It took some coaxing, but about a month ago I finally got my lovely wife, Colleen, to agree to a late-season family trip to the Great White North. It would be our first trip ever to Toronto, our first game outside of the United States, and our first game ever at Rogers Centre.
It would also be our final Mariners game of the season, and a re-match of Tim’s first game ever.
To the right is a picture of our first close-up view of Rogers Centre. Behind the stadium, you can see the CN Tower, which I am told is the tallest free-standing structure in the world.
Let’s get to the game.
We drove north from Pennsylvania the night before and stayed about 88 miles from Toronto, right down the street from Niagara Falls. I didn’t know when, if ever, we’d get back to Toronto, so I wanted to get there early for all of BP.
We arrived before the stadium opened, grabbed our tickets at will call, and chatted with some nice Canadians in line. Much to our delight, the Canucks informed us that it was KIDS RUN THE BASES DAY!!! YES! I was psyched.
The stadium opened at 11:00 a.m. I hustled in to see what I could see, and Colleen took this picture as she and Tim approached the field level seats:
Here is the view from the 1B field level seats — essentially our first view of the field upon entering the stadium:
I took some random pictures:
To the left, big cushy seats along the front row (and Tim standing at the far end of them). To the right, the M’s batting helmets, gloves and shin guards. Check out the shag-carpet looking field turf.
We looked into the dugout to see if any Mariners were in there…
After a bit, Tim and Colleen went up to the 200 level to a kids area (that didn’t impress Colleen). I decided to stay on the field level and explore a bit more.
Then, some Blue Jays came out to play catch — a bunch of them. I decided to go over and see them.
First a little background. Do you recall that I’ve had a bunch of interactions this season with Mariners bullpen catcher (and former big leaguer) Jason Phillips? Jason has been extremely cool to me and Tim. Well, the Blue Jays just called up Jason’s younger brother, Kyle, for his first action in the major leagues.
I was thinking it would be really cool to get a ball from a pair of brothers at the same game. So I decided to see if Kyle Phillips was over there. But I couldn’t find him. I noticed that Jays pitcher Brian Tallet was about 2 feet from the first row playing catch down the LF line:
I was now on the opposite side of the infield. I decided to walk around the OF concourse and head over to the Mariners bullpen.
When I got there, this is what I saw:
To the left, bullpen coach John Wetteland is at the top left about to exit the bullpen door. I have been debating with myself over the identity of the stretching Mariner at the bottom and to the right. At first, I thought it was Garrett Olson. But then I saw Garrett Olson out in RF later and I didn’t think he was the same guy. I decided the stretching guy was rookie catcher Adam Moore — a guy I’m following closely. But after returning home and examining all of my numerous pictures, I again think it is Garrett Olson.
Whichever one it is, the guy was cool. He was down there stretching and I was up above just standing around observing my surroundings. He turned around and looked up and saw me wearing my Mariners jersey. He yelled, “Hey, there!” up to me. We chatted for a minute or two. We discussed that the Jays were throwing a lefty and Ken Griffey, Jr. would not be in the line up — a familiar scenario for me this season.
After chatting for a couple minutes, he yelled “hold on a minute” and he ran over to the wall (up where Wetteland is pictured). He opened the bullpen baseball bag and pulled out a ball and threw it up to me.
“Thanks, mystery Mariner!” (probably Garrett Olson)
After chatting with probably-Garrett-Olson, I headed back over to the seats along the 1B line and I watched some more stretching:
Eventually, Chris Jakubauskas came out to the field behind 1B (below at left side)…
…I yelled down to him, “Hey, Chris, need someone to play catch?” He laughed and kept stretching. Eventually, Brandon Morrow (top middle) ran out to stretch and play catch with Jakubauskas. In the bottom left picture, Morrow threw one by Jak and all the way to the LF wall.
After Jak returned with the ball, they played catch for a few more minutes and then Morrow tossed their warm-up ball to me.
Then, Jason Phillips made an appearance:
Jason walked out to the RF foul line to play catch with someone-or-other, I can’t remember who. I was watching some other M’s play catch. When I looked left, Jason was walking out from the dugout. He looked my way and raised his hand in the air above his head as if to say, “You again, you’re everywhere!”
He immediately set down his bag (that big bag behind him in the picture) and walked over to chat. He gave me a hand shake and we chatted for several minutes. I asked him about his brother and he said Kyle would be catching that day and he was excited to watch his brother play.
I mentioned to Jason that I was at the Mariners first game ever at Shea Stadium when “some dude wearing glasses hit a home run against my Mariners.” Jason responded, “Yep, that was me. Hit it to center off of Ryan Franklin. And Franklin was mad at me about it.”
I also gave Jason a card with our blog address on it. Hey, in case you’re reading this, Jason, THANKS! You’ve really made this seasona lot of fun and very memorable for me and Tim. Looking forward to seeing you in 2010 if you stick with the M’s!
