On Wednesday, May 16, 2012, we woke up for the last time in our St. Louis area Caboose and hit the road for Kansas City. The drive to KC was pretty easy, just a few hours. Nothing like our 550+ mile trek from Minneapolis to St. Louis.
However, we had put the wrong address in our GPS, which resulted in us driving right by our hotel (literally right by it, it was right off Exhibit 18 on I-70), right by Kauffman Stadium…
…and all the way into one of the least desirable sections of Kansas City. After figuring out our mistake and backtracking 20 minutes, we found our hotel and just rested in our room for several hours. But our hotel time, I reconnected by phone with Royals season-ticket holder and myGameBalls.com member Garrett Meyer. We’d met Garrett last season at Ballhawkfest. Garrett knew we’d be at this game. After catching up a bit, Garrett and I discussed gate times and the Royals “early-bird” tour.
After discussing it with my dad, we opted to meet up with Garrett and do the early bird tour, which gets you into the Royals…
…Hall of Fame (where we saw some cool stuff like this…
…) and then it gets you into BP way before the rest of the public.
Besides getting in early, the normal BP people have to stay in the outfield for a while once they are let into the stadium. Meanwhile, the early bird tour people stay on the infield, behind the dugouts. We set up shop behind the Orioles’ visitors’ dugout on the 3B line:
It was beautiful. Our view looked like this:
At the beginning, Garrett was on the Royals side (where the Royals pitchers were warming up). A bunch of fans wearing Orioles gear were on our side and they all seemed to be either autograph collectors or folks who just wanted some extra time to see the Orioles. No one seemed to have any interest in getting a baseball tossed to them. Also, if foul balls are hit into the stands down the foul lines, the usher will let you run down and grab it. It was a crying shame that ZERO baseballs were hit into the foul seats (which is amazing).
Anyway, while the Royals were taking BP, several infields took grounders at SS and 3B. The first group of infields included Alcides Escobar…
…and the second group included former-Mariner Yuniesky Betancourt. Both the tossed stray BP balls to us on their way off the field.
Thanks, Alcides and Yuni!
A few Orioles were hanging around in the bullpen below us. Since people were asking for autographs, I asked Tim if he wanted to get one of our new baseballs signed. He did. Dana Eveland was happy to oblige Tim’s request:
During much of BP, Tim played with ants that were crawling out of a little hole in the cement…
…and Kellan just walked up and down the rows like walking was going out of style.
At some point, Garrett came over to the 3B dugout. I hadn’t even seen him yet when I noticed an Orioles coach standing by the Orioles BP ball bin start tossing balls out in the crowd. He must have thrown 6-7 baseballs in a row.
Moments later, Garrett walked over to me and Kellan and said, “That Orioles coach is tossing a Camden Yards Commemorative to anyone who asks for one!
Kellan and I high tailed it down there. He was no longer throwing baseballs, but was still standing at the ball bin. I called out to him and when he looked up I was happy to see the face of former-Mariner Jim Presley looking back at me.
I asked for a OPACY commemorative ball, he dug around in the bin until he found one (I saw it too), and then he tossed *a baseball* to us:
(Photo taken after the game started)
I was thrilled! I shouted out a big:
And then Garrett whispered to me, “it is not commemorative!” He could see in my glove as I thanked Presley and saw the MLB logo on the ball he’d thrown. I was utterly confused because I *saw* Presley grab a commemorative baseball and throw it to me. Or at least I thought I did.
Garrett and I exchanged puzzled looks. And then I got bold. I called out to Jim again and asked (paragraphing), “Hey, Jim. I don’t mean to be annoying, but is there any way I could trade this baseball for one of the Camden Yards baseballs?” He looked up at me with a confused look and asked, “That one wasn’t one!?”
I tossed it back to him. He put it back in the bin and he tossed me a pearl of a Camden Yards commemorative baseball.
Thanks again, Jim!
Presley then walked away from the bin. My dad and Tim had not heard or seen what was going on. When Garrett, Kellan and I went back down toward the OF end of the dugout, I told my dad that he and Tim should give it a shot if Presley wandered back over to the bucket.
Well, wouldn’t you know, he did…
…and they did, and he hooked them up to!
Quadruple thanks, Jim Presley!
It was our first Camden Yards baseballs and my dad’s first baseball of the trip. So it was a very special interaction with a first class former Mariner.
Moments after Tim and my dad returned with their Camden Yards baseballs, an Orioles fan was getting an autograph from Brian Roberts at the camera well at the end of the dugout.
Tim and I swooped in and capitalized big time:
In one fell swoop, we accomplished three things: (i) Tim got Roberts to sign his new Camden Yards baseball, (ii) he got his picture with Roberts (first ever picture with an Oriole!), and (iii) Roberts held the baseball and gave a thumbs-up in the picture so it qualified for five points in the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt!
Tim was in a thumbs-up mood. So he got a thumbs-up picture with Garrett too:
While the Orioles pitchers warmed up down the LF line (where we could only go if a foul was hit into the stands), three set of Orioles position players played catch right in front of us at the dugout. When the final group was finished, Chris Davis tossed us his warm up baseball before walking back into the dugout.
