Results tagged ‘ whiffle ball ’

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)

Fun Times in Queens (10-3-09)


For a while, I’d been wanting to go back to Citi Field for a second game.  We’d gone in April when the Stadium was just two weeks old.  I wasn’t a huge fan of it then.  It was too crowded and I felt like we couldn’t get anywhere near the field.


Well, a few weeks ago, I found a pair of $25/ticket upper deck tickets on Stub Hub for $3 each.  We couldn’t pass it up.


I was excited to see Citi Field again, not only because I knew it would be far less crowded due to the Mets poor performance but, because it would be our first game ever in the month of October.  Plus, I was hoping we’d get a ball — our first ever in Queens.


We started out early by driving to New York (or as Tim says “You Nork”) and, as the picture below shows…


1 - getting there.jpg…we headed through the Lincoln Tunnel, parked in the Upper West side, hopped on the C-Train at 81st Street, transferred to the 7-Train at 42nd, watched all of the graffiti go by in the rooftops of Queens, and arrived at Citi Field at about 11:40 a.m.

We entered the stadium through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda and headed up the escalator toward LF to see if there would be BP taking place.  After getting denied access to the field section behind the 3B dugout, we headed down the line and grabbed a spot on the railing by LF.  The Astros were hitting and this was our view: 
2 - citi lf foul field panarama.jpgThere were two Astos pitchers shagging balls down in the LF corner and Tim was watching them like a hawk:
 


3 - jose cruz samuel gervacio wilton lopez and tim.jpgIn the picture above to the left, the middle guy is Samuel Gervacio and the guy on the right is Wilton Lopez.  Lopez was having a grand old time toying with the crowd.  On every ball he caught, he faked like he was going to toss into the stands and then he’d turn around with an ear-to-ear smile and throw it in toward the bucket.  Eventually, former Astro and current Astros coach Jose Cruz (above to the far left) walked out to LF with his fungo bat.

As by strolled by, I asked him, “Hey, coach, can you fungo a ball up here for my son?”  He nodded “yes” and pointed at Tim as if to say, “Is that him?”  I nodded, “Yes.”

Meanwhile, Lopez was taunting the crowd with yet another ball.  Quitely but very authoritatively, Cruz called out to Lopez and motioned for the ball.  Lopez’s face instantly turned from playful-kid to serious-and-respectful.  He toss the ball to Cruz without hesitation.

Cruz turned around and tossed me this:


4 - 1st career ball in queens.jpgCook & Son’s first ball ever in Queens!  And our first ball with the patented Houston Astros “H” magic markered onto the sweet spot.

“Thanks, Mr. Cruz!”

Tim was a little upset that he did’t catch it himself.  He got bit by the catching bug, I guess, after meeting up with Ryan Rowland-Smith in Toronto the previous weekend.

At this point, Tim was just wearing his socks and his shoes were in my backpack.  I told him to put on his shoes so we could head out to the OF and poke around.  He wasn’t too interested in his shoes.  So, I popped him up on my shoulders and we walked to the LF seats.  On our way, I heard, “Hey, Todd!”  I looked up and it was Alex K. from “Riveravenue.”  We’d met Alex in Chicago at Tim’s 30th MLB team milestone game.  We’d exchanged some emails and knew we might run into each other at this game.

As we went over and started chatting with Alex, I heard another voice call out, “Hi Todd and Tim.”  It was Joe from “Baseballexperiences.”  I’d never met Joe before, but I’d read about him on Zack Hample’s Blog and, through Zack, on his own blog.

Joe introduced himself and said he reads our blog.  Its always cool to meet people from MLBlogs.  And these guys would turn out to be extremely cool and fun to roam around the stadium with at several points during the day.  They were absolutely great with Tim and he couldn’t get enough of them.

We started by chatting and then a picture:


5 - tim's guys.jpgJoe is on the left and Alex is holding Tim on his lap as he reclines on the back of a seat in LF.  Note that Tim is holding his shoe.  We pulled the old Billy Madison “everyone my age __________, its the coolest!” trick on Tim (we filled in the blank with “wears shoes”), and it worked like a charm.  Tim was happy to wear his shoes after seeing that Joe and Alex were also wearing shoes.

