On the morning of August 19, 2011, we woke up at our hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. Our game wasn’t until 7:00 p.m. So we dined on some free breakfast at the hotel, and then relaxed and played at the pool for a while…
…before heading to the beach for some more relaxing and playing.
At 4-something o’clock in the afternoon, we headed to Tropicana Field. One thing that I didn’t know about, but stands out prominently when you see Tropicana Field is that the dome is tilted. Our first thought was that the high side of the roof was the outfield where homeruns and outfield fly balls would reach their apex. On second thought, we contemplated that the
high side of the roof might be home plate where baseballs would be hit straight up from home plate.
Anyway, we would find out soon enough. First, we had to pay $15 to park in the ballpark lot:
Wait, wait…turns out we were among the first 100 cars with four-or-more passengers and, therefore, we parked for free! Cool. None of us had ever experienced anything like that before at an MLB game!
Walking through the stadium parking lot toward the main entrance, we stopped for a photo in front of a big Rays *twinkle* — I don’t know what else to call that thing. So I’ll call it a *twinkle*:
Oh, lookie there, its our Roadtrip guest: my mom!
Tim was super-psyched to have his grandma join us for some baseball and other fun in the Tampa Bay area. She is, hands down, one of Tim’s favorite people in the world.
We arrived before the doors (they were, in fact, doors, not gates) opened. So we hung out below some palm trees outside of the CF entrance:
Upon entering Tropicana Field, Tim and I closed out the A.L. East stadiums. We have now been to Camden Yards, old Yankee Stadium, new Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Rogers Centre, and Tropicana Field. This is our final new stadium of 2011. To date, Tim and I have been to 29 stadiums together (I have also been to the Kingdome and Veterans Stadium) and
there are only three teams (the Cardinals, Royals and Rockies) that we have not seen play a home game. We will finish those teams off in 2012 – although we will also have to back track to Minnesota (Target Field) and Miami (new Marlins ballpark) before we can say we have been to games at all current-MLB stadiums.
Back to this game, I was under the impression that fans would be confined to the outfield concourse during the first half hour after the doors opened. So the first thing we did was head upstairs to a little lookout above the rays tank:
I had told him about it and Tim was super-excited about the rays tank. And the excited did not fade through the weekend. Here is a view of the field from the lookout above the rays tank:
I immediately noticed something: there were fans in the outfield stands. This was a Friday night game. I guess they must not do the confined-to-the-concourse thing for weekend games. Anyway, there was no reason to be at the lookout if the stands were open. So we headed down to the RCF seats right next to the rays tank:
Check that out. Rays are swimming by literally three feet away from those seats. How awesome is that? These are officially Tim’s favorite seats at any MLB ballpark. (And, as I type this, he reminds me that he didn’t love them just for the rays, he loved the horseshoe crabs too!).
About seven minutes after gates opened (according to the time stamp on the following photo), Jake McGee…
…welcomed us to Tropicana Field with a toss-up. FYI, David Price is the guy running to the left, McGee is the guy acting like he is about to make a backhanded catch.
About five minutes later, we all circled around the stadium to the Mariners dugout on the 3B side. Ichiro was playing catch…
…with Chone Figgins along the 3B line. My Dad was hanging out above the dugout (where Miguel Olivo tossed him his warm-up baseball). My mom and Tim headed over to hang out with my Dad, and I relocated down the LF line where the Mariners pitchers were just starting to play catch:
Unless you have these super-fancy tickets along the foul line, fans cannot get down to the field by the bullpens. Its not as bad as in Miami where normal fans cannot get to the field anywhere in fair territory. At Tropicana Field, any fan can get down to the front row on the field between the dugouts and the bullpens, but then these big party areas set back the normal fans about 20-30 feet from the field.
As would become a recurring theme of this weekend, Tim wanted to go back out to the CF seats so he could watch the rays in the rays tank. My mom took him out there and my Dad and I hung out by the Mariners bullpen.
I went to section 137…
…by the foul pole, and my Dad hung out in…oh, probably…section 133 or so by the bullpen mounds. My Dad’s positioning paid huge dividends: Michael Pineda tossed him a baseball. Pineda has had a rougher go of it in the second half of the season, but I think he is going to develop into a dominating MLB pitcher.