Earlier in BP, my dad and I had a little bit of discussion with former-Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair. Tim and I have had several nice discussions with Adair at Camden Yards since he joined the Orioles’ coaching staff.
Well, after all of the Orioles pitchers had warmed up down the LF line, I saw Rick down the line chatting with an O’s pitcher and tossing a baseball back-and-forth from hand-to-hand. He was probably 150 feet down the line. When he finished chatting with the player, I called out, “Hey, Rick!” and I flashed him some leather. I was hoping he would make a big long toss throw to me.
Instead, he walked toward us. He was on his way to the dugout. It was clear he was going to give us the baseball, but he wasn’t into the long toss idea. As he got closer, he was into Tim’s catching range, so I pointed to Tim.
Adair made a good toss, but Tim botched the catch. It fell to his feet and he picked it up. He’s actually botched the toss from Jim Presley too. So he wasn’t having a gold glove day so far. But he got the ball on his own, so it was all good.
Big thanks to Rick Adair!
Eventually, a friendly female usher who was chatting with us behind the dugout told us that the entire stadium was open so we could move around wherever we wanted to go. My dad went to the team store to buy some baseballs (he buys a team or stadium baseball at each stadium he visits), Garrett went out into the outfield where we saw several Orioles air mail baseballs over his head, and Tim, Kellan and I headed down the LF line, but stayed in foul territory. We took up a spot on the wall and watched BP:
Orioles pitcher Luis Ayala was running around LF wearing a huge, oversized glove. From myGameBalls.com and other mlblogs, I know there are several guys around the country who use a “big glove” like this. So I scanned the crowd, and soon we met Minnesota’s own Big Glove Bob:
I love that picture of Tim and BGB. Bob has the face of a man stuck in the middle of Tim unfolding a long and overly detailed story. I believe this particular story was about how Shawn Camp tossed Tim two baseballs the day before in St. Louis. That was a story with which Tim regaled anyone who would listen while at Kauffman Stadium – notably, Garrett about five times or so.
Kauffman Stadium was great, but the setup of the seats down the LF line was frustrating me while we were down the line. At some stadiums the seats in the corner are situated diagonally so the end seat in each row butts up against the fence. In that type of row, I can block Kellan into a defined space. But none of the seats down the line at Kauffman Stadium butt up against the fence. In fact, there is a huge amount of space in front of the seats. So it was very difficult to keep Kellan near us without chasing him back and forth.
I decided we should go out to LCF so I could block in Kellan at the end of the bottom row next to the batters’ eye. We ended up going out there for a very brief time, but the sun was right on us and it was too hot.
While we were there, Ronnie Deck and someone named “Flaherty”…
…were shagging fly balls in CF and LCF.
I placed my third or fourth call of the day to my “Orioles guy,” Avi Miller. The call went like this:
Todd – “Hey, Avi, what is Flaherty’s first name”?
Avi – “Ryan.”
Todd – “Oh…wait, I gotta go.”
I called him back about 30 seconds later. That call went like this:
Todd – “Ryan Flaherty just tossed us a Camden Yards commemorative. Thanks for the assist!”
Avi – “Any time, sir.”
If you’re visiting Camden Yards or seeing the Orioles on the road, Avi is a good guy to know. Well, he’s a good guy to know in general, I guess.
Thanks, Ryan and Avi!
That was it for BP. Thanks for the early bird tour, we snagged 7 baseballs with almost no effort. Not too shabby.
As we made our way toward foul territory, we stopped briefly at the bullpen. One of the Orioles coaches was crossing the warning track grabbing stray balls. Totally out of view, he tossed one right over me. I didn’t see it in time to get my glove up and it sailed right into the fountain.
While we were out in LCF, me and the boys met up with my dad and Garrett. After BP, Garrett offered to take us to the only “Kauffman Stadium” sign in the ballpark, which is above the Royals dugout on the 1B side, so we could get a Kauffman Stadium bonus picture for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt. Because of the Diamond Club, you cannot get from the 3B side to the 1B side on the field level without going up into the concourse. While we were passing through the concourse, Tim and Garrett posed for a picture with the Royals pig:
There were a bunch of kids in the first row above the dugout and it was far from an ideal situation to get a picture featuring the Kauffman Stadium sign. This was as good as we could do with Garrett’s assistance:
I took a second picture of Tim from the first row just in case the last picture came out horribly:
Then, we split off from Garrett and the boys, my dad and I headed up to the upper deck to try again from up there:
That one isn’t ideal either, but it was better. Tim was pretending to be scared his heights while up there. That’s why he isn’t smiling in the photo.
While up there, I also got this panorama from the front of section 420:
And then we walked the concourse a bit. All the way down the LF line, we could see a classic spiral ramp and the KC Chiefs stadium next door:
We all headed down to the field level for the beginning of the game. We got some great tickets on stubhub for way under face value. This was our excellent view from section 112:
And this was the view of the first pitch of the game:
Fairly quickly after the game started, Tim wanted to go see the kids play area that I’d mentioned was behind the scoreboard in CF. I didn’t know what all was back there, but I was up for checking it out. On our way, we met Sluggerrr:
As passed behind the Royals Hall of Fame, we noticed that the crown on top of the scoreboard had little spikes on it. We figured we ought to take a picture of it:
We also figured we should take some panoramas from the top of section 202 in LF:
And from down at the bottom of section 202, just above the LF fountains:
As we made our way to the play area, we ran into the Kauffmans…
…who were apparently very enthusiastic with their waving.
