The snow has almost completely melted away in our little part of Pennsylvania, and today was a remarkably warm and “springish” day. So, Tim requested that we go to the park to play some baseball. Usually, we just play in the back yard. But Tim wanted a real field with a dirt infield.
When we arrived at my favorite local softball field, we found the infield was unplayable:
No problem. We used the outfield fence as a backstop and had a lot of fun hitting, running, throwing and chasing brightly colored practice baseballs all over the outfield.
Meanwhile, almost all the way across the country, our Mariners were rained out. No problem, I’m sure that beautiful Arizona sun will be shining again tomorrow, the infields will be playable, and King Felix will be holding Court over his Kingdom:
Hope springs eternal in the month of April. And entereing April 2008, I was hopeful that the Mariners were about to embark on a successful campaign in the AL West. And I was happy to be there at the beginning of it all. For the first weekend of the 2008 season, the Mariners were in Baltimore and that is where we met up with them on April 6, 2008.
As we approached the field for the first time of the season…
Soon after we arrived, the Camden Yards grounds crew removed the tarp from the field…
With no batting practice taking place, we took the opportunity to get a family picture by the LF foul pole:
Then we headed over to our seats in centerfield:
And even better, Felix Hernandez was dealing like crazy on the mound. In his second start of the season, he pitched 8 scoreless innings, gave up only 5 hits, struck out 6 and maintained his flawless 0.00 ERA.
To go along with King Felix’s mastery, Raul Ibanez put together a 3-4 day at the plate including his first homerun of the season to help lead the Mariners offense.
Everything was looking great, and Tim (and I) was having a blast…
…yep, I caught me a knucklehead.
As the innings ticked by and the Mariners marched toward an apparent win, the kids were excited to see the Orioles Bird visit the outfield seats:
But then things turned dark.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Mariners had a 2-0 lead. King Felix had dominated from his 1st pitch to his 97th pitch. But for some reason, soon-to-be-fired Mariners manager, John McLaren pulled Felix and went to the bullpen.
It took Eric O’Flaherty only three batters to get the first two outs, and give up the first Orioles run of the day. O’Flaherty’s fourth-and-final batter-faced, Luke Scott, hit a single. That was all she wrote for O’Flaherty.
With two outs, a runner on first, and a 1-run lead, Mark Lowe entered the game. Another bad decision by McLaren. Lowe’s first batter hit a single sending pinch-runner Adam Jones to third. Lowe then threw a wild pitch and Adam Jones came in to tie the game at 2-2…
We started praying for extra-innings. But one batter later, Luis Hernandez hit another single bringing in the losing run.
Aye, aye, aye…a great day with friends at the ballpark ended in misery…it was a gut-wrenching Mariners loss. Unfortunately, it would be a sign of things to come for the 2008 Mariners.
On September 3, 2007, we headed up to NYC to take in a Mariners game in the Bronx. We went with my friend Marc from college. Marc is also from Seattle, but in 2007 he was working in the investment world in NYC. This was the first time I’d seen him since college. And, it was Tim’s first trip to NYC and to “The House That Ruth Built” (and Griffey destroyed).
We came up to NYC for the weekend, and we stayed with another friend from college, Davlynn, who also lived in NYC in 2007. The day before the game, Davlynn took us to the American Museum of Natural History…
…where Tim REALLY enjoyed seeing lots of dinorsaur bones. Trust me. He looks utterly bored in this picture, but he really loved the museum. So, if you find yourself at 79th & Central Park West in Manhatten, check it out.
We also took Tim to Central Park to play a little baseball on a field that we miraculously found to be empty…
Soon, it was time to meet up with Marc and his wife, Angie, and take the 4-train up to the Bronx.