A few minutes later, Dan Cortes (who is standing above and slightly to the left of the bald security guard in the last picture) finished playing catch with Josh Lueke. When I called out his name, Cortes happily tossed me his unofficially rubbed up and dirty baseball.
I’ve chatted with Cortes a few times this season. He seems really nice. He’s at the stage that he’s excited to be in the big leagues and he is ready to spend a little time chatting to fans who recognize him.
When the pitchers finished playing catch, they disbursed across the outfield. I spend a few minutes hanging out in LF, but it was somewhat crowded and I was alone. I figured it would be more fun to go meet up with Tim and my mom in CF. I started toward a tunnel to run out to the concourse, but then I figured I might as well walk to the LCF side of the batters’ eye in the seats. I could then run down into the concourse and head over to the RCF seats. The decision paid off.
In deep LCF, Tom Wilhelmsen was all by his lonesome shagging baseballs. Wilhelmsen is in a similar place as Cortes – happy to be in the major leagues. But add to the mix that fact that he was out of baseball for about 6 years. Two years ago, he was a bartender in the Phoenix area. Now, he is a Major League baseball player. What wouldn’t he have to be happy about?
As I passed behind Wilhelmsen, a ball was driven into the deepest part of LCF. I called out Tom’s name and flashed him my glove. He then disappeared from sight for 3-4 seconds and returned ready to fire me a strike.
When I reached the rays tank, Tim was excitedly watching (and “oooh’ing” and aweing about) the rays and, to my surprise, he was holding a baseball. Turns out that Justin Smoak spotted Tim and my mom in the seats watching the rays and tossed up a baseball. It was the first baseball Tim’d ever gotten outside of my immediate presence! Oh, my young boy is growing into a man. *weep* *weep*
And then it was time for one of the most exciting BP moments or our season. My Dad was in straight away right field. I relocated to RF after Jason Vargas tossed him his warm up ball in LF. We all decided to go hang out over there when we saw that Ichiro was shagging fly balls out there.
You can only go in the front row in the outfield during BP if you have front row tickets – my guess is that it is a safety issue. The railings are ridiculously low. Anyway, we couldn’t get into the front row. So Tim and I were standing together in the second row directly behind Ichiro. Oddly enough, Tim was actually standing directly in front of me – i.e., we were both standing in front of the same seat in the second row.
One of our lefties spanked a ball over Ichiro’s head. It ended up on the warning track directly in front of us. As Ichiro came back for it, Tim and I both called out to him and politely asked for him to toss the baseball to us. As he grabbed the baseball, he looked up right at us. He saw Tim decked out in Mariners gear. Our eyes connected. And he tossed the baseball right to us.
But there was a problem. There were grown men on either side of me in the front row. For us to get the baseball, one of two things would have to happened. The first option was if, noticing that the baseball was plainly for a little kid (Mariners fan) who had asked for it, the two guys would just let it sail between them so we could catch it. That option was a no go. Both seemed intent on depriving Tim of the baseball that his baseball hero had decided to toss right to him.
The second option was for me, without the ability to enter the front row, to someone beat out two grown men standing closer to Ichiro and catch the ball before them. And that’s what would have to happen. As the ball sailed to me, the guys crashed in from both sides. Luckily, neither guy reached out toward the field for it, they just moved laterally. Their gloves came together like a curtain trying to shut us out. But I leaned WAAAAY forward (Tim slid to the side so I didn’t smash him into the seat in front of me) and my pushed through the narrow opening between their gloves. The two guys essentially caught my wrist, and on the other side, my glove caught the baseball.
I pulled my glove back really having no clue if I got it or not. I opened my glove and we found the baseball inside. We were ecstatic! We yelled out a huge:
“THANK YOU, ICHIRO!!!”
