I wanted to maximize our time with the Mariners so we headed down to Baltimore in time for batting practice. Unfortunately, it started raining as we neared Baltimore. As we entered the centerfield seats, we found the tarp covering the field. No batting pratice.
It was about 5:20 at the time. Because we did not have “season ticket” tickets, we were stuck in CF until 5:30. So we couldn’t go over to the third base foul line where Ichiro was running sprints in the outfield and a couple of Mariners were playing catch.
After about 2 minutes in the seats, Jesus Colome came out to centerfield to grab two baseballs that were sitting out there in the grass. There were a bunch of O’s fans in the first 2 rows of the seats and we were hanging back in about the 10th row. Colome saw us and yelled to get our attention. He then proceeded to throw one of the baseballs nowhere near us. Seriously, while looking me straight in the eye, he managed to throw the ball about 30 feet to our left and about 7 rows below us. One of the O’s fans grabbed it as it ricocheted off some seats. Colome yelled, “Sorry!” and patted himself on the chest as if to say, “my bad.”
About 2 minutes later, something incredibly cool happened. I’m going to save the complete story for later, but here is the abbreviated version.
Ryan Rowland-Smith came walking through the outfield on his way to the bullpen…
…in that picture, Tim and I were standing at the “T&T” (Tim was on my shoulders) and I noticed Rowland-Smith as he was walking at the “RRS.” The yellow line shows the route he was intending to walk to the Mariners bullpen.
Background Fact No. 2: Over the off-season, I wrote a letter to RRS to (among other things) thank him for being so kind to us in Toronto, and I included with the letter the picture my wife snapped of us with RRS.
Background Fact No. 3: I follow RRS on Twitter where it had recently been implied that he buzzed his hair. Check him out @hyphen18.
So, as he approached the OF wall, I yelled out, “Hey, Ryan, let’s see the new hair!”
He laughed and (without looking over) took off his hat to show me his buzz-cut. Then, as he went through the door in the OF gate, he looked over at me and…
I was thinking, “Wow, RRS really likes seeing Mariners fans on the road!” But as he approached, he said, “You wrote me that letter, right?”
To put it mildly, I couldn’t believe it! I wrote him a letter months earlier about an interaction in Toronto and IMMEDIATELY upon seeing us in Baltimore (totally out of context), he recognized us and came right over to chat.
Here he is standing below us…
…and, to once again put it mildly, he came over to chat about something incredibly, amazingly, ridiculously awesome. That’s what I’ll save for later. For now, I will just note that we made plans to meet up later in the season about something I asked him in my letter. Also, I must note that RRS is officially one of the most fan-friendly, coolest dudes ever to wear a major league baseball uniform…hands down.
After chatting with RRS, we waited five more minutes for the rest of the stadium to open (by which point Ichiro was gone), and then we headed over toward the Mariners dugout. And guess who we ran into…
…you got it: Mr. Ryan Rowland-Smith. Although Tim looks sorta “ho-hum’ish” in this picture, its not because he wasn’t happy to get his picture with RRS. It was because he was standing on top of a wet brick wall and he was scared he was going to fall off. RRS is holding him from behind to keep him steady.
We chatted for another minute or two with RRS. And he noticed the T-Shirt I was wearing under my jersey. It was a special shirt that Griffey made for his Mariners teammates during spring training. You can read about it (and how my mom got her hands on one of them during spring training) in our entry Griffey the Prankster. I told RRS that I had my mom send to shirt to me so I could wear it to this game to see if I could manage to get my picture with Griff. However, due to the SleepGate scandal (that had just broken the day before), RRS didn’t think Griff would be out on the field at all before the game.
A few minutes later, I saw Ichiro pop out of the M’s dugout with a bat and walk over to the O’s dugout/clubhouse entrance. So we headed over to the O’s dugout and confirmed with an usher that the M’s would be taking BP in cages back by the O’s clubhouse.
We said hi to most of the guys as they headed over to take BP…
Adam Moore said hi to us too:
Here is Figgy and a coach, Sweeney and M’s PR guy Tim Hevly (they were talking about SleepGate!)…
…Don Wakamatsu said hello to us, and Ken Griffey, Jr. did too. Unfortunately, that’s the best picture I got of Griff. As he approached, he saw my T-shirt and he said something to me that I couldn’t understand…something odd like, “Oh, so that’s what’s going on here.” In response, I mentioned that he’d given the shirt to my mom at spring training and asked if we could get a picture. He responded as if it was a possibility, but said he had to go hit first. Of course, by the time he finished batting, there were 50 people standing by the dugout. By that point, we decided there was no chance Griff would stop on his way back to the M’s clubhouse so we left to get something to eat.
After our nachos, we headed over to the bullpen to watch Cliff Lee warm up. Here he is on his walk to the bullpen:
By the way, our buddy Jason Phillips is in that blurry picture and he is the guy seated closest to Tim in the picture to the right. It was nice seeing him again. We exchanged a few words several times throughout the day. Its good to have him in the M’s bullpen again this season.
