At the ripe old age of *little five*, Tim has finally closed out the A.L. West stadiums. When we entered Rangers Ballpark in Arlington over Memorial Day weekend, it was our fourth and final A.L. West Stadium to check off of our list. Safeco Field (2006-10), Oakland Coliseum (2010), Angel Stadium of Anaheim (2010), and Rangers Ballpark of Arlington (2011).
It is the first MLB division that we have closed out. By the end of the season, two more (N.L. East and A.L. East) will join the A.L. West on the closed-out list.
This is the story of how we finally closed out the A.L. West.
On the morning of May 28, 2011, Tim and I woke up at my buddy Jason’s house (Thanks, Jason , Erin and Ainsley! Welcome to the world, Isla, thanks for loaning us your brand new room!), Tim played around a bit with Jason’s daughter Ainsley, and then we hit the road north to Arlington, Texas.
The drive is long (4.5 hours), flat and straight. Here were the highlights:
Top Left – A big Sam Houston statue…Really big;
Top Right – Day and night speed limits;
Bottom Left – Tim did lots of napping after a long and fun-filled day in Houston; and
Bottom Right – It was flat and hot out there…our dashboard thermometer said it got up to about 96 degrees during our drive
We stayed at a hotel about one mile from Rangers Ballpark, which just happens to be right across the street from Six Flags. About half an hour before the gates opened for season ticket holders, Tim and I hopped into the car, drove less than a mile, paid $10 to park, and walked about a quarter mile to the home plate entrance at Rangers Ballpark.
We did not have season tickets, but we had plans to meet MLBlogs and myGameBalls.com friend Brian Powell, who is a season ticket holder. Brian got us in early and the fun began.
As I mentioned, upon entering Rangers Ballpark, Tim and I reached a milestone. We finished off visiting each A.L. West stadium (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angels Stadium, and Rangers Ballpark). It felt good to finally close out a division.
Now, I did a fairly shabby job of covering theaction during batting practice. Itotally failed to photograph the empty bleachers during BP. So here is a picture from later in the game
that sort of shows the set-up of things:
That really shabby looking panoramic view is looking out at Rangers Ballpark from the back of section 52. The outfield is split into three sections. Brian led us into the seating
around in the left field corner in section 54. We walked across the elevated LF sections and said “hello” to myGameBalls.com member and Brian’s buddy, Dirk Elliott. Then we kept on our way toward CF.
We finally stopped in section 52. It was me, Tim, Brian, and one other guy in the whole section. That guy’s wife and son showed up from time-to-time, but mostly it was just the four of us in the three left centerfield sections (section 52-54).
Here’s the best photo I managed to take that shows the set-up:
In that picture, Tim and Brian are hanging out in section 53 and in the background (with the red arrow) is Dirk in section 4.
Two seconds after taking off my back pack, Josh Hamilton blasted a BP homer about 7 rows over our heads. I ran up a couple rows and picked it up for our first baseball ever at Rangers Ballpark. It was very cool to get a baseball from Hamilton.
A few minutes later, Brian and Tim were further down toward section 52 (where I took that last picture), when another Ranger blasted a homerun into section 53. I ran for it, but I ricocheted off of the seats in the second or third row and back onto the field. Neftali Feliz saw me run for the ball, gloved it off of the ricochet and immediately tossed it back up to me.
The other guy in the section was focused on running onto Greene’s Hill to try to catch BP homeruns. I wanted to give it a shot too. So Tim and I hung out by the edge of the grass for a while in section 52. While we were standing around waiting for a homerun to be hit into the grassy batters eye, Tim pipes up –
Tim: “There’s a baseball!”
Tim: “There’s a baseball in that thing!”
Todd: “What? Where?”
Check this out:
I asked the other guy in the section if it was cool for me to run down into the camera well to grab the baseball. It was. Moments later, we had this ball in hand.
Tim has told numerous people the story about finding this ball. And at the end of the story, he always concludes (as if it is a punchline to a great joke), “Then daddy showed him the baseball, and Brian laughed!”