And I held the ball up for my parents to see. Two seconds later, handed the ball to Tim and he posed for a picture with Ichiro (and one of the would-be Ichiro-ball interceptors) in the background:
After our initial celebration, Tim ran up to his grandma and I headed to the back of the section where I got a second picture showing Tim, the Ichiro baseball, my mom and my dad (blue hat and green backpack):
This was already one of our best batting practices ever. To cap it off, I caught a Kyle Seager (I am pretty sure it was Seager) homerun on the fly at the back of the section. It was pretty exciting since I almost never catch balls on the fly (in fact, this was my first of the season). The ball was hit about 10 feet to my left. I ran over there and it was coming directly to two guys (probably 22’ish years old). Neither had a glove, but both hopped up and made a quarter-hearted attempt at catching it. But in the end, I think both were scared to try to catch it bare handed. So they let it sail directly between them and straight into my glove.
It was pretty cool and my Mom gave a big cheer from the bottom of the section. So that was cool. Seager really got a hold of that one. The ball ended up mildly lopsided from the force of the hit.
And that was it for BP.
Then, Tim had a great idea…
…“Let’s go see the rays tank!”
On the walk to the rays tank (or to the line for the rays tank), we passed under this interesting lamp:
That’s the arm of “Raymond,” the Rays’ mascot. Although many people are down on domed-stadiums (not me, I love ‘em!), no one can credibly say that the Rays haven’t done a great job making their concourses interesting for fans (particularly kids). There are tons of things to see and do in the various concourses that circle Tropicana Field.
It took awhile, but we finally made it to the front of the rays tank line:
Oops…we forgot about the upstairs waiting area. What is this, the Empire State Building line?
In the second floor waiting area, Tim posed (quite hilariously) with some rays painted onto a bench:
We were sure to obey all of the “Rays Tank rules”:
Anyone can go in and pet the rays for free. But for $5 (that goes to the local aquarium), you can feed the rays too! Tim preferred the “drop it and let them find it” method of feeing the rays:
Mostly, he just wanted to watch them from close up:
If you had food, the rays would flock to you and stick their faces and wings above the water. Meanwhile, the horseshoe crab and its baby walked around the bottom of the tank and didn’t bother anyone. Of course, I had to keep an eye on the field to see if my Mariners would reappear.
And they did. While we were in the rays tank area (you only get 8 minutes in there, something I did not yet know at this point), Felix Hernandez came out to warm up. I entrusted Tim to his grandparents’ care and headed off to watch Felix.
After the rays tank, but before meeting up with me down the LF line, my parents took Tim to play in the RF concourse:
And soon enough, this picture showed up on my phone (via text from my mom):
That is Raymond, the Rays’ mascot. But interestingly, it isn’t the normal Raymond. The normal Raymond is fuzzy, like most mascots. This Raymond was a big inflatable guy.
This was my view of Tropicana Field from section 127…
…as I watched Felix run through his pre-game routine. By the way, at Tropicana Field, odd numbered sections are on the 3B/LF side and even numbered sections are on the 1B/RF side.
During the singing of the National Anthem, Felix looked like a true all-star…
…complete with stars shaved into the side of his head.
In recent history, the Mariners bullpen has featured a rookie with a pink back pack. Well, for this series, I featured two pink back packs, another silly kids’ backpack (that will be shown later), and a tiny little pink lunch box…
…carried by Dan Cortes.
We sat in section 129 at this game. This was our view:
And this is what we looked like (or at least three of us) at the beginning of the game:
Although we sat in section 129, we were supposed to sit in section 131. But there was a problem. This big dude in the Hawaiian shirt (row K) was sitting in our seats:
Going into this game, the Mariners were 0-3 for me and Tim this season with two walk-off losses. We yearned for a Mariners win like nobody’s business. We were hoping that Ichiro…
…would start it off hot for the Mariners. Unfortunately, he popped out foul to the catcher.
We were in need of food. So between innings I headed out to the concourse. The field level concourse is interesting at Tropicana Field. It is split between an inner concourse – primarily just for walking from here to here – and an outer concourse that doubles as a food court of sorts. Here are two pictures of the food-concourse on the 3B side…
…where I found our nachos…
…and a all-you-can-drink diet coke (actually, it was probably diet pepsi). And I drank a whole lot of diet pepsi to make sure I got my money’s worth.
While we were eating our nachos, the Rays’ mascot, Raymond, made an appearance about two sections down from us. I asked Tim if he wanted to get his picture with Raymond and, of course, he did. So we put the nachos down and sprinted down to sections toward home plate and got this photo with Raymond:
Two minutes later, Raymond was standing two rows behind our seats taking pictures with fans. Oh, well. The chase was part of the fun.