While all of this was going on, Colleen took a couple shots of Adam Moore stretching and running…
…as shown on the right, Adam Moore is the first ball player Tim ever met, and his first autograph. It was at spring training in 2008. I’ve been following him ever since and hoping he’d get called up to the big club. Hopefully he’s here to stay.
Oh, yeah. So I guess you could tell, Colleen and Tim met up with me again after the play area. Tim was ready to catch his first ball ever…
Yeah, Tim has got a bunch of baseballs at games. But they’ve all been either (i) thrown to me or (ii) handed to Tim. Tim had been telling me at games recently that he wanted to catch a ball himself. I was hoping it would happen.
By the way, in that last picture, do you see a baseball in the black glove sitting on the ground by the foul line to Tim’s left? That ball is also shown here:
Back to that ball in the glove. That was Ryan Rowland-Smith’s glove. After he and Olson finished tossing, Ryan headed over to the RF corner where someone who appeared to be a Rogers Centre regular had a whole bunch of glossy pictures set out on the wall. Rowland-Smith headed over and autographed one for her. Then he worked his way down the wall in our direction signing for everyone.
When he reached us, I asked if we could get our picture with him — “of course” was his response:
As we were getting ready for this picture, I asked, “After this picture, do you think you could throw that ball in your glove into my son’s glove?” “Oh, definitely, no problem” was Ryan’s response. It was funny. He almost said it like it was a foregone conclusion.
After the picture, Ryan headed over to his glove and grabbed the ball. I stood Tim up on the wall and Ryan tossed it to him…
In the top left, Ryan had just thrown the ball to Tim, but Tim missed it. Ryan is chuckling and coming over to grab the ball off of the ground. In the top right and bottom left corners, Ryan is autographing the ball for us. He then handed it back to us and went on signing.
But the story isn’t over. We were still standing right next to Ryan and he was still signing. A couple seconds later, someone handed him a ball to sign, but didn’t have a pen. Ryan asked, “Does anyone have a sharpie?” At the same time, Tim said something to me about being sad that he missed the ball when Ryan threw it to him.
I handed a sharpie to Rowland-Smith and said, “I have one. By the way, do you think you could re-throw that ball to my son so he can try to actually catch it.” “Of course, no problem,” Ryan said with another chuckle.
Ryan then took the ball all the way across the warning track. I was thinking, “Oh, my gosh. How’s Tim gonna catch this from that far!” In the bottom middle of the picture above, the red arrow shows the flight path of the ball as Tim squeezes it safely in his glove.
Tim (and I) was so excited about his big catch:
By the way, today (9-29) I asked Tim who threw the baseball that he caught. He thought about it for minute and first said, “Jason Phillips.” Then he thought harder and he came up with a new answer, “Smith Roll.” Hey, that’s not too far off. “Ryan Rowland-Smith” is probably a hard name for a 3-year-old to remember.
An extra big, huge thank you to Ryan Rowland-Smith. He was so extremely nice. He really came off like he is one of the nicest guys around. His demeanor just exuded niceness.
At this point of pre-game, I realized we had caught three baseballs — tying our single game record — and we hadn’t even got a ball from Jason Philips. There was a great chance of breaking our record, despite no BP.
But for the time being, it was getting close to game time. Most of the players had left the field. So Tim and I decided to go on a stadium tour while Colleen went to find our seats.
I started with a panaramic from the RF corner where we’d celebrated Tim’s big catch:
Notice that big blue double railing down the middle? I think that has something to do with helping handicapped patrons down the stairs, which is nice. But it kept fustrating me because you can’t get passed it without walking up to the concourse.
Here is a shot from foul territory in LF:
That “low headroom” sign is on that same support beam all the way around the stadium. Behind home plate, it is a good sign because the headroom is very low. But where it is pictured above, it is about 30 feet above the aisle below.
Here is a picture standing in front of the batters eye…
Then we headed up to the 500 level (we’ll have to come back to explore the 200-300-400 levels). Here is a panaramic view from roughly behind home plate in the 500 level:
Here is are a couple views of the seats and roof support beams in the 500 level:
…check out how they have railings between every row of seating. They only have that in the 500 level (as far as I could tell). I guess it is so people don’t fall down the incredibly steep steps. It makes it hard to walk through the narrow rows quickly.
Here is a view from a little more than half way up the 500 level in RF foul territory…
And, here is a panaramic view from the back row of the same section…
…notice anything? Yep, that’s right. The seats are ABOVE THE LIGHTS!!! Not quite as good as the seats half way up the section. Here you’re going to miss anything that happens at home plate or in RF or LF. But, hey, its a unique view and you could chalk it up as an odd experience if you are ever forced to sit here.
Here is another view from further out in RF — in homerun territory. It would be quite a blast if a home run ever made it up here:
In the top right and bottom left, you can see a crane contraption that is holding up the foul pole.
Bottom right, its just a picture of the big screen — featuring Franklin Gutierrez.
