.jpgIn that picture, I am sitting in my seat (Section 101, Row 18, Seat 1) and Tim is standing next to the row in front of us (wearing his new helmet with Ichiro’s “51” on the front and side).

Here was the view:

13a - petco section 101 row 18 seat 1.jpgSo you want to hear something crazy?  We literally just left the bullpen where we were talking to Jason Phillips and we arrived at our seats where we discovered we were sitting right next to Jason’s family.  Prodded by a very nice and talkative federal employee, we all started chatting.  I ended going over and sitting right in front of Mr. Phillips for a bit and discussing our many run-ins with his son.  He told us an interesting piece of trivia that I did not know:  Jason Phillips hit the 5,000th homerun in Mets franchise history off of Randy Wolf of the Phillies.  (FYI, Ken Griffey, Jr. achieved the same accomplishment for the Mariners in 2009).

The reason the whole discussion started in our section is because Jason’s dad was wearing some huge rings and the federal employee asked him what they were.  Here is a look at one of the rings:

14 - Tim the World Champion 51.JPGJason’s dad is on a softball team that has won the world championship twice in the last couple years.  And these were some huge and legit looking rings.  Two seconds after this picture, Tim asked Jason’s dad if he could have this ring.

By the way, this wasn’t the only championship ring in our immediate vicinity.  This ring was sitting on a finger two rows behind us on the opposite side of the stairs…

18 - a stranger among us.JPG…and it belonged to a Yankees scout (whose work failed to prevent the Mariners from soon taking 2 of 3 against the Yankees in the Bronx).

 You might have noticed in the panorama a couple pictures above that there were military people standing at each position on the field.  Sundays at Petco Park are military appreciation days.  There were a bunch of military people on the field before the game…

15 - military day.JPG…and a whole bunch more sitting in the upper deck down the 1B line.

This meant that the Padres were also wearing their camoflague jerseys…

16 - padres camo jersey.JPG…which I am showing off in this picture because I think the contrast in the first kid’s face and Heath Bell’s face is hilarious.  That kid gunned the ceremonial first pitch to the backstop…and the throw would have been behind a left handed batter.

Soon, the game was underway.  Ichiro led off with a walk…

17 - Ichiro walks in 1st 6-13-10.JPG…check out that view!  Unfortunately, as is happening way too much this season, Figgy erased Ichiro…

19 - Figgy GIDP in 1st 6-13-10.JPG…by grounding into a double play.

This view of home plate was so great, I could hardly stop myself from taking pictures of every at bat.

I cannot thank Al enough for hooking us up with these seats.  It was a joy to watch King Felix dominate the Padres from this amazing view:

20 - Felix baffles Eckstein in 1st 6-13-10.JPGBy the way, that is David Eckstein about to pop out to lead off the bottom of the first.  He would go 0-4 with 2 Ks against King Felix.

The only downside about these seats was that they were right out in the open beneath the hot sun.  No shade at all.  Tim is a big fan of shade, and not so much of the sun.  But we cooled the boy off with an ice cream helmet…

21 - ice cream time 6-13-10.JPG…early in the game.  By the way, that is Jason Phillips dad three down from Tim wearing the royal blue hat and about to pop some seeds in his mouth.  He was decked out in Blue Jays gear to support his other son, Kyle Phillips.  And that is Al sitting right next to Tim.

The last time I saw King Felix hit in interleague play, he hit a grand slam off of Johan Santana.  Today, he was all about sacrifice bunting…

22 - sacrificial felix.JPG…like this successful sacrifice in the top of the third.  Unfortuantely, this sacrifice ultimately did not produce any runs because Ichiro…

23 - Ichiro grounds out in 3rd 6-13-10.JPG…followed with a groundout for the final out of the top of the third inning.

 Leading off the bottom of the third, Scott Hairston got the first Padres hit of the day off of King Felix, and then something crazy and horrible followed.

Tony Gwynn, Jr. hit this pitch on a low line to CF (see how Gutierrez is already reading the ball to be a little off toward LF)…

24 - tony gwynn jr quadruple part 1.JPG…but the ball was low and must have knuckled.  I could see right off the bat that Guti was having trouble figuring out how far the ball would travel.  The ball was coming down quick…

25 - tony gwynn jr quadruple part 2.JPG…and at the last minute, Gutierrez swooped in to try to snar it.  But it fell a tiny bit short and rolled all the way to the wall.  Gwynn was off to the races and he did not stop until he had a stand up “quadruple.”

