I’ve been pretty busy lately and I’m lagging behind with my game entries. So, a little untimely, I present the grand finale of The (Second Annual) Great Cook Father-Son-Grandson Baseball Roadtrip of 2009.
This was a big game for us. Royals vs. White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on the south side of Chicago. With this game, we could check the Royals off of Tim’s list and, at age three-and-a-half he would have officially seen all 30 MLB teams play live. I was pretty excited about the accomplishment and I had a little something special planned. Ever since watching Curious George receive a frozen ice cream “trophy” from Chef Pischetti, Tim has loved trophies. And he’s asked me a bunch if he would ever be able to win a trophy somehow. So as a surprise, I had a special trophy made for the occassion. More on that in a bit.
We started out the day at our hotel by O’Hare airport. It was nice not to have any long distance driving this day. We decided to spend the day playing around at the hotel. A little swimming in the pool followed by a little baseball in a patch of grass outside. Here is a shot of Tim’s pitching motion:
He headed to the game early to catch some BP. The line to get into the parking lot was slow moving, so Tim and I hopped out of the car and played some catch in the parking lot while my dad parked the car:
We headed into the park and the Royals were already hitting. We missed the White Sox completely. That was fine. My goal revolved solely around the Royals. Because they were the 30th and final team for Tim, I had a goal of trying to get a picture of Tim with a Royal player and his Trophy. More specifically, I wanted to get his picture with one of the three former Mariners now playing for the Royals — Gill Meche, Willie Bloomquist or Yuniesky Betancourt. My ultimate goal was Gill Meche because he pitched (and won) Tim’s first game back on September 12, 2006.
My dad went off to explore the park a bit and Tim and I went down to the field behind 1B. I scanned the field for Meche, Willie or Yuni. Within a couple minutes, Willie ran out onto the field from the Royals dugout and started taking ground balls at 2B — his new primary position now that Yuni has joined the Royals.
We were probably 125 feet from Willie. Any time Willie looked remotely in our direction, I shouted his name. My thought was to simply get his attention and motion for him to come over to the stands. My hope was that he would come over after taking grounders. He looked in our direction a couple times, but there were no signs of him being inclined to come over. BTW, I figured he probably thought I wanted to get his autograph.
Eventually, a batter hit a weak grounder that rolled to a stop in the grass about 20 feet into the OF grass between 1B and 2B. After Willie fielded a fungoed grounder deep in the hole between 1B-2B, he ran over to the ball sitting in the grass, picked it up and fired it directly to us.
Here was our view (with the arrow marking the flight of the ball thrown to us):
We certainly appreciated the ball from Willie. But it wasn’t what we were looking for. Unfortunately, Willie figured (whatever we wanted) the ball should suffice. After he finished taking grounders, he ran back into the Royals clubhouse.
I then spotted Gill Meche in the OF, but there was no possible way to get anywhere near him. I never saw Yuni on the field. Alas, my goal of getting Tim’s picture with a Royal and his trophy failed.
But don’t worry, we survived the minor dissappointment.
After checking out the scene behind the Royals dugout and chatting with a stadium attendant, we turned our gaze to CF where we noticed this:
The Man In Yellow — our MLBlogs friend and Milwaukee home run catcher extraordinaire, Nick Yohanek a/k/a the Happy Youngster.
I asked Tim if he wanted to go say “Hi” to Nick and we enthusiastically answered in the affirmative. So we headed out there. On the way, we witnessed Nick catch a homerun ball.
When we got out there, my dad was standing near by. We said hi to Nick and introduced him to my dad, whom he had not met the day before in Milwaukee. Nick then introduced us to a MLBlogger named Ben a/k/a Jerseyboy. I didn’t realize at the time, but I knew about Ben. He has a ridiculously huge collection of authentic MLB jerseys. Something like 1,500 of them. I was actually the first person to ever comment on Ben’s blog back a couple months ago, when I suggested he add a vintage Spike Owen Mariners jersey to his collection.
As we chatted, BP ended and then it started sprinkling. We took refuge in the concourse where we continued chatting, I realized Ben was the guy with the jerseys, we sampled the U.S. Cellular Churos, and I took this panaramic:
After a few minutes chatting in the concourse, the PA announcer told us the start of the game was being delayed for about 40 minutes. My dad decided to go somewhere or other — probably the team store to buy a U.S. Cellular ball. Tim, Ben and I decided to tour the upper deck so I could take some panaramic views.
On the way, I took this picture of the upper deck concourse, which due to the interesting lighting I thought looked pretty cool:
From the LF corner of the upper deck:
On our walk from LF to RF, we stopped so I could buy some nachos and drinks (complete with League Policy violating caps). We sat in the upper deck and chatted while Tim destroyed our nachos:
That’s Ben in the Royals’ jersey. On the right, as we chat and Tim scarfs nachos. On the left, chatting with my dad in RCF following the conclusion of BP.
Ben and I realized we share a common practice. We both help ourselves to copious amounts of pocket schedules at each stadium we visit. While walking the upper deck, we both filled our pockets with White Sox pocket schedules. (Following the season, I think I’ll put together an entry showing the schedules I have collected this season).
Soon, the grounds keepers prepared the field and it was time for baseball. We headed back down to the field level and parted ways. Ben hooked up with Nick, and Tim and I joined my dad in our seats down the 3B line (not far from the foul pole). Mondays are half price ticket days at The Cell, so we got a good deal on some good seats.