On the back of the scoreboard, the Royals have a big “KC” logo instead of a “Kauffman Stadium” sign:
There was one big problem with the play area: it had too much fun stuff. Literally, it was just too much. Tim was really excited about it. But I quickly realized we could end up spending the entire game there. And I wasn’t too excited to spend our only game at Kauffman Stadium behind the scoreboard where I couldn’t see the game.
Here are two of the things we didn’t do:
On the left, that is a miniature golf course. See how the ground is all wet in front of the mini-golf? Well, we didn’t notice as we made the approach. And then a huge blast of water flew straight up my pants. I walked over a fountain set into the walkway exactly when it went off. My shorts were completely drenched.
It was funny, but I could have lived without the comic relief.
Tim was really excited to play, but I had to limit him to the play fort thingy. Mini-golf just takes too long!
The play area would be great if this wasn’t our first game at Kauffman Stadium. It would be ideal for the down time between the end of batting practice and the beginning of the game.
The other non-ideal thing was that the play fort was a bit too advanced for Kellan. So Tim played for a bit while Kellan and I just roamed around. And I got this panorama from behind the scoreboard:
And soon enough, it was time to head back into the infield and grab some dinner:
We go the nachos and grandpa got the BBQ sandwich. In retrospect, I wish I would have tried a BBQ sandwich too, but I missed out.
Actually, I basically just missed out on dinner because this was going to be our only game in KC and I needed to run around and see the stadium. So the boys ate dinner with Grandpa and I took off.
I started by heading the LF corner and I got this panorama from behind section 104 – just on the CF side of the Royals bullpen:
Then I checked out the fountains…
…and the trough behind the CF wall, where a few people have jumped down to grab homerun balls. I could see several baseballs down there.
I got this panorama from the walkway behind section 101:
Then I walked through the area behind the batters eye and below the scoreboard, and I popped out on the other side in the party porch:
I walked across the party porch and got another panorama from RF:
Behind the Orioles bullpen in RF, there is a bar thingy that I didn’t go inside…
…and I’m not sure if it is open to the public.
There are more fountains and less seating in RF than in LF. There are also more statues in RF than in LF:
Here is one of my favorite panoramas that I got at Kauffman Stadium, from above/behind the fountains in RF (the thing on the far upper right is the bottom corner of the scoreboard):
I circled around that bar thingy and got this panorama from section 248:
Then I headed up to the 300 level (which I would naturally call the “second” level). It seemed to be a suite and club type level, but it seemed that they let anyone walk through it.
I had a funny interaction in the suite level concourse. I ran into a super-drunk Orioles fan who was also walking around the stadium taking pictures. He saw me walking with my camera and thought it was hilarious. We chatted a bit, and he had previously also lived in Pennsylvania. He ended up taking a picture of the two of us. I gave him a hugely over-exaggerated thumbs-up in the picture. I imaged that the next day he probably scrolled through his pictures and scratched his head thinking, “Wow – I drank too much. Who in the world is this guy!?”
Anyway, I got panoramas from section 321:
And another from the stairway between sections 315-316:
I noticed that this would have been the ideal spot to get our picture with the Kauffman Stadium sign:
Maybe next time!
By the way, although I never tried to walk into the Diamond Club, it seemed as if anyone could sit in any seat at Kauffman Stadium without an usher ever asking to see your ticket.
Next, I headed up to the upper deck and got a couple shots before my dad texted that Kellan was asking for me. First, I got this panorama from section 419:
And this one from section 417:
After twirling my way down the spiral ramp, I noticed that there was a cool “Royals” sign on the exterior of the stadium:
When I got back to the seats, it was reaching twilight. The scene in the outfield looked pretty cool with a pink water show going on in the RF fountains:
By the way, I should mention the game was 0-0 through four-and-a-half innings. In the bottom of the fifth, the Royals finally found the plate, twice, on the strength of a Humberto Quintero single to CF. That made it 2-0 Royals.
Soon, it was time for ice cream. Tim, Kellan and I went in search of some ice cream helmets. We finally found them behind 3B. I was surprised to find that the Royals only offered vanilla soft serve. I thought that was odd. And it was outside of Tim’s chocolate wheelhouse. But the Royals made up for it with a strong showing on the toppings front. Tim got crushed Oreos and Tim got chocolate chip cookie dough topping. And the toppings looked and tasted GREAT!
Here’s a pretty sight:
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to share in much more than a single bite. I used the ice cream time to finish my tour of the stadium.