Tim then showed off his first Citi Field ball to his new “guys”:


6 - showing off jose cruz ball.jpgAfter a few minutes, one of the guys asked if Tim and I wanted to go over to the dugout.  I said we couldn’t because we had upper-deck tickets.  They both assured us it was no problem.  Joe had an extra ticket on him — maybe it was his dad’s, I’m not sure.  Anyway, we were up for checking out the restricted area so we followed Joe:


7 - to the dugout.jpgThe guy standing a couple sections in front of Joe in the green jacket asked “do you guys have tickets over here?”  Joe flashed his ticket and the guy responded, “Yep, you do, head on in, guys.”  I think he automatically assumed we all had the right tickets.  He didn’t seem too concerned about checking the rest of our tickets, but I showed our loaner ticket anyway.

And that easily, we were behind the dugout where there was hardly anyone in the stands.  This was our view:


8 - citi 3B dugout panarama.jpgAlex snapped a picture of Tim and I as Joe watched BP wrap up:


9 - TJCs at visitors dugout.jpgThen Joe and Alex gave Tim and I advice about which Astro might want to throw us a second ball…
 


10 - dugout ball from strech suba.jpg…and it worked.  Alex and Joe both called out, “Hey, Stech,” to Astros bullpen coach Strech Suba (I think he’s the bullpen coach, at least).  I think Suba threw three balls over.  Tim and I got one.  Joe got one.  And, I think (but am not positive) that Alex got one as well.  A big time assist and thank you to Alex and Joe for that ball.

Tim was looking the other way when Suba threw us the ball.  As I caught it, he turned his head to look toward Suba.  My glove was above his head and I instantly transferred the ball from my glove to my bare hand and from my bare hand to Tim’s glove.  I then erupted with, “Tim, you just caught that ball!”  Joe and Alex followed suit with a lot of enthusiasm.  Tim was fooled, and was happy to have “caught” another ball himself.

All of a sudden Astros pitcher LaTroy Hawkins was standing right by us (and was photographed by Tim):



11 - latroy hawkings.jpgJoe and Alex, along with some other people, went over to see if he was autographing.  But he announced to everyone in the section that he wasn’t signing. He was chatting with his friends who he doesn’t get to see much because (he said) he doesn’t get to NYC much.  He stood there and chatted with some people for a long time.

BP ended and Alex and Joe suggested we head out to the kids’ play area — they were always thinking about what would make the day more fun for Tim.

When we got there, Tim and Alex posed by the fence showing off the auto-repair slums across the street from Citi Field…


12 - queens beautiful queens.jpg…after a few minutes, the ice cream man came driving down the slummish auto-row.  Not suprisingly, there were no little kids chasing him through the auto-slums.

We waited through the line for the whiffle ball field.  Before hitting, Tim cycled through the OF: 


13 - whiffle fielding.jpgTo the left, check out Tim tracking a home run ball.  To the right, Tim is in his athletic stance — ready to get an early jump on the ball.  (Click on the picture to make it larger!)

By the way, the auto-slums are just to the left of the 3B line of the whiffle ball field.

Next, Tim had his chance at bat.  You only get a couple hits before you round the bases.  But Tim loved it: 


14 - whiffle batting.jpgIn the top left, we see Tim taking a hack on the whiffle ball field’s jumbo screen.  Top right, two fielders make an effort for the ball but Tim shots it between them for a liner off of the LF wall.  Then it was time to round the bases.

Tim loved the whiffle ball field.

Next, we parted ways with Alex and Joe.  They went to watch the Astros play catch down the RF line.  Tim and I went into the second deck to look down at the field and the home run apple:


15 - mariner apple.jpgThe apple was in the “up” position during BP and Tim told me that is said “Mariners” on it.  He also thought the little leaf at the top of the apple was great.

Then it was time to grab an ice cream helmet and some seats in section 122 (I still had the ticket Joe gave me — he told me to keep it):


16 - section 122 ice cream helmet.jpgTo the left, you see our view of the plate.  To the right, Alex took a shot of us as Tim scarfed down his chocolate ice cream with sprinkles.  By the way, I just mentioned Alex again.  He and Joe saw us in our seats and came and sat by us in the first inning.