By the way, this baseball was unlike any other ball we acquired in Texas. It had a Rawlings-printed “Practice” stamp below the MLB logo, but it did not say “Training Ball” like the Nationals baseballs. It makes me curious to know how long the ball had been in this little box. But, we’ll never know.
After a while, Dirk came over to join us in LCF. We had read about Dirk’s fishing pole ball retriever device on myGameBalls.com and he knew that Tim was really hoping to get a chance to try it out. Dirk asked Tim if he wanted to give it a shot, and Tim responded enthusiastically in the affirmative.
There were no baseballs in the gap, so Dirk just tossed one of his own baseballs down there. And then he took Tim under his wing to teach him about baseball fishing:
It was the first time either Tim or I had ever used a ball retrieving device, and Tim loved it. He was even more excited two minutes later when Brian and Dirk pulled a surprise gift for Tim out of one of their back packs; they had made him his very own Mariners baseball fishing pole:
We were blown away! Tim absolutely loves his Mariners fishing pole.
Thanks, Brian and Dirk! You guys are awesome!
It was crazy hot at Rangers Ballpark. So we relocated over to the Rangers bullpen area in right centerfield. Tim used the shady spot above the bullpen to practice casting with his baseball pole:
I noticed former-Mariners Mark Low and Arthur Rhodes…
…standing in RF in front of the Rangers bullpen. It is great to see former-Mariners sticking together. I was wearing a Mariners t-shirt, but not my jersey because it was so hot. But standing behind two former-M’s, I figured I better put on the jersey. Mere minutes later, Arthur gave us a wave and then he hooked us up with our fourth baseball of the day.
Soon, a BP homerun found its way into the Rangers bullpen. It was way out there. The pole is really meant for baseballs below you in a gap, but we figured that I should try casting for it.
Brian got some pictures from behind me as I cast Tim’s contraption out into the Rangers bullpen from the first row in center field:
I needed to knock the ball close, but it was a no go. I was getting nowhere with it.
We relocated to the seats behind the bullpen where Tim has been practicing casting his pole. As I failed over-and-over again, I got an ear full from an (apparent) Rangers regular. An older lady who sat in the first row at the CF corner of the bullpen both Saturday and Sunday. She was mocking the Mariners patch on Tim’s baseball pole.
Here we are chatting with her and an usher who came down to watch us:
I was having absolutely no luck knocking the ball closer to the back of the bullpen. At one point, I told the usher, “I think I’ll try to hook that chair (in the bullpen), knock it over, and use it to pull the ball closer to me.”
A great idea, I thought.
I hooked the chair pretty easily:
But the chair was WAY to heavy and it wouldn’t budge.
“Yer gonna break your line!,” hollered the older Rangers fan.
I turned to her with a smile, “I’m not really a fisherman.”
“You don’t say!?,” she replied with a sarcastic Texas accent.
At this point, the usher intervened. There was no way I was going to unhook the chair without snapping my line and losing the ball retriever on the end of Tim’s pole. So the usher hopped down into the bullpen and grabbed the baseball (he can be seen in that last picture walking toward the baseball).
He walked over to hand the ball up to Tim. I asked if he could just put the ball on the ground below us so we could fish it out. “I think you’ve tried enough,” he responded as he handed the baseball up to Tim.
So, our first retriever effort was a failure. But Tim has the baseball to go along with the story:
Okay. BP was finished. It was time to walk around a little bit. But just a little bit, because it was so incredibly hot.
We headed over to section 44 to get a panorama of Rangers Ballpark from the extra wide stairway:
There are a bunch of kids’ games behind the batters eye, and Brian had given us a bunch of tokens to play some of the games. (Side note, it is pretty weak that the Rangers sell tokens so kids can play games after paying to go to the game). Anyway, Tim really wanted to play the games, but the lines were huge.