I started by running up to the .390 Bar & Grille on the second deck. It was a nice looking restaurant with a big sign “NOW OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.” Unfortunately, all but one of my pictures in their came out completely blurry. But the one that came out clear was the most important. Here is clear was the most important. Here is our view if you choose to dine at the .390 Bar & Grille:
Wait, I got one more good picture from the restaurant:
That’s my dad holding Kellan as he scarfs down some ice cream. We had the first four seats in the row and Tim is off-camera eating his ice cream in seat number 4.
I left the restaurant and got this panorama from section 401:
I already had a panorama from the front of section 420, so I went for another from the back row:
As I circled behind the first base dugout, a Royal (I think it was Francouer, but I’m not certain) smoked a foul ball right to OUR seats. I zoomed in to see if I could see if my dad got it…
…, which would have been really hard while holding Kellan.
He didn’t get it. Actually, if you look right between the ballboy next to the “Firestone” sign and my dad and Kellan, you can see a guy (two rows in front of my dad) in a blue shirt and light colored shorts. He is leaning forward with his hands over his head. In his left hand, you can see him holding the foul ball. That is darn close!
I kept moving and got this shot from the stairs between sections 425 and 427…
…this one from between sections 435 and 437…
…, and this one from the very last seat at the end of section 439:
My tour was essentially complete, but I got a couple more pictures as I made my way back to our seats. I got this shot from section 230:
And this one admiring the big World Series trophy that is part of a sign for the Royals team store:
By this time, it was official, I was hardly spending any time at all in our seats. And, frankly, it wasn’t going to spend much more time there. It was very late in the game by this time. Like the 7thor 8th inning.
Kellan had been in the seats most of the game and he was ready to move around. Mere minutes after returning to the seats, Kellan and I headed to the cross-aisle. We ended up stopping in a huge tunnel behind section 118 (right behind 3B):
Kellan had a great time running around in this cross-aisle. It was pretty clear that the Royals ushers didn’t care what fans did in this huge open area. Kellan was sprinting back and forth across the big piece of cross-aisle/tunnel real estate, and all we got were “oh, that’s adorable” looks from the ushers.
After a while, Kellan decided it was time to continue his hanging from railings strength training:
The game was still tight. In the top of the 8th, the Orioles finally got on the board on an RBI double by Nick Markakis. That made it 2-1 Royals heading into the bottom of the 8th.
But the Royals got the run back pretty quickly. After two quick outs, Billy Butler hit a single. He was then replaced by pinch runner Mitch Maier. Moments later, Maier motored around the bases and beat the tag…
…on a double by Alex Gordon.
That made it 3-1 going into the top of the ninth.
With three quick outs and the Royals could tuck the win into their back pocket.
We decided to get a closer look. Garrett had texted and mentioned he was in the fourth row in section 118. I noticed that the usher were not checking anyone’s tickets. So as the teams made the offense-defense switch before the top of the ninth, Kellan headed down the stairs and met up with Garrett.
This was our view:
Garrett was sitting with fellow myGameBalls.com member Leiming Tang. Like the seats, Leiming was very nice too.
But you know what wasn’t nice? The Royals’ decision to bring in Jonathan Broxton to close out the game. Living in the Phillies’ television market, I know a thing or two about Broxton. Well, really I only know one thing, I HAVE NEVER SEEN HIM CLOSE A GAME SUCCESSFULLY. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, there is a chance that I have seen him do it. But I seriously do not remember that ever happening.
Guess what? It didn’t happen at this game.
You know, I said bringing in Broxton “wasn’t nice.” I take that back. I had wanted to see two games in Kansas City, but the length of the drive to Denver wouldn’t permit it. And, frankly, I had missed a lot of this game because I was touring around the ballpark.
So I think the Royals were actually doing the nicest thing they could for me. They extended the game, and almost let me see two games in one.
So, I guess you can tell by now, Broxton blew the save. He blue it BIG TIME.
He coughed up the first run on a homerun by Wilson Betemit:
That made it 3-2 Royals.
He then gave up singles to Chris Davis, Xavier Avery, and J.J. Hardy. Hardy’s single was of the RBI variety.
Tie ballgame, 3-3. Extra innings on their way, and so was a huge dose of hitting futility (or pitching dominance).
In the top of the 10, we were happy to see 5’7” Royals pitcher Tim Collins. Like Tim Cook, Tim Collins also sports number 55:
He sat the Orioles does in order.
After the 9th ended, Tim and my dad came down and met up with us in section 118.
Tim entertained Garrett with story after story after story. Every fifth story, it seemed, was about how Shawn Camp tossed Tim two baseballs the day before in St. Louis.
Garrett was great. He handled Tim’s shower of stories like a champ:
A friend of mine from New Orleans had told me a day or two before this game that a local guy named Johnny Giavutella had just been called up to the Major Leagues by the Royals. Well, Giavutella pinch hit in the 10th inning:
He came up empty in the 10th inning, but eventually went 1-3 on the night.
We had lots of time to chat and take random photos, like these shots by my dad:
In the 13 inning, Nick Johnson hit a double for the Orioles. For some reason, the ball was thrown out of play after the hit, and it was eventually tossed into the stands. Johnson’s double-ball now resides at my parents’ house!
Sluggerrr came and visited our section to keep the game entertaining (just in case the duel of the relievers wasn’t entertainment enough for some of the fans):
Heading into the 14 inning, Kellan was ready for more baseball!
