Category: GFS

2012 Cook GFS Game 3 – Cubs vs. Cardinals (5/15/12)

On Tuesday, May 15, 2012, we were right back at it for another Cubs-Cardinals rivalry game, the third game of the 2012 GFS Roadtrip.

The game was an odd 12:45 start.  My dad and I debated what to do with regard to attending *BP* or just showing up for the game.  We both suspected there would be no BP.  In the end, my natural sense of “its-just-wrong-to-show-up-at-game-time” prevailed.  We decided to take our chances with there not being BP.

As we approached the stadium, I pointed out a bunch of statues to Tim and mentioned that we should go check them out after the game, since there would still be plenty of day light after the game.  Tim decided he couldn’t wait.  He wanted to check them out ASAP.

My Dad and I agreed that he and Tim would go check out the statues while Kellan and I went to check out *BP* — or, more likely, pitchers’ pre-game warm ups.

Tim got creative and my dad took some wonderful posing-with-statues pictures at Busch Stadium’s LF entrance:

Meanwhile, Kellan and I headed into the stadium to find, in addition to several Cubs pitchers warming up down the LF line, the batting cage was set up for BP!  We headed down the LF line.  When the first set of pitchers finished throwing…

…super tall, Cubs pitcher Chris Volstad tossed us his warm up baseball.

Thanks, Chris!

Outside the stadium, Tim and my dad continued with some more serious statue poses:

Cut back to the field, there were still two sets of Cubs pitchers warming up along the LF line.  There were a couple autograph seekers camped out down the foul line, but no one else seemed all that serious about catching a baseball.  I figured our odds of getting another warm up ball were decent, provided that the pitchers didn’t notice that we got the ball from Volstad.  To avoid that scenario, we moved about 10 rows back and walked over to the next section further away from the pitchers.

When Casey Coleman finished throwing with his Rafael Dolis…

…(he is the Cubs pitcher on the left)…I called out, “Hey, Casey!?” and I gave him a solid glove-flap when he looked at me.

BOOM – he chucked us his warm up baseball.

Thanks, Casey!

Back outside, Tim and Grandpa wrapped around the 3B side of the stadium and got a few more statue and other memorial pictures:

Meanwhile, Kellan and I (well, really, it was just my decision) decided to head out to RF where there was a tiny patch of shaded seats.

By the way, I ought to mention that I was fearful of the sun all day.  The sun is Tim and Kellan’s kryptonite.  Kellan seemed to like the relief from the sun:

This is what Busch Stadium looked like from our temporary spot out in section 127:

Before long, Tim and my dad met up with us in RF.  Not soon after that, Shawn Camp…

…made a long toss to us after fielding a ball in RCF.

Thanks, Shawn!

And he wasn’t done with us just yet.

The sun was still creeping in on us.  So we retreated to the back of section 130:

Eventually, my dad and Tim headed down to the first row in the RF corner.

Kellan and I (again, really it was my decision) decided to head out to CF.  Before I could even take a panorama, Tony Campana…

…tossed us a baseball.

Hey, thanks, Tony!

So, it was on to LF for us.  On our way, we ran into Fredbird:

Kellan and I landed in section 172:

But it was just too sunny.  We gave up pretty quick there.

Meanwhile, my dad and Tim were still in the RF corner…

…and so was Shawn Camp.

Tim remembered Camp’s name from ten minutes earlier when he’d thrown a ball to us.  So when a ball was hit into an opening in the RF wall and Camp (for some odd reason) went after it, Tim waited for him to return with the ball.  And then my precious, wee-little Tim called out, “Hey, Shawn, can you toss me the ball, please!?” (NOTE:  I was 300 feet away and have no clue of the actual words, so I’m paraphrasing here).  Camp responded in the affirmative.

And Tim gloved this baseball (and he and Grandpa went behind home plate so he could pose with it):

Thanks, again, Shawn!

And congratulations to my big boy, Tim, for getting this baseball 100% on  his own!

Meanwhile, out in brutally hot and sunny LF, our main activities consisted of me taking pictures of the visitors bullpen…

…Kellan trying to run up the stairs to the concourse.

I took Kellan’s hint – he wanted out of the sun.

We walked the concourse toward CF where there is a “Welcome to Busch Stadium” sign…

…past the concession stands and tables in the deep CF concourse…

…and into the nice, completely shaded little-kids’ play area:

Kellan was the ONLY kid in there for a while.  Eventually, Tim and Grandpa met us there and Tim and Kellan were the only kids in the play area, which was good for Tim.  But the second another little kid showed up, the attendant told Tim he was too big for the play area.

So, while I took a panorama from the field from the play area…

…Grandpa took Tim to the speed pitch:

His best throw was 26 m.p.h., which he beat last year.  But, hey, it is early in the season.  He’s still getting “stretched out.”

The previous day, my dad hadn’t explored the upper deck at all.  So we decided to explore up there as the game drew near.

We headed up the switch-back-ramp.  On the second deck, I popped into the stairway between two suites and sections 230-229 to get this panoramic view of Busch Stadium:

We then got a picture of Tim and my dad with a “Busch Stadium” sign, which is on the back of the scoreboard:

And a partial panorama from the upper deck concourse:

Kyle Lohse’s first pitch of the game to David DeJesus???

It was a ball.  His second pitch resulted in a line drive single to CF.

By default, we decided to watch the first inning unfold from the upper deck concourse in RF.  As Tony Campana strode to the plate…

…Kellan practiced hanging from a railing.

Lohse’s first and only to Campana also resulted in a single to CF:

While all of this unfolded, our view from the concourse behind section 428 looked like this:

Lohse threw four pitches to the next batter, Starlin Castro.  But Starlin turned that fourth pitch around for a third consecutive single to CF:

DeJesus scored on the play:

The Cubs followed Castro with a run-scoring double play (LaHair), double to CF (Alphonso Soriano), an RBI single to CF (Ian Stewart), and a fly out to RF.

Three outs and five hits to CF into the game, the Cubs led 3-0.

While the Cards muddled through the top of the first, I got a nice picture of Tim and Busch Stadium:

In their half of the first, the Cardinals scratched out three hits and plated two runs of their own.  But we didn’t really see any of it because, after the top of the first, we walked around the upper deck a little bit so my dad could check it out.

My dad took this shot of Tim…

…with another St. Louis arch.  This one was notable because it was the only “Pujols” I saw displayed in the ballpark.  I am sure there are others somewhere, but they did a pretty good job of removing his presence around the stadium.

The fans were not quite as good.  Many of them were still wearing Pujols jerseys and t-shirts, and at least a handful of those fans had used magic markers to put a big “X” through the “Pujols 5” on their backs.  It’s too bad.  The guy will undoubtedly go down as one of the best baseball players ever and he did incredible things for these guys while wearing a Cardinals jersey.

By my dad’s and my standards, it was a hot day, but no big deal.  By Tim’s standards, it was like we were walking on the surface of the sun.  Our seats were down on the field level in section 167.  They were really nice tickets that I never should have bought for this day game.  They were in the direct sunlight.  I knew Tim would be miserable if we went down there.  So we did just the opposite of what happens every day at MLB ballparks, we put our nice field level tickets away and we *snuck* up to the very last row of the upper deck down in section 440, which is down the 1B line.

This was our view:

It was actually really nice.  Great view AND completely shaded.

It was made even a bit cooler by some nicely timed ice cream helmets:

Since we had eaten a nice breakfast not too long before coming to the game, I told Tim we could do a “switcheroo” and get ice cream first and lunch second.  He was all for the switcheroo plan.  In fact, he has suggested it at some other games since this one.

While we were eating a group of about 15 college gals came to claim their seats in the last row.  So we had to move up to the second to last row.

The Cardinals scored again in the bottom of the second to knot up the score at 3-3.

Eventually, I asked Tim who he wanted to win.  He was *crushed* the night before when he had picked the Cardinals and then they lost.  He had a new plan today.  He would wait to see the outcome of the game and THEN he would decide who he was supporting.  Ah, a fool-proof method.  He had to win!

While the boys chomped on their ice cream, I decided I should get some action shots.  Here is one of the most interesting action shots I have ever captured:

I was completely confused about what happened on the play.  So were the Cubs.  They argued.  The umpires deliberated:

But eventually they stuck with their initial call: Campana tried to pull back, but bunted the ball foul for strike three.  He was out of there!

With two down in the top of the third, I was all set to capture another LaHair homerun.  But after hitting a couple foul balls…

…he grounded out to Cardinals first basemen Matt Carpenter.

In the fifth inning with the score still tied at 3-3, we decided to grab some pizza for lunch and give our actual seats a try.  They were beautiful:

But Tim just could not hack it.  He was miserable.  He couldn’t even last a half inning in the sun.  I was fine leaving our seats mere minutes after sitting down in them because the lady directly behind me (who I will estimate was approximately 24 years old) literally dropped 2-3 f-bombs in every single sentence that came out of her mouth.  I’m not easily offended…and I guess I wasn’t really offended here either, but this lady was ridiculous.  In a ballpark full of kids and with two of them sitting literally 2 feet in front of you, an adult should know that they should note drop 100-200 f-bombs in a span of 10 minutes.  I’m not joking with that number.  Without any exaggeration, she dropped an f-bomb about every 5 words or so AND she talked constantly AND really loudly.

So, yeah, the seats were great, but I was fine getting my boys out of the pounding sun and profane atmosphere.

We needed shade, so we took refuge here…

…in the concourse just inside of Gate 4.  It was a nice time and place for to call home and chat with mommy a bit.

Oh, I should mention that Matt Holliday hit a tie-breaking solo homerun in the fifth to put the Cardinals ahead 4-3.

After thwarting my efforts to capture his tenth homerun of the season a few innings earlier, Brian LaHair hit a blast in the top of the sixth that tied up the score, once again, at 4-4.

After eating and chatting with Colleen, we ended spending the rest of the game in the shady little kids’ play area in CF:

In Cardinals and Cubs swapped runs again in the seventh inning to make it 5-5.

While Kellan played, I was able to watch the action over the front wall of the play area enclosure.  I was standing there in the eighth when Matt Carpenter put the Cardinals ahead 6-5 with this homerun:

If you click on that picture, you can see the homerun ball on the very top edge of the picture, directly above the catcher’s glove.

All the while, Kellan kept playing, sometimes in a manner that made him look like he is made of plastic:

After Carpenter’s homerun, Tyler Greene hit a triple and then Carlos Beltran pinch hit for the pitcher and drew an intentional walk.

That set up another cool action shot.  Rafael Furcal followed with a hard hit grounder to 3B:

Greene got caught too far off the bag, there was a brief run down, and the Starlin Castro eventually tagged out Greene:

During some of the action, Grandpa took Tim to one of the big kid attractions – a cage where you could hit baseballs hanging from a metal arm.  Tim had a great time taking some hard whacks at the ball and making it spin around the arm over-and-over-and-over:

And Kellan, he just kept playing in the play area:

Leading off the top of the ninth, Alphonso Soriano stepped to the plate.  The announcer on the flat screen TV just above us commented that “Fonzie” can turn around a pitch pretty quick so Cardinals closer Jason Motte better pitch him carefully.

Well, he apparently did not, because “Fonzie” turned around the second pitch he saw for a deep, game-tying homerun to RF.

