It has been a long and busy off-season. On Saturday, April 14, 2012, Tim and I kicked off our 2012 baseball season with a game between the Mets and Phillies in Philadelphia. I had been looking forward to this game like crazy.
I had originally planned to take both boys to Baltimore on Saturday, April 7th, but I didn’t realize it was Easter weekend and we had a house full of family. So we had to wait a whole week to get our first taste of major league baseball for the season.
I’ve been extremely busy at work this off-season. And our house has been crazy. Having two boys is awesome. But it is way harder than having one boy. Tim and Kellan get along great most of the time. But they also create non-stop action, tons of brotherly competition, a healthy dose of yelling and chaos, and they require a lot of discipline…or at least a lot of correcting. Don’t do this, that, or the other thing. Stop doing this, that, or whatever.
Baseball season provides something that the rest of the year generally does not. Something I really needed. Extended periods of father-son time in an environment that Tim and I just really enjoy. No chaos. Tim and I have gotten so good at attending games. We’re an amazing team. Hardly any discipline is needed. It is just fun and relaxing days connecting with my boy and sharing our mutual love of baseball. So let’s get to it.
The morning started with opening day of Tim’s first year of little league (which is the newest chapter of Tim’s life, extremely exciting, and will be up next on this blog). After opening ceremonies, we hopped in the car, grabbed a happy meal from McD’s…
…and headed toward Philadelphia. I was loving baseball season within the first fifteen minutes of our drive. It was a completely unchanged experience despite the six month break. Tim and I had great conversations the whole ride down, except of course for during the 15 minutes that we spent battling each other to see who could sing the best Gotye “Someone I Used To Know” (Tim’s favorite song). Tim won! As my wife will tell you, I’m a horrible singer. By the way, Tim’s best comment during our drive was his description of what college is: “college is where there are lots of boys and lots of girls and you find out who you are going to marry.”
We pulled into the stadium – paid our $15 to park. Pulled on Tim’s new Ichiro jersey…
…and sized up our destination: Citizens Bank Park!
Bring on the baseball.
We grabbed a spot second in line. We started up a nice conversation with the guy behind us, another guy excited to be back at the ballpark for another year. And within a few minutes, a young man approached and asked, “Are you Todd?”
It was a 12-year-old boy named Harrison who was at the ballpark with his father, Seth. Another father-son having a great day with the sport they love. Harrison reads our blog and leaves comments from time-to-time under the name “Philadelphia45.” It was great to get to know Harrison and Seth a little bit.
Tim loves hanging with older kids, and Harrison was no exception. Here they are hanging out at the gate – timed exactly when Tim blinked (oops):
When the gates opened, we went our separate ways, but we’d meet up again with Harrison and Seth. Tim and I headed to left field. We were among the very first people into the seats. And within a few minutes, a Phillies batter lined a foul ball into the roped off seats down the 3B line. An usher grabbed it and spotted Tim from a long way off. He siliently (so Tim didn’t realize it) called us over to the “chain” and handed Tim his very first baseball of 2012:
Thank you, Sir!
We have somewhat of a routine for the BP at Citizens Bank Park. First, we set up shop right down the line, in the very small piece of foul territory that is open at the beginning of BP. Here was our view:
There was a Mets player…I think he was a player, although he was wearing shorts and no jersey…hanging out below us. And I notice something very odd…
…he had a glove with “Todd Helton” embroidered on the thumb. I asked him why he had a Todd Helton glove and he responded, “Because he gave it to me.” “Oh, that’s really cool,” I responded.
Soon (as pictured above), Johan Santana showed up and started running from the foul line to CF. At one point, he was approaching the foul line when a Phillies batter hit a long grounder right to him. I called out, “Hey, Johan!” When he looked up, I pointed at Tim and he started to motion like he was going to throw it to Tim. But Tim was holding his glove in his throwing hand for some reason. So, Johan pointed…or maybe he nodded…at Tim and then threw the baseball to me. I handed it over to Tim and we both called out a loud and excited:
Thank you, Johan!!!
Wow, Johan Santana. That’s a great toss-up. Very exciting for our first toss-up of the season. But in retrospect, our next toss-up would be about ten times more exciting.
We hung out in the same spot until they opened the rest of the stadium. We watched Cliff Lee do some running…
…and we chatted with Harrison and Seth who had joined us shortly after the toss-up from Santana. They had also caught two baseballs already – one from Michael Stutes who I really want to connect with some day on a toss-up because he once heckled my softball team while he played for the Reading Phillies.
