Its that time of year again. Time for the fourth installment of the Annual Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip. This will likely be the last Roadtrip with the original line-up. In 2012, Kellan will likely come on board as the fourth Roadtripper. But as for now, the cast of characters remains: Grandfather = Jim Cook; Father = Todd Cook; and Grandson = Tim Cook:
We flew into Tampa and stayed the night in a hotel. In the picture above, we are about to pile into our rented Nissan Altima and head south to…
…Sun Life Stadium! Note: that port-a-potty out front of Gate F is just one of the many luxury amenities the Marlins offer at the ballpark.
From a snagging a baseball perspective, my base goal was to get at least one baseball at each of the three stadiums we are visiting on this Roadtrip (Sun Life, Turner Field, and Tropicana Field). As far as Sun Life Stadium goes, I was counting on this being our best bet. It was a Saturday night game (presumably) with batting practice. But then it started monsoon-caliber rain at our hotel about 15 minutes from the ballpark. The gates weren’t scheduled to open yet, but we decided to head up to the ballpark anyway and just roam the concourses while clouds drained out all of their rain.
But then an amazing thing happened. It was serious Noah’s Ark type rain at our hotel, but it was completely dry at the ballpark. So we ran into the ballpark when it opened and were happy to find the Giants just starting to take BP.
Despite getting full-Giants BP, several things were working (quite effectively) against us: (1) the Marlins don’t like to let fans anywhere near their precious multi-purpose field, (2) the Giants have no power to right field (the only spot the ordinary fan can get to the front row on the field), and (3) the Giants (are quickly
proving to us that they) do not like fans.
We tried our luck in section 126:
That section is just on the CF side of the big tunnel that separates RF from CF. The BP crowd was smaller on our side of the tunnel, but it would take a mighty blast to get a baseball out to us. Tim relaxed in a multi-shaded orange seat right on the tunnel:
Only one homerun reached the deep RCF seats. It landed about 3 rows behind us and only about 15 feet away, but I was blocked in by another couple fans and couldn’t even make a real attempt to catch the ball. I say a “real” attempt because I did make an instinctual lunge toward the blocked off aisle as the ball came off
the bat – Sun Life Stadium punished me for this in the form of trying to break my shin on a cup holder bolted to the back of the seat in front of me. Ouch.
A word to the wise: at Sun Life Stadium, the rows of seats are narrow, the cup holders make them even narrower, and many of the seats fail to fold up. So there are many, many opportunities to bash your knees and shins while passing through the aisles.
Meanwhile, the Giants literally tossed zero baseballs into three sections of seats in RCF. BP ended with us still looking to secure our first ever baseball at Sun Life Stadium. Our chances were not looking good and I was fearing that we might never get a baseball at this soon-to-be retired “baseball stadium.” Even worse, without getting at least one baseball, we would not be able to get a Sun Life Stadium bonus picture point for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt!
Anyway, it was time to tour around a little bit. We started by visiting the McDonald’s kids area:
The concourses on the 1B and LF sides of the stadium (which I assume match up with the sides of the Miami Dolphins football field) are largely empty (well, LF is completely empty). But on this day, McDonald’s had set up a couple face painting booths (FYI, I am about the biggest anti-face painting person on earth), two
basketball pop-a-shots, two football accuracy throwing things, and two baseball strike zone throwing things. While my Dad wandered around looking for a hat and Sun Life Stadium baseball (FYI, they don’t have them) in the team store, Tim and I shot tons of hoops, tossed a few footballs, and pitched many, many strikes.
After the play area, we started the process of walking around the ballpark. It was a shorter process than normal because the entire upper deck was closed, and the LF concourse is essentially unused.
First, we visited section 150 behind home plate:
Next, we grabbed some nachos and found some seats in section 106:
The nachos were good…
…but the cheese ran out prematurely. The problem was that they only had one cheese holder and didn’t pour any cheese directly onto the chips. That’s just not enough cheese.