So it was 6-6 going into the bottom of the ninth.

For a dad who wants to watch the game, but has two kids who cannot stand the scorching hot sun and want to play around, this covered play area really was idea.  I got tons of great action shots from my little spot on the play area wall.

But then some oblivious fan ruined my best one of the day:

It was a walk off double by Yadier Molina that scored Matt Holliday from second.  As you can see, I captured Yadier a fraction of a second before he made contact with the game winning hit and right at the same time as this lady walked into my shot.  (Queue the Debbie Downer sound effect).

Tim didn’t care about my photographic misfortune.  By the end of the game, he was again set on the Cardinals winning.

Moments after the game ended and the other kids started to clear out, Tim leapt to the top of the big baseball glove toy and claimed victory as his:

ALL HAIL KING TIM!

Before leaving the stadium, I took one last Busch Stadium panorama from section 505:

And a nice lady who ended up asking us about our Roadtrip and as quite happy we had the opportunity to see a Cardinals win in St. Louis took our picture:

On our way out, I snapped this picture of a little baseball field in the bricks way out behind CF:

I’m not sure if it serves a purpose or is just nice to look at.  It definitely is the latter, but it seemed like whenever we walked by it during these two games at Busch Stadium they had booths or some type events taking place on here – as opposed to having some kids playing whiffleball (which would have been better).

On our drive out of St. Louis we were heading West and would not pass through town again.  So I got a last photo of the Gateway Arch…

…and then we drove off into the sunset.

The next day we would hop in the car and drive to Kansas City for our one and only game at Kauffman Stadium.  More good times were definitely on tap, as we’ll see in our next entry.

2012 C&S Fan Stats

7/6 Games (Tim/Kellan)
11/10 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals
9 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3
33 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 3, Orioles 1, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1
3 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2
6/5 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
3 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak

 

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2012 Cook GFS Game 2 – Cubs vs. Cardinals (5/14/12)

So, we had a great first day of the Roadtrip in Minneapolis.   But when we woke up May 13, 2012, it was time to start the “road” phase of the trip.  This trip featured less driving days than some past trips, but the drives were generally longer.  On May 13th, we drove all the way from Minneapolis to Saint Louis.  It was about 550 miles total, cutting across Iowa and into Missouri.

Here are a couple photo highlights from the big drive:

Top Left: We grabbed some free breakfast at the hotel and hopped in the car to eat on the road.

Top Right:  Somewhere in Iowa, we passed this statue-thingy of three fighter jets.  Pretty cool.

Bottom Left: My Dad logged more miles behind the wheel than I did, but I spelled him for a good chunk of driving during the middle of the drive, at which point he did some reading.

Bottom Right: There wasn’t much to see in Iowa.  This big fish in a gas station parking lot was one of the highlights.

There was a surprise waiting for us in the St. Louis area.  My dad had booked the “Kozy Kaboose” for us at the St. Louis West KOA campground:

That caboose behind Tim was our hotel room!  It had a queen sized bed and a couch with a pull-out bed (which looked incredibly uncomfortable, but it was actually just fine).  Tim absolutely loved the caboose surprise.

Good work, Pa!

So, all we did on May 13 was drive, play at the caboose and play area right behind it, and go out to dinner at the local Applebees.

But we had a REALLY BIG day lined up for us on May 14, 2012.

I decided this would be the perfect day for us to wear the Roadtrip t-shirts I had made for us.  They were plain white t-shirts with the following photo on the chest:

I made that picture from 13 different photos.  It includes elements representing each of the four stadiums we would visit on the trip:  Rocky Mountains (Colorado Rockies), the “twins” shaking hands over the river (Minnesota Twins), the St. Louis Gateway Arch with a humungous cardinal sitting on top (St. Louis Cardinals), and a lion (king of the jungle) wearing Sluggerrrrr the mascot’s crown (Kansas City Royals).  It also features a Mariners compass logo that I drew on my computer using a real baseball, and with a Cook & Son Baseball Bats logo overlaid on the Mariners logo.  Finally, it features a picture of me (from the 9/27/11 Mariners game in Seattle) holding Kellan (from the 5/12/11 Mariners game in Baltimore) standing with my Dad (from the 8/13/11 Marlins/Giants game at Sun Life Stadium), and Tim (from the 9/27/11 Mariners game).  Oh, yeah, and the Rocky Mountains are rising up behind the outfield wall at Safeco Field (from the Safeco tour we took in 2009).

I made the shirts just for fun and, if I do say so myself, they were a big hit on the trip.  People in St. Louis loved them and complimented us a lot throughout the day.  So, if you were otherwise going to wonder what was on our shirts in the following photos, there is your explanation.

We started off in the morning by grabbing some food in the car and driving into St. Louis to visit the famous Gateway Arch.  I had heard you could take an “elevator” to the top and I was very curious about how that works.

We parked in a cool little area of the city (if you are standing under the Arch and facing the city, we parked in the section just to the right of the arch)…

…and we walked over to hop a ride up the arch.  The middle and right picture above show us in our tiny little “pod.”  When you get inside the arch, it looks like there are 8 tiny elevator doors descending down some steps (with the high point toward the outside of the arch and the low point (elevator no. 8) toward the middle side of the arch).  The door opens and you climb into a tiny pod with five seats.  It is essentially like a ferris wheel car.  You can feel that you are dangling from a connection at the top of the pod.  Instead of going straight up, you start by going sideways toward the outside of the arch, then the 8 pods lift up like a dangling string of pearls.  The pods have a glass door so you can see the inside of the arch as you ascend toward the top.  And it is a crazy mess of stairways and sheet metal.  When the pods reaches the top, pod 1 is then at the highest point toward the middle of the arch and pod 8 is at the lowest point toward the outside of the arch.  We were in pod 7 on the way up.  Hopefully that all makes sense.

Here’s a photo that hopefully gives you a sense of things:

In that picture to the left, Kellan and I are climbing the stairs at the top of the arch – going up from pod 7 to the observation deck.  The picture to the right is a screen that is at the top of the stairs and shows the status of the pods on the two sides of the arch – we went up the “south tram” (which was the only tram in use while we were there).

I thought the observation deck would have a flat floor – nope.  It is an arch and there is nothing flat about it, as you can see in the top left photo below:

As shown in the top right and bottom left photos above, there are a bunch of tiny windows that you can look out of for some amazing views of the city.  Or, as shown in the bottom right, you can look straight down 630 feet!

The arch and the observation deck are triangular in shape.  To look out the windows, you have to lean out over (or lay down on) the slanted outer wall.  It is well worth it.  Check out this view:

When we had our fill of the observation deck, we hopped into pod no. 8 and made our way back down to earth.  We walked far enough away to get some fun pictures of the arch.  Like these:

And this great one of Tim holding up the arch:

Way to sell it, Tim!

With plenty of time (hours and hours) until gates opened for the evening’s game, it was time to head to another activity.  We had no other plans when we woke up, but on the drive to the arch, my wife texted me and said we should go to the “City Museum.”  I asked the lady in the Arch gift shop about it and she said we would LOVE it.

She was right!

The City Museum is a huge museum of stuff for kids.  It is a like a huge playground.  Everything in the museum was found in the city of St. Louis and it was all built into the museum by a group of artisans who created the museum.

It was too crazy and huge to even photograph properly, so I’ll just show you this photo of Kellan climbing some stairs several stories above the ground:

All that I can say is, if you’re in St. Louis and you have kids GO TO THE CITY MUSEUM!

Oh, what the heck, let’s show you some more City Museum pictures:

We got tired and sweaty at the City Museum.  Luckily, we still had time to go back to the caboose and nap a bit before the game.

Around 3:00 p.m., we drove back into the city (it was about a half hour drive for us) for the game.  We are some not all that beautiful city pictures as we approached the stadium:

We parked in a lot beyond CF and then jumped in line at the CF gate (Gate 5):

Right as the gates were supposed to open, a worker arrived inside the gate and told everyone in our line that Gate 5 wouldn’t open for another hour.  So we all had to find another gate. We picked Gate 4, which is in the LF corner.

That was probably better anyway, because I planned to head into foul territory anyway.

We were going to be sitting in section 168, which is right in the LF foul corner.  Gate 4 lets you into the stadium just around the corner from section 168.  So it was easy access to where we wanted to go.

Upon entering the stadium, Tim and my dad headed out to LF and Kellan and I went down the LF foul line, right to the corner spot.  Very soon after arriving there, a ball was hit foul, kicked off of the stands well in from us and came to rest in shallow LF.  There were no players even remotely near the ball.

And then something ridiculous happened.  I looked on my phone to find that number 48 on the Cubs was Rafael Dolis.  He was in LF pretty close to the warning track and a LONG way from that baseball.  Fully expecting nothing to come from it, I called out, “Hey, Rafael!”  Dolis looked at us and I turned and pointed to the ball in shallow LF and gave him a “hey, why not go grab that and toss it to us?” shrug.

That was the first ridiculous part.   The second ridiculous part was that it worked.

Dolis started a long slow, incredibly slow, walk toward the baseball:

That is Dolis both coming and going on the left side of that picture.  He walked all the way over to the ball and was immediately met by chorus calls from fans closer to the infield shouting for the baseball.  He turned to them and pointed at us, “Its for them!”  And then he tossed it to us.

Holy cow!  Thanks, Rafael!

I was truly shocked he walked all that way just to hook us up with that baseball.  It was very much appreciated.

With a Busch Stadium baseball in hand, Kellan and I retreated to the shady seats behind the Cubs (3B) dugout…

…while Tim and my dad stayed in sunny L (that is them in the first row at the bottom of the stairway).

Here was our view of Busch Stadium from behind the 3B dugout:

Tim and my dad headed out to CF.  Nothing was hit their way and eventually an usher decided that Tim deserved a baseball.

Eventually, we decided to brave the sun again and we headed to the RF foul corner.  Tim and my dad came and met up with us and we watched BP for a few more minutes.  But it was pretty hot and we were thinking of just heading back to the shade behind 3B.

Just before doing so, a Cubs lefty sliced (or would it be hooked?) a foul ball down the RF line.  We were on the wall in RF, which was probably 7 rows back in the seating configuration.  All of the people in the first row or two (by the corner spot) were totally oblivious to their surroundings.  I truly thought this ball was going to nail someone in the side of the head.

I screamed, “HEADS UP!”  Everyone looked around frantically and the ball smashed down on the warning track and bounced high over about 10-15 people.

I was holding Kellan and *we* immediately broke down the row of seats.  I made it just far enough to make a fully-extended backhanded catch of the one-hopper, all while Kellan clung to my body wrapped by my throwing arm.

Here is where we were when we caught it:

A female usher came down and congratulated me on catching the baseball and added, “Thank you for not dropping your son!”  “Hey, no problem, “ I responded.

Almost as soon as we reached the shade behind 3B, BP was finished.  We decided to walk further down the LF line until we found an usher who (loved our Roadtrip shirts and) was kind enough to take our picture for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt – Busch Stadium bonus picture!

That tiny little “Busch Stadium” sign was the best we could find in the ballpark for the bonus shot.  It turns out it would get harder and harder to find a stadium sign inside the stadiums as this trip progressed.  Interestingly, there are “Busch Stadium” logos on all of the garbage cans and in the upper deck concourse, but this was the best we could do by the field.