In the top of the 15th inning, Adam Jones took matters into his own hands:
He hit a solo bomb to LF (way out of there) to break the 3-3 tie.
Kellan continued to clown around with Grandpa during the top of the 15th inning:
And then Tim, Kellan, and I moved into the first row with Leiming during the bottom of the 15th inning:
Actually, Tim had already been down there with Leiming and Garrett – and he had been having a blast hanging with the guys. They were both awesome and really made Tim feel like one of the guys.
It just so happened that we were directly above the umpire’s tunnel. Our friend (well, we don’t know him, but he’s been friendly to us in the past) Angel Hernandez was behind the plate. We were in absolutely ideal post to get an umpire baseball. Leiming, Tim, Kellan, and I all had our gloves ready when the final out was recorded. (By the way, Garrett had moved to see if he could get the final out baseball – he was unsuccessful).
As we prepared for the final out, I told Tim he needed to be sure he squeezed that ball tightly if Hernandez tossed him a baseball because it would fall back down into the umpires’ tunnel if he missed it.
After the final out was recorded, Angel Hernandez walked right to us. We all called out to him. He then looked at me and Kellan and said, “Let’s let the little guys get one first!” and he flipped a ball to me. He then flipped a second ball to Tim, and Tim caught it! Success!
Finally, he tossed a third baseball to Leiming before ducking into the tunnel.
With these two baseballs, Angel Hernandez has now tossed us a baseball on each of the last three Cook GFS Roadtrips.
A few minutes later, we got a late night photo of four happy Cooks:
What a night! Tim and I tied the longest game of Tim’s life, and Kellan set his new longest game record as well.
As we drove back to the hotel, I looked back, snapped this photo…
…and wished The K a good night. It was a great one.
The next day would be a travel day. A long one, we would be driving all the way to Denver.
2012 C&S Fan Stats
|8/7 Games (Tim/Kellan)|
|12/11 Teams – Tim – Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals; Kellan – Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals|
|11 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 1, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2|
|42 Baseballs – Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 1, Phillies 1, Umpires 5, Orioles 6, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 2|
|6 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 3|
|7/6 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium1/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Sluggerrr; Kellan – Fredbird|
|3/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Brian Roberts; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist|
|2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck|
|4 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts|
On June 13, 2010, two factors [incredibly awesome seats + extremely relaxed stadium staff during Kids Run The Bases] combined to result in one of the longest, more picture laden game reports that we have ever produced. Here it goes.
We woke up at the KOA in Chula Vista and hit the local Denny’s for breakfast. Then we came back, got ready for the Mariners game at Petco Park and used the spare time we had before the game to play in the KOA’s play area:
It was an afternoon game, so it was still morning when we got to the park. I know an extremely cool guy named Al who lived most of his life in our area in PA, but now lives in San Diego. Back in November 2009, he mentioned that he has the ability to get incredibly awesome seats at Padres games and offered to get them for us for this game. I was unsure if it would actually happen so I bought cheap outfield tickets before the season started to be sure we had tickets.
Al was planning to join us for at least part of the game so we arranged to meet him at the stadium. But we arrived about 45 minutes before him. So we used the cheap outfield tickets to head inside for BP. After Tim collected his Padres batting helmet giveaway, we headed in and found there was no BP today. Even worse was the fact that Tim couldn’t play in the Beach because it was closed. There was a “breakfast in the park” event on the warning track and I guess they didn’t want loud kids right next to the people who were literally eating breakfast at tables on the warning track.
Only two Mariners were on the field when we arrived.
Mr. Ryan Rowland-Smith was doing his running and stretching routine in LF…
Soon, Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman came out to play some catch. While they were playing, I noticed that my Dad had wondered off. I wasn’t sure where he had gone. When Figgins and Kotchman finished playing catch…
…Kotchman walked back to the dugout. As I watched him approach the dugout, I saw that my Dad was the only person standing directly above the dugout — and he was wearing a Mariners shirt. Kotchman rewarded him with the his and Figgins’ warm up baseball.
Tim and I headed over to the dugout to hang out with my Dad. The stadium was empty and it was a cool “morning in the park” type atomosphere. People were quietly getting ready for a day of baseball. At one point, a guy started mowing the infield:
The Padres helmets came with number stickers. I put “18” on the back of Tim’s helmet. When we were standing behind the dugout with my Dad, Tim asked me to put a “5” on the bill of his helmet. Then he told me to put a “1” in front of the “5.” I did…
…and then Tim said, “5-1 just like Ichiro!” He was a little bummed out when I told him that we’d really done “15” — Milton Bradley — not Ichiro’s “51.” A second later, Al called us and we left the stadium and met him out front. Because we’d be entering the stadium again on new tickets, I told Tim he would get another helmet and we could put Ichiro’s “51” on it.
We headed out the exit in LF and then we circled…
My Dad, Tim, Al and I headed to our seats, which were in the 18th row directly behind home plate. They were amazing seats. A bunch of Mariners pitchers were playing catch down the 3B line, so Tim and I headed over there while my Dad and Al hung out chatting in our seats.