This was our field view:


17 - citi section 122 panarama.jpgNice.

Remember how I said we got $3 tickets because people were disenchanted with the Mets by this point in the season?  Well, check out the empty seats to our left and right:


18 - to left-to right.jpgThere was no one in our row!

I took my only action shots in the first inning.  Miggie Tejada laced this pitch up the middle for a line single to CF:


19a - tejada gets a hit up the middle.jpg. You can’t see the ball yet in the picture below to the left, but Lance “The Big Puma” Berkman blooped that pitch down the RF line for a single.  Tejada advanced to third where we would be stranded:


19b - puma bloops a single.jpgCarlos “El Caballo” Lee then popped up this pitch for an out.


20 - caballo pops out.jpgIn the bottom of the first, the third out was made at first.  The Astros first basemen (who is that, Berkman?), ran over to the dugout and a cluster of kids gathered in the first row to ask for the third out ball.  Alex said, “hold on, I have to run down there.”

As he left our row, Berkman launched the ball over all of the kids.  It was like it was in slow motion.  Alex left us at the perfect time.  It was like he was a wide receiver being led by a deep bomb.  He and the ball converged just as it reached head level.  And then he ran back up showing off the third out ball:


21 - alex gets third out ball.jpg…it was pretty funny.  He was gone from our row (literally) for about 7 seconds.

After the second inning, Tim was getting restless.  I asked him if he wanted to go see the Pepsi Porch in RF (second deck)…where I told him he could see the train passing back-and-forth.  He did.

On the way, we stopped by the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to get pictures with the big 42 (Tim took the picture of me and the 42):


22 - rotunda time.jpgThen we headed up to the Pepsi Porch.  Check out something really cool that I didn’t notice last time we were at Citi Field — a second jumbo screen in the RF foul corner:
 


23 - RF foul jumbo screen.jpg…that’s very cool.  Every stadium has a bunch of seats that can’t see the jumbo screen.  But with this second screen, maybe Citi Field does not have any seats in a jumbo screen blind spot.

Here is a panaramic view from the bridge leading out to the Pepsi Porch:


24 - citi walk to pepsi porch panaramic.jpgTim ran into the porch (he was in a huge running mood at this point) and ran down to the first row in the right CF side of the porch.   I followed him and took this panaramic view:


25 - citi pepsi porch 2 panramic.jpgCheck out what I found just to the right of the view of the jumbo screen/scoreboard…


26 - pepsi porch weeds.jpg…a huge “weed bed.”  Beautiful.

Here is a panaramic view from the foul side of the Pepsi Porch:
27 - citi pepsi porch 3 panaramic.jpgAnd here is a view showing the entire Pepsi Porch from the second deck of the LF foul seats:
 


28 - pepsi porch porch.jpgFrom the spot of that last photo, we turned around and headed up the stairs to the top of the stadium in RF foul territory — another area we’d never visited before at Citi Field.

Here was the view from the top:


29 - citi RF foul upper panaramic.jpgWe continued touring around the upper deck.  I decided to head back to the home plate area of the upper deck.  On the way, I took a panaramic view into the stadium from the back side of the upper deck concourse:


30 - citi rf foul upper concourse panarama.jpgSee all of the glass on the second deck across the stadium — behind the LF foul pole?   That’s a restaurant.  I asked Alex and Joe if they’d ever gone there.   One of their dad’s had been and wasn’t impressed.  There is a deck at the bottom of the restaurant (outside the glass), but apparently they won’t let people out on the deck because they made the railing too short and fear that people will fall into the field level.

Back to the tour.  Here is the view from the upper deck behind home plate:


31 - citi plate upper panaramic.jpgDue to the Sterling Club and suites that close-off the main concourse from the field behind home plate, and the railings and ushers that keep the commoners from getting into the seats behind home plate, this is the best view most people will ever get from behing home plate at Citi Field.