I don’t think that I have ever witnessed a professional “inside the park homerun” before, Tim definitely had not.  After witnessing this one, I think they should be called “quadruples” because they are a whole lot more like triples than they are homeruns.  They’re fundamentally different than homeruns.  Pretty exicting.  I just wish the Mariners could have had a “do over” because Gutierrez catches everything and given a second chance, I know he would have caught this one too.

 All of sudden, we were losing 2-0 despite the fact that Felix Hernandez was generally dominating the Padres.  We needed some offense, and Milton Bradley was happy to provide it…

26 - Milton Bradley post HR celebration.JPG…in the form of a traditional 2-run homerun in the top of the fourth.  The score was now tied 2-2, much better.

Soon, Tim needed some relief from the sun.  So we took a walk in the shady concourse that turned into a tour of the remaining part of Petco Park that I didn’t see the day before.  We headed up to the upper deck in RF… 

27 - exploring petco.JPG…where it looked like this:

27a - petco RF upper deck panorama.jpgThen we headed to the top of the upper deck in deep RCF:

28 - petco RCF upper deck back panorama.jpgFrom up there, we could look down on the Park in the Park…

28a - petco PITP from RF.JPG…the bleachers…

29 - petco bleachers from RF.JPG…and the Beach:

30 - petco beach from RF.JPGBy the way, check out the kids sitting digging in the sand with their backs turned to the field.  Not a bright idea.  Hopefully no kid ever gets (or has already gotten) tagged by a homerun into the Beach.

On our way back over to foul territory, a nice fan took our picture (with Ichiro batting in the background):

31 - TJCs petco RF ichiro.JPGWe noticed a weird little flag court area in the RF foul upper deck area where the Padres have flag depicting the league standings…

32 - petco hidden standings flags.JPG…I describe it as “weird” because from most places in the stadium these flags range from very hard to see to impossible to see.  In fact, I never noticed them until walking by them…for the second time.

Even from above, Felix looked dominant:

33 - felix from above 6-13-10.JPGWe decided to go up to the top of the RF foul seats behind the military guys.  Here was the view:

33a - petco RF foul upper military view panorama.jpg…and a very, very similar view (from just across the aisle and down a little bit from the last panorama:

33b - petco RF foul upper end military view panorama.jpgTim did his best attempt at standing at attention when this kind Marine officer (at least I’m guessing he is an officer, he appeared to be in charge of the rest of them) agreed to pose for a picture with Tim:

34 - Tim and Zamora.JPGSometimes Tim is a little shy.  Just before these pictures, he walked down the stairs whispering “thank you” to the Marines.  I am positive that none of them heard him.

As we made our way down the walkway ramps to the field level, I took this shot showing the interesting architecture of Petco Park:

35 - petco architecture.JPGAt the very bottom in RF (it seemed like it was even lower than the field level), the concourse was full of military stuff.  Like this huge model aircraft carrier:

36 - petco aircraft carrier RF lower concourse.JPGBy the time we returned to our seats, Al had taken off.  So it was just the three of us roadtrippers when an ausher took this picture of us as Felix warms up in the background…

37 - 7th inning stretch at petco.JPG…with the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh.

After our stadium tour, Tim did a much better job staying cooling in the seats.  He did some fake running poses…

39 - petco seat fun.JPG…and exploded a bunch of peanut shells.  See that funny straw hat on the lady sitting in front of Tim in the top right picture?  That old lady was unintentionally hilarious.  She was a Padres fan and her husband was a Mariners fan who used to live in Seattle.  At random times throughout the day, she would aggressively mutter “hit it over the fence!  hit it over the fence!” at her Padres batters and she would sound disgusted if the Mariners did anything good.

Luckily, the Mariners gave her a few more opportunities to sound disgusted.

Going into the top of the 8th inning, the score was still 2-2.  The Padres starter, Clayton Richard, had gone 7 innings giving up only 5 hits and 2 runs, but they lifted him for Luke Gregerson in the 8th.

Gregerson started off by giving up an infield single to Chone Figgins.  Two batters later, Jose Lopez smacked this ball…

40 - jose lopez go ahead double in 8th 6-13-10.JPG…for a line drive double down the 3B line.  Chone touched home to grab a 3-2 lead for the Mariners.

