I’ve been trying to get Tim and I to Comerica Park for a couple years now. It has never seemed to work. My original plan this season was to work it into our Texas trip back in May, but the flights just wouldn’t work. So we came up with a new plan: Fourth of July weekend road trip to Cincinnati and Detroit.
Cincinnati was up first. We hit the road in the evening on Friday, July 1st and drove to a hotel in Pittsburgh. On Saturday, July 2, 2011 we headed off to Cincinnati to take in a game in the “Ohio Cup” series – Cleveland Indians vs. Cincinnati Reds.
But the game wasn’t until 4:05 p.m., and it was only about a four hour drive to Cincinnati. No matter what, we were going to get there before the gates opened. So, when we were about 50 miles out from Cincinnati, I called Colleen and asked her to look up the address for Moeller High School – Ken Griffey, Jr.’s high school (and, oh, yeah, Barry Larkin’s too)!
First, we pulled up to the scruffy looking practice baseball field (The Tom Fitz Athletic Fields) behind the school…
…where I imagined Griffey playing ball as a teenager. We ran the “bases” (there weren’t really any bases) and took some lefthanded hacks (without a bat) at the plate. Ah, it felt just like we were “The Kid” himself.
Up above a hill out in right field, there were really (really!) nice looking soccer and football fields. It made me think that there must be other baseball facilities somewhere else.
Anyway, we pulled around to the front of the school and got a few pictures:
In the picture above to the right, Tim is pretending he is Griffey walking into school.
Just as we were able to leave, a guy exited the main doors (where Tim is approaching in that picture above) and started packing some stuff into a van. I ran over and asked him if he knew where the baseball team plays. He was very nice and we ended up striking up a 10 minute conversation.
It was probably obvious since we were wearing Mariners clothes and I was asking about the baseball fields, but I felt compelled to explain to him, “We’re ‘Griffey people.’” His reply was priceless: “So are we!”
It ends up that the guy was Griffey’s U.S. History teacher back in the mid-1980s. He shared a handful of Griffey stories with us that were incredibly awesome to hear. Nothing overly important or exciting. Just tidbits about Griffey the high schooler and Griffey the man returning home after being traded to the Reds in 2000. It was a cool behind the scenes glimpse at my all-time favorite ballplayer.
The least shocking story was that Griff wasn’t exactly a model student. He apparently gave a lot of “I’m gonna play professional baseball” responses when prompted by his teachers to take his schooling more seriously. They would remind him, “You know, lots of people say that, but it doesn’t work out for most.” And as his teacher told is, Griff would always assure the, “but it IS going to work out for me.”
If were really the discussions (and I have no reason to doubt it), it certainly looks like Griff proved himself right.
One other story I thought was cool to hear is that Moeller used to use a baseball field a couple miles away that was behind a Thriftway store. It had no fence and Griff would jack bombs over the outfielders that would roll and roll forever. He was so good at it that his teammates referred to the field behind the Thriftway as the “Griffway.”
Oh, yeah. And he mentioned that Griffey spent some time practicing on that scruffy field behind the school, but that’s it. He never played games there.
And with that, lets continue on to Cincinnati.
Great American Ball Park is interesting. Downtown Cincinnati (as far as I can tell) is essentially situated on a hill that runs down to the Ohio River. Route-71 comes into downtown
and cuts across downtown at 3rd Street – at the bottom of the hill – just above the river. The big downtown buildings are up the uphill side of 3rd Street and Great American Ball Park is tucked into the little space right between the buildings/3rd Street/Route-71 and the Ohio River. If you park in downtown, you have to walk across the bridge…
…to get to the stadium. (Those pictures were actually taken after the game…so everyone is walking away from the park instead of to it.) In the picture above to the right, you can see that the ballpark is tucked between two buildings. The building to the left the Reds front office and the building to the right is the main team store and the Reds (very cool) Hall of Fame.
Here is a look as you get closer to the stadium…
…and that picture to the left is a huge engraving (I guess that’s what you would call it) on the end of the front office building.
This approach leads you to the gates right behind home plate. There are a bunch of statues in the area in front of the home plate gate:
In the picture above to the right with Tim facing the statue of the pitcher, Tim explained that he was being the catcher and he was telling the pitcher what pitches to throw.
When we arrived, it was still about 20 minutes before gate opening. And it was really hot. We scooted around to the third base gate, where it was somewhat shady, and we hopped in
line. While in line, we spotted our first (of many) Griffey jerseys of the day:
After entering the ballpark and stowing our two new Dusty Baker bobblehead/toothpick holders, we headed to section 109:
The Reds were hitting, but they were almost finished, and the Indians pitchers were starting to report to the LF line to warm up and do some throwing. BP got packed quick. My hunch was that we wouldn’t come away with a baseball from GABP. But after the Indians pitchers finished up throwing, an Indians batter hit a ball behind 3B that veered over into foul
territory where an Indians pitcher fielded it right in front of us. When I asked if he could toss it up to Tim, he walked over and handed it directly to Tim.