After getting our picture, we visited our seats.  They were great!

But we didn’t stay long because there was a parade of kids going around the warning track and we wanted to get close because it was being led by…

…Fredbird!

That was as close-up we would get to him at this game.

Before the game, the four of us took a big lap around the entire field level concourse looking for a play area.

Along the way, we found cool looking hand operated (by apparently inaccurate) out-of-town scoreboards in the concourse down the 1B line:

The AL board said the Mariners were tied 3-3 with Oakland, but they were actually playing the Red Sox later that day, and they had just arrived in Boston from a series in New York.  So I have no clue when these scores were last updated.  That *old* Busch Stadium sign was attached to the NL out-of-town scoreboard.

We found a little kids play area (not for Tim) in CF, which was nice and shady.  But it was for little kids only so we kept walking.  Just behind the play area, we found this muscle car on a pitchers mound:

For some reason, Tim has been excited to point out muscle cars everywhere we go lately.  So he wanted a picture pitching with the muscle car…and Kellan likes to copy everything his big brother does.

Once we finished out loop around the field level, Tim decided he was starving and he declared he wanted pizza for a second game in a row!  We hadn’t even been paying attention to the food as we walked, so we started our second loop around and made it all the way to home plate before we found pizza.

We reported to our seats…

…and Tim artistically ate his pizza while Kellan slammed a tray of nachos (with my assistance):

The game was entertaining.  Jake Westbrook was on the hill for the Cardinals…

…and he hung zeros on the board through the first four innings (until the Cubs put up a 4-spot in the top of the fifth inning).  By the way, that is David DeJesus batting in the picture above to the right.

Tim decided he wanted the Cardinals to win.  Personally, I was hoping the Cardinals would get destroyed so all of the fans would go home early and the stadium wouldn’t be as crowded.  For the record, I hope that at all games except Mariners home games and Yankee road games.

For some reason, I don’t really care for Cardinals leftfielder (and big time slugger) Matt Holliday.  I just don’t like how he carries himself.  Maybe I’m completely wrong.  But he just seems a bit smug to me.

So, I was amused when he botched an incredibly easy fly ball to LF:

Hey, the guy can mash.  But his glove leaves much to be desired.

Each MLB stadium has its own policy regarding at what age (or height) a kid needs his own ticket.  I am all for no buying Kellan a ticket whenever possible.  Luckily, the Cardinals allow all kids THREE and under into the ballpark for free.  That’s great!

But the stadium is so packed, that you actually do have to keep the little ones on your lap – like this:

…or standing in front of you – like this:

But it worked out just fine for us at this packed rivalry game, as you can see from these pictures…

…of Kellan enjoying some fruit snacks…

…while Tim punches out an all-star ballot (not actually voting) and looks around his thirty-first Major League Baseball stadium.

The Cubs sent practical joker, Ryan Dempster, to the hill…

…and he hung zeros on the board for the first five innings (until the Cardinals put up a 4-spot of their own in the sixth inning to knot it at 4-4).  By the way, that is David Freese taking his cuts above to the right.

After eating, I needed to go tour the ballpark and take pictures.  Tim decided to join me while Kellan (apparently against his wishes) stayed behind with Grandpa.  Kellan loves spending time with his Grandpa, but his is a MAJOR daddy’s boy (and I love it!).  He always wants to be with me.  It’s really awesome. In fact, if I am walking down the street with him and a bunch of other people, he gets upset if anyone but me pushes his stroller.  What can I say, I have the magic touch with that boy.

Anyway, unbeknownst to me (because I didn’t noticed my dad calling my cellphone), after a few minutes of being fine, Kellan had a melt down and cried uncontrollably (he’s good at that) until he and grandpa met up with me and Tim again.

Sadly, that took a while because Tim and I were having a great time touring around.

First, we headed to the second deck where we found some baseball team-themed Saint Louis Arches and Tim did his “Yesssss! I just won”…

…and “jumping for joy” poses!

He did more jumping for joy…

…and more winning poses as we found more Arches and Cardinals wall art in this odd little concourse area tucked behind the fancy clubs on the second level.

As we walked by, we saw this World Series trophy through the window of one of those fancy clubs:

I couldn’t tell what year it was from.

In both LF and RF, the concourses jut out a bit past the last section of seats on each of the upper levels.  This provides a nice standing-room only opportunity for the fans.  We took this panorama from the concourse extension on the second deck in LF:

And then we turned and I got these pictures of Tim and the real Arch…

…and Tim and the outfield.

Then we headed up to the third deck and got another end-of-concourse panorama:

If you know Busch Stadium from TV, this is right next to the section with the “Big Mac Land” sign.

After taking the panorama, a fan asked if we wanted a picture.  Of course, we did:

And 30 seconds later, look who we found patrolling the concourse behind Big Mac Land:

Tim meekly told Ronald, “I went to McDonald’s today and ate a happy meal.”  Ronald thought that was just *great*!

From the third deck in LF, you can walk down to the third deck seats or up to the four deck seats.  We headed up to the very top of the upper deck in the LF corner for this panoramic view of Busch Stadium:

Then we continued on toward home plate.  As you get closer to 3B, there is an escalator up to a higher concourse – once you go up the escalator, you then can walk *down* into what LF left would be the third deck, but in the infield is the second deck (hopefully that makes sense – the point is that the *second* deck in LF does not extend into the infield seating – it is replaced by suites.

Anyway, once you get up the escalator, you have officially reached the *highest* concourse in the stadium.  Around 3B there is nothing above it, but once you get closer to the home plate, a *new* upper-deck rises above this *highest* concourse – this all seems very confusing.  Just click on and look at the full-sized versions of some of our panoramas and it will make sense.

Anyway, at the back of the concourse around 3B, you can pose with the giant “St. Louis Cardinals” sign that is facing out of the stadium…

…and you can look down on a statue and big autographed baseball of Stan Musial on the ground outside the stadium.

Here is a panorama as we neared 3B:

Then we took this panorama closer to home plate, where the upper-upper-upper deck begins:

[Recall, all this while, Kellan is crying and pitching a major fit for grandpa while Tim and I are having a lovely time getting to know the ins-and-outs of Busch Stadium – poor Grandpa and Kellan!]

Anyway, we headed up to the very top of the *upper-est* deck in the stadium (behind home plate) for this panorama:

Is that a great looking ballpark or what?  I love the arch in the background and the arch mowed into the outfield grass.

We continued walking around the stadium toward RF.  This is what the concourse looks like behind the upper-deck:

As we approached the RF corner, I pulled and my phone and noticed that my dad and called and texted.  His message was simple, “come help with Kellan.”  My response was probably too ambiguous, “We’re coming from RF upper deck.”  I meant, “Hold on!  We’ll be there ASAP, but we have a long way to walk.”

We snapped one more, sun obscured, panorama from RF before heading down the elevator:

We ended up meeting in the LF concourse.  Kellan was still letting loose with the water works, but he was instantly completely fine the second he saw me.  The second my Dad passed him over to me, he was happy and ready for some ice cream – we met up at the ice cream stand.  This was the real deal – Ben & Jerry’s.  We decided on some delicious mint chocolate chunk:

Tim decided he wanted some blue cotton candy instead of ice cream.  This was fine by me because it meant we could get this “blue tongued” shot for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt:

However, by the end of the game, I had officially declared:  NO MORE COTTON CANDY!

It made Tim way too hyper…something his father suffered from as a boy, too.

We got back to the seats in time to see the Cubs score their four runs in the top of the fifth innings, which was highlighted by a homerun by former Mariner Bryan LaHair:

LaHair is having himself quite the season so far.  This was his 9thhomer of the season.  Prior to this season, he only had 5 homeruns in his career.

Kellan was all chilled out now that I was back with him in the seats.  In fact, he was straight up lounging:

After a while, Kellan got restless.  So I took both boys back up to the upper deck by 3B.  The plan was to tire them out running up the switch-back ramp.  And it worked.  We got one more panorama up there:

Tim did some silly-sugar induced posing…

…and I got a shot of the upper deck rising above the upper-concourse.  And then we headed back to our seats to finish out the game with my dad.

As we approached our seats, I took a shot of Tim showing the little triangular area at the end of the field level cross-aisle that is right behind section 168:

It is nice for standing when you don’t want to sit.

While we were watching the rest of the game, Tim was quick to spot King Felix when we flashed on the scoreboard:

Kellan was primed and ready (with Grandpa’s glove) to catch a foul ball…

…but no one, not even David Freese…

…could find us in the stands

A think night panoramas look great, so I got another shot from section 168 late in the game.

After the Cardinals tied the score at 4-4 in the sixth, the Cubs came back with a run in the eighth on a single by Alphonso Soriano and an unearned run in the ninth on a throwing error by 2012 World Series hero David Freese.

After the game, we got another group shot…

…which would have turned out better had Tim not been so sad that the Cardinals (who he picked to win at the beginning of the game) had lost.  At the next game, he would devise a new strategy to avoid such post-game disappointment.

On the way out of the stadium, I took an almost-empty-stadium panorama from the cross-aisle behind section 167 (one section closer to home than section 168):

And finally, as my Dad ran all the way back to our seats to retrieve Kellan’s water sippy-cup (well, it is a little more advanced than a “sippy cup”), I took a final panorama of the night from the CF bleachers:

And that was all she wrote.  Forty-five minutes sitting through a horrific post-game traffic jam and we were on our way back to the caboose excited to come back within about 12 hours for more Cardinals-Cubs baseball.

2012 C&S Fan Stats

6/5 Games (Tim/Kellan)
11/10 Teams – Tim –   Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue   Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles,   Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals
7 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1,   Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 1
28 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets   8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 3, Orioles 1, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4,   Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 2, Cardinals 1
3 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2
6/5 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens   Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch   Stadium; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field,   Busch Stadium
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky   Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
3 Autographs – Willie   Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak

 

2012 Cook GFS Game 1 – Blue Jays vs. Twins (5/12/12)

The 2012 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip is extra special for several reasons.  First, it is the Fifth Anniversary of the GFS Roadtrip.  Second, we have expanded the GFS roster to include Kellan. And, finally, by checking off Busch Stadium (Cardinals), Kauffman Stadium (Royals), and Coors Field (Rockies), Tim and I would finally have seen all 30 MLB teams play a home game – we had already seen all 30 teams play a road game.

I wanted the Mariners to be involved in the game when we saw our final team play a home game.  During the offseason, I decided it would happen in Colorado when the Mariners visited the Rockies in May.

The Roadtrip kicked off on May 12, 2012.  We started in Minnesota.  It is the first city we have visited on two separate roadtrips.  We went to the H.H.H. Metrodome during its final season in 2009.  And now we were back to check out Target Field.

But first, we had to get to Minnesota…

…and this will officially be Kellan’s final “infant on lap” trip.  He’s getting to be huge these days.  But we have a nice flight nonetheless and were greeted by my dad at the gate.  His flight had landed about half an hour before ours.

After a brief rest in our hotel room, we took to the streets of Minneapolis on foot – destination Target Field:

We arrived before the gates opened.  The crowd at the RF (Kirby Puckett) gate was getting big already.  We got some pictures with a couple statues (Kirby and Kent Hrbek)…

…and then headed around the stadium to the shaded Tony Oliva gate.