We stayed in the same place and watched a couple different sets of M’s pitchers play catch. First, Jason Vargas (foreground below) and Luke French (background below) played right in front of us. At one point, French threw a low and inside (for a righty) pitch that Vargas couldn’t handle…
…it trickled right by Vargas and into my glove. I immediately scooped it up and tossed it back to Vargas — he needed the ball and I couldn’t stand in the way of my team’s pitchers getting their work in. When I tossed the ball back to Vargas, I asked if we could get the ball back when they were finished. He said, “Maybe.” Unfortunately, the maybe turned into a “no” because Vargas and French got into a deep discussion about grips on the ball (see inset picture) and they kept handing the ball back and forth as they walked back to the dugout.
Next, David Aardsma and Brandon League started stretching right in front of us. The D.A. gave Tim a smile and a little wave…
…which Tim thought was pretty cool. After playing some warm up catch, League started pitching to Aardsma with the D.A. crouched on the foul line. Early on, a pitch trickled by the D.A. and I scooped it up. As I tossed it back to Aardsma, I asked if we could get it back after they finished playing catch. He gave me a more definitive answer than Vargas, “Yeah.”
As we waited for League and Aardsma to wrap up, former All-Star Chad Cordero walked by and was happy to sign an autograph and pose for a picture with Tim:
Tim was working on another All-Star ballot while we watched the pitchers warming up. League was still pitching to Aardsma. Eventually, Tim asked me if I would pick him up. For the first time, I took off my glove (set it on the wall) and bent down to pick up Tim.
The hard tossing Brandon League uncorked a wild and blazing fast ball past Aardsma. From the corner of my eye, I saw it skip off the outer edge of the warning track. As I lifted Tim up, the ball violently hit the very top of the padded wall…at literally the top inch of the wall. People shreaked as they thought the ball was going to smash me and Tim. Had the wall been an inch shorter, it would have slammed into my side. And it would have really hurt, I could tell. An usher came to ask us if we were alright. Luckily, the wall was just high enough and the ball bounced back onto the grass on the 3B side of Aardsma.
Soon, League and Aardsma switched positions and League was crouched on the foul line catching the D.A.
The day before, Ryan Rowland-Smith had told us that he has daily discussions with Cliff Lee about pitching. Today, we watched first hand as…
Eventually, Aardsma snuck a pitch by League and, for the third time, I scooped the ball up off of the warning track and threw the ball back. This time, I asked League if we could get the ball when they were finished. Instead of making us wait to find out the answer, he walked over and grabbed his wild pitch ball that had almost taken me out, and he tossed the baseball to me.
Soon thereafter, Lee and RRS headed over to RF so RRS could do some work off of the mound in the M’s bullpen. We decided to head over there as well. Actually, we didn’t know they’d gone over there. We just saw action in the M’s bullpen and figured we should see what was happening.
When we got over there, Lee was chatting up a Padre in the OF grass right next to the bullpen and RRS was pitching to Cook & Son Hall of Famer Jason Phillips:
Between pitches, Phillips saw us and said hi. After RRS finished his work, Jason came over to the fence and chatted with us a bit. It was nice to chat with him. As we were splitting up, I asked if I could get his picture with RRS and he asked if we wanted a baseball. So, after he hooked us up with a ball — our ninth overall from Phillips and our 7th stadium getting a ball from him — he went to grab Ryan. But Ryan was busy talking to Rick Adair. When RRS was finished, he said hi to us and I asked if I could get his picture with Phillips. So, he grabbed Jason and they posed for the picture above.
Ryan knows that Jason is a Cook & Son Hall of Famer because he saw it on our blog, so he understood why I wanted their picture together. But I have no clue if Jason knows about the C&S Hall of Fame. I guess I should ask him later this season.
After the picture, Tim and I started heading back to our seats and Tim tapped me on the leg and quietly asked, “Can I ask Jason Phillips something?” (FYI, Tim pretty regularly asks me extremely quietly if he can ask people questions). We headed back over to the bullpen and I got Jason’s attention and said, “The little guy has something he wants to tell you.” Tim yelled out, “My favorite baseball players are the MARINERS!” That gave Jason a big smile.
Then we headed to our seats. Check this out:
Here was the view:
So you want to hear something crazy? We literally just left the bullpen where we were talking to Jason Phillips and we arrived at our seats where we discovered we were sitting right next to Jason’s family. Prodded by a very nice and talkative federal employee, we all started chatting. I ended going over and sitting right in front of Mr. Phillips for a bit and discussing our many run-ins with his son. He told us an interesting piece of trivia that I did not know: Jason Phillips hit the 5,000th homerun in Mets franchise history off of Randy Wolf of the Phillies. (FYI, Ken Griffey, Jr. achieved the same accomplishment for the Mariners in 2009).
The reason the whole discussion started in our section is because Jason’s dad was wearing some huge rings and the federal employee asked him what they were. Here is a look at one of the rings:
Jason’s dad is on a softball team that has won the world championship twice in the last couple years. And these were some huge and legit looking rings. Two seconds after this picture, Tim asked Jason’s dad if he could have this ring.