Now, I’m a good baseball fan. So I’m dutifully teaching Tim a healthy disrespect for the pinstriped-team from the Bronx. Upon entering the ballpark, he already had the heebeegeebees from the cramped confines of the ballpark and the overwhelming aroma of corporate greed that would soon bring wall street crashing to the ground:
I assured Tim that there was nothing to worry about. The Mariners would surely destroy the home team. The Mariners would be throwing their young ace, King Felix Hernandez, while the home squad would be trotting out an old goat, a pre-Mitchell Report Roger Clemens. I was ready for a historic Clemens loss, and I would not be dissappointed.
So, as the game began, Tim was cautiously optimistic and ready to see his Mariners put on a show to remember:
“Yes,” I explained, “so mind your P’s and Q’s.”
By the way, not everyone was a fan of the opposition, that is Marc shown behind Tim’s outreached arm. He’s a good Mariners fan.
Now, I wouldn’t lead Tim astray, it WAS a great and historic game. In fact, despite the fact it didn’t feature former-and-future Mariners great Ken Griffey, Jr., this is one of the best games I’ve ever witnessed.
The game started like so many Mariners games do: Ichiro hit a line drive single to right field. So things were already off to a good start. Ichiro extended his hit streak to five games in the five games Tim had attended to date. But that was all the M’s managed in the top of the first.
The bottom of the first was the only bad part of the game. King Felix had some first inning jitters and fell behind by 1 run.
But don’t worry, the M’s came back in the top of the second. Raul Ibanez started off the inning with a single to LCF. Ben Broussard walked. And then Clemens fired a wild pitch to the backstop sending Ibanez to 3B. Finally, Jose Lopez got an infield hit to score Rauuuuuuuuul! And just like that the Mariners had tied it up 1-1.
Tim was happy about this turn of events:
By the way, check out the old water-soaked wood on the bottom of the upper deck (behind/above us). You don’t see that in a modern stadium! Well, really, I think you don’t see that anywhere — not in Boston or on the north side of Chicago, which were much older than this 1970’s re-model job.
The top of the second was just the Mariners warm-up act. They were about to lower the boom on their hosts.
Ichiro led off the top of the third inning with a homerun blast to LCF. Not only did the hit give the Mariners the lead (for good), but it was Ichiro’s 200th hit of the season for the SEVENTH season in a row! Hooray for Ichiro!!! And hooray for us for being there to witness this piece of history.
Meanwhile, King Felix kept mowing down opposing batters.
In the top of the fourth, the Mariners scored three more runs on a single by Adrian Beltre, hit-by-pitch for Jose Lopez, a double by Yuniesky Betancourt, and another single by Ichiro.
By this point, Tim and I were having a great time watching our Mariners dominate:
At some piont in the 4th inning, Roger Clemens hurt his leg falling off the mound awkwardly. In an unprecedented move, Joe Torre brought former Orioles great Mike Mussina into the game in relief. A quick review of Moose’s bio will reveal that this was the ONLY relief appearance of his probably-Hall of Fame career — 537 games, 536 games started.
Here’s the second piece of history involved in the game, this must be one of the most combined career wins that one team has ever had on the mound in one game. I’ve tried to get someone from ESPN.com to research and determine if there has ever been more combined wins by a team in one game, but I haven’t been able to get the answer. After Mussina gave up two more runs, he was replaced by Chris Britton, who ultimately gave way to Kyle “New York’s Finest” Farnsworth. (By the way, I once saw a shirt for sale outside this ballpark that said, “Anybody But Farnsworth.” That gave me a chuckle.)
Anyway, as of September 3, 2007, Roger Clemens had 354 wins (and he would NEVER win again), Mike Mussina had 247 wins, Britton had zero career wins (he is still stuck on zero), and Farnsworth had 27 career wins. All totaled, the Mariners faced off against SIX HUNDRED TWENTY-EIGHT (628) career wins. What do you think, is that a record? I’ve certainly never heard of a team throwing more career wins in one game.