Our first inside view of Target Field was from the left field corner and the Twins were taking BP:

The Blue Jays were already stretching by the dugout.  Soon, they started to walk down the foul line to play catch.  Luis Perez…

…gave us a smile as he walked by so I asked if he’d pose for a picture with Tim and Kellan.  He said he would after he played catch.  I asked, “Ah, then, could we get your warm up ball when you’re done too!?”  He said yes and then headed off to play catch.

But then he must have decided he didn’t want to forget about us, because he walked back over to us a minute later and handed Kellan our first ever baseball at Target Field.

Thanks, Luis!

One of our big goals of this game was to get Rajai Davis to sign Kellan’s first MLB pitch picture.  We soon spotted him playing catch just behind third base.  Unfortunately, he was on the field side instead of the foul line side.  Anyway, Kellan and I went over there on the off chance we could hook up with Davis:

In the picture above to the left, Rajai is all the way out in CF playing long toss.  While we were watching Davis play long toss, the on-field security guard to the right grabbed a ball that had been hit against that protective screen and he walked over and handed it to Kellan.

Thanks, Security Guard!

That was it for BP as far as baseballs go.

And we never got any closer to Davis.  He drifted off into CF after finishing playing long toss.

Kellan and I headed back toward the corner spot where Tim and my dad were still waiting on Perez to finish playing catch and come back for a picture…

…, but it was too hot and sunny and Tim surrendered to the sun.  He was going to burst into flames if he waited any longer for Perez.  So, sadly, we did not get a picture with a Blue Jay.

Instead, we headed toward home plate.  We noticed that they let you down into the dugout seats (inside the Moat) during BP.  Here is a panorama from within the moat:

Next, we grabbed some water for the boys.  And then Tim and grandpa headed off to the team store and Kellan and I headed to the shady spot in RF.  On the way, he fell asleep:

Tim and grandpa met up with us and we hung out here for the rest of BP:

Once BP ended, we headed up to the upper deck in the outfield to check out the stadium.  An usher was kind enough to take a nice picture of us:

That picture was taken here:

Tim can be temperamental about getting his picture taken sometime…probably because he’s been photographed  about 100,000 times in six years.  Anyway, I wanted to get our Target Field bonus picture for the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt, but for some reason Tim was adamant that he didn’t want to be in it – just Kellan.  So, this was “take 1” of the bonus picture:

Here is what it looks like from the front row of the section just below the CF Target Field sign:

While we were up there, we found a couple of the statues from past all-star games and Tim did funny poses with both:

As we continued to circle around to LF, Tim and I headed up to the tippy-top of the stadium.  Check out how steep the steps are in the LF upper deck seats:

Here is what it looks like from the back row up there:

Behind 2B, they had a softball homerun hitting contest set up.  Two fans faced off against the hardest hitting mascot ever:

The mascot blasted 6 bombs on 7 swings, including one that hit the back wall of the upper deck.

Then we found another all-star statue.  I think this one might be for this season:

After that picture, Tim declared he was extremely hungry.  Instead of nachos, he wanted pizza.  We walked and walked and walked before we found pizza, but finally found it.  And we also found the most awesome food item in the history of Major League Baseball…

The NACHO HELMET!

For the record, our nacho lady only filled ours half way, which was plenty for me and Kellan, but every other  nacho helmet I saw all day was overflowing the top of the helmet.  We ate our nachos in our seats in the last row (row 10) of section 141:

I really liked these seats.  They were great.

Joe Mauer, P.J. Walters and (I’m guessing) the Twins pitching coach headed in from the bullpen for the game to start:

These three dudes were all set for the first pitch of the 2012 Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip:

And this was it:

We were desperately needing a water refill, which required me and Kellan to walk all the way behind home plate to find a water fountain.  On the way, we saw Jose Baustita bat up close:

All game long, the concourses were absolutely packed:

For the first 3.5 innings, it was a scoreless pitchers’ duel between P.J. Walters and Drew Hutchinson (two guys I had never heard of before this game).  To that point, this foul ball by Joe Mauer was one of the offensive highlights of the so-far uneventful game:

Eventually, Kellan needed to get moving.  We headed to Target Plaza so he could stretch his travel-weary legs:

After running around for a while in Target Plaza, we headed upstairs in CF.  At the deepest part of CF, this is what the concourse looks like:

While I took some pictures, Kellan worked his arm muscles and abs:

Then we took a look at the bullpens:

And deep LF:

And straight away LF:

Then it was time for another leg workout.  Kellan ran up and down this ramp from the field level to the upper deck about 3-4 times:

At the top of the ramp, Kellan wanted a solo picture posing with the Twins pig:

And then it was more running.  He ran a lot!

Eventually, we headed back to our seats through the field level concourse.  I took a picture from the concourse behind the odd seats in deep RCF:

They are tucked under the upper deck seats.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Hutchinson loaded the bases and then walked in the first run of the game for a 1-0 Twins lead.

Before sitting down again, Kellan and I grabbed some two-toned dipping dots helmets:

Those are some sweeeeeeet helmets.  I love ‘em.  These are our first two-tone helmets.

You can see this in some of the panoramas, but I figured I should take a picture of the “have’s” seating on the fancy side of the moat:

On the last game of the 2011 GFS Roadtrip, Johnny Damon hit a ball off the top of the RCF wall at the Trop.  They called it a homerun.  I could tell with my unaided eyes that it had hit the bar on the top of the fence and bounced back onto the field without leaving the ballpark.  They reviewed it.  And eventually Damon was told to head back out to second base.

In the top of the sixth inning of this game, Jose Bautista became the second player in as many GFS Roadtrip games to hit a disputed shot to the wall:

With my unaided eye, I could tell it bounced in the bushes above the OF wall and it should be a homerun.  I was right.  After stopping for a few minutes at 2B, Jose was told to finish his trip around the bases:

The boys were growing restless and I still needed to tour around the upper deck in the infield.  We decided to make it a four-man trip.  First, we headed to a little hallway on the second deck on the 1B side where Tim got his picture with a model:

And then we headed all the wall down the RF line in the upper deck – where the usher told me to reposition myself to take these pictures (I must have been blocking the view of some people in a downtown building because there was nobody (and no seats) behind me):

Then we walked around the upper deck:

There were a lot of people in the concourse up there too.  Unluckily, as you circle around home plate, there is an elevated walkway so you can stay out of the concourse.

Circling around home plate, I asked an usher to take our picture…

…and he warmed me that the sun would blast us in the face in the photo.

As we walked, I continued to take photos of the field…

…and of my boys and dad:

As we walked, we saw an awesome play.   Someone hit a foul pop up behind 3B.  The Jays short stop Yunel Escobar rushed back to make the play, but he bobbled the ball up into the air and Jays left fielder Jose Bautista swooped in to snatch it out of the air for the rare 6-7 put out:

Tim and I climbed to the highest seats in LF for this picture:

And at the bottom of that section, I snapped this cute picture of Tim, Kellan and my dad:

As we headed back to the RF corner to head down to the lower level, Joe Mauer launched a deep drive.  It was the craziest I have ever heard a crowd go for a double:

We headed back to our seats, but then I realized I never went up into the RF bleachers.  So Tim and I headed over there.  On the way, we took this picture of the worst SRO area ever:

All you can see is the right fielder and a TV screen.  On the plus side, it is completely shaded (under the  RF bleachers).

The connection between the RF seats and the CF seats makes for some crazy angles at Target Field.  I wish I had done a better job photographing it.  But I did get this awesome picture of two lone seats at the top of a mini-flight of steps:

Then we *scaled* the RF bleachers.  It was like rock climbing, I would imagine.  At the top I got this panorama:

And this photo of nervous-from-the-height Tim:

Here are some fun angles that make it look like the bullpen is at the bottom of a hole:

And then it was time to slowly walk back down the steep steps:

Approaching the stairs down to Target Plaza, I got this picture of the plaza…

…and one of Tim in front of the Twins Live set.

Late in the game, Bautista was on first base and I was just sure something was about to happen.  I was right, they tried to pick him off first unsuccessfully:

It was dark now and the ballpark signs looked great – check it out:

The Blue Jays had pulled ahead to a 2-1 lead, and they held on to win the game, which pleased Tim.  He had declared the Blue Jays to be his team to win early in the game.

After the game, I had an usher take a family shot of us…

…and it took Tim a few minutes to realize I had duped him into posing for a Target Field bonus picture.  Haha!!

On our way out of the stadium, Tim (in quite possibly his oldest looking picture ever) showed his respects for the Great Willie “Ballgame” Bloomquist (#18):

So there you go.  One game down on the Roadtrip.  Another great night and another great stadium.  In the morning, we would drive to St. Louis for a couple games between the Cardinals and Cubs at Busch Stadium.  It would prove to be a super long drive, but well worth it.

2012 C&S Fan Stats

5/4 Games (Tim/Kellan)
9/8 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins
6 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2
25 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 3, Orioles 1, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1
3 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins   Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2
5/4 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field
2/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist
2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck
3 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak

 

GFS 2011 Game 5 – Mariners at Rays (8/19/11)

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.

Thanks, Dan!

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.

Thanks, Tom!

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.

GFS 2011 Game 4 – Giants at Braves (8/17/11)

On August 16th, we woke up and headed north to Dahlonega, Georgia to spend some time with my Dad’s aunt Eris.   I haven’t seen Eris since my wedding in 2003 and, of course, Tim had never met her before.

Over the previous couple days, my Dad had mentioned numerous times to Tim that we would go panning for gold when we visited Eris.  Dahlonega is home to the Consolidated Gold Mines.  I didn’t know what to expect, it was totally awesome.

We started out panning for go:

We each found tiny bits of gold in our pans of sand.  But a tiny bit of gold is all it took — Tim officially got gold fever!  GOLD!!!

Panning was fun.  But the real deal was the gold mine tour.  If you are ever anywhere near Dahlonega, stop in at the Consolidated Gold Mines and “Sleepy John” will take you one an
amazing tour deep below the surface of the earth.

We went down, down, down…

…into huge rock-walled caverns.

This was like old-timey movies.  Little train tracks through dark and muddy tunnels:

Sleepy John was a fountain of gold mine knowledge.  This mine has tons of cool stories.  It was sealed off and filled with water for approximately 80 years.  It has old-fashion drills poking out of the walls where the metal drills fused permanently inside the rock walls.  There is a turn-of-the-century motorized driller that was in place under water all of those long 80 years and still works – when they fire it up at 20% power it rattles the ears like crazy.

But the drills were nothing.  The real noise came from the dynamite blasts exploding in all of those holes the miners were drilling.  In the picture below to the right…

…Tim and I are hiding in a side tunnel off of the main tunnel where the miners would hide to avoid the shock waves from the dynamite explosions.

After the gold mine tour, we relaxed, went for a swim, and then had dinner out with Eris and my Dad’s cousin Karen and her husband Mike.  The next morning (August 17, 2011),
we had breakfast, went for another swim, did some laundry, said our good-byes to Eris, and drove back down to Atlanta.

In the afternoon, we were back at Turner Field for another battle between the Giants and  Braves.  On our way to the gates, we stopped to get Tim’s pitcher with Phil Niekro…

…and Warren Spahn.