By the way, this wasn’t the only championship ring in our immediate vicinity. This ring was sitting on a finger two rows behind us on the opposite side of the stairs…
You might have noticed in the panorama a couple pictures above that there were military people standing at each position on the field. Sundays at Petco Park are military appreciation days. There were a bunch of military people on the field before the game…
This meant that the Padres were also wearing their camoflague jerseys…
…which I am showing off in this picture because I think the contrast in the first kid’s face and Heath Bell’s face is hilarious. That kid gunned the ceremonial first pitch to the backstop…and the throw would have been behind a left handed batter.
Soon, the game was underway. Ichiro led off with a walk…
This view of home plate was so great, I could hardly stop myself from taking pictures of every at bat.
I cannot thank Al enough for hooking us up with these seats. It was a joy to watch King Felix dominate the Padres from this amazing view:
The only downside about these seats was that they were right out in the open beneath the hot sun. No shade at all. Tim is a big fan of shade, and not so much of the sun. But we cooled the boy off with an ice cream helmet…
…early in the game. By the way, that is Jason Phillips dad three down from Tim wearing the royal blue hat and about to pop some seeds in his mouth. He was decked out in Blue Jays gear to support his other son, Kyle Phillips. And that is Al sitting right next to Tim.
The last time I saw King Felix hit in interleague play, he hit a grand slam off of Johan Santana. Today, he was all about sacrifice bunting…
Leading off the bottom of the third, Scott Hairston got the first Padres hit of the day off of King Felix, and then something crazy and horrible followed.
Tony Gwynn, Jr. hit this pitch on a low line to CF (see how Gutierrez is already reading the ball to be a little off toward LF)…
…and at the last minute, Gutierrez swooped in to try to snar it. But it fell a tiny bit short and rolled all the way to the wall. Gwynn was off to the races and he did not stop until he had a stand up “quadruple.”
I don’t think that I have ever witnessed a professional “inside the park homerun” before, Tim definitely had not. After witnessing this one, I think they should be called “quadruples” because they are a whole lot more like triples than they are homeruns. They’re fundamentally different than homeruns. Pretty exicting. I just wish the Mariners could have had a “do over” because Gutierrez catches everything and given a second chance, I know he would have caught this one too.
All of sudden, we were losing 2-0 despite the fact that Felix Hernandez was generally dominating the Padres. We needed some offense, and Milton Bradley was happy to provide it…
Soon, Tim needed some relief from the sun. So we took a walk in the shady concourse that turned into a tour of the remaining part of Petco Park that I didn’t see the day before. We headed up to the upper deck in RF…
By the way, check out the kids sitting digging in the sand with their backs turned to the field. Not a bright idea. Hopefully no kid ever gets (or has already gotten) tagged by a homerun into the Beach.
On our way back over to foul territory, a nice fan took our picture (with Ichiro batting in the background):
…I describe it as “weird” because from most places in the stadium these flags range from very hard to see to impossible to see. In fact, I never noticed them until walking by them…for the second time.
Even from above, Felix looked dominant:
Tim did his best attempt at standing at attention when this kind Marine officer (at least I’m guessing he is an officer, he appeared to be in charge of the rest of them) agreed to pose for a picture with Tim:
As we made our way down the walkway ramps to the field level, I took this shot showing the interesting architecture of Petco Park:
…and exploded a bunch of peanut shells. See that funny straw hat on the lady sitting in front of Tim in the top right picture? That old lady was unintentionally hilarious. She was a Padres fan and her husband was a Mariners fan who used to live in Seattle. At random times throughout the day, she would aggressively mutter “hit it over the fence! hit it over the fence!” at her Padres batters and she would sound disgusted if the Mariners did anything good.
Luckily, the Mariners gave her a few more opportunities to sound disgusted.
Going into the top of the 8th inning, the score was still 2-2. The Padres starter, Clayton Richard, had gone 7 innings giving up only 5 hits and 2 runs, but they lifted him for Luke Gregerson in the 8th.
Gregerson started off by giving up an infield single to Chone Figgins. Two batters later, Jose Lopez smacked this ball…
Although nothing more came of it, it was fun to see Milton Bradley talk home plate umpire Angel Hernandez into a hit by pitch later in the inning…
In the top of the 9th, the Mariners were still leading 3-2 when Joe Thatcher took the hill for the Padres. Thatcher promptly surrendered a single to Mariners catcher Rob Johnson. It was Rob’s third hit of the day and I later learned that it was only the second 3-hit day of his career. Interestingly, we were also present for his only other 3-hit game last season.
Felix Herandez came to the plate next and sacrificed his favorite catcher over to second base.
That brought Ichiro to the plate. Ichiro and the Mariners were looking for a little insurance for their slim 1-run lead. Ichiro started by bunting the first pitch foul…
Tim and I like to try to get a ball from the umpire after a game. But in the first four games of the roadtrip we hadn’t even tried. Since we were already sitting so close to the umpires’ tunnel at this game, we figured we might as well give it a shot.