As he walked away, I called out, “Wait! What’s your name!?” He reply, simply, “Tony!” I thought that was pretty funny. We’re on a first name basis, you know? I later checked the roster and found that Tony’s last name is Sipp.
Here is a picture of Sipp walking away from us…
…and Tim smiling for the camera with his baseball:
Okay. We had a ball from GABP and that was enough for us. We’d only been to this ballpark once before so it was officially time to do some exploring. We started by heading behind home plate, where we got this picture of Tim (again posing with his Tony Sipp baseball):
Tim looks pretty sweaty in that picture, but it is really water. It was so hot that we kept dousing Tim’s head with cold water.
Here is a panoramic view of Great American Ball Park from the cross aisle right behind section 121:
Next, we headed down into the seats behind the third base dugout and got this panorama from the second row of section 117:
Although no one checked our tickets when we headed down into the seats behind the dugout, I got the feeling that someone was supposed to have done so. There was hardly anyone in the seats behind dugout, but lots of people down the foul lines and in the outfield.
They definitely were checking the tickets of anyone who dared stand in the front row behind the dugout. But they did let Tim stand there long enough to get this picture:
There is a big steamboat looking thing above the batters’ eye in CF and Tim requested that we go out there and check it out. So that’s what we did…well, we tried to. You can’t actually get out onto that steamboat unless you are part of the group that has the steamboat for the game.
So we just stood around in upper deck next to the steamboat for 10-15 minutes. Here was our view:
One Indians player in CF was clearly having more fun than anyone else on the field. I had no clue who he was. The last group of hitters was only two guys and I am pretty sure they were pitchers preparing for their final interleague games. They hardly got the ball out of the infield.
But they did get one ball out to the “fun guy” in center field. He was way out there in CF. After gloving the baseball, he started walking toward another player in LCF. I didn’t say a word, but I held my glove up. As he walked, he noticed us and he threw a laser to me. It was an amazing throw considering the height and distance the ball traveled.
Here is “fun guy” and Tim with our first ever upper deck toss up:
I took pictures of the guy and tried to get a close up of his glove…where it appeared that his name was embroidered. In the best photo, I could tell the first name was “Cade” and the last name looked like it started with “Dur.” The roster told me that Chad Durbin now pitches for the Indians and Wikipedia told me that Durbin has a son named Cade. So there you go, thanks are due to Mr. Durbin.
This picture taken later in the day illustrates Durbin’s impressive throw:
Interesting side note, the baseball that Durbin threw up to us is a minor league baseball. It is so scuffed and dirty that it is impossible to read which MiLB league it is from, but it clearly appears to have the MiLB logo instead of the MLB logo.
Next, we headed over to the LF corner of the upper deck and got this panorama from section 406:
And then we got a picture of Tim from the same spot:
After running up to the top of the seats, we got this panorama from the top of section 406:
Next, we headed over into the infield. We headed up to the tippy-top of the stadium and found a nice spot where we could get a good picture of Tim with his Chad Durbin baseball and the Great American Ball Park sign for the MyGameBalls.com scavenger hunt:
After climbing up to the top of section 510, this is what it looked like:
Zooming in, here is a look at the batters’ eye steamboat:
Tim was not feeling the tippy-top of the upper deck. Too high. So we headed down to the upper deck concourse. I kept dousing Tim’s head with water. When we visited the restroom after leaving section 510, Tim noticed his wet hair in the mirror. Before leaving the restroom, he asked me to help him spike his hair up into a mohawk. When we headed back
into the concourse, this is what Tim’s hair looked like:
Speaking of the concourse, this is what it looks like in the upper deck behind third base at Great American Ball Park:
It was time to circle the upper deck and take some more panoramas. First, section 516…
…a picture of the two of us between panoramas…
…and finally a panorama from the cross aisle above section 436:
That was enough of the upper deck for us, so we headed down to the field level and got this panorama from behind section 139:
Section 139 is right next to the visitors bullpen. This is what the bullpen looks like:
The bullpens were actually pretty interesting to me. A lot of stadiums where the bullpens are not side-by-side seem to put the visitors’ bullpen out in the direct sunlight and the home bullpen in a shady area. The Reds, however, did the opposite. Pretty early in the game, the visitors’ bullpen was in the shade while the Reds relievers were still in the direct sun.