But all of those career wins were no match for King Felix Hernandez and his (then) 27 career wins. Tim was all like…
The scoreboard showed the happy totals:
After the game, we tired to get a nice family picture, but Tim wasn’t into posing at the time (possibly because we’d just sat in ridiculously hot weather for 3+ hours). But combining the two pictures, you can get a semi-panaramic view of the field:
Thanks to the Mitchell Report and the amazing falling from grace of Mike Piazza’s favorite opposing pitcher, this game proved to be the final loss of Roger Clemens’s former-future-Hall of Fame career. But more importantly:
Tim and I have had all of our baseballs from 2009 laying around unorganized and our ice cream helmets in a similarly disheveled state. So, I decided to get organized.
The four most important baseballs of the season are in Tim’s room on his dresser with his 30-MLB team milestone trophy, his Mariners Mr. Potatohead, and his miniature Ken Griffey, Jr. glove:
Those baseballs include:
- Willie Bloomquist/Royals ball (U.S. Cellular Field) – from Tim’s 30th MLB team milestone game (8/17/09).
- Felix Hernandez/Erik Bedard (Fenway Park) warm up ball signed by Felix Hernandez (7/4/09).
- Jason Phillips autographed ball (Yankee Stadium) – trade for A-Rod photoball for M’s pink backpack (7/2/09).
- Ryan Rowland-Smith’s autographed warm-up ball (Rogers Centre) — Tim’s first ball he caught himself (9/26/09).
NOTE: Honorable Mention Most Important Baseballs Awards go to the HHH Metrodome ball that we caught at the Metrodome (8/15/09) and the ball Jason Phillips threw to us on top of the Green Monster at Fenway (7/5/09).
The rest of our 2009 baseballs are now all in baseball cubes displayed on a bookshelf on which they fit perfectly:
As you can see, on the bottom shelf we have our ice cream helmet collection. Most piles are all the same team (e.g., the big Mariners and Phillies piles). But a couple teams are hidden beneath other teams (e.g., the Pirates and the other New York team). Eventually, I’ll need to figure out a better way to display our helmets.
FYI, the balls on the helmet shelf are mostly from my youth. I lost track of how many balls I caught growing up in the Kingdome. Eventually, I ended up playing home run derby with most of them (something me and my friends played constantly during the summers) and lost them in the woods beyond the outfield fence at Madrona Elementary School (which is a great place to play home run derby). Anyway, the end balls in the back row are from last season, the other nine are my only remaining Kingdome balls. You can see on one of them I wrote “Julio Franco” in red in really poor, youthful handwriting. It was back when he played for the Rangers, probably from 1989 or 1990. The ball to the right of the Franco ball was from Kirby Puckett.
While I’m at it, I might as well share one more picture:
These are balls from 2006-08. On the top shelf:
1. Tim’s first ball ever – from Davis Romero (Blue Jays) at his first game ever, and first game (obviously) at Safeco Field (9/12/06).
3. Tim’s third ball ever – from Brandon Morrow at his third game ever, second Mariners game, and first game at Camden Yards (8/9/07)
4. Tim’s fourth ball ever – from Glenallen Hill at Tim’s 1st MLB Anniversary, our only ball ever at Citizens Bank Park (9/12/07)
FYI, we gave Tim’s second baseball to my cousin’s daughter who shared her first game ever with Tim (as we will see in a forthcoming entry – ETA next week).
The rest of the baseballs are spring training balls from 2008. The top left ball is autographed by Adam Moore and the top right ball is autographed by Jose Vidro – both during spring training 2008.
Interstingly, this post now shows every baseball Tim and I have ever caught together except one, which we got during our first baseball roadtrip in 2008 and got autographed by some Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers. What the heck, lets show it too:
This ball is autographed by T.J. Beam, Tyler Yates, and Sean Burnett of the 2008 Pirates.
So, there you go, our entire Major League baseball collection and Major League ice cream helmet collections in one blog entry.