The umpires’ tunnel at Petco Park is at the home plate side of the visitors’ dugout. In the bottom of the ninth, with Felix back on the mound gunning for a complete game, we headed over to try to stand in the cross aisle right behind the tunnel. An usher saw us and suggested that we sit in some of the open seats nearby. He pointed out some seats that he had in mind.
I asked him if it would be okay to go a little closer to the umpires’ tunnel. He said, “Oh, you want to try to get a ball after the game? Sure!” And he let us take these seats right above the tunnel:
In that picture, Felix Hernandez is about to walk down into the dugout. He got the first batter in the bottom of the ninth, but then surrendered a single to Adrian Gonzalez. When Scott Hairston hit an infield grounder, everyone in the stadium thought it was a game ending double play. But Hairston beat it out and Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu decided to pull Felix and put in David Aardsma.
Felix was upset about not getting to finish the game. But on his fourth pitch, the D.A. induced a pop fly by Nick Hundley and the scoreboard showed the happy totals:
After the almost double play, the usher came by to give us some advice on getting a ball from the umpire. He was very nice. But with the pop fly out, we had plenty of time to get into the corner spot right at the back of the dugout and side of the umpire tunnel.
Angel Hernandez walked off and walked right over to Tim and handed him this baseball…
…5 seconds later, 3B umpire “Cowboy” Joe West walked by and grabbed the baseball back from Tim and started walking into the tunnel with the baseball. He then turned back around and brought the ball back to Tim. He was very amused by his little prank. And we used the opportunity to give Joe West some high fives and then get this awesome picture (above left) of Tim and West.
I had wanted real bad to get a picture of Tim with an umpire for the mygameballs.com photo scavenger hunt. It seemed to me like it was the hardest picture in the competition to get. The umpires generally don’t linger on the field after games. They take off quick. So the fact that West decided to play a fast one on Tim and take his baseball back was the perfect opportunity.
Thank you, Joe West! And thank you, Angel Hernandez, too!
Our day at the ballpark wasn’t finished just yet. It was Kids Run The Bases time!
The line started deep in the Park in the Park…
We entered the field through a ramp next to the bleachers and beach:
The line took a while to finally get into the field. But finally we made it! And it was awesome. Some stadiums have strict policies and strict ushers enforcing them during Kids Run The Bases. Our first sign of the relaxed attitude was that an usher agreed to take this picture of us kneeling in front of the “400” foot sign:
We stopped right by the usher who took that picture so I could get a shot of Tim with the field behind him…
We always try to get our picture by the RF foul pole and OF fence distance marker. This turned out being one of my favorite pictures ever…
…first I told Tim to stand next to the “322” like he was playing outfield. Then I told him to jump against the wall like he was trying to catch a baseball. I absolutely love that jumping picture. Check that out, he’s hanging in the air!
The relaxed usher attitude carried over to the bullpen. Tim played a little catcher…
…by the way, we seemed to be the only people running around taking fun pictures on our walk to home plate. Sure, some people were taking pictures with the field behind them. But I didn’t see anyone else snapping pictures by the wall or in the bullpen. They missed out on some great photo opportunities!
Here is another random shot with the field behind Tim…
The Padres did a great job with the actual run too. They spaced the kids out really well. When we walked up, I must have looked like I wanted to follow Tim (which I did) because the 1B usher said to me, “Go for it!” So I followed Tim with my camera ablazing…
My dad stayed in the seats behind the 3B dugout where he got this video on his camera:
After the run, the ushers were still pretty relaxed. I got our standard “with the dugout” picture…
By the way, see those two windows behind the LF fence? Those go into the Padres team store. There is a door from the team store into a little triangle standing area just behind the fence where fans can watch the game from field level through the chain link OF fence.
After that last picture, we headed out to our car…
We stayed at the Chula Vista KOA again. After the game, we took a little dip in the pool…
…and then went to dinner at an amazing Mexican restaurant in a little strip mall. It wasn’t an impressive place from the outside, but the food was delicious and the people were extremely nice. So, if you’re in Chula Vista, be sure to check out Casa Del Taco.
2010 Fan Stats:
14 Teams (Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Angels and Athletics; Phillies, Dodgers, Pirates, Braves, Mets, Brewers, Padres and Nationals)
32 Baseballs (6 Mariners, 1 Angels, 3 Athletics, 3 Brewers, 3 Nationals, 2 Blue Jays, 5 Umpires, 1 Phillies, 1 Mets, 4 Braves, 1 Orioles, 1 Dodgers, 1 Padres)
8 Stadiums (Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, PNC Park, Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, Dodgers Stadium, PETCO Park)
11 Player Photos (Ryan Rowland-Smith (2), Chad Cordero, Mike Cameron, Joel Piniero, Frank Catalanotto, Billy Wagner, Jeff Suppan, Tommy Hanson, Jeff Weaver and Scott Olsen)
1 Umpire Photo (“Cowboy” Joe West)
8 Autographs (Ryan Rowland-Smith (2), Chad Cordero, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Joel Piniero, Frank Catalanotto (2), Billy Wagner (2), Jeff Suppan, Tommy Hanson, Jered Weaver and Scott Olsen)
5 Kids Run The Bases (Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, PNC Park, PETCO Park)