While eating nachos, we noticed something that showed just how plain it is that the Marlins have second billing at Sun Life Stadium:
Yep, the stadium used to be called Dolphin Stadium, and the end seat on each row is adorned with a dolphin.
Since there is nothing in left field, we turned around after eating our nachos, and headed back toward home plate. We were still baseball-less, so we decided to make an effort at a pre-game throwing baseball (something that I think we have only ever obtained once – from Ian Kinsler May 5, 2009).
Here is Tim hanging out in the “front row” by the dugout:
I say front row because it is row 1, but there are more seats below row 1. They are right down on the field and you can’t get to them without those tickets.
As former-Mariner Greg Dobbs played catch below us, Tim had fun watching Billy the Marlin catch the “first” pitches:
He quite enjoyed little Billy too:
At one point, Billy came over to the first base side and gave Tim a happy point in exchange for Tim’s excited wave:
In that picture, you can see Greg Dobbs (No. 29) on the far left side of the picture:
Dobbs scooted way back past first base and played long toss before retreating to the dugout. Dobbs was our best chance to get a baseball at this game. He ended up with the ball just 15-20 feet below us. He clearly wanted to give it away. But the music was pumping loud through the stadium and Dobbs just couldn’t hear me. If he had, I’m sure he would have given us the baseball. Instead, he gave the ball to a 20-something fan in the true front row who had not even been paying any attention. Dobbs essentially walked over and said, “Here, take this.” Bummer.
My Dad headed out to RF where we had our tickets for the game. Tim and I hung out behind the dugout for the top of the first inning to see if we could get a third out baseball (something we’ve only ever obtained once before – from Ronny Paulino earlier this season).
Cody Ross led off the game with the fly out to LF:
Jeff Keppinger followed Ross with a solo homerun to LF. Eventually, Aubrey Huff struck out looking to end the first inning. We were expecting the final out to be at first base, so we were nowhere near where we needed to be for a catcher toss-up. So some other lucky fan got that third out baseball and we gave up and headed out to RF to meet up with grandpa:
This was our view of the game:
Tim “The Freak” Lincecum was pitching for the Giants…
…and he pitched a very solid game.
Eventually, Tim needed some ice cream. I told him I would go get it while he stayed with Grandpa. But when I turned toward CF in the concourse, there was no ice cream to be found. It was time to explore again.
From CF all the way to the LF foul line, all two of the tunnels into the closed and/or non-existent seating areas were closed off. In CF,the tunnels are covered with a blue tarp that serves as the batters’ eyes…
…and in LF two of the tunnels are open exclusively for cameramen. Meanwhile, in the LF concourse, there is absolutely nothing going on.
I stopped off in section 107 where I took this panorama:
A couple more sections over toward 3B (probably section 105), I found this weird single seat at the back of the seating section:
My thought is that this seat is for the usher patrolling this section.
I checked in again at section 154 where this was my view:
While in section 154, I got some of my best photos of Lincecum:
Finally, I found ice cream helmets (vanilla/chocolate twist) and reported back to Tim and Grandpa. As always, Tim enjoyed his ice cream:
We were ready for the weather to be blisteringly hot and disgustingly humid on this entire Roadtrip. In fact, we failed to pack anything for the possibility of cold weather. But the ice cream made Tim chilly. He had to bundle up in my Mariners jersey…
…and snuggle with Grandpa for heat:
Meanwhile, I were still trying to figure out to come away from this game with a baseball. I exchanged a bunch of texts with Ben “Benny Bang Bany” Weil, who in turn exchanged some texts with Mateo Fischer, and the word came back that this tunnel…
…just past the third base dugout was the umpires’ tunnel. So I surveyed it with my zoom lens and made our plan.
Meanwhile, the Giants tacked on a couple more runs to take the score to 3-0 Giants. In the fifth inning, Nate Schierholtz scored from third on a wild pitch by Javier Vazquez. And in the sixth, Cody Ross scored on a double by Aubrey Huff. That was all the scoring for the night.