We continued sitting by the bullpen during the first inning, but then it started raining again. We took refuge under cover over by where we’d eaten our nachos. And I got some pictures of Griffey batting in the third inning…
And I got some pictures of Ichiro, also batting in the third inning…
I took tons of pictures (using my wife’s camera with a sequence feature) of Cliff Lee:
We got some random defensive shots:
I had to get Tim out of the standing room area pretty quick. It was covered with huge puddles and Tim wanted to jump in every single one. I was envisioning his little toes freezing later in the game inside wet socks.
So, we headed out to the concourse and got an ice cream helmet and a hot chocolate. We grabbed some ice cream seats in section 10 down the 1B foul line:
Pictured at the back of the photo is a guy named Avi who we met before the game. In addition to going to tons of O’s games, Avi reads our blog (and writes one of his own). Thanks, Avi! It was great meeting you.
Here is the view from our ice cream seats in section 10:
Ryan Langerhans broke the scoreless tie with a lead off homerun in the fifth. Later in the inning, the M’s scored again when Chone Figgins drew a bases loaded walk.
Here is a shot of Griff hitting in the sixth inning:
From our ice cream seats, we had a great view of Ichiro in RF. In these pictures, Ichi is playing catch between innings with Franklin Gutierrez.
Here is Tim after finishing off his ice cream and hot chocolate:
He absolutely loved the hot chocolate.
As we sat in section 10, I noticed the same guy catch two foul balls straight behind home plate. I decided he should go over there. However, when we arrived behind home plate, we noticed that the ushers were essentially taking the night off. Although there were ushers all around, they were letting people stand in the aisle and sit anywhere they wanted. So, after an usher took our picture…
And when we got home, I noticed that we’d been on TV while we were sitting in the third row behind Franklin Gutierrez:
We’d been sitting in the third row, but between innings Tim would stand in the first row above the dugout…so I snapped this picture of him:
Here was the view from the first row:
Ichiro hit another single in the 9th inning…
It was raining very lightly, so Tim wore my glove has a mask/umbrella…
I mentioned already we didn’t get a third out ball. Oddly, however, we did get a second out ball! Here Tim is with his first ever game used ball (well, it is possible that one of the umpire balls he’s gotten has been game used, but we *know* this one was used in the game):
With one out in the bottom of the ninth and Brandon League pitching, Matt Wieters grounded out to Ryan Langerhans at first base. Langerhans tagged Wieters for the 26th out of the game and then threw the ball around the horn. Somehow, the around the horn attempt failed. I’m not sure what happened. I think that Figgins threw the ball in the dirt to Jose Lopez and it got wet or dirty. For whatever reason, Lopez rolled the ball into foul territory. It ultimately came to rest right in front of us.
We were the only people in the first row behind the Mariners dugout. We were wearing all Mariners gear. Tim’s a cute kid. The ball was directly in front of us. It seemed almost like we were guaranteed to get the ball. And we did. An unidentified Mariner reached over the railing/netting and grabbed the ball off of the warning track, turned around and flipped it right to me.
Maybe two minute later, the Mariners won the game by a final score of 5-1. And Ichi victoriously ran off of the soggy field after high fiving his teammates:
Our friend, MLBlogger, and Baseball Collector extraordinaire, Zack Hample, was at the game. We’d spent some time with him during pre-game and then met up again after the game. As the Mariners bullpen headed to the dugout, Jesus Colome flipped a ball to Zack and John Wetteland bestowed a second baseball on me and Tim.
Moments later, Zack’s buddy Brandon captured this photo of me, Tim, and Zack:
This photo is a re-make of a picture we got moments after we met Zack in person for the first time last season — at the memorable Randy Johnson 300th win rainout “game.” After this photo, Tim and I walked to our parking garage with Zack and Brandon (on their way to their hotel).
It was a great first Mariners game of the season that included (i) a much needed Mariners win, (ii) Cliff Lee’s first win as a Mariner (and his first since the 2009 World Series), (iii) two memorable meetings with Ryan Rowland-Smith, (iv) fun interactions with several players about the Griffey prank shirt, (v) meeting up with some cool MLBloggers, and (vi) Tim’s first game-used baseball.
I already cannot wait to see the Mariners again…next month in San Diego on the Third Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip of 2010! See you there, Mariners!
2010 Fan Stats:
8 Teams (Mariners, Orioles and Blue Jays; Phillies, Braves, Mets, Brewers and Nationals)
5 Ice Cream Helmets (Orioles (2), Phillies, Mets, & Nationals)
15 Baseballs (2 Mariners, 3 Brewers, 3 Nationals, 2 Blue Jays, 3 Umpires, 1 Phillies, 1 Mets)
4 Stadiums (Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field)
4 Player Photos (Ryan Rowland-Smith, Frank Catalanotto, Jeff Suppan and Scott Olsen)
3 Autographs (Frank Catalanotto (2), Jeff Suppan and Scott Olsen)
3 Kids Run The Bases (Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field)