Upon the ballpark, we headed to the section 143 in RCF right next to the Braves bullpen.  The Braves were just beginning to hit, some position players and pitchers were playing catch down the RF line.  We were in the first row right next to the bullpen when I noticed the pounding the bullpen roof has taken over the years:

This roof covers the entrance way to the bullpen.  The bullpen bench is elevated behind this roof, and the actual bullpen is behind the bench.  A few minutes later, a Braves lefty launched a homerun into the Braves bullpen.  It hit hard off of the fence directly behind the bench, and then it bounced back toward the field, and landed on that roof.  It must have had tons of top spin because it hit the roof and spun back toward the bench.  It was bouncing on a diagonal toward us.  I reached over the railing as far as I could, but it was just a couple inches out of my reach.

The ball bounced into the bullpen bench area where I bullpen attendant guy grabbed it, denied another guy’s request for the ball and pointed out Tim:  “Gotta give it to the kid!”

Here is Tim showing off the baseball (with a mouth full of water):

Thanks, bullpen guy!

The seats in RF aren’t open for the first half hour.  But we wanted to get over there because Tim Hudson was over there.  We have a goal of getting a ball from a “Tim.”

I looked at my cellphone and saw it was about 5 minutes until the rest of the stadium would open.  We headed into the concourse so we could be the first ones to run into RF.  But the guy watching the gate that blocks the RF concourse couldn’t let  us go until his supervisor radioed and gave him the “all clear.”  Turns out the supervisor forgot about RF and we ended up waiting about 10 minutes before they let us (and about 20 other people) into the rest of the stadium.

We headed over to the RF side of the bullpen toward the back of the section.  Bullpen coach Eddie Perez and bullpen catcher Alan Butts were walking around in the bullpen.  Perez walked over to the RCF side of the bullpen and pointed out a ittle girl standing up above with her family.  After he got her attention, he tossed her an unsolicited baseball.  He then walked around a bit more – I have no clue what he was doing walking back and forth in there, maybe he couldn’t make  up his mind what he was going to do next.  I pulled out the booklet they gave us upon entering the stadium and confirmed that his first name was Eddie.  Then when he walked by below us, I asked him if he could toss a baseball to Tim.  I knew he didn’t have one on him…but he just seemed like he might hook us up given the unsolicited toss up to the little girl.

Eddie held up his empty hands and said, “Sorry, don’t have one.  Wait, later!”  He then walked down into the bench and stairway area at the front of the bullpen. I figured that was that.  But five seconds later, Perez yelled to get our attention and then held this baseball…

…above his head.

Then he headed out to the field and hung out with Roger McDowell:

Thanks, Eddie!

I was pretty sure that Tim Hudson and all of the guys standing out there had seen Tim get the baseball from the bullpen attendant and/or from Perez so I didn’t think we had any
chance at getting a toss-up from Hudson.  So we decided to head around toward foul territory.

As we approached the RF foul pole, I got this panoramic view of Turner Field from the first row of section 135:

We planned to walk all the way around to LF foul territory in the front row of the infield seats.

I took this panorama from section 117…

…which is one section past the 1B bullpen.

Then they stopped us and made us head up to the cross-aisle when we reached the dugout.  Apparently, you can only go down in the seats between the dugouts if you have a ticket down there.  Several stadiums have that rule, and I think it is silly.

Anyway, the usher who made us head up to the cross-aisle was from Washington (and I was wearing my University of Washington shirt – in a final attempt to entice Tim Lincecum to
toss Tim a baseball).  The usher was a big fan of my shirt.  In fact, he was a U-Dub alum.  So we chatted for a few minutes before continuing on our way toward LF.  He was a very nice guy, as are all of the people who work at Turner Field.

As we were circling around toward the 3B side, the Giants were just starting to stir by their dugout.  Shortly, Tim Lincecum popped out of the dugout and started to play catch in shallow left field.  We found a nice front row spot right behind him:

When he finished playing catch, he partner tossed the baseball back to the bucket and we decided to head out toward CF.  Then something funny happened, as I exited the first row, I looked back to watch Tim follow me and I spotted something…

…(that is a little rawing of my eye) sitting under the seats right we had been standing.  It was a baseball!  It was tucked under the seat up against the
concrete step that raises the second row above the first.  How odd. But we’ll take it!

On our walk through the LF concourse on our way to CF, Tim posed with the Braves Statue of Liberty and a big Braves baseball:

Centerfield was rather uneventful.  Tim Lincecum, unlike the rest of his teammates, actually had fun again.  He saw my Huskies t-shirt and gave us a wave.  But that was it.  He tossed a few baseballs into the crowd, including a two somewhat near us, but they were random tosses with no specifically intended recipient on the other end.

Actually, CF wasn’t completely uneventful.  Tim and I set a personal record when we both separately failed to snag the same baseball.  Some unknown Giants batter hit a ball to the
warning track that bounced up directly to me.  It went out of view for a split second as it bounced and then hopped low over the fence.  It was right to me.  I mean RIGHT to me.  But it handcuffed me, clanked off of the heel of my glove and fell down into the gap.  I felt completely ridiculous for botching the catch.

Two minutes later, a Braves employee walked through the gap, grabbed the ball and called up to Tim.  Tim was wearing his glove, but made absolutely no effort to catch it.  Inexplicably,
he just watched the ball sail right by his face.  It bounced next to Tim and a 20-something guy grabbed it.  The usher yelled at him to give it to Tim, but he didn’t hear him.  That was cool though.  The guy was super excited to get the baseball and he was already showing it off to his girlfriend.  It was all for the best.  While I would have liked to catch the ball off the bat, I didn’t really want to get a ball tossed to us right in front of Lincecum.

A few minutes later, a 40-something guy scrambled for a homerun ball and then came over and gave it to Tim.  It was very nice of him.  But we don’t count balls from fans.  I knew someone else would appreciate the ball more than us.  So, when we visited the CN kids play area…

…I kept my eyes open.

While Tim was playing, a little kid who was probably 2-3 walked by with his mom and dad.  He was wearing a cool little glove.  I asked his dad if he’d been able to get his son a baseball during BP.  And when he said no, I unloaded the fan ball on him.  Of course, I explained that it was a BP homer by one of the Giants (which, indeed, it was).  The kid was
super-excited to have it, and I was happy to unload it.  It was win-win!

I have no clue what you call this thing:

But Tim loved it.  It was a room with black lights and all of these doors projected on the walls.  The different doors would open randomly and the kids would chase the characters
that would pop out of the doors.

Tim spent most of the time running around the cartoony-inside play area attractions, but he took a few minutes to wait through a relatively long line and take a quality hack on
the whiffleball diamond:

Before the game started, I headed up to the bar/patio above the seats in RCF and got this  panorama:

We then got some nachos…

…and reported to our seats in section 151, where this was our view:

Our seats were right on the aisle along the RCF side of the batters’ eye.   One of the closest players to our seats was 2010 post-season surprise standout Cody Ross:

Due to a combination of distance from home plate and lighting, I really didn’t get anything good in the way of action shots.  Both teams scored one run in the first inning.  The Giants
scored on a double by Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval.  And then future Hall of Famer, Larry “Chipper” Jones delivered…

…and RBI walk.

The Giants took the lead in the a 5-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning on a pair of singles by Orlando Cabrera and Eli Whiteside and a pair of sac-flies by Matt Cain and Cody Ross.  The score would remain 5-1 until the ninth inning.

It was time for ice cream.  Tim and I wandered around looking for ice cream helmets.  On our way out of the CF seating area, we got Tim’s picture in front of the play area…

…and above the Braves bullpen:

We made an interesting discovery in the concourse behind the RF foul seats:  if Tim got dippin’ dots instead of ice cream, he could get an extra cool blue and red Braves ice cream helmet.  He’d never had dippin’ dots before (well, maybe once at a fair or something, but never at a game) but he was game for trying them.  They had a nice selection of flavors.  Tim picked chocolate mint…

…and he loved them.

As we walked down the aisle with toward our seats with Tim’s dippin’ dot helmet, we saw something very bizarre.  A guy was sitting on the backside of the outfield wall in the batters’ eye area while a girl laid in the grass…

…a few minutes later, she started doing her make-up.  Soon enough, another girl joined them.  I have no clue what the guy’s role was, but during the next inning break, the girls ran out onto the warning track with checkered flags…

…and acted as the finish line for a race of some big tools.  My guess is that the guy was there to open and shut the door through the outfield wall.

Anyway, Tim was rooting hard for the power drill to win, but the hammer took the checkered flag.

The girls and the tools then walked through the batters’ eye grass (and sand where the grass had been removed to be transplanted to the field) and through a secret door below our
section of seats…

…, but before ducking into the tunnel the hammer did a big lunging dive and his hammer custom flew off his body and landed on the ground.  The guy then grabbed the custom and left.  It was an interesting little behind the scenes that you only get if you sit right on the batters’ eye wall.

Here’s a random picture that I’m including just for the heck of it:

I don’t know when my Dad took it during the game, or why Tim is making that “I’m an extreme cool guy” face.  The real reason I am including this picture is to point out my bracelet.
Reviewing all of our game pictures, I have worn that “cause” bracelet since approximately May 2008, and to almost 100 MLB baseball games.

It’s a “Free the West Memphis Three” bracelet.  It’s a terrible, terrible story all around.  It if you don’t know about it, check out the WM3 website and watch the incredibly disturbing (on many, many levels) documentary “Paradise Lost.”

Anyway, while I would eventually wear the bracelet for the rest of the Roadtrip and until we returned home, this was actually the last baseball game we would attend before the WM3
were, in fact, freed.  The news came out the next day, and they were actually released from prison after 18 years on August 19th before our first game at Tropicana Field.  So my wrist is now bare and looking for a new cause to support.

Back to the game.

The Braves have a guy who runs a lot of trivia games and other entertainment segments on the big screen between innings.  Late in around the sixth or seventh inning of this game, the Braves posed the following question to a contestant named Holly:

All signs are that Holly Brown said “yes”!

In the seventh inning, this beer vendor wandered by and stood in front of us for a few seconds peddling his wares:

I don’t remember his exact words, but he seemed so southern and gentlemanly as he made his “last call” announcement that he could have been straight out of a movie – hmm…if the made movies about southern gentleman beer vendors that is.

Since I wasn’t getting any good action shots, I figured I better at least get a picture of Chipper playing third:

Late in the game, my Dad took Tim for a walk.  They then returned requesting a penny.  Tim likes to put pennies through those penny-smashing-souvenir machines.  My Dad had one penny on him, but they accidentally pressed the wrong design on it!  They did the Braves logo penny, but Tim wanted the Turner Field penny.  Luckily, I had some loose change and, as a result, Tim ended up with two souvenir Braves pennies:

When they were out on their penny run, my Dad got a dippin’ dots helmet of his own.  After he finished his helmet, Tim and my Dad posed for some mini-helmet pictures:

And then Tim decided he needed some pictures of his water bottle wearing a helmet too:

Between innings, we asked the guy behind us to take a picture of the three of us.  We’d asked someone to take out picture after our first Braves game on the trip, but he ended up taking a picture of my Dad’s foot!  So we needed a good picture of the three of us at Turner Field.