Although nothing more came of it, it was fun to see Milton Bradley talk home plate umpire Angel Hernandez into a hit by pitch later in the inning…

41 - bradley works a HBP.JPG…the Padres weren’t too happy with the call, but Hernandez wasn’t persuaded to reconsider his call.

In the top of the 9th, the Mariners were still leading 3-2 when Joe Thatcher took the hill for the Padres.  Thatcher promptly surrendered a single to Mariners catcher Rob Johnson.  It was Rob’s third hit of the day and I later learned that it was only the second 3-hit day of his career.  Interestingly, we were also present for his only other 3-hit game last season.

Felix Herandez came to the plate next and sacrificed his favorite catcher over to second base.

That brought Ichiro to the plate.  Ichiro and the Mariners were looking for a little insurance for their slim 1-run lead.  Ichiro started by bunting the first pitch foul…

42 - ichiro foul bunt in 9th 6-13-10.JPG…next he watched a ball and foul tipped a stike…

43 - ichiro watches one 6-13-10.JPG…then with a count of 1-2, Ichiro got his pitch and played a little game of switcheroo with Johnson…

44 - ichiro insurance in 9th 6-13-10.JPG…Ichiro took Rob’s spot at second and Rob took Ichiro’s at home.  And just like that the Mariners had a 4-2 lead.

Tim and I like to try to get a ball from the umpire after a game.  But in the first four games of the roadtrip we hadn’t even tried.  Since we were already sitting so close to the umpires’ tunnel at this game, we figured we might as well give it a shot.

The umpires’ tunnel at Petco Park is at the home plate side of the visitors’ dugout.  In the bottom of the ninth, with Felix back on the mound gunning for a complete game, we headed over to try to stand in the cross aisle right behind the tunnel.  An usher saw us and suggested that we sit in some of the open seats nearby.  He pointed out some seats that he had in mind.

I asked him if it would be okay to go a little closer to the umpires’ tunnel.  He said, “Oh, you want to try to get a ball after the game?  Sure!”  And he let us take these seats right above the tunnel:

45 - Felix goes 26 outs.JPGIn that picture, Felix Hernandez is about to walk down into the dugout.  He got the first batter in the bottom of the ninth, but then surrendered a single to Adrian Gonzalez.  When Scott Hairston hit an infield grounder, everyone in the stadium thought it was a game ending double play.  But Hairston beat it out and Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu decided to pull Felix and put in David Aardsma.

Felix was upset about not getting to finish the game.  But on his fourth pitch, the D.A. induced a pop fly by Nick Hundley and the scoreboard showed the happy totals:

46 - happy totals from petco 6-13-10.JPGAfter the almost double play, the usher came by to give us some advice on getting a ball from the umpire.  He was very nice.  But with the pop fly out, we had plenty of time to get into the corner spot right at the back of the dugout and side of the umpire tunnel.

Angel Hernandez walked off and walked right over to Tim and handed him this baseball…

47 - Cowboy Joe West and Tim.JPG…5 seconds later, 3B umpire “Cowboy” Joe West walked by and grabbed the baseball back from Tim and started walking into the tunnel with the baseball.  He then turned back around and brought the ball back to Tim.  He was very amused by his little prank.  And we used the opportunity to give Joe West some high fives and then get this awesome picture (above left) of Tim and West.

I had wanted real bad to get a picture of Tim with an umpire for the mygameballs.com photo scavenger hunt.  It seemed to me like it was the hardest picture in the competition to get.  The umpires generally don’t linger on the field after games.  They take off quick.  So the fact that West decided to play a fast one on Tim and take his baseball back was the perfect opportunity.

Thank you, Joe West!  And thank you, Angel Hernandez, too!

Our day at the ballpark wasn’t finished just yet.  It was Kids Run The Bases time!

The line started deep in the Park in the Park…

48 - like a parade.JPG…while waiting to get back into the stadium, the Marines marched by and the crowd gave them a long ovation as they filed by.  Tim was up on my shoulders and asked, “Is this a parade?”