Simply put, 2009 was outstanding. Tim and I had more fun than than should be allowed. We saw a lot of amazing baseball (33 games) including:
- Tim’s first time seeing Ken Griffey, Jr. hit a homerun (and as a Mariner!)
- Ichiro getting lots of hits en route to a record breaking 9th season with 200+ hits
- Felix Hernandez dominating the AL
- Jamie Moyer being Jamie Moyer
- A walk-off homerun by Raul Ibanez
- A walk-off single by Ichiro in the bottom of the 14th inning
- Two games with walk-off singles by Jose Lopez
- baseball in 13 stadiums including, most notably in my book, our first game at the Metrodome (also, Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field, Miller Park, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Rogers Centre and Progressive Field)
- Seeing a the Cubs score 10 runs in one inning
- Tim finishing off seeing all 30 MLB teams play live.
- A winning season by the Mariners! (85-77)
We also made great memories interacting with some ball players including:
- Tim asking Mariners reliever Chris Jakabauskas in the lobby of our hotel if he wants to come “see our room.”
- Meeting Mariners G.M. Jack Z. on the streets of Boston.
- Getting a picture with Felix Hernandez.
- Getting a picture with Ryan Rowland-Smith and having him throw a baseball to Tim:
- Giving Jason Phillips an A-Rod baseball to put in the Mariners bullpen’s pink backpack and then confirming the next day (in the hotel lobby) with Jakabaukas that the ball was indeed in the backpack.
- Getting 8 baseballs from Jason Phillips, including a pre-autographed ball, and baseballs at 6 stadiums.
The season — my first on MLBlogs — has provided so many great moments that I’ve recorded in game entries. Some of my favorite entires have included:
- Meeting the Metrodome — we took an awesome self-guided walking tour around this fun and unique (now-former) baseball park.
- Ice Cream Helmets, Anyone? – featuring our collection of ice cream helmets.
- Fenway Park Part 3 of 3 (A Moment To Remember) – featuring the first time Tim ever saw Griffey get a hit (a line drive off of the Green Monster).
- Griffey & Sensation: Two Kids Combine to Make Sweet Music – a story of my time having a partial season ticket plan in high school sitting next to Griffey’s friend and local rap legend Kid Sensation, and the songs inspired by their friendship.
Finally, we took tons of great pictures to document our adventures this season.
Here are some of my favorites (at least one from each game):
We started the season off on a chilly day in Baltimore — the world was our oyster, we had our whole season before us:
In week 2, we cheered on as former Mariner Raul Ibanez hit this pitch for a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the ninth inning:
In week 3, Tim raced down the foul territory warning track on his way to his first Kids Run the Bases of the season following our first game ever at Citi Field.
In week 4, Tim couldn’t adjust to the West Coast time change and was a little out-of-sorts when Jarrod Washburn threw us our first ball of the season from the Mariners dugout during the 9th inning of an exciting Mariners win:
On May 4, 2009, Tim and I got our picture with Red a/k/a “Beltre Guy” — who is fast becoming a Safeco Field Legend due to his passionate following of Adrian Beltre. Will Red be back in 2010? We will see:
In mid-May, we went to Philadelphia to see the Dodgers, but the best part of the night was seeing my favorite pitcher, Jamie Moyer. With Colleen’s new camera and a little computer magic, I was able to create one of my favorite pictures of the season:
On June 3, 2009, Tim and I returned to Nationals Park hoping to witness Randy Johnson’s 300th career win. Instead, we watched hours of rain turn the field into a lake (we also met Zack Hample for the first time and spent several hours chatting with him while watching the rain fall):
Tim and I had tons of fun watching the guys in the M’s bullpen this season. In this July 2, 2009 picture, Chris Jakabauskas is shown sitting in the bullpen at new Yankee Stadium with one of three big metal warrior helmets the Mariners bullpen displayed during games until Bug Selig put the kybosh on the M’s fun:
We started out watching the July 3, 2009 game from these seats with a young Red Sox fan named Tyler who told us to stay sitting there until people with tickets showed up. The fans in Boston were awesome all weekend:
During our third and final game at Fenway, Tim and I stumbled across the 2004 and 2007 world series trophies — although I wasn’t able to get a picture of it, this game was extra special because Tim saw Griff get a hit (a single off of the Green Monster) for the first time ever):