Here was the view of Mark Buerhle from our seats:
The lead off batter for the Royals was none other than “Willie Ballgame”:
Pictured above to the right is Willie’s first at bat in the first. To the left, Willie took over at short stop a couple innings into the game after Yuni Betancourt was drilled by a foul ball in the Royals dugout. Between Big Willie and Big Willie is a picture of the ball Big Willie threw to us during BP.
Early in the game (maybe even the first inning, not sure now), Tim wanted to play catch. We headed out to the RF concourse as Yuni came to bat and fouled a ball off the plate:
A few moments later, Tim and I were playing catch when Yuni yanked a bomb into the White Sox bullpen in LF. Tim and I went over to check out the situation. We could see the HR ball sitting in the bullpen. So Tim hopped onto my shoulders and we walked down to the first row between innings to gaze upon the ball — and to be in position in case someone in the bullpen decided to toss it into the crowd.
As the bottom of the inning was about to start, we headed back up the stairs to resume our game of catch. That’s when a *first* happened, I heard a voice:
Alex – “Are you Todd?”
Todd – (turning to see young Alex K) “Yes.’
Alex – (To Tim) “And you must be Tim. Hi, Tim. (To me) Hi, I’m Alex. I read your blog and knew you’d be at this game.”
Although I had previously recognized and introduced myself to several MLBloggers at games (specifically, Zack Hample and Nick), this was the first time anyone had ever recognized me and Tim from our blog. I gotta say, it was somewhat funny and cool. I like that MLBlogs has created a community of people who end up running into each other while out at the ball park. And this game had a lot of them.
Anyway, I quickly realized that I had seen Alex before. In fact, I recognized Alex from an article I’d read recently on MyGameBalls.com — click here. Alex is a young Hample-in-Training and is already quite adept at obtaining baseballs at MLB games. You can read about his adventures (including his baseball road trip that crossed paths on this night with our baseball road trip) on his MLBlog — RiverAvenue. (By the way, up above in the picture of Nick in CF, Alex is standing a few feet behind Nick wearing his Royal blues — shortly after that, he would catch a homerun ball that is documented with excellent photos on his blog).
Alex and I began to chat a bit. A few seconds later, Nick showed up. Alex and Nick needed to get to work on their efforts at retrieving the Betancourt home run. But first, we needed to get a picture together:
(make that a picture with poor lighting).
Tim and I went back to playing catch. This is where we played (with the arrow pointing to where Tim stood and the photo taken from where I stood):
After a few minutes, we headed back over to see how Alex and Happy were making out. Right then, some White Sox batter blasted a home run into the same bullpen. Tim and I ran down the stairs in the off chance it would bounce up to us. But it didn’t make the seats. Then a White Sox bullpen coach ran out and grabbed the new home run ball and threw it over Happy and Alex and into the very seats they’d just been occupying in about row seven. The coach then gestured toward Betancourt’s home run ball with a foul look on his face. He looked up at the crowd and plugged his nose like Betancourt’s home run ball stunk. He then scampered back into the bullpen seating area. It was a funny scene.
Alex then accompanied me and Tim to the ice cream stand where Tim and I got our White Sox ice cream helmets. We then said our good-byes and Tim and I rejoined my dad in the seats for some ice cream and more baseball:
…I’d tell you who these pictures are of, but I’m not sure. They’re Royals, but not former Mariners. So its hard to say. By the way, did you notice those three characters sitting in the second row behind the Royals’ dugout? One of them caught a foul ball sitting there. I’ll let you track down their game entries to figure out which one of them got the foul ball.
Tim got all jacked up on his ice cream and started having a blast in the seats:
After a bit, Tim and I decided to go check out the OF concourse some more. We found a bunch of cool “trophies” out there:
A portion of the batters eye has a cut out where the the camera men are set up. I stuck my camera through the cut out and took this panaramic:
The White Sox were staked to a modest lead. Bobby Jenks was warming up in the Chisox bullpen. I realized the game was about to end and we’d never visited RF. So, we took a last picture of Tim along the front row railing by our seats…
…and a shot of Jenks as he ran out to the mound…
…and then we took off for RF so I could take this panaramic…
…we continued circling the concourse and ended up in the exact same spot where I’d taken the first rain delay panaramic while chatting with Ben, and we got there just in time to see Jenks finish off the Royals for the White Sox win:
It was time to head down to the Royals dugout for a little trophy presentation — Tim loved it:
In case you cannot tell, the trophy says:
Timothy J. Cook
30 MLB Teams
Sept. 12, 2006 – Aug. 17, 2009
I love the picture in the upper left. He is trying to make a 3-0 with his fingers to represent seeing 30 MLB teams…but he was having a little trouble with it. He had to concentrate real hard.
So there you have it, our second annual baseball road trip. It was, in a word, excellent. With the exception of not getting a picture with a Royals player, the trip met all of my expectations and goals. The most important of which is further detailed in an entry I posted immediately upon our return to the hotel after this game — Milestone Achieved.
I am now officially looking forward to The (Third Annual) Great Cook Father-Son-Grandson Baseball Roadtrip of 2010.
Season Fan Stats:
25 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
11 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, HHH Metrodome, Miller Park, and U.S. Cellular)
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)
21 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (5), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3), Yankees, Twins, Cubs, Brewers, and White Sox (and 1 Brewers Cheese Fries Helmet))
22 Baseballs (12 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, 1 Astros, 1 Royals)
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)
3 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
9 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose, Orioles Bird, 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats), 4 Running Sausages (Brewers) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)