We entered the field through a ramp next to the bleachers and beach:

49 - petco RTB approach.JPGThe line took a while to finally get into the field.  But finally we made it!  And it was awesome.  Some stadiums have strict policies and strict ushers enforcing them during Kids Run The Bases.  Our first sign of the relaxed attitude was that an usher agreed to take this picture of us kneeling in front of the “400” foot sign:

50 - TJCs and petco 400.JPGNormally during Kids Run The Bases, we have to ask other fans to take our pictures because the ushers just say, “Keep moving, keep moving.”

We stopped right by the usher who took that picture so I could get a shot of Tim with the field behind him…

51 - Time the OF umpire.JPG…after I took those pictures, he told me he was standing like an umpire.

We always try to get our picture by the RF foul pole and OF fence distance marker.  This turned out being one of my favorite pictures ever…

52 - Tim makes the catch.JPG…first I told Tim to stand next to the “322” like he was playing outfield.  Then I told him to jump against the wall like he was trying to catch a baseball.  I absolutely love that jumping picture.  Check that out, he’s hanging in the air!

The relaxed usher attitude carried over to the bullpen.  Tim played a little catcher…

53 - Tim mans the bullpen plate.JPG…by the way, we seemed to be the only people running around taking fun pictures on our walk to home plate.  Sure, some people were taking pictures with the field behind them.  But I didn’t see anyone else snapping pictures by the wall or in the bullpen.  They missed out on some great photo opportunities!

Thanks, Padres!

Here is another random shot with the field behind Tim…

54 - Tim and petco.JPG…and then I opened up this box and checked out the bullpen phone…

55 - Tim in petco bullpen.JPG…and Tim sat on the bullpen bench.

The Padres did a great job with the actual run too.  They spaced the kids out really well.  When we walked up, I must have looked like I wanted to follow Tim (which I did) because the 1B usher said to me, “Go for it!”  So I followed Tim with my camera ablazing… 

56 - tim runs the bases petco.JPG…along the way, Tim gave the Friar a high speed high five.

My dad stayed in the seats behind the 3B dugout where he got this video on his camera:

After the run, the ushers were still pretty relaxed.  I got our standard “with the dugout” picture…

57 - TJCs and Petco 3B dugout.JPG…then an usher let my Dad hop down onto the field to get this picture with us…

58 - 3 Cooks at Petco.JPG…and I transferred Tim over to my Dad’s shoulder to get this picture by the “336” sign in LF:

59 - Tim and Grandpa 336.JPGBy the way, see those two windows behind the LF fence?  Those go into the Padres team store.  There is a door from the team store into a little triangle standing area just behind the fence where fans can watch the game from field level through the chain link OF fence.

After that last picture, we headed out to our car…

60 - goodbye petco.JPG…and said our good-byes to Petco Park.  It was a great two game set in San Diego.

We stayed at the Chula Vista KOA again.  After the game, we took a little dip in the pool…

62 - post game swim and mexican food.JPG…and then went to dinner at an amazing Mexican restaurant in a little strip mall.  It wasn’t an impressive place from the outside, but the food was delicious and the people were extremely nice.  So, if you’re in Chula Vista, be sure to check out Casa Del Taco.

2010 Fan Stats:

13 Games

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


61 - SD ICH and baseballs 6-13-10.JPG12 Ice Cream Helmets
(Orioles (3), Phillies, Padres (2), Pirates (2), Mets, Dodgers, Athletics & Nationals)

32 Baseballs (6 Mariners, 1 Angels, 3 Athletics, 3 Brewers, 3 Nationals, 2 Blue Jays, 5 Umpires, 1 Phillies, 1 Mets, 4 Braves, 1 Orioles, 1 Dodgers, 1 Padres)

8 Stadiums (Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, PNC Park, Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, Dodgers Stadium, PETCO Park)

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

1 Umpire Photo (“Cowboy” Joe West)

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

5 Kids Run The Bases (Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, PNC Park, PETCO Park)

Ultimate Goal: Accomplished (8-23-09)

Only once before have I broken the normal protocol and started an entry at the middle of a game, rather than at the beginning.  It was for our third game at Fenway back in July, and the purpose was to explain Ken Griffey Jr.’s fourth inning single off of the Green Monster.  At the time, it was the first and only hit Tim had ever seen Griffey collect.  It was a truly special moment.  You can read all about it here.

Once again, I am happy to brake with tradition.  Once again, I will start my story with zero outs in the top of the fourth inning.  Once again, the story will involve my favorite player of all time, Mr. Ken Griffey, Jr.