One of the newest and most exciting young Mariners, Trayvon Robinson…
…, was playing LF and was standing directly out from our seats most of the game. After the Mariners failed to score in the top of the first. Robinson made a brilliant diving catch on a liner to LCF to retire the first Rays batter of the game in the bottom of the first.
The game was scoreless through the first and second innings. Robinson then led off the third with a double to RF. He took second on a groundout by Ichiro. Trayvon then scored the first run of the game when Franklin Gutierrez grounded to short stop Sean Rodriguez who threw the ball way (also allowing Gutierrez to take second).
It was time for Tim and I to go on a little adventure. He wanted to go see the rays tank and I wanted to go take Tim’s picture with his Ichiro baseball and the Tropicana Field sign for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt.
On our way to the sign (or what I thought was the sign), we stopped off in section 144 to take this panorama:
I thought that the *Tropicana Field* sign was really cool looking, with a big orange and straw logo. Tim decided on a catching-the-Ichiro-baseball pose and I thought the picture turned out great:
At the time, it did not occur to me at all that the sign did not say “Tropicana Field.” No, not at all. Of course, it is plain as day, it is just a Tropicana juice sign! Aye, aye, aye…
As we continued on our way toward the rays tank, we took some pictures of the interest set up at Tropicana Field. First off, the RF seating section is really small. Tons of batters were hitting BP homers to the very back of the seats because there just are not many rows of seats in RF. One reason there aren’t many seats is because they have this cross-aisle behind some of the sections in RF (close to the foul pole):
I have no clue what the blue risers are behind the cross-aisle.
We stopped in the cross-aisle behind section 135 to get this panorama:
In foul territory down the 1B line there is a party area similar, but not identical, to the party area down the 3B line:
Once you get to the scoreboard and big screen in RF, the cross-aisle ends, and the blue risers turn into black risers:
But enough of that. There were rays to watch:
And Tim had blast watching them:
If you happen to have tickets in section 150 next to the rays tank, if you are able to look away from the rays, this is what your view of the field would look like:
As we were circling back around the cross-aisle toward home plate, it was the top of the fifth and King Felix had yet to give up a single hit to the Rays. With the Mariners still leading 1-0, Ichiro led off the fifth with a single:
With Ichiro still on first, we got this panorama from the cross-aisle behind section 116:
But then Franklin Gutierrez grounded into a double play. An Adam Kennedy strike out later, the top of the fifth inning was history.
We headed out to the concourse and bought some ice cream helmets. As we walked the inside concourse around home plate toward our seats, we got a shot of the weird tunnels into the seating area behind home plate:
Very odd, indeed.
Back in the seats with Grandma and Grandpa, the ice cream was quite tasty:
Unfortunately, the Rays tied it up 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth with a run manufactured by B.J. Upton. After singling on a weak grounder past Adam Kennedy at third, he stole second, stole third, and scored on a bunt by John Jaso. The worst part about it is that Upton should have been out at first. Adam Kennedy didn’t get in front of the ball. Instead he ole’d it right into a single. Unfortunately, this would not be Kennedy’s only botched play on the day…so stay tuned.
The Mariners reclaimed the lead in the top of the seventh on a lead-off homerun to RF by Kyle Seager:
That *should have* been all the support that Felix needed for the win. He was, as usual, dominating:
In the eighth, Tim and my Mom headed back to the rays tank…
…and then things fell apart for the Mariners.
More precisely, things fell apart in the bottom of the eighth when Johnny Damon stepped to the plate with two down and a runner on first:
One more out and the Mariners would head to the ninth with the 2-1 lead intact. Felix pumped strike one and strike two over the plate. One more strike and the Mariners could stick a fork in the eighth.
But then Damon hit a grounder between third and short stop. Kennedy moved like a slug over to get it. He double or triple or…I don’t know…infinity-clutched the ball. I yelled, “AAAAAAHHHHHHH, GET RID OF IT!!!!!!” And then Johnny Damon crossed first base safe.
I could not believe it.
