On June 2, 2008, the stars appeared to be aligning themselves for something wonderful. I’d been watching with anticipation the past month. I saw the possibility. But could it really happen?
Then the day arrived.
Ken Griffey, Jr. and the Cinncinati Reds arrived in Philadelphia. It would be Tim’s first opportunity in his life to see my all-time favorite player. And if Griffey could connect for a homerun, it would be his historic 600th blast. It all seemed too good to be true!
Sadly, it was.
I questioned whether the Reds would sit Griff so he could hit number 600 in Cinncinati. But the Reds had 7 more games before returning to Cinncinati. There was no way he would sit 7 games.
At this point, Tim was not quite 2-and-a-half years old. He really wasn’t good for BP and a full game yet. That was just too much. But, we headed down to Philadelphia early for this one. I wanted to maximize our time in Griff’s presence. But when the Reds took the field for BP, Griff was nowhere to be seen. This wasn’t promising for our chances of seeing number 600.
In fact, it ended up that Griff’s knee was acting up. He was not in the line-up.
Anyway, as I said, Tim wasn’t really a BP guy yet. So we did a little touring around the ballpark before the game…
He pushed his stroller all the way up the winding ramps up to the upper deck in the RF foul corner. I took this shot as we turned the final bend in the ramps. That’s Lincoln Financial Field in the background.
I think this was Tim’ first time ever being in an upper deck of a ballpark. He was a little *iffy* about it. I’m not sure if it was because he was uncomfortable being up so high or if it was because the sun was blazing down in our eyes.
We got some french fries and found a nice spot behind Section 106 at one of the many standing counters ringing the field level at Citizens Bank Park…
Seeing Griff play and getting a chance to witness No. 600 was the entire reason we attended this week-night game. With our hopes and dreams for the night spoiled (he would not even pinch hit), we needed to make the night special in some other way.
So, sitting behind Section 137 at Citizens Bank Park, we started a grand tradition…
…we shared Tim’s first ever ice cream helmet!!!
Do you notice there is an extra spoon in the helmet? This being Tim’s first ice cream helmet, he had not yet realized they were too good to share with his dear old dad.
I’d been watching the Reds pretty regularly for 8 seasons by this point (solely to watch Griff), so I was pretty familiar with their team. While standing down the LF foul line in Section 137, it was a straight shot out to Adam Dunn.
In Griffey’s world, Dunn was to the Reds what Buhner was to the Mariners: Griff’s friend and big Texan power hitting neighbor in the outfield.
That last picture was taken in the bottom of the first inning and the Phils were already getting business started. After Shane Victorino singled with one out, Chase Utley staked the Phillies to a 2-0 lead with a 2-run homerun.
For about an inning and a half, it was as if there was no game being played at all.
After Tim finished his ice cream, we headed over to the home plate area, a little off toward first base, so we could get a peak into the Reds dugout…
Tim loves the kids playset at Citizens Bank Park. In the 18 MLB ballparks Tim and I have visited, I’m pretty sure that it is objectively the best play area…
By the way, for perspective for anyone who hasn’t visited Citizens Bank Park, those steel beams above Tim in that picture are supporting the winding walk way up to the upper deck where Tim was pictured above with Lincoln Financial Field in the background. The play area is just to the outfield side of the main 1B side entrance to Citizen Bank Park.
Back to the game, in the top of the 4th inning, as Tim played in the play area, I watched on the Dads’ flatscreen TV as rookie Jay Bruce (the man who was playing RF in Griffey’s place) hit his third career homerun in this third career game.
We headed back out to the field level for the bottom of the 4th in time to see Pedro Feliz (2-run) and Chris Coste (solo) hit back-to-back homeruns off of Bronson Arroyo…
…Tim cheered on as he ate cotton candy (it was a high calorie night for Cook & Son), as the Phillies took a 5-1 lead.
Late in the game, Tim wanted to play around in the field level concourse. I snapped this picture of him hiding in a steel beam…
…he always enjoys standing in these things at Citizens Bank Park. He enjoys the little things in life.
We also ran into three nice ushers out in the concourse who each gave Tim a little souvenir: a Philly Phanatic figurine, a little wood baseball bat keychain, and a Cole Hamels baseball card that was magically pulled from behind Tim’s ear.
Between a solo shot by Juan “Fireworks” Encarnacion in the fifth and a 2-run double by Dunn in the sixth, the Reds would score three more runs on the night, but Coste’s homerun would be enough for the Phillies. In the bottom of the ninth, Brad Lidge nailed down the save 1-2-3 with two strike outs. On June 2nd, Lidge’s ERA was still only 0.75.
Over the next two days, without Tim, I’d make two more efforts at witnessing Griff’s 600th homerun. But he rode the bench both days. His knee was still bothering him. He pinch hit late in each game and walked twice on a combined 9 pitches. I only saw him swing the bat once between the two games. Both at-bats were incredibly intense. The whole stadium was on its feet. Philadelphia fans can be rude and crude and mean. But I was extremely proud of them at these games. They understood they had the chance to see history and I think a lot of them wanted it to happen despite the fact it would have been terrible for the Phillies in both games. At the end of the final game of the series (the only game I didn’t attend and the only one Griffey played), the entire stadium gave Griffey a standing ovation.
Sadly, he went on to hit his 600th homerun in South Florida before a pathetic and heartless crowd. It should have happened before one of those great sell-out crowds in Philadelphia, but at least his wife and kids were able to be there for the historic blast in Florida.