As you approach Citi Field from the subway, you will notice that the upper deck seating behind home plate is set way back from the front of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda entrance.  Well, in the upper deck there is a huge circular concourse area above the Rotunda and behind home plate.  The ground has a huge baseball design built into it, which I thought looked nice.  Along the outside of the concourse (the outer edge of the Rotunda roof), there are food stands, a team store (one of at least 3-4 at Citi Field).  In the middle, there are standing tables where you can stand, eat your food and watch the game on yet another jumbo screen — this one hanging from the back of the upper deck seats:


32 - citi upper deck plate concourse panaramic.jpgI gotta admit, that’s pretty cool.  They have a similar picnic area behind home plate and above the main enterance at Safeco Field, but people up there have no clue what is going on with the game.  Nice touch, Mets.  They have another one of these jumbo screens on the back of the CF scoreboard for the parents standing in the play area with their kids.

Speaking of CF, that was our next stop.  This is the view from the concourse in deep CF:


33 - citi CF 300 level panarama.jpgAnd here is a view that shows where the play area is in relation to the scoreboard and field:


34 - citi scoreboard kids area panarama.jpgWith that, our touring was concluded and Tim wanted to take some hacks in the soft toss cage.  There are two cages.  One for little kids with soft toss or a batting tee (depending on the kid’s choice).  The second has a slow pitching machine.  Here is Tim in the soft toss cage:


35 - soft toss cage.jpgThe lightest bat was really still too heavy for him.  But he had some decent hits.

Right after Tim hit in the cage, the rain started to pour down.  It was the end of the fifth inning (an official game), and the umps called for a rain delay.

Tim and I trudged around in our rain gear until we eventually found ourselves back in the Rotunda.  Tim saw some teenagers climb half-way up the “2” in Jackie Robinson’s big blue “42.”  Tim wanted to do it too, but (a) it was too high and (b) dad was having none of it.  By this time, it was about 2:30 or 3:00 pm, and Tim was ridiculously tired (no nap) and he lost it when he wasn’t allowed the scale the wet, slippery and tall 42.

As I tried to calm him down a bit, Alex and Joe found us.  They tried their best to cheer him up but he was whiney and crying up a storm.  Then, Alex asked him, “Tim do you want to go upstairs and play catch?”  Instantly, Tim’s crying stopped on a dime.  “Yes!!!,” he responded.  “Ahh, HA!,” I said to Alex and Joe, “you’ve witnessed some of Tim’s classic fake crying!”  One of them asked, “You were faking it, Tim?!”  Tim responded, “well, I was a little sad.”  Classic Tim, the actor!

We had time to kill.  So next, we went and looked at all of the “game used” stuff the Mets had for sale in the field level concourse.

After looking at that stuff for a bit, Alex and Joe asked if we want to go into the Sterling Club.  Now, the Sterling Club is the ultra-exclusive and pricey luxury club level area for all of the people with the big railed-off cushy seats behind home plate.   Alex’s dad had got tickets somehow.  After paying $3 per ticket, how could I pass up an opportunity for Tim and I to see the Sterling Club.

Joe and Alex entered the club.  Safely inside, Alex passed off his ticket to Joe and came and passed it off to me.  Joe then re-entered on his own.  Tim and I strolled around a minute in the Rotunda and then headed up the Sterling Club escalator and into the club.

The lighting in there wasn’t friendly to my camera, all of my pictures came out blurry somehow.  But he is some of what we saw:


36 - sterling stuff.jpgIn the top left, there is a ridiculously fancy looking restaurant, which looked out of place (and was totally empty) at a ballpark.  See the red arrow in top middle of the restaurant?  Its pointing to floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the visitors’ practice batting cage, which are pictured at the top right.  For perspective, the restaurant is to the left as you enter the Sterling Club and it is located roughly behind the 3B dugout.  As you view them in both of the top pictures, the field is to the left of the restuaurant and the visitors’ batting cage.

At the bottom left, there is a fancy bar (and Joe’s head).  For perspective, the restaurant is behind me as I took that picture and home plate is behind the left side of the bar.

In the bottom right, we are sitting in a little nook in the far opposite side of the Sterling Club next to a bunch of windows overlookign the Mets batting cages (they have two cages, the visitors have only one).  For perspective, the Mets (1B side) dugout is just behind and to the right of me as I took this picture.