Any other day, Kennedy makes that play. Kyle Seager, Chone Figgins, Jose Lopez, Adrian Beltre, Scott Spiezio, Jeff Cirillo, David Bell, Russ Davis, Mike Blowers, Edgar Martinez, Jim Presley, Jamie Allen, Manny Castillo, Dan Meyer, Ted Cox, Bill Stein, and anyone else who has ever played a single game at 3B for the Mariners would have made the play. In fact, they would have made the out at either 2B or 1B.
But this was this day, and it was Adam Kennedy (who had already cost Felix a run) was at third, and the play was not made.
As great as King Felix is, he does not always respond well to boneheaded misplays. And he did not respond well at this game. So Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist both followed with RBI singles. A few minutes later, game over. Mariners lose.
It was a tough, tough loss.
As the relievers headed back to the dugout, I got this picture featuring a pink backpack and the new R2D2 backpack:
As the ninth inning was playing out, I realized something – the Tropicana sign wasn’t the Tropicana Field sign. And Tim was way out there in CF by the rays tank. I texted and called
my Mom to ask her to come back to meet up with us. But her phone was in his bag and she didn’t hear it. So, just in case we didn’t get another baseball at Tropicana Field, my Dad took a Tropicana Field bonus picture of me…
…and when my Mom and Tim finally arrived (and the lights had been turned down), I got a bonus picture of Tim.
And then we got a group photo with the lights out:
Tim requested that it be a *thumbs up* photo.
See all of those people on the field? On Friday nights, the Rays turn off the main lights, turn on some disco lights and dance music, and let fans leave the game by walking across the field to an exit in CF.
We headed down to the field and got a picture of Tim on the warning track with the dugout behind him:
We got another picture of Tim standing on the LF foul line:
And then Tim started to dance like crazy. It was all I could do to get him to stop dancing long enough to take this picture behind second base (doing an 80s b-boy pose)…
…and this on-field Tropicana Field bonus picture (this is the official photo we submitted to the scavenger hunt):
Then, as Tim went back to throwing his hat in the air and dancing, I took a 360 degree panorama from behind 2B:
If you click on that picture to enlarge it, you can see Tim dancing on both sides of the panorama.
I took this same picture, but my Dad did a better job of it – a worm’s eye view of the center of Tropicana Field’s roof:
After Tim did a bit more dancing, including some break dancing on the big screen…
…we called it a night.
We’d be back again the next day (August 20, 2011) hoping for our first Mariners win of the season.
I have to say, despite the crushing Mariners loss, I really liked Tropicana Field. I grew up among rumors of the Mariners moving to St. Petersburg to play in this very building. Because of that, I’ve always had negative feelings about Tropicana Field. But I grew up going to and absolutely loving the Kingdome. And like the Metrodome in 2009, I felt right at home at Tropicana Field, a great little domed stadium.
|2011 C&S Fan Stats|
|24/4 Games (Tim/Kellan)|
|18/6 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals, Cubs, Angels, Indians, Reds, Giants, Tigers, Yankees, Marlins; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles, Angels, Mets, Indians, Yankees]|
|19 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1), Tigers (1), Marlins (2), Braves (2), Rays (1)).|
|68 Baseballs (12 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 4 Orioles, 4 Umpires, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 5 Phillies, 2 Mets, 2 Rays, 5 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 2 Easter Egg, 1 Glove Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs, 5 Angels, 4 Indians, 2 Giants, 1 Tigers, 1 Marlins)|
|12/3 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Citi Field, Great American Ball Park, Comerica Park, Yankee Stadium, Sun Life Stadium, Turner Field, Tropicana Field; Kellan – Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium]|
|13/9 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, Chad Durbin, Russell Branyan; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders, Tony Sipp, Chad Durbin]|
|3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]|
|6 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino, Aroldis Chapman, Jack McKeon)|
|1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)|
|9/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird, Mr. Redlegs, Gapper, Slider, Sebastian (U. of Miami), Homer, Raymond; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]|
|3/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L. West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in Arlington), N.L. East (Citizens Bank Park, Shea Stadium, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Sun Life Stadium, & Turner Field), A.L. East (Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium (1923), Yankee Stadium (2009), Fenway Park, Rogers Centre, Tropicana Field); Kellan – N/A]|
|2 Line-up Cards (Royals vs. Rangers; Indians vs. Orioles)|
|*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.|