Normally, when the rest of the stadium opens, Tim and I head out to the “pizza wedge” in RCF. But the Mets have a commemorative baseball this season that I was really hoping we could get from one of the Mets pitchers warming up down the line. So we relocated (along with Harrison and Seth) to the corner spot down the LF line:
We ended up standing right behind Tim Byrdak. I was excited. I have wanted Tim to get a baseball from another “Tim” ever since we got one from umpire Todd Tichnor. Maybe this would be the day!?
When Mets coach Ricky Bones (I love that name!) walked by, Harrison asked for a picture. Bones told Harrison to hold on and when he returned about 10 minutes later, Tim was a co-beneficiary of Harrison’s request:
Thanks, Mr. Bones!
And then things got REALLY exciting! Tim Byrdak and his partner finished up playing catch. A Mets batter had hit a grounder that rolled to a stop about five feet from Byrdak’s feet. As he grabbed the ball to throw it in, while pointing at Tim, I shouted out, “Hey, Tim, how about throwing a ball to another Tim!?”
It worked. Byrdak turned around and tossed the ball at Tim. Tim has made amazing progress with his catching skills over the last two months, but I was nervous and anxious and excited all at the same time as the ball sailed toward Tim. What would happen?
Without hesitating, Tim reached out and made a nice one handed grab with his glove. A clean catch with zero assistance from his dad:
When the ball stuck in Tim’s glove I was ecstatic. I literally jumped in the air and shouted, “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!” I was so happy and proud of my no-longer-so-little guy. All offseason, we’ve been talking about how he’s going to catch a baseball (or baseballs!) on his own this season, and we’ve been talking about trying to get a baseball from a Major League “Tim” for years, and it all came together in one moment and sheer awesomeness.
It was truly perfect and completely made my day.
Some of our hugest “thank yous” ever to Mr. Timothy Christopher Byrdak!
We’ve been fortunate enough to get a nice collection of baseballs at MLB games, but this one definitely ranks right up there at the tippy top of the list as one of the best.
On the natural high of the toss-up from Mr. Byrdak, Tim and I decided to report to the pizza wedge.
Here’s a tip. When relocating to another section of the ballpark, walk through the seats, not through the concourse. That’s what we did and…
…Mike Pelfrey rewarded us with a baseball in deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep center field.
Before hitting up the pizza wedge, we visited the Phillies hall of fame area so Tim could grab the different metal baseballs that have finger grips for different types of pitches, and then spit some seeds down…
…into the bushes in the batters’ eye. And then Tim called Richie Ashburn “saaafe!” in our first MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt picture of the season.
The pizza wedge was dominated by a family a four with two 13-14 year old’ish girls who got some love from the players (as did “mom”), before Mets coach (and former player for numerous MLB teams) Tom Goodwin hooked Tim up with our first pizza wedge ball of the season:
Note: the balls from Pelfey and Goodwin followed the more traditional, point at Tim and throw to Dad method…although, Tim made an attempt at the Pelfrey ball, but it was too high and sailed over his glove and into mine.
There was still more BP, but we were done. Tim wanted to play some games. The speed pitch, for some reason, wasn’t open. But we played the trivia game and the running in place game…
…in the deep LCF concourse. This season, instead of handing out slips of paper that say you played one of these games, you collect stamps in the little booklet that Tim is holding in the above picture. I’m not sure what you get when you fill it up with stamps. We’ll see later in the season.
After some game time, we headed up the steps toward the upper deck. We got this picture of Tim on the second deck with a view of the bullpens and Ashburn Alley behind/below him:
And then we headed to the back row of section 302 for what we determined must be the farthest seat from home plate:
Yep, make that two pictures checked off the 2012 Photo Scavenger Hunt list!
While up there, of course, I got a panorama from section 302:
And then we headed back down to the second deck for our first father-son picture of the season:
Thank you to a nice usher who snapped the photo. As my Little Grandma would say, “Jiminy, Tim is gotten huge!” Remember when he used to look like this? It is fun looking back at game photos and seeing him grow up before my eyes.
Actually, he’s done some much growing that I was concerned he would be too tall for the kids’ play area. But fear not…
…plenty of growing still to do before he is shut out of the play area.
Tim was excited after posing for that picture, he told me “I can even come back and play when I am seven!”
The game started while we were at the play area. Soon, we grabbed some nachos…
…and our seats in section 104:
The Mets were already winning 1-0 on a David Wright homerun to LF.
We spent a lot of the game (we’re mobile so not all of the game) sitting behind this dude…
…named “Duda,” Lucas Duda, and this other dude named….
…Hunter “Ugliest Mechanics In Baseball But Monster Power” Pence.
After nachos, it was time for Tim’s first ice cream helmet of the season. We took the scenic route to our favorite ice cream lady at Citizens Bank Park…
…that’s the view from Section 242¸by the way.