The guy was too intimidated by technology to use my digital camera, so he passed the buck to his teenage son.  And the son delivered a nice shot:

The Braves were trying hard to mount a rally and get back into the game.  Whenever the Braves need a rally, they break out the Tomahawk Chop.  And you can’t do the Tomahawk Chop without some drum beating.  So where does the drum beating soundtrack come from?  Canned drum beating, you ask?  Nah.  The Braves wouldn’t do that.  Instead, they have the biggest drum I have ever seen out in LCF:

In the ninth inning, Tim and I decided to head over to the Braves bullpen.   As the Giants came to bat still leading 5-1, this was our view from the back of section 143:

And this was our view of Jason Heyward:

Just below us to our left, the Braves relievers were passing time on the bench…

…while Eddie Perez chatted up someone in the stands.

When he wasn’t chatting with fans, Perez was sitting on the far right side of the bench and was filling out pitching charts and other paperwork (it can be seen sitting on the green
platform thing in front of the bench in that last picture).

We decided to relocate closer to the field so we could get a better view of the non-action in the bullpen.  Tim got his picture with the relievers hanging out behind him:

When we were down there, we saw that Perez had a big, fancy line-up card like the one we’d gotten in Texas earlier in the season.  We were all set to ask him for it after the game, but we discovered that he’d pre-arranged to give to a lady over on the other side of the bullpen.

As for the ninth inning, it was very exciting.  The Giants scored two runs on sacrifice flies by Pablo Sandoval and Aubrey Huff in the top of the inning to make it a 7-1 game, a blow out in the making.  But the Braves came out fighting in the bottom of the ninth and they made it interesting.  They scored four runs all with two outs.  Freddy Freeman led off with a single.  He then took second on a wild pitch and third on a groundout.  Freeman scored the Braves second run of the game on a two-out single by Jason Heyward.  Michael Bourn then hit a weak pop up to short stop that should have ended the game.  Instead, Orlando Cabrera recorded his second error of the game and Julio Lugo scored the Braves third run.  Martin Pradio then followed with a 2-unearned run (zero RBI) double scoring Heyward and Bourn.

It was looking like it was going to be another amazing comeback like our last game.  Tim and I were pulling for it to happen.  But then Brian McCann struck out to end the
game.

Final score, Giants 7 over Braves 5:

On our way out of the ballpark, we grabbed a stack of (unfolded) Braves pocket schedules, Tim got his picture with Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s retired 44 outside the CF gate…

…, and I took a shot of the bright Turner Field sign that is on the outside of the stadium on the opposite side of the LF upper deck seats:

I would have preferred another comeback Braves win.  But all-in-all, it was a great night at a great ballpark.

The next day, we had a long drive back down to Tampa, followed by a nice dinner out at Tijuana Flats, and a relaxing swim in the hotel pool before heading to the airport to pick-up
a Roadtrip guest who would be joining us for three Mariners games at Tropicana Field.

2011 C&S Fan Stats
23/4 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]
18 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1), Tigers (1), Marlins (2), Braves (2)).
62 Baseballs (7 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 4 Orioles, 4 Umpires, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 5 Phillies, 2 Mets, 1 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)
11/3 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; 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)
8/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird, Mr. Redlegs, Gapper, Slider, Sebastian (U. of Miami), Homer; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
2/0 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); 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.

GFS 2011 Game 3 – Giants at Braves (8/15/11)

After our last game in Miami, we drove through driving rain, thunder and lightning storms to a hotel in Jacksonville, Florida.  On Monday morning, August 15, 2011, we had a much more peaceful drive into Georgia…

…and to our hotel in Atlanta.

After lunch and a little bit of relaxing, we headed to Turner Field for our first of two games between the Giants and Braves.  With this game, Tim and I closed out the N.L. East – we have now been to games at Citizens Bank Park, Shea Stadium, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Sun Life Stadium and Turner Field.  Following the A.L. West earlier in the season, the N.L. East is the second of the sixth MLB divisions that Tim and I have closed out.

We were a few minutes  late to the stadium because we misjudged traffic a bit so we hustled to get into the ballpark.  We did, however, take time to get Tim’s picture with two statues of all-time great and living legend, Henry “Hank” Aaron…

…and non-Brave but Georgia Peach, Ty Cobb:

Upon entering the ballpark, my Dad went off to look at hats in the team store and Tim and I reported to section 150 in CF:

Two funny things happened right when we arrived in CF.  First, the normally chained off TV camera area in the batters’ eye area was open (but Tim refused to walk out on it for a picture)…

…the Braves were using a pitching machine for the first round of BP.  I’ve never seen that before on a big league field.

Only the outfield is open for the fans during the first half hour of batting practice.  There was no shade and Tim wasn’t a big fan of it out in CF.  So right when the rest of the stadium opened, we hit the concourse, got this picture with Braves Mickey…

…and relocated to a shady spot down the LF foul line:

As we watched the Braves take BP, I spotted my Dad all the way across the field by the RF foul pole:

In that picture, he had just caught a baseball from Braves bench coach Carlos Tosca and he is looking up Tosca’s name in a little line-up card booklet that the ushers gave us when we entered the ballpark.

Meanwhile, we were having no luck in LF.  A Brave named “Vizcaino”…

…was shagging baseballs in LF but we had no clue about his first name.  Then I remembered that little booklet that as resting in my back pocket.  I had not even looked at it and I got the notion that I should check it out in case it could provide any assistance.  I pulled it out and found  the line-ups of both teams (with pictures of all of the Braves) and discovered that Vizcaino’s first name is “Adroys.”

Literally on the next baseball hit to him, Tim and I both called out, “Adroys!”  He looked over and tossed us the baseball.

Thanks, Adroys!

As we hung out in foul territory, Tim went crazy with the spray bottle (this picture was taken before he unloaded the spray bottle all over himself):

We watched Tim Lincecum warm up down the LF line…

…and a bunch of Giants BP from this same spot.  But the Giants are not a very fan friendly bunch – or at least they haven’t been during this Roadtrip.  So we were having no luck down the LF line.  Toward the end of BP, I noticed that Tim Lincecum was actually having some fun during BP out in CF.  So we headed over there.  Lincecum was the first Giant we witnessed actually interacting with fans and tossing baseballs into the crowd.  It would have been great to be on the receiving
end of one of those baseballs, but it didn’t happen.

So BP ended with one baseball in our backpack and one baseball in my Dad’s backpack.

Before heading off to check out Turner Field, Tim jumped into a funny little nook in the LCF and did his best statue pose:

Tim was super-excited to check out the kids’ play area that we passed by on our way into the stadium.  But on our way, we ran into the Braves mascot, Homer:

Homer was hanging out in a little courtyard’ish area directly behind the scoreboard.  You can see that area behind Tim and Homer in that last picture.  And on the right side of this double picture…

…you can see what the back of the scoreboard looks like.  The back-of-the-scoreboard scoreboard is a clutch move.  The only other place I’ve seen it done is at
Citi Field.  Well done, Braves (and Mets).  To the left if that last picture, Tim is standing in front of the Cartoon Network (CN) play area.  I am assuming that this means that Ted Turner owns CN.  Anyway, it was very different any other play area we have seen at a MLB ballpark, but the CN play area was a ton of fun for Tim.

He particularly liked this little station where he could throw balls at moving skeletons (that he happened to always refer to as Pirates):

Among other things (that we’ll save for our next entry), the CN play area also features a tree/boat to climb in and slide down (left)…

…weird electrical thingys (middle), and two whiffle ball fields.

After a while, I had to rip Tim out of the play area or we might have missed the entire game.  It was time to explore.  We headed from the play area to section 151:

And then we continued on the section 139 in the RF side of the Braves bullpen:

Behind the concourse in the RF corner, there is a switch back ramp all the way up to the upper deck.  Tim loves long switch back ramps.  So we had a long way up to the top of the stadium.  On our way up, we noticed that the players parking lot was below the ramp:

And it appeared that several guys were washing some of the players’ cars.

The ramp dumped us out in the concourse behind section 431:

We were at the RF foul pole, but the upper deck seats continue part way into RF so before heading toward home plate, we moseyed out to the last upper deck section in RF, section 437:

Looking down from section 437, we had an excellent view of Tim Hudson warming up in the Braves bullpen:

While doubling back toward the foul pole in the concourse, we noticed something very interesting – an Evacuation Route sign:

These signs are all over the place at Turner Field.  Anyway, back to our walking tour.  We swung around home plate and out to left field stopping along the way to take panoramic views of Turner Field from section 421…

…and section 405:

We stopped behind the plate to get this picture of Tim and Turner Field:

And then Tim scooted out of frame and we got this panorama from section 402:

Heading down the 3B line, we got this panorama from section 416:

And then we tried (but pretty much failed at) something new – a myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt bonus picture looking down at the “Turner Field” sign painted on the top of the 3B dugout:

Well, it sort of worked, but the sign was too blurry for my liking.

Continuing on our walk out to LF, we ran across some Coca-Cola cannons:

My Dad and I had been discussing whether they would have Coke or Pepsi at Turner Field.  It seems like most stadiums have Pepsi products.  When given the choice, we’re a Coke family.  I figured the Braves would have Coke products because Coke is based in Atlanta, and I have previously had Coke vs. Pepsi discussions with some Georgians and they would not even consider holding a Pepsi product let along drinking one.  Anyway, the Coke cannons tipped us off to our answer:  Turner Field is Coca-Cola territory.

From the concourse area by the Coke cannons, we had a great view of the Braves retired numbers hanging from the upper deck area in LF:

Let’s see, 6 is for Bobby Cox, 47 is for Tom Glavine, 31 is for Greg Maddux, 3 is for Dale Murphy, 35 is for Phil Niekro, 44 is for Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, 41 is for Eddie Mathews, 21 is for Warren Spahn, and 42 is for Jackie Robinson.

We continued on our way, and took this panorama from the concourse area above section 324:

Looking down from above section 324 (or thereabouts), we had a nice view of the interesting set up at the front of the visitors bullpen:

The relievers sit on top of the bullpen roof!

Finally, we made it all the way out to the end of the concourse in LF and we got this panorama from above section 336:

The 400-level extends all the way out to where I took that last picture, but there are no seats.  Instead, there is a random fake dugout, home plate, first base line, first base, and pitcher’s mound that kids can sit in, run on and fake-pitch from.  Here is a four part picture of Tim having some fake-field fun up there:

Behind all of this stuff, there is a nice lookout over downtown Atlanta, and some oversized Coke bottle chairs from which you can take in the view:

It was getting close to game time, so we started heading toward our seats.  But before leaving the upper deck, we headed up to the tippy-top of section 422 for one more upper deck panorama:

I was confused about the location of our seats.  They were in the “200 level,” which I thought might be the club level just up the field level seats.  But as we walked the main field level concourse (I say “main” because there is a lower tunnel concourse that is also a “field level” concourse), I noticed there were signs for sections in the 200s.  Here is a panorama from the concourse behind section 208:

It turns out that what we would traditionally call the “field level” is split into two parts – below the cross aisle and above the cross aisle.  The 100 level seats are below the cross aisle, the 200 level seats are above the cross aisle and the 300 level is that club level that I was thinking might be where we were sitting for this game.