Mike Stanton was playing RF for the Marlins in front of us:
He has had some great games for me and Tim. But he went 0-3 at this game.
From our seats, we had a nice view of the Marlins bullpen:
I thought the bullpen set up was pretty odd at Sun Life Stadium. It is not that unusual for the bullpens to be located down the base lines. But at Sun Life Stadium, the Marlins bullpen and the Marlins dugout are both on the first base line and the visitors’ bullpen and dugout are both on the third base line. That’s odd because usually a baseline bullpen is located on the opposite baseline from the dugout so the manager can see his relievers warming up in the pen.
Tim found various ways to make wearing his dad’s jersey more fun:
The fans tried to get the wave going at one point. So Tim decided that he and I should do our own wave:
In the eighth inning, Tim and I started to slowly make our way over toward the umpires’ tunnel. First, we stopped in section 134 to take this panorama from just behind a big advertisement that blocks the view of numerous entire rows of seats behind “the Beach” area behind the Marlins bullpen:
Then we swung around to section 138 and got checked out the bullpen…
…and the beach:
And here is a panorama from section 138:
Two seconds after taking that panorama, a police officer in the Marlins bullpen told us we had to stay at least five rows back in the seats, which did not make much sense, but oh, well.
We headed up to the concourse and circled around to section 156 where the umpire tunnel is located. The umpire tunnel is surrounded by blue seats. The Marlins station ushers at the top of the blue seats and won’t let anyone down into them without a blue seat ticket. So we found aisle seats in the orange seats just behind the blue seats. Here was our view from section 156:
The umpire baseball attempt was going to be tricky. There were two rows of people at the OF end of the tunnel, and one row of people at the infield side of the tunnel. It seemed like our best bet would be to go directly above the tunnel, but that would mean home plate umpire Ron Kulpa would have to spot us long before
getting to the covered tunnel and make a lot toss over the tunnel to us.
But there was some more game to watch first.
Our new seats were just behind Greg Dobbs…
…and we had an excellent view of the action when Aaron Rowand grounded to Dobbs, and Dobbs threw him out at first.
My Dad was still lounging out in RF:
The Giants brought in Brian Wilson to close out the game:
I’ll tell you, I am officially sick and tired of hearing about his beard. Can someone else win the World Series already so we can all forget that Brian Wilson has a big beard?
Anyway, Wilson and his beard did their job. The Giants won 3-0.
After the game, Ron Kulpa did not hear us and did not give away a single umpire baseball. We headed over to the Giants dugout for the relievers to make their way in to the dugout. But , to our surprise, they never came. They apparently have their own tunnel to the club house. So the only person we saw at the dugout after
the initial victory high-fives was Jeff Keppinger as he was interviewed post-game.
Soon, my Dad found us and a Giants fan took our picture with a grumpy looking usher behind us:
On our way out of the stadium, we discovered there was a full batting cage with rotating arm pitching machine in the concourse behind the first base dugout:
So the first game of the Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip was in the books. A 7 inning shutout win by Tim Lincecum and the Giants. With our final game at Sun Life Stadium being the next day at 1:10 p.m. and still sitting on zero baseballs at Sun Life Stadium, we left this game unsure whether we would ever
be able to say we got a ball at Sun Life Stadium. If not, Sun Life would join Shea Stadium, old Yankee Stadium, and Chase Field as the only stadiums Tim has visited and not got at least one baseball. We’ll visit Chase Field again, but Sun Life Stadium was in jeopardy of joining Shea Stadium and old Yankee Stadium on the never-gonna-happen list.
|2011 C&S Fan Stats|
|20/3 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]|
|15 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1), Tigers (1), Marlins (1))|
|55 Baseballs (7 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 4 Orioles, 3 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, 1 Giants, 1 Tigers)|
|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]|
|5 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino, Aroldis Chapman)|
|1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)|
|7/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird, Mr. Redlegs, Gapper, Slider, Sebastian (U of Miam); 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.|