1 - griff in lineup.jpgGuess what, when we arrived at The Jake and checked the Mariners line-up, Griff was in there – scheduled to hit clean-up and DH.  That’s a good start.

Before the season started, I sat down at my computer, pulled up a bunch of MLB schedules and drafted the official “Todd & Tim Cook 2009 Baseball Agenda.”  I then emailed the Agenda to a select group of “Important People” (family, friends, etc.) and invited people to join us on our ride through the 2009 season.  Along with the agenda, I included the following note detailing the goals I had in mind when drafting the agenda:

Important People,
 
    Below, please find the official Todd & Tim Cook 2009 Baseball Agenda*.  The basic goals of the Agenda include:
 
1) See Griff hit a Homerun as a Mariner (most important goal);
2) Complete Tim’s “Seen all MLB Teams” Goal (left to see: A’s, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Red Sox, Rays, Dodgers, Padres, Astros, and Braves);
3) Continue new Baseball Roadtrip tradition;
4) Visit 10+ stadiums, including HHH Metrodome (final season), Nationals Park (2d season), Yankee Stadium (first season) and Citi Field (first season);
5) Continue 9/12 Baseball Anniversary tradition;
6) Get Gill to his first MLB and Mariners Game;
7) Get Poppy out to the ball field at least twice; and
8) Have fun and make memories.

At the beginning of the day, with 26 games under our collective belt on the season, Tim and I had covered most of the goals:  “All 30 Teams” – check; Baseball Roadtrip – check; 10+ stadiums (including HHH Metrodome, Nationals Park, New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field) – check; Continue 9/12 Baseball Anniversary tradition – check (we’ll be at Yankee Stadium on 9/12/09 for the third anniversary of Tim’s first game); and Have Fun and Make Memories – check.

Due to a chain of events including a miscommunication, a late invite to the Outer Banks and a Citizens Bank Park sell out, goals 6-7 had to be re-scheduled a couple times and, ultimately, suspended until next season.

But goal number one was left incomplete.  In what might have otherwise gone down as a perfect season of baseball fandom, the most important task was left undone.  The mere possibility of it was the entire reason for this trip.  To see my boyhood (and, heck, my adulthood) baseball hero blast a homerun and share the moment with my son was all I wanted out of this season.

Enter, Fausto Carmona and the top of the fourth inning.  Tim and I were out on the bridge that connects The Jake to a parking lot behind the LF bleachers.  He’d been a little grumpy because he hadn’t had a nap, plus I think he was a little bit hungry.  Colleen went down to Heritage Park and was in line to buy some pizza.  I was holding Tim in my arms and this was our view:

2 - jake griff HR panaramic.jpgCarmona started Griff off Ball 1, Ball 2.  Then he reached back and hurled a 93-mph 4-seem fast ball that caught wwwwwwaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy too much of the plate…
3 - griff 624 gameday.jpg…and this happened (picts courtesy of MLB.com screen shots)…

griff 624b.jpg
5 - griff 624d.jpg
6 - griff624a.jpgRight off the bat, it looked like a home run.  However, Grady Sizemore was going back on it like he thought he might have a play on it.   Worse yet, the roof of the batter’s eye bar was in my way.  I could tell it would land out of view on the other side of the roof.  So, I ran toward RF down the bridge until the roof was no longer in play.  I saw Sizemore run out of room and the ball bounced sideways off something in the CF seats, took one big hop and was gloved by a lucky fan.  Here was the estimated flight path of the ball (as estimated unscientifically by me):

7 - griff bomb path.jpg…the guy cirlced on the right is the lucky guy who took home No. 624 on Griff’s career.

Due to the odd angle looking down from the bridge, I couldn’t tell for sure if it was a home run until the second it bounced in the seats.  But the second it bounced, I jumped in the air with Tim still in arms and gave a little shout:  “YESSSSS!!!”