We were still making our way to our seats when the game started.  We arrived at our seats in section 207 just in time to see Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval foul a ball off of his ankle and hit the deck writhing in pain:

Of course, we were late to our seats because we had stopped to get nachos on our way through the concourse:

Tasty nachos in Atlanta.  And the food service people (in fact every employee at Turner Field) are incredibly nice.  Everyone greets you with “Welcome to Braves
Country!”  And I mean EVERYONE!  You run into an usher in the ninth inning and you’re going to be welcomed to Braves Country.  But in additional to all of the “welcoming,” everyone was just incredibly nice and very much concerned about making sure you are having a good experience at Turner Field.  High marks for
everyone at Turner Field!

Despite a hit and an error, Tim Hudson escaped the first inning unscathed.  We were officially hoping to witness our second “Tim” pitching victory of the Roadtrip at this game.

Between the top and bottom of the first, we got this panorama from our seats in section 207:

In the bottom of the first, Brian McCann helped out the get-Tim-a-victory cause by hitting a solo homerun.  I missed the swing, but got a nice “trotting” shot of McCann:

This was the first game after Dan Uggla broke his (I think) 33-game hitting streak.  Uggla was looking to start a new streak when he followed McCann’s homer, but instead he struck out in an ugly, and I mean UGLY, fashion:

Half a second after I took that picture, Uggla was sitting on the dirt facing the umpire.  That pitch twisted him up like nobody’s business.

Leading 1-0 in the top of the second, Tim Hudson…

…gave up a leadoff single to the well-traveled Orlando Cabrera.

Between Cabrera and Eli Whiteside, I got this picture of the Braves very impressive group of Division, League and World Series Championship pennants:

NTS!

On this pitch…

Timmy H. (as I hope he was referred to in pre-school) coaxed Whiteside to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.

For the second day in a row, I had good luck with getting some action shots.  Here, Jason Heyward hits a towering pop up…

…and Brandon Belt waits under the baseball (circled in red) ready to make the catch).  My action shots aside, the highlight of the second inning was that the Braves extended their lead to 2-0 when Jose Constanza hit a single to LF scoring Freddie Freeman.

We were in the last row of section 207 (almost right below a big TV camera).  After he went to get some dinner of his own, I got this shot of my Dad…

…waiting in the concourse while the current hitter finished his at bat so he could head down the stairs (all one or two steps that it takes to get to the back row) and
rejoin us.

I have no clue who hit this ball, but here is Constanza camped under a pop fly…

…ready to make a put out.  Easily, my best action shot of the game.  Pop flies are hard to capture, because you never know when they will happen.

The Giants (much to my dismay) mounted a comeback in the top of the fourth.  It all started on a bizarre play.  Leadoff batter Aubrey Huff hit a line drive
right at Braves center fielder Michael Bourn.  The flight of the ball fooled Bourn and he jumped at the last second.  The ball ricocheted off of Bourn’s glove and then off of his face before falling to the ground.  Miraculously, Bourn was able to keep Huff at first.  But the error eventually lead to two unearned runs on back-to-back sacrifice flies by Cabrera and Whiteside.

In the middle innings, Grandpa volunteered to take Tim back to the play area for a bit.  All that playing built up Tim’s ice cream appetite so we invested in a pair of ice cream helmets:

The Giants took at 3-2 lead with a leadoff homerun by Nate Schierholtz in the top of the sixth.  And they extended it to a 4-2 lead with a leadoff homer by Mike Fontenot in the top of the eighth.

Tim and I decided to head down to the cross-aisle and take another shot at the Turner Field bonus picture:

That one worked better.  While we were at it, we got a picture of Tim and the field from the cross aisle:

And then, back in our seats, we got a picture of Tim, his trusty side-kick and stuffed turtle, Shelly, and the field:

In the ninth, we decided to head back down to the cross aisle in an attempt to make a go for a post-game umpire baseball.  On our walk over to the 3B side, we got panoramas from the cross aisle behind section 101…

…and section 108:

The Giants were still winning 4-2 going into the bottom of the ninth.  It was impossible to get into section 108 to try to get into position at the umpires’ tunnel.  So we continued to hang out in the cross aisle.

Brian Wilson and his extremely played out and over-exposed beard came in to shut the door on the Braves.  But the fans weren’t going to let it happen
without a fight.  They went into full Tomahawk Chop mode:

The place was loud as could be.

Constanza led off with a single.  The Tomahawk Chopping grew louder.

Eric Hinske followed with a walk.  Louder still.

Julio Lugo came in to run for Hinski.

Constanza and Lugo advanced to 3B and 2B on a bunt by Michael Bourn.

The crowd when crazy some more when Martin Prado singled to LF scoring Constanza – Giants 4-3 with the tying run on 3B.

I was all set for Brian McCann…

…to win the game with an extra base hit.  But instead Wilson walked McCann.

Dan Uggla couldn’t get it done.  He struck out swinging…but he did manage to stay on his feet this time.

Finally, it was rookie Freddy Freeman’s turn at bat.  Down by one, two outs, two on, and with a full count: it was “go” time!

I was holding Tim so we could bolt down the stairs toward the umpire’s tunnel upon the final swing of the game.  The stadium was going absolutely crazy.  Screaming, hooping, hollering, and Tomahawk Chopping galore.  And at the climactic moment, Tim laid down his head on my shoulder and
the lights were completely out as Freeman connected on a slow grounder up the middle (as photographed by my Dad)…

…Lugo and Martin Prado hurried around 3B scoring the tying and winning runs.  Braves win! (But sadly not a Tim Hudson win).

I could tell Freeman’s hit was gonna do the trick.  It was a perfect slow developing play.  By the time the winning run was crossing the plate, we were five rows from the umpire tunnel.  We would have been right there ready to ask “Cowboy” Joe West for a post-game umpire baseball.  But every row was still totally packed.  It was absolutely impossible to get within even ten feet of the tunnel.  And Cowboy Joe sailed by without distributing a single baseball.

So, no umpire baseball for us.  But we did get a great view of the post-game celebration.  And we go this panorama from the front of section 108:

A few minutes later, Giants reporter Pedro Gomez walked by and started to pack up his stuff:

Before meeting up with my Dad to walk to the car, I got someone to take this hilarious picture of us (and Tim managed to half open his eyes):

All-in-all, it was a great day at a great ballpark.

The next day, we would have a day off from baseball, an awesome tour of an amazing old mine in Dahlonega, GA, and a very nice visit with my Dad’s aunt.

And then we’d be right back here at Turner Field on August 17th.

2011 C&S Fan Stats
22/4 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]
17 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1), Tigers (1), Marlins (2), Braves (1)).
59 Baseballs (7 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 4 Orioles, 4 Umpires, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 5 Phillies, 2 Mets, 1 Rays, 3 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 1 Easter Egg, 1 Glove Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs, 5 Angels, 4 Indians, 2 Giants, 1 Tigers, 1 Marlins)
11/3 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; 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)
8/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird, Mr. Redlegs, Gapper, Slider, Sebastian (U. of Miami), Homer; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
2/0 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); 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.

GFS 2011 Game 2 – Giants at Marlins (8/14/11)

On August 14, 2011, we woke up at our hotel in Miami, Florida.  We had another Giants vs. Marlins game on tap for the afternoon.  But, first, we had some business to attend to…beach business.  We hopped into our rental car and headed to Miami Beach.  South Beach to be exact:

I’m not a big beach fan, but South Beach was awesome.  The water was perfect and we had a blast.  We arrived early and by the time the beach was really starting to get hopping, we headed out.

It was time for our second and final game at Sun Life Stadium:

I was not expecting there to be batting practice so I was pleasantly surprised as the Marlins were running off of the field and the Giants were just beginning their stretching routine as we entered the seating bowl behind home plate.  We headed over to the Marlins dugout where a few players and coaches were still walking off of the field and into the dugout.

I’ve learned over the years that listening is key.  I had no clue who any of the remaining Marlins were.  But someone else did.  I heard a lady say hi to “Joe,” and then “Joe” walked over to chat with her.  I noticed that “Joe” had a baseball in his glove.  So when he finished talking to the lady, I called out, “Hey, Joe!”  He
walked over to say hi.  And soon enough, Joe’s baseball was in Tim’s hand.

By the way, “Joe” ended up being third base coach, Joey Espada.

Thanks, Joe!

I was ecstatic for us to finally get a baseball at Sun Life Stadium.

As we continued to stand around behind the dugout, I noticed that Marlins manager Jack McKeon was just below us chatting with a guy.  I waited until they had a natural break in their conversation (in fact, they even took a step or two away from each other for a moment) and then I held up the baseball from “Joe” and asked McKeon if he would sign the baseball for us.

McKeon held up one finger as if to say, “yep, in just a minute,” and then he re-engaged his conversation with the guy.  And unhappy looking (and quite large) Marlins stadium attendant…

…who was standing by McKeon on the field stepped toward us and barked with a menacing scowl: “He’s busy talking to someone right now.”  Of course, that is why we had patiently and politely waited for a natural break in McKeon’s conversation.

Anyway, despite the evil eye from the stadium attendant, McKeon did not seem to think we had done anything wrong.  After another thirty seconds of conversation, he looked up and put his hands out for me to toss him the baseball and our pen.  He signed the baseball, tossed it back and was on his way.

As the Giants started to hit, Tim and I headed out to deep RCF.  Tim is not a fan of the sun, and it was beating down pretty hard at this point, so he grabbed a shady seat at the back of the section…

…and watched as I snagged a BP homer off of the bat of a Giants lefty.  That ball landed in about the seventh row just as I approached and then rolled all the way down to the first row with me hoping the rows following it.  It hurt like crazy as I bashed shin-after-shin and knee-after-knee on the seats.

Shortly after getting that baseball, Tim and I decided to walk around a little bit.

We headed over to the LF foul corner and checked out the drop off created by the folded-up seats:

Nothing was going on over there, so we headed to the kids’ play area.  But when we reached the McDonald’s play area that we had visited the night before, we found that…

…it was gone.  But over by the batting cage, we found a batting tee and bouncy house that were a lot of fun for Tim:

After bouncing, we headed over to section 142 quickly to check out our seats for the game.  Then it was time for lunch.  On the way out of the seating bowl, I got this picture that shows Tim’s new give-away Marlins bag:

Our nacho lunch was much better than our nacho dinner from the night before because I invested $1.00 for some extra cheese:

And then it was time for the game, this was our view from section 142, row 4:

Tim and I decided that we wanted the Marlins to win this game.  So we were happy when Cody Ross grounded out to lead off the game for the Giants:

There was an unexpected guest hovering over this game – the Goodyear blimp:

Since we got a baseball (or two) during BP, we were excited to be able to get a Sun Life Stadium bonus point picture for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt.  Here is our first attempt:

We tried again later and I decided to go with the second attempt instead of this one.

The night before, we were sitting right behind Mike Stanton and I was telling my Dad what a beast Stanton is.  Living in Seattle and not getting to many N.L. games, my Dad had never heard of Mike Stanton (well, not this Mike Stanton at least.  He had heard of the other less beastly Mike Stanton or maybe it was this Mike Stanton).

Tim and I saw Stanton hit at least three homeruns last season (including a monster upper deck shot in Philadelphia).  Well, make it one more:

Stanton hit this one to the absolute deepest part of CF at Sun Life Stadium.  And then there was nothing left to do but trot:

That put the Marlins up 1-0 at the end of the first.