So it was time to check out the upper deck. We headed to section 303. There was a great view of the Rangers bullpen from up there:
It was so high and steep that Tim was scared to be up there. But he put his fears aside for this picture:
Finally, I got this panoramic view of Rangers Ballpark from section 303:
Whenever we hit a new stadium, we’re all about seeing the whole thing. Normally, we would have walked all the way around the upper deck at this point. But it was crazy hot (I might have mentioned that already) and Tim was not digging being up so high. So we called it quits on the tour. Yep, we were way off of our new-stadium-game.
So we headed back down to the field level.
On the way down, I got this picture of the concourse from high above:
There was still a huge line for all of the kids’ games. So we just passed through and got Tim’s picture with Nolan Ryan:
We must have looked like we were going to melt because an usher came up and told us that we could head into the Rangers Hall of Fame if we needed some air conditioning.
Great idea. Here is a little peak into the Rangers Hall of Fame:
I love Tim’s look of disapproval in the top left picture. Yeah, we’re Mariners fans, Rangers. We’re just in here for the air conditioning!
Nah, despite wanting the Rangers to lose every game they play, it was nice to see their Hall of Fame.
The game was about to start so we headed to the concession stand for some nachos. On the way to grab the nachos, we spotted this Rangers fan sporting a mean part of antlers:
Nachos in hand, we reported to our seats. Well, actually, our seats were in the sun, so we sat section 50, row 9, seats 1-2. We actually sat in these same exact seats both Saturday and Sunday. They’re awesome: (i) nice and shady, (ii) great view, and (iii) easy access to the Rangers bullpen and the concourse.
Tim grabbed my glove to pose for a photo with our view of the ballpark:
After former-Mariner Adrian Beltre put the Rangers up 2-0 with a double in the bottom of the first inning, Tim and I headed to the kids’ play area. It was time for Tim to take some hacks at Rangers Park:
After cycling through the outfield shagging balls, Tim got his turn at bat. He got about 5 or 6 pitches and he hit them all. Like this one:
And this one:
Finally, on his last pitch, Tim hit a homerun directly to me. It was my first clean catch of a homerun ball all season!
While Tim was waiting in line to hit in Rangers Park, Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli and Endy Chavez hit back-to-back-to-back homeruns. We couldn’t see the homers at all. We just saw the fireworks and saw “homerun” flashing across the LCD boards along the 3B line.
Next up, it was time to hit in this little batting tee thingy:
This time while we were in line, Adrian Beltre hit an unseen homerun. We were missing a lot of action. The Rangers were leading 6-0.
But the worst part about standing in line for this batting tee thingy was that (as Tim reports it), that boy in the red shirt said, “you can do it little kid! Hey, I’m not *little* kid!”
So we missed a whole bunch of homeruns.
When we were back in our seats, the action looked more like this:
That’s an awkward Adrian Beltre foul ball.
With our long trip to the kids play area, this game was flying by. At some point, Tim asked where Brian was. He wanted to go see him. After exchanging a few text messages with Brian, we were on our way up to section 232 to meet up with Brian, his daughter Sarah, and his mom and aunt.
On our way up a long and tall escalator in the 1B side concourse, I got this cool picture that shows the various levels of the inner-stadium:
At the top of that picture is the suite level, next is a thin slice of the playing field, then it’s the back of the field level seats with a little elevated concourse area (or maybe it’s a party area) behind the seats, and (finally) at the bottom is the actual field level concourse.
Brian’s seats for the game were pretty sweet. And we grabbed couple seats right next to his. It looked like this:
Between innings, Tim and I got a picture with Brian (who is sporting his Happy Youngster t-shirt):
The Rangers also had a running of the mascots race – like the presidents in D.C., the sausages in Milwaukee or the Pierogies in Pittsburgh:
Nolan Ryan won this race.
While we were up there, it was also a prime opportunity to get Tim’s picture with the “Rangers Ballpark in Arlington” sign behind home plate:
Brian’s seats were perfect for taking pictures of batters. Like this one of Josh Hamilton:
When Hamilton hit a double, Elvis Andrus…
…scored eighth Rangers run of the night. Hamilton and Nelson Cruz scored the 9th and 10th Rangers runs of the night…on the fifth Rangers homerun of the night:
That was it for Brian and his crew. They had to leave a little early. So we too left section 232. We headed back toward CF via the scenic route.