There is a great standing room area in CF just to the RF side of the batters’ eye. Here is a panorama that I took from that SRO area just behind section 146:
We were in the SRO area when someone-or-other sang the National Anthem. Just behind the plate, Mr. Redlegs and Rosie were standing with hands over hearts:
Mr. Redlegs is very similar to Mr. Met. But if you ask me, Mr. Redlegs is hands down the superior mascot. The Rollie Fingers ‘stache really sets him apart…as does his retro Reds hat.
We had seats in the direct blazing sun in RF so we started hearing that way. As we walked behind the Reds bullpen, we noticed something interesting:
Aroldis Chapman was down there signing autographs. Of all of the players at this game, Aroldis is the player with whom I most wanted Tim to get his picture. While that was out of
the question, we were hoping Chapman would sign Tim’s baseball from Tony Sipp. Soon after we arrived at the stairs up above Chapman, he called it quits and walked into a door opposite the bullpen. We waited patiently. And then he reappeared. I called his name and I’m pretty sure that he only stopped because he saw Tim.
When Chapman stopped below us, he was holding a Gatorade-type bottle in one hand and he motioned for me to toss the Sipp baseball down to him. At this point, he had the drink in one hand and the baseball in the other hand, he motioned for me to toss down our pen. I figured he would just let it hit the ground and then pick it up. But he showed some major hand-eye coordination by catching the pen at hip level with his index finger. It was very impressive.
After he signed the ball and tossed us the ball and pen, I shouted out a big “Gracias, Aroldis!” That put a huge smile on his face. During this interaction (and while previously watching him signing autographs), we were probably 10 feet above Chapman’s head and it was impossible to chat with him. Nevertheless, it was clear that the guy conveys a ridiculously warm/nice/pleasant attitude. He really seemed like a great guy.
Here is a picture of the Chapman autograph.
Finally, it was time for the game to start. We headed to the Skyline Chili stand right behind section 103 and grabbed some nachos and a cheese coney…
…and then we headed down to our seats in section 103. This was our view from section 103, row C, seats 13-14:
It was crazy hot in our seats. I could tell that we wouldn’t be able to stay in these seats for too long, which was unfortunate because they were great seats. But I knew we’d last at least a couple innings because Tim was going to town on our big pile of nachos:
It was good to see the Reds play again. We haven’t seen them since 2008, Griffey’s last year with the Reds. During his time in Cincinnati, I watched tons and tons of Reds games. They have a lot of new players since then, and a lot of players that were there in 2008, but have really matured over the past several years. Like this guy…
…2010 N.L. MVP Joey Votto. In that at bat, Votto is about to ground out in the first inning.
This was a low scoring game. The pitching match-up was Fausto Carmona vs. Homer Bailey. We sat in our assigned seats through the second inning and the score was 0-0.
We were overheating (well, Tim was), so we headed to the standing room area in RCF which is set up as a big misting station. It really felt amazing in there. We stayed under the
mist-sprayers for a long time and we got soaked:
Meanwhile, former-Mariner Mickey Brantley’s son Michael Brantley hit a 3-run homerun in the top of the third inning. That would be all the runs that the Indians would score during this game, and it was all they would need to win.
While we were interested in the game, we were just as interested in seeing as much of Great American Ball Park as we could. After we were thoroughly misted, we decided to head in the opposite direction of our seats and keep exploring.
As we headed toward the 3B side concourse, we looked up and took this shot of the big toothbrush-style light stands:
We lingered in the SRO area behind section 118 for a while. It looked like this:
And then we cut through the concourse and found a nice standing room spot behind section 130:
Aside from the Brantley bomb, Homer Bailey was looking pretty good:
An inning after the homerun, Bailey had no problem retiring Brantley on a weak pop up to short stop:
We decided to wander aimlessly around the ballpark and it quickly paid dividends. We ran into both Slider (the visiting Cleveland Indians mascot) and Gapper (the “B-list” Reds mascot…or at least that is how I would rank him compared to Mr. Redlegs):
In the concourse behind home plate, there is a really cool looking Reds logo set into the floor:
And some cool (and really big) mosaic pictures on the wall…
…check out Ken Griffey, Sr. in the mosaic to the left (of course, Sr. (wearing number 30) was an instrumental part of the “Big Red Machine” back in the day). Junior has got the Hall of Fame stats, but Senior has got the rings (2 of them).
Behind section 119, there is a big staircase that is mostly blocked off and is used as a SRO area:
That’s where we were standing in the bottom of the fourth inning when Jay Bruce…
…flied out to CF. I would have got a great action shot of the Grady Sizemore and Austin Kearns running into each other just before Sizemore made the catch, but a lady walked into my pitch and totally ruined it. Booo!