I immediately began fidgeting with my pocket to try to get my camera out, but I had a wardrobe malfunction and couldn’t get it out of my pocket until right before Griff crossed the plate.  This is the only shot I got of our magical moment in Cleveland:

8 - griff about to score on HR624.jpgWhen we arrived home late that night, I watched the video highlight of Griffey’s home run on MLB.com, and I was excited to see that (although you cannot make us out) you can see me and Tim (the blue (my jersey) and white (the front of my hat) blob) moving across the bridge during the highlight of Griff’s bomb.  Here is a screen shot that shows Griff’s HR ball in the air and Tim and me on the bridge:

9 - KGJ HR 624.jpgAnd there you have it:  our number one goal of the season completed!  Never did I imagine 20 years ago, as an eighth grader going to games with my folks and marvelling at Griffey hitting homeruns in the Kingdome, that some day I would be in Cleveland, Ohio and witness the Greatest Mariner of All-Time hit a home run for the M’s while spending an afternoon at the ball park with my son.  It was truly incredible.

And, as my mom said to my dad while watching the game on TV some 2,500+ miles away, “that home run just made Todd’s whole trip.”  It did.  In fact, it made my whole season.

Now…I hope to get a chance to do it again!!

Okay, now that we have the most important part of the game covered, why don’t we go back and start from the beginning.  It was kids’ day at the park.  Outside the LF entrance, they had all sorts of games and events for kids.  Like these little peddle cars that Tim drove around a little coned track:

10 - tims hotrod.jpg

After Tim drove this car, Colleen and Tim played around some more while I went into the Jake and watched the last few minutes of Mariners BP.  I hadn’t gotten much in terms of stadium pictures the day before, so I needed to tour around a bit.

I headed to home plate where I got this panaramic view:

11 - jake plate field panaramic.jpgI headed down to the front row and tried to walk down the 1B line in that big red front aisle, but I got booted out.  Apparently, that aisle is only for really special people.  Since it was such an important aisle, I took a picture of it…

12 - red carpet.jpg…the guy standing at the end of the red aisle is the guy who booted me out of the aisle.

Two seconds later, Colleen called me and I headed back over to LF and met up with her and Tim.

We had excellent seats in the second deck just above the Mariners bullpen.  So we headed over there to check things out.

Colleen sat in our seats while Tim and I hung out in the front row where this was our view…

13 - jake rf bullpen middle panaramic.jpg…as we watched Felix Hernandez warm up:

14 - felix warms.jpgAfter playing catch in the OF, Felix went into the bullpen and pitched off of the mound to M’s back-up catcher Rob Johnson.  (I’ll still call Kenji Johjima our starter).  It was pretty funny watching Felix warm up.  We actually couldn’t see Felix because the mounds are under the second deck.  So we could just see the ball fly into view and into Johnson’s glove.

All of a sudden Tim started yelling down to Johnson:  “Hey, sneakers!  Hey, sneakers!  Can you throw me a ball sneakers!   Hey, sneakers!  Hey, sneakers!  Hey, sneakers!”

I asked Tim why he was calling Johnson sneakers and explained his name was Rob Johnson.  Tim responded, “That’s sneakers.  Sneakers is my friend.”

I asked him why he called him sneakers.  “He’s wearing sneakers.”  Of course!

A few minutes later, the Mariners relievers marched out to take their spot in the bullpen:

15 - relievers.jpgAbove to the right is the aftermath of a hilarious scene that I missed photographing.  (I was wearing a new pair of shorts and I could never seem to get my camera out of the cargo pockets in time!).  Mariners closer David Aardsma is standing at the bottom.  Two seconds before this shot, he just finished going down that line of relievers having each of them smell the inside of his hat.  Each reliever buried his face in Aardsma’s cap and then they would chat about how it smelled.  It was pretty hilarious — much more hilarious than this picture of the aftermath of smellfest.

Soon, the game started.  Just then, Tim spotted the kids’ funland that was situated directly behind our section (section 316).  Here is a photo:

15a - step 2 kids funland.jpgAs MLB stadium play areas go, this one is pretty weak.  If you have young kids, you’ll notice that everything in here is something you probably have in your playroom or back yard, or maybe your friends’ have it in their playroom or back yard.  Nothing special here.  Step 2, the manufacturer of all this stuff, is headquartered just outside of Cleveland.  I guess that is why they have an all-Step 2 play area.  Whether it was comparatively weak or not, Tim still loved it in there.  He never wanted to leave he was having so much fun.  Therefore, Colleen hung out with him and I watched the Mariners bat from the standing room counter behind our section.  It looked like this:

16 - jake rf foul middle panaramic.jpg…and then I went on a little stadium tour.  I started by climbing to the top of the upper deck in RCF:

17 - jake RF upper panaramic.jpgNext, I headed across the rows to the RF foul corner:

18 - jake RF foul upper panaramic.jpg.