First, we got this panoramic view of Rangers Ballpark from section 242:
Next, we headed to the all-you-can-eat second deck in RF, where a stadium attendant took this shot of us from the concourse in deep RCF:
Then I got this panoramic view from the front of sections 251/252:
This is what it looks like up in the all-you-can-eat seats:
Finally, we headed back down to the field level and the CF bleachers. On our way, we stopped to grab Tim a chocolate ice cream helmet. We’d definitely been *watching* the game, but for some reason I didn’t realize what inning it was. When we closed on the deal and took possession of Tim’s first Rangers ice cream helmet, there was one out in the top of the ninth…and the home team was winning big!
Uh, oh. Tim was going to have to eat this huge mint chocolate chip ice cream helmet fast.
We decided to sit in the first row behind the Rangers bullpen to finish off the game. Just as we settled in, Tim realized there was something fishy with is ice cream utensil:
What the spork!? Yep, it was Tim’s very first spork of his life. 25 stadiums and 1 spork.
I quickly realized that no one was warming up in the bullpen, but there was a stray baseball laying on the ground by the bullpen home plates.
I started to take a panorama from the first row of section 48 and…
…the game ended. Rangers win. Darn.
The Rangers relievers high-tailed it out of there. I mean they were gone in a flash. And when it was all said and done, I realized they had left the stray baseball sitting on the ground by the
bullpen home plates.
I picked up Tim and we headed over to the first row of section 52.
Now, I had never used the “glove trick” before, never even attempted it, but I had rigged a glove up for it and brought it on this trip because I knew Rangers Ballpark was glove-trick-friendly and we needed a picture using a ball retrieving device for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt. We’d already got the picture of Tim fishing for a baseball with Dirk, but now we had a prime opportunity to try out the glove trick.
It took me a minute or two to swing the glove out and knock the ball closer to me. It was probably 8-10 feet out. One my second or third attempt, I successfully got the ball up to chest level. I went to grab it from the glove, and accidentally knocked it out. But instead of falling into the bullpen, it fell into the 10 (or so) foot deep gap.
So, I repositioned myself and tried again. With a small crowd watching me, the pressure was on. I quickly got the baseball half way up from the ground before I jerked my string and the ball fell to the ground again.
At this point, an usher came down to the first row. I pleaded to him, “I’ve never done this before. Can I just try to get this baseball?” “I’m gonna watch you do it,” he responded. Cool!
On my next attempt, I nailed it. As I slowly raised the glove from the ground, the usher counseled me, “easy now, easy now!” And easy did it. I got the ball to chest level and *carefully* reached out and secured it with my hand.
The small crowd let out a little roar. And I held the ball aloft in victory! Our first ever glove trick!
Tim posed with the baseball and his still almost-full ice cream hemlet:
In that picture, the guy in the white shirt and red hat is the usher who watched us get the baseball. The little kid in the red also watched with amazement as we retrieved our sixth and final ball of the day.
Ah, Rangers Ballpark of Arlington, you are a good one. In fact, as I rank the A.L. West Stadiums, you are second:
1. Safeco Field
2. Rangers Ballpark of Arlington
3. Angels Stadium of Anaheim
4. Oakland Coliseum (a distant last place)
|2011 C&S Fan Stats|
|10/1 Games (Tim/Kellan)|
|12/2 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros and Royals; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles]|
|5 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies, Rangers)|
|33 Baseballs (4 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 3 Orioles, 2 Umpire, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 4 Phillies, 1 Mets, 1 Rays, 2 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 1 Easter Egg, 1 Glove Trick)|
|5/1 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington; Kellan – Camden Yards]|
|11/7 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix Hernandez, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders]|
|3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]|
|3 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe)|
|1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)|
|3/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]|
|1/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L. West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in Arlington); Kellan – N/A]|
|*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.|