We decided to stop by at this little bouncy house/slide thingy…
…on our way to the very impressive Reds team store:
Two notes: in the upper right picture, that is a game-used Dusty Baker jersey Tim is pointing to with his thumb and in the bottom right picture Tim is throwing a one-seamer on the
baseball seams on the floor of the team store.
Upstairs in the game-used area, we found this cool old Big Red Machine black-and-white photo on the wall…
…which again features Ken Griffey, Sr. (wearing number 30). Lets see if I can name the rest of the Big Red Machine (from left-to-right): Pete Rose, Ken Griffey Sr., Joe “Everyone’s Favorite Broadcaster” Morgan, Tony Perez, George Foster, Johnny Bench, Cesar Geronimo, and Dave Concepcion.
After perusing the team store, we headed over to section 126…
…but just for a minute. We had our sights on ice cream helmets. So we headed toward the first base side concourse where we had got our ice cream helmets back in 2008. As we approached the ice cream place, Mr. Redlegs was approaching walking in the opposite direction. I asked Mr. Redlegs if he could pose for a picture with Tim. Mr. Redlegs’ handler
shut us down explaining, “we’re in a rush to get somewhere.” But Mr. Redlegs was having none of it. He leaned in and gave Tim a big hug:
Awesome! Thanks, Mr. Redlegs!
The ice cream helmet line was ridiculous. It was as if every fan at the game was in line. We were in line for at least a full inning. But when we got to the front of the line, it was worth the wait. They had about 6 (maybe 8) toppings, and they were free and unlimited!
We both got twist soft serves. Tim got smashed up M&M’s with whipped cream and a cherry (which he got specifically to give to me) and I got smashed up Reese’s pieces. Delicious.
We reported back to our seats (well, our section at least) to eat our ice cream in the hot sun:
Just for kicks, we got this shot of Tim smiling with a belly full of ice cream:
It was still too hot to stay in our seats for too long. So we headed back to the misting SRO in RCF. On our way, we noticed that the Reds had a reliever warming up in the bullpen:
As I watched the game from the front of the SRO area, Tim whipped a wet wipe (from ice cream face clean up) around in the sunny mist trying to make rainbows in the mist:
It is pretty interesting watching the game from this SRO area. Sometimes it looks like you are watching the game on a HD television. But at other times, it looks like you are watching it through a thick fog (or mist) or a light fog:
That’s our buddy Tony Sipp pitching in those last two pictures. He gave up a solo homerun to Joey Votto, but still earned a “hold.”
Here is what it looked like in the SRO area behind section 145 when the mist was blowing in the opposite direction:
We were going to stay at a hotel 3.5 hours north in Toledo, Ohio after this game. So we decided to head over to the SRO areas behind home plate to watch the end of the game. The plan was to make a quick exit once the game ended.
Here was our view, once again, from the concourse behind section 126 (or so):
With the score at 3-1 Indians, it was still anyone’s game as the Reds pitched to the Indians in the top of the ninth:
While we were in position, I figured I better get a shot looking into the Indians dugout. Here is what it looked like:
The Reds needed two runs in the bottom of the ninth and they had the heart of their order coming to the plate. With one out and one on base, Brandon Phillips couldn’t get anything going:
Phillips struck out for the second out of the inning.
Joey Votto batted next and lined a single to leftfield on this inside-out swing:
With the tying runs on base, Scott Rolen came to bat with two outs as the potential winning run. But he struck out to end the game.
Indians win 3-1.
On our way out the of the ballpark, Tim did a “rounding second” pose on the “statue” base near by the Ted Kluszewski statue:
We also got a couple fake batting poses to try to recreate a picture that we took outside Great American Ball Park in 2008:
Although we missed a lot of the game because of all of the exploring we did around the ballpark, we had a great time.
And the great time didn’t stop just because we had a 3.5 hour drive ahead of us. It was the night of July2nd and people were out in full force lighting off their own fireworks demonstrations. Tim had a great time watching the fireworks and didn’t fall asleep until after 11:00 p.m., right we pulled up to our hotel.
|2011 C&S Fan Stats|
|15/2 Games (Tim/Kellan)|
|14/4 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals, Cubs, Angels, Indians and Reds; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles, Angels and Mets]|
|11 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1))|
|45 Baseballs (6 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 3 Orioles, 2 Umpire, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 5 Phillies, 2 Mets, 1 Rays, 2 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 1 Easter Egg, 1 Glove
Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs, 2 Angels, 2 Indians)
|7/2 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Citi Field, Great American Ball Park; 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]|
|5 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino, Aroldis Chapman)|
|1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)|
|6/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird, Mr. Redlegs, Gapper, Slider; 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]|
|1 Line-up Card (Royals vs. Rangers)|
|*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.|