At this end of the Sterling Club, there is another fancy bar.  This one is more of a lounge style bar.  The bar is across the back wall (opposite the field) and the rest of the room has scattered seating.

In that picture, we are drinking delicious FREE MILKSHAKES.  It was the best chocolate milk shake I’d had in a long time.

Here is the view from the cushy Sterling Club seating behind home plate:


37 - citi sterling club plate panarama.jpgIt was just misting at this point.  But no one was outside in the seats (except for Alex’s mom).  So we took the oppotunity to play catch in the expensive seats:


38 - sterling catch.jpgThis lasted about 10 minutes before an usher shut us down.

Next, we decided to go check out the old home run apple from Shea Stadium.  It is behind the bullpens in deep, deep, deep right CF.  On our walk out there, it started to rain hard again.  Here is a picture of Tim, Alex and a little girl staying dry under the top hat:


39 - shea apple.jpgAfter spending some time by the bullpens and in the RF concourse (where Tim clanked Cow Bell Man’s cowbell, Tim and Joe ran several races and Alex and Joe swung Tim around by his feet and hands), the rain stopped!

We headed toward the 3B dugout just in time to witness the removal of the tarp:


40 - end of the rain.jpgTim decided to take some pictures in the remaining down time before the game resumed, including this one of Alex and Joe:


41 - joe and alex.jpgAs the grounds crew prepared the field, the P.A. announcer invited the remaining fans to sit wherever they could find open seats in the field level (other than in the Sterling Club).

Tim and I decided to hang out in LF.  Almost everyone else decided to sit in the infield.  As a result, if anyone  was going to hit a homerun to LF, there would be great odds that we would collect our first ever home run ball.  Check out how empty the OF was (heck, check out the whole stadium!): 


42 - where is our homerun ball.jpgTim still had not napped and was still in desparate need of some rest.  But he had no interest.  What he did have interest in for “game part 2″ was “ice cream helmet part 2″:


43 - game part 2-ice cream part 2.jpgUnfortunately, no one hit a homerun for the rest of the game.

In the top of the 9th inning (with the Mets winning), we moved to the infield and sat by the tunnel where we knew the umpires would leave the field after the game.  Here was the excellent view:


44 - ninth inning view.jpgAlthough we’d already got two balls on the day (our first ever in Queens), I wanted to get a ball from the umpire because it would be a commemorative Citi Field inaugural season ball — this would be our last and best opportunity to get one of those balls.  Soon, Alex and Joe both turned up.  They had the same idea.

Tim was ready to catch a foul ball (below to left)… 


45 - one more ball.jpg…while no foul balls came our way, Tim did collect a commemorative ball from home plate umpire Damien Beal (above to right).

“Thanks, Blue!”

After chatting with Alex and Joe a little bit more, we said our good-byes (we’ll be keeping our eye out for those guys next season) and Tim and I headed to the 7-Train platform.

On the way out, I took the following night-time photo of Citi Field:


46 - good night citi field.jpg…that place always looks great in photos.

And that’s the story of our final national league game of the season.  After this game, I have a much better feeling about Citi Field.  I still don’t like the closed-off concourse behind home plate or the design of the standing room areas (no standing counters), but we had a great day in Queens.  The following day, we’d be in Baltimore for the final game of the season. 

Season Fan Stats:

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

13 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, “Jacobs” Field, and Rogers Centre)
25 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Royals, White Sox, Blue Jays, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals, Marlins, Pirates, Astros, and Brewers — and sort of the Giants)
27 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (5), Phillies (5), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3), Yankees (2), Twins, Cubs, Brewers, White Sox, Indians, and Blue Jays (and 1 Brewers Cheese Fries Helmet))
35 Baseballs (20 Mariners, 3 Astros, 2 Rangers, 2 Umpire, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, 1 Royals, 1 Indians, Yankees/Orioles 1)
MLB Closed Out (NL Closed out on 8/16/09, AL Closed out on 8/17/09) 
6 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jason Phillips, Ronny Cedeno, Jeremy Guthrie, Ryan Perry) 
5 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Ryan Rowland-Smith, 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)


47 - balls and mets helmets.jpg

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