Here are a couple more picts showing the empty upper deck concourse in RF and an incredibly steep look down to the RF foul pole:

19 - up high in cleveland.jpgThe view from the top behind home plate:

20 - jake plate upper panaramic.jpgThen, an Indian hit a liner to CF and Franklin Gutierrez came running in to make the play…

21 - franklin grab in CF.jpgAnd, I got some shots of the bullpens:

22 - bullpens grass turf.jpgThis is interesting.  Exactly like the bullpens at Nationals Part, the bullpen in the RF corner (to the right) is field turf, but the bullpen in CF (to the left) is real grass.  Odd, huh?  In D.C., I thought it was because there was an entrance from the employee-only (worker) level concourse where they could bring tractors, etc., through the bullpen to the field.  I figured they put in turf so the heavy equipment passing through the bullpen wouldn’t get damaged.  But I didn’t notice a similar tractor entrance in Cleveland.  I’m not sure why one bullpen is grass and the other is turf.

Here is a view into the Mariners dugout — where Griffey (pre-home run) can be seen chatting up some of his teammates):

23 - Mariners dugout.jpgHe came to the plate while I was passing by, so I took this picture of Tim’s friend “sneakers”:

24 - sneakers.jpgAfter sneakers, I took a couple shots of Ichiro that I combined to make this:

25 - ichiromotion hit 184.jpgThat swing resulted in a single up the middle for Ichi’s 184th hit of the season.

I headed up to the upper corner in LF where I got this view:

26 - jake LF foul upper panaramic.jpgAfter the tour, I met up with Colleen and Tim.  Tim still didn’t want to leave the play area.  But we got him out of there in time to witness Griff’s bomb, as described above.

So, remember I mentioned Colleen was in line for pizza when Griff hit his home run?  Well, she wasn’t able to get any.  She is a vegatarian and when she got to the front of the line, they had just given away the last slice of cheese pizza.  All that was left was pepperoni.  So she came back and met up with us again.

After a little bit, we went back and I stood in the incredibly short but frustratingly slow pizza line.  While in line, I took this picture of King Felix:

27 - felix from pizza line.jpg.

There were literally only 2 people in front of me in line for pizza.  But before I made my way to the front of the line, Felix retired the side, the teams switched positions, and Griff came to bat.  I was forced to abandon my spot in line to go watch Griff’s at bat, and take this picture:

28 - griff takes ball.jpgUnfortunately, the home run was Griff’s only hit on the day, so this at bat didn’t end well.

After Tim got some pizza in him (yes, I eventually did make it through the pizza line), Tim forgot about the play area and we relocated to the LF bleachers so he wouldn’t see the playarea again.

Here is Tim out in the bleachers:

29 - tim the bleacher boy.jpgHere was our view from the bleachers:

30 - jake LF HR bleachers panaramic.jpgTim and I had fun eating sunflower seeds out in the bleachers, and Tim had a blast spitting seeds:

31 - cleveland seeds.jpgUnfortunately, it wasn’t the Mariners day.  We wouldn’t push any more runs across the plate after Griff’s home run.  Meanwhile, Felix had an off-day.  The Mariners lost 6-1.

It was Kids Run The Bases day, but we had a six hour drive following the game, and Tim really needed a nap in the car so we headed out.

Despite two terrible losses, it was great to see our Mariners once again this season, and it was OUTSTANDING to see Griff hit his 624th home run of his career.

Season Fan Stats:

27 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
1 Ken Griffey, Jr. Homerun
(Career Homerun No. 624, August 23, 2009 in Cleveland)

12 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, HHH Metrodome, Miller Park, U.S. Cellular, and “Jacobs” Field)
24 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Royals, White Sox, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals, Marlins, Pirates, Astros, and Brewers — and sort of the Giants)

22 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (5), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3), Yankees, Twins, Cubs, Brewers, White Sox, and Indians (and 1 Brewers Cheese Fries Helmet))
25 Baseballs (14 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, 1 Astros, 1 Royals, 1 Indians) 
MLB Closed Out (NL Closed out on 8/16/09, AL Closed out on 8/17/09) 
4 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Perry) 
4 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry) 
10 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose, Orioles Bird, Slider (Indians), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats), 4 Running Sausages (Brewers) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)

 

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