On August 5, 2009, Tim and I headed out to a sold-out FirstEnergy Stadium to watch future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez pitch for our local Reading Phillies:
A week or so later, Tim and I meet up with my dad in Chicago for The Great (Second Annual) Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Road Trip of 2009 where we witnessed the Cubs hang a 10-spot on the Pirates in the second inning:
On the third day of the baseball road trip, we visited the House that Happy Built — and we got this picture with Nick “The Happy Youngster” who we had first met on June 10th in Baltimore):
The next day, we finished off the baseball road trip and Tim finished off seeing all 30 MLB teams when we saw the Kansas City Royals play for the first time (and we got a ball from Willie “Ballgame” Bloomquist):
After the game, I presented Tim with a trophy memorializing his 30-team accomplishmen (thanks to Curious George, Tim loves trophies) — after the game, the nice folks did a cool little article about Tim’s milestone:
Jason Phillips, shown here with me and Tim in Cleveland in late-August, was by far the coolest guy we ran into this season. Jason gave us 8 baseballs this season including at least 1 baseball at each stadium at which we saw the Mariners play this season (Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Progressive Field, Safeco Field, and Rogers Centre) — plus, we took time out to chat (and be photographed) with us several times throughout the season:
The ball from Rowland-Smith was the first ball Tim has ever caught thrown by a major leaguer — which is featured in another mygameballs.com article:
We closed out the season on the final Sunday back at Camden Yards — where it all began just six months earlier. This time, Tim enjoyed the only ice cream helmet (a Mariners helmet) served at Camden Yards in 2009:
Although my wife can, I officially “can’t wait” for the 2010 baseball season to begin. I’m already planning it out and we have some exciting baseball trips in the future.
I’ve certainly enjoyed sharing our stories from the ballpark this season. The reason I created this blog was the record our baseball adventures so Tim could look back on them later in life. This season has been thoroughly documented and I’m quite happy with the results. Now, entering the off-season, I’m thinking about the games we went to before this season. I have them all recorded in Tim’s Baseball Log. But I’m thinking that I might find time during the off-season to put them in story form here on my blog. Therefore, if you’re interested in hearing about and seeing some pictures from the games Tim went to between 2006-2008 (about 22 games total), check back from time-to-time during the offseason. Otherwise, see you in 2010.
Only once before have I broken the normal protocol and started an entry at the middle of a game, rather than at the beginning. It was for our third game at Fenway back in July, and the purpose was to explain Ken Griffey Jr.’s fourth inning single off of the Green Monster. At the time, it was the first and only hit Tim had ever seen Griffey collect. It was a truly special moment. You can read all about it here.
Once again, I am happy to brake with tradition. Once again, I will start my story with zero outs in the top of the fourth inning. Once again, the story will involve my favorite player of all time, Mr. Ken Griffey, Jr.
Before the season started, I sat down at my computer, pulled up a bunch of MLB schedules and drafted the official “Todd & Tim Cook 2009 Baseball Agenda.” I then emailed the Agenda to a select group of “Important People” (family, friends, etc.) and invited people to join us on our ride through the 2009 season. Along with the agenda, I included the following note detailing the goals I had in mind when drafting the agenda:
Below, please find the official Todd & Tim Cook 2009 Baseball Agenda*. The basic goals of the Agenda include:
1) See Griff hit a Homerun as a Mariner (most important goal);
2) Complete Tim’s “Seen all MLB Teams” Goal (left to see: A’s, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Red Sox, Rays, Dodgers, Padres, Astros, and Braves);
3) Continue new Baseball Roadtrip tradition;
4) Visit 10+ stadiums, including HHH Metrodome (final season), Nationals Park (2d season), Yankee Stadium (first season) and Citi Field (first season);
5) Continue 9/12 Baseball Anniversary tradition;
6) Get Gill to his first MLB and Mariners Game;
7) Get Poppy out to the ball field at least twice; and
8) Have fun and make memories.