In the bottom of the second we had a little excitement come our way.  We were in the fourth row between the Marlins dugout and the Marlins bullpen.  Our assigned seats were 5-6-7, with 7 being the closest to home plate.  Tim’s seat of choice is always seat number 5.  My Dad took seat 7.  So that naturally left me with seat 6.  But there was no one sitting to our left in 1-2-3-4, so I opted for seat 4 and the open route to the aisle so I could run for a foul ball in the general area.

What I didn’t expect was that a foul ball would come directly to us.

But when former-beloved-Mariner Mike Cameron came to the plate and put this swing…

…on the ball, that is exactly what happened.

The ball was a towering foul pop up that travelled directly to us off the bat.  It did not hook, it did not slice, it did not blow in the wind.  From the second it hit
the bat, it was plain as day obvious that this ball was destined to land right at seats 6-7 of row 4 in section 142.  I am an inch or two taller than my Dad and would have had the natural advantage if I was standing directly next to him in my assigned seat.  But instead I was blocked off by Tim (grandpa’s little helper!).  My Dad and I both put our gloves up next to each other.  Mine came down empty, and my Dad’s came down cradling this little beauty:

It is my Dad’s third foul ball of the season, but his first caught on the fly.

Aside from the foul ball potential, section 142 is a fun place to sit at Sun Life Stadium because it seems to be the entertainment hub of the ballpark.  D.J. Petey is set up in the “beach” section of the ballpark during the games and between innings he was constantly setting up games and other stuff right in front of us:

It is also an access point to the field for the mascots, dancers and other on field entertainers.  This game was Billy the Marlins birthday so there were about 15 different mascots on hand to celebrate.  At one point, about 6-7 mascots were right in front of us tossing shirts into the stands.  But mascots can’t throw very far!
So most of them all landed in the lower seats.  And I came away with this Marlins t-shirt:

An interesting thing about this game was that both starting pitchers’ names started with the letters “Vo”…

Ryan Vogelsong vs. Chris Volstad.  In the battle of the Vo’s, Vogelsong dominated.

This was one of my best games for getting action shots.  Here is a cool picture of Aaron Rowand just about to ground out:

The Marlins have a scantily-clad dance troop called the Mermaids…

…that also used section 142 as a main point of access to do their in-game entertaining.  Those Mermaids must have changed outfits about 3-4 times throughout the game.  And (as you can see in the picture above) whenever D.J. Petey did a contest, they had two Mermaids flank him and the contestant(s).

While I was busy catching that Marlins t-shirt above, my Dad and Tim were hiding away in the shady concourse.  When they returned, they were bearing gifts of ice cream:

Between innings at some point of the game, they did a little video tribute to Jack McKeon on the big screen in honor of this being the 2,000th game that he has managed in the Major Leagues:

I thought that was pretty cool to find out that we got Jack’s autograph at his 2,000th game.

Thanks again, Jack!

In order to keep a full roster of Mermaids ready for Major League action, the Marlins have a minor league (so to speak) dance crew in training, the Minnows:

These little gals are just 6-8 years and a Mermaid-twisted ankle away from getting called up to the Show!

Back to the action, Dwayne Wise turned around this pitch…

…for a harmless pop fly out to LF.

Like at ballhawkfest last month, Tim had a spray bottle full of water and was blasting himself in the face most of the day to stay cool.  Of course, he took the opportunity to spray down his hair and make a little mohawk:

In the top of the seventh inning with the Giants leading 4-1, Marlins reliever Burke Badenhop drilled Ryan Vogelsong in the back with a pitch.  Vogelsong was furious.  He slammed his bat to the ground like he was chopping wood with an axe.  I was super-excited at the possibility of getting one of the most difficult shots from the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt – fake punching another fan in the stands while the players brawl in the background.  “Quick,” I said, “Tim, act like you’re punching Grandpa in the face!”

We did our part, but Vogelsong totally failed us.  The brawl just didn’t materialize.  So sad.

Here is a weird picture:

Can you tell what’s going on in that picture?  It is hard to tell.  You have to click to enlarge the photo.  Throughout most of the game there were about 50 dragonflies buzzing all around over our heads.  It was alike a Dragonfly convention.

Not only was section 142 a hot spot for D.J. Petey, the Mermaids, and the mascots, it was also home base for a cameraman.  Between almost every inning, the cameraman focused in on different fans in section 142 and put them up on the big screens at the end of both endzones – on in baseball terms, RF and the 3B line.  At one point, he caught staying himself in the face with his water sprayer…

…but right when I took a picture of the big screen, Tim turned around and looked at me with a big smile so all you could see on the big screen was the back of Tim’s head.

There were so many mascots all around that Tim just had to get his picture with one of them.  While he would have favored Billy the Marlin or the Miami Dolphins’ dolphin, his best opportunity involved Sebastian the Ibis from the University of Miami.  A little background is in order.

First, I have strongly disliked the Miami Hurricanes since the 1980s.  Actually, I’m pretty sure I have a lot of company.  It seems like everyone dislikes the Hurricanes.

Second, a couple months ago, Miami hired Al Golden, Jr. as its new head football coach.  Golden (or Cousin Al) is related to us through my wife’s family.  It is not like we’re so close that we are spending Thanksgiving with the Goldens.  But we are related.  Here is the situation as I have figured it out:  Tim’s great-great-great
grandparents (on Tim’s mom’s dad’s mom’s side) are Coach Golden’s great-grandparents (on his dad’s mom’s side).  In terms of generations, Coach Golden is on the same generational level as Tim’s grandpa (my wife’s dad, Kevin Gill a/k/a Poppy).  So, Poppy and Coach Golden share the same great grandparents.  Kevin’s mom is first cousins with Al Golden Sr. – their parents’ are sisters.  So that clears it all up, right?  Anyway, the family connection (despite the fact that Coach Al recently dumped my alma mater, Temple) has made it so I can at least stomach the Hurricanes a little bit, at least enough for Tim to get a picture with the Hurricanes mascot, Sebastian.

Anyway, there is a little handicapped access area just below section 142 (and running all the way to the LF foul corner).  Sebastian was hanging out just below the handicapped area in the field level seats below.  No one from up above can get down to those seats.  So Tim camped out on the stairs…

…waiting for Sebastian to wander by close enough for us to arrange a picture.

This is what it looked like just above the handicapped accessible area where we were waiting for Sebastian:

Eventually, Sebastian made his way down to us and posed for a picture with Tim:

And at the very same moment, D.J. Petey was running a “Hug Your Kids” segment with one of the cameramen right in front of section 142.  So after Tim posed for the picture with Sebastian, the big Ibis (which we kept referring to as a duck) picked up Tim and started hugging him and swinging him around like a ragdoll.  The
cameraman turned and the little scene was broadcast throughout Sun Life Stadium:

Tim thought it was hilarious!  In those pictures, he is looking at me and my Dad smiling and laughing with joy.  Ah, good times at Sun Life Stadium!

Late in the game, we were excited to see former Mariner Jose Lopez come to bat for the Marlins…

…he popped out on that swing.  It must have been his first at bat of the season because the scoreboard said he was batting .000 and had played in only one game, which I was thinking must be this game.

In the eighth or ninth inning, Tim and I headed over to section 156 to see if we could get an umpire baseball from Angel Hernandez.  We stopped at the top of section 156 to get this picture…

…and to look at this cricket:

By the way, as you can see two pictures above, Tim was wearing his University of Hawaii baseball shirt that he got from our friends from myGameBalls.com and MLBlogs, Todd and Tim Dixon, from Hawaii.  (Great names those guys have, eh?)  Tim loves his UH baseball and t-shirt.  And whenever I mention that we only have a couple more baseball stadiums to visit before we have seen all 30 MLB teams play a home game, Tim also mentions, “But we haven’t been to the Rainbows stadium yet in Hawaii.”  So someday in the future, we’re going to have to Roadtrip to Hawaii to see the Rainbows.

The umpire tunnel was considerably less congested at this game.  There were two people in the front row on the outfield side of the tunnel and no one else was in the first 5-6 rows.  So we grabbed some seats in the first row one section over (in the orange seats just next to the off-limits blue seats).  Our plan was to bolt down the second row of blue seats and jump over to the first row next to the tunnel right when the game ended.

This is what our view looked like from the first row in section 101 (which is directly next to section 156 on the outfield side of section 156):

The night before, we saw Aaron Rowand ground out to Greg Dobbs in the ninth inning.  At this game, we saw Greg Dobbs fly out to Aaron Rowand in the ninth inning:

At this point, the Giants were leading the Marlins 5-2.  When we left section 142, my Dad had told us that he was going to stick around on the 1B side to see if he could get Mike Cameron’s autograph after the game.  I assumed he meant on the Mike Cameron foul ball he had caught earlier in the game. With the Marlins losing, I knew that the only way he would even have a chance to get Cammy’s autograph after the game was if (1) the Marlins came back to win the game or (2) the game ended with Cameron on base so he had to walk back to the dugout.

Well, on the Mike Cameron front, the stars were perfectly aligned for my Dad on this day.  In the bottom of the ninth, Cameron singled up the middle on this swing:

He would eventually make it to second base.

Jeremy Affeldt was warming up in the Giants bullpen…

…and eventually came into the game (instead of Brian Wilson) even though it was a save situation.

Tim was fully committed to the Marlins winning this game.  He gave his best “GO MARLINS” chant:

But his youthful exuberance was not enough, and the Marlins fell to the Giants by a final score of 5-2.

The game ended with Mike Cameron on second base, and the former-Seattle fan favorite (it is amazing how well Cameron fit in as a Mariner, particularly considering that he was replacing every Mariners fan’s favorite player, Ken Griffey, Jr.) stopped to sign a baseball for my Dad on his way back to the dugout:

I was slow on the camera trigger and only caught the above photo after Cameron had tossed the baseball back up to my Dad.  But I had a good excuse.  We were busy getting the third and final umpire ball tossed into the stands by Angel Hernandez.  That makes two years in a row that Angel Hernandez has given Tim a baseball on the GFS Roadtrip.  He might get a lot of flack for his actual umpiring work, but Angel is a-okay in our book!

Thanks, Angel!

After the game, an usher took this (would be excellent) photo of the three of us behind home plate:

Unfortunately, a single drop of rain landed directly on my lens.  The guy took two photos to make sure we got a good one, but both are marred by the rouge rain drop.

And our picture wasn’t the only thing the rain ruined.  The scoreboard in RF in the following panorama from the top of section 150 tells the sad story…

…Kids Run the Bases cancelled due to inclement weather.  Shortly after we got in the car and hit the road, the skies opened up and dumped a near-Biblical flood’s worth of water all over Florida.

So, with no Kids Run the Bases to cap our day at the ballpark, we simply took a follow-up photo for our myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt Sun Life Stadium bonus picture…

…and then we hit the road.

Thanks, Sun Life Stadium!  Despite your many flaws, we had a lot of fun.

On to Atlanta and Turner Field!

2011 C&S Fan Stats
21/4 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]
16 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1), Tigers (1), Marlins (1))
58 Baseballs (7 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 4 Orioles, 4 Umpires, 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, 5 Angels, 4 Indians, 2 Giants, 1 Tigers, 1 Marlins)
10/3 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; 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)
7/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird, Mr. Redlegs, Gapper, Slider, Sebastian (U. of Miami); 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]
2 Line-up Cards (Royals vs. Rangers; Indians vs. Orioles)
*includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.