And that was our tour. We headed to our seats in RF for the game to start. This was our view from the first row in section 104:
So, at the beginning of each game at Yankee Stadium, the entire RF bleachers section chants each Yankees players name until they wave at the RF bleachers. At Rogers Centre, this guy is in charge of the roll call:
Back to our seats. Check out how awesome these are — the M’s bullpen bench was elevated above the OF wall just a coule feet from us:
John Wetteland then yelled to Vernon: “Can I have a baseball?” Others followed with, “Can I have your bat?,” “Can I have your glove?,” and “Can I have your cleats?”
And that wasn’t all the fun they had. The entire M’s bullpen then waged an all out every-man-for-himself pumpkin seed flicking war. Seeds were flying everywhere for about 15 minutes. David Aardsma and Jason Vargas both took seeds to the face. Some of those guys could flick a seed 30 feet on a line. It was pretty impressive, and hilarious. Everyone in the crowd was watching them closely and getting a kick out of it, including this guy:
Then we were interrupted with some baseball. I can’t remember who hit this ball, but a Mariner hit a ball to deep right CF. I thought it was extra bases all the way. But the Jays’ right fielder, Jose Bautista, tracked it down and made an amazing catch just below us before smashing into the hard plexiglass wall at full speed. It seemed like he was down for a minute or two after the catch.
Here is a screen shot from the highlight on mlb.com. This is just before he smashes into the wall — the red arrow is pointing to me, you can’t really see Tim in the seat next to me (the empty looking seat), and then Colleen is in the pink:
Tim didn’t want to leave the team store because it had a field on the ground. Most of it was painted, but the bases and home plate were glass and you could see a real game-used home plate and bases under each piece of glass.
Tim took a lot of swings at fake balls and ran a lot of bases in the team store. I was okay with it because I could see the game while I stood by the guard at the home plate pictured above to the right.
While I was standing there, Ichiro was kicked out of the game for the first time in his career and Adam Moore hit his first extra base hit (2B) and collected his first RBI of his career. It was cool to be there for that.
Eventually, we left the team store and I walked all the way around the stadium while holding Tim in my arms…
After Ichiro was booted for arguing balls and strikes, Bill Hall took his place in RF.
As we walked around the concourse, Tim fell asleep. I headed back to our seats and handed Tim off to Colleen. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to sit next to Colleen while she held Tim like this because Tim’s legs were in the way:
Bottom left, Moore on second thanks to Wilson’s hit. Bottom right, Matt Tuiasosopo hitting, I believe, a sacrifice fly scoring Moore.
Hey, how have I not shown you the roof yet –here it is:
Bottom right, David Aarsdma half-heartedly warming up – he never entered the game. Bottom left, the bullpen baseball bag.
I usually try to come away from each game with one baseball. At many games, we get none. But I generally don’t set any goals other than trying to get one ball. Although we already had three at this game, I still wanted one more. I needed a Jason Phillips ball. You see, we’d now seen the Mariners play at six stadiums this season and Phillips had given us at least one ball at each stadium this season (in order, Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium (2), Fenway Park (2), Progressive Field, and Safeco Field).
But when the game ended, I still had not got one from Jason and I thought my window of opportunity had closed. I saw him pack up his bag on the other side of he bullpen before handing it to Miguel Batista to carry to the dugout. Meanwhile, David Aardsma zipped up the bullpen baseball bag and started walking to the dugout.
As Jason walked by below me, I called out, “Hey, Jason!” He looked up and pointed at me as if to say, “OH, YEAH!” He then jogged into the OF and caught up with Aardsma. When he went for the baseball bag, Aardsma played keep away for a second. Then Phillips pointed over toward me and said something to the D.A. Aardsma relented and let him have the bag. Jason opened it up, grabbed a ball, turned toward me and threw a long strike into my glove.
“THANK YOU, JASON PHILLIPS!”
Next, it was Kids Run the Bases time!
We got into a long line that snaked its way through the bowels of the Rogers Centre under the RF seats. Here are a couple behind the scenes areas we saw:
The top pictures show wires coming out from under the seats, presumably to power the large screens on the OF wall. The bottom pictures show the back of the OF wall from under the field level OF seats. It looked like the video screen sections of the OF wall were on rollers and could be moved around (for example, to reconfigure the stadium for a Buffalo Bills game).
Here is another interesting shot, a hole in the wall looking into the Mariners bullpen:
In case you missed the video of Tim running from my last post — click here to view it.
Unlike the other teams where we have run the bases, the Blue Jays didn’t kick us off of the field immediately upon Tim finishing running the bases — so we were able to get a nice family picture….
…and some other random shots hanging out on the field:
Tim thought that silly face he is making in the picture by the dugout was hilarious.
Finally, we got one more picture from the main concourse before leaving the Rogers Centre:
Season Fan Stats:
31 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, “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)
26 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))
32 Baseballs (20 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, 1 Astros, 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)