Most of the teams in Tim’s little league are sponsored by local businesses, but one is sponsored by today’s Phillies starter, Vance Worley (who used to play for the Reading Phillies):
Big thanks to Vance for supporting our league, but this, unfortunately, was not his day.
On this pitch, Vance got Jason Bay to ground into a double play…
…but a run scored making it 2-0 Mets. Duda was up next and he clubbed a 2-run homer to make it 4-0 Mets.
How about a random shot of British Columbian-born, Gonzaga University-alum Jason Bay:
Guess what? Tim still likes ice cream hemlets…
…and our lady still makes a huge helmet.
The Phillies have not started strong this season. And I noticed something…the fans do not seem to believe in them as much as in the last couple years, at least at this point with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both on the DL. Check out the patch of empty seats with the Phils losing 4-0 in the top of the sixth inning:
I never saw that last season at Citizens Bank Park.
Tim wanted to visit the team store. On our walk around the stadium, we noticed this nice mosaic art piece in the concourse:
While Tim and I were talking about the little Phanatic in the mosaic, the real Phanatic’s mom showed up on the scene. I pulled our my camera and it refused to fire when the Phanatic’s mom patted Tim on the head. Instead, the flash delayed the shutter and it didn’t take a picture until the Phanatic’s mom stuck her hand in my face with an exaggerated “Hi, Dad” wave:
So I got a rare close up of the Phanatic’s mom’s hand!
Shortly thereafter, Tim became the owner of a new stuffed Phanatic:
We stopped by the play area on our way back to RF, but it was just closing down. Sad news. So we headed back to the now hardly half-full RF seats. Between innings, an usher took this shot of me and Tim:
By the way, Tim’s eyes were starting to look puffy because he was battling serious hay fever, which has been a daily battle for the last couple weeks.
The Phillies really did nothing offensively in this game. Well, next to nothing. They did get a single on this pitch to Juan Pierre:
If you look closely, you can see the baseball heading toward RF in that picture.
It is almost impossible to get an umpire baseball in Philadelphia (it would be easier if you had seats in the Diamond Club), but it was our first game of the season so, heck, we were up for the challenge.
We relocated to the concourse behind section 130. For a while, we stood behind the camera man…
…where we saw Ruben Tejada drive in pinch runner Mike Baxter…
…off of Michael Stutes:
And then we watched David Wright…
…and Ike Davis…
…make outs for the Mets.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Tim and I slid into nearly ideal seats for making the umpire ball attempt:
The umpire Alfonso Marquez (shown in the background) would enter a tunnel at the home plate end of the dugout, just to the right of the guy in the light blue Phillies t-shirt in that last picture.
We had a great view of Jimmy Rollins, as he grounded out:
And a great view of Hunter Pence, while he struck out:
There were tons of empty seats in RF as Jon Rauch pitched to the day’s final batter John Mayberry:
Mayberry ended the game in the ideal umpire attempt manner – a high pop up that allowed us to get into position while the umpire had to stay at home plate.
We slid all the way into the second a row and stood at the little railing separating the really nice seats (dugout) from the ridiculously nice seats (Diamond Club). Tim and I both called out “Alfonso” when he stopped on the grass just short of the warning track to wait for his colleagues. He heard us call his name and fired an absolutely beautifully rubbed up baseball to us:
And then he left.
We lingered for a bit and then headed toward the LF corner on our way to the exit. Tim was tossing the umpire ball into his glove over and over while we walked. I noticed that there were two ballgirls down the LF line and I asked Tim if he wanted to get a picture. He said yes, and then yelled and started running.
I thought he was running to the ballgirls, but he had missed his glove and fired his new umpire ball under some seats and it disappeared. We couldn’t find it anywhere, but fortunately, a nice fan pointed it out and we retrieved it from a tray of peanuts (or some type of food).
Fifteen seconds later and we would have missed getting this double ballgirl picture, which was taken mere feet from the spot where Tim caught the baseball from Byrdak about 4-and-a-half hours earlier:
A pose with his umpire ball and Citizens Bank Park sign…
…and with the Harry Kalas statute…
…and then we were “outta there!”
It was an incredibly awesome first day being back at the ballpark. I can’t wait to fold Kellan into the mix for our first 3-guys game next weekend.
I know why Ernie Banks always wanted to *play two* — hip, hip Hooray for Baseball!
2012 C&S Fan Stats
|1/0 Games (Tim/Kellan)|
|2/0 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets; Kellan – N/A|
|1 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1|
|6 Baseballs – Mets 4, Phillies 1, Umpires 1|
|1/0 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park; Kellan – N/A|
|1/0 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones; Kellan – N/A|