At the beginning of the day, with 26 games under our collective belt on the season, Tim and I had covered most of the goals: “All 30 Teams” – check; Baseball Roadtrip – check; 10+ stadiums (including HHH Metrodome, Nationals Park, New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field) – check; Continue 9/12 Baseball Anniversary tradition – check (we’ll be at Yankee Stadium on 9/12/09 for the third anniversary of Tim’s first game); and Have Fun and Make Memories – check.
Due to a chain of events including a miscommunication, a late invite to the Outer Banks and a Citizens Bank Park sell out, goals 6-7 had to be re-scheduled a couple times and, ultimately, suspended until next season.
But goal number one was left incomplete. In what might have otherwise gone down as a perfect season of baseball fandom, the most important task was left undone. The mere possibility of it was the entire reason for this trip. To see my boyhood (and, heck, my adulthood) baseball hero blast a homerun and share the moment with my son was all I wanted out of this season.
Enter, Fausto Carmona and the top of the fourth inning. Tim and I were out on the bridge that connects The Jake to a parking lot behind the LF bleachers. He’d been a little grumpy because he hadn’t had a nap, plus I think he was a little bit hungry. Colleen went down to Heritage Park and was in line to buy some pizza. I was holding Tim in my arms and this was our view:
Carmona started Griff off Ball 1, Ball 2. Then he reached back and hurled a 93-mph 4-seem fast ball that caught wwwwwwaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy too much of the plate…
…and this happened (picts courtesy of MLB.com screen shots)…
Right off the bat, it looked like a home run. However, Grady Sizemore was going back on it like he thought he might have a play on it. Worse yet, the roof of the batter’s eye bar was in my way. I could tell it would land out of view on the other side of the roof. So, I ran toward RF down the bridge until the roof was no longer in play. I saw Sizemore run out of room and the ball bounced sideways off something in the CF seats, took one big hop and was gloved by a lucky fan. Here was the estimated flight path of the ball (as estimated unscientifically by me):
Due to the odd angle looking down from the bridge, I couldn’t tell for sure if it was a home run until the second it bounced in the seats. But the second it bounced, I jumped in the air with Tim still in arms and gave a little shout: “YESSSSS!!!”
I immediately began fidgeting with my pocket to try to get my camera out, but I had a wardrobe malfunction and couldn’t get it out of my pocket until right before Griff crossed the plate. This is the only shot I got of our magical moment in Cleveland:
When we arrived home late that night, I watched the video highlight of Griffey’s home run on MLB.com, and I was excited to see that (although you cannot make us out) you can see me and Tim (the blue (my jersey) and white (the front of my hat) blob) moving across the bridge during the highlight of Griff’s bomb. Here is a screen shot that shows Griff’s HR ball in the air and Tim and me on the bridge:
And there you have it: our number one goal of the season completed! Never did I imagine 20 years ago, as an eighth grader going to games with my folks and marvelling at Griffey hitting homeruns in the Kingdome, that some day I would be in Cleveland, Ohio and witness the Greatest Mariner of All-Time hit a home run for the M’s while spending an afternoon at the ball park with my son. It was truly incredible.
And, as my mom said to my dad while watching the game on TV some 2,500+ miles away, “that home run just made Todd’s whole trip.” It did. In fact, it made my whole season.
Now…I hope to get a chance to do it again!!
Okay, now that we have the most important part of the game covered, why don’t we go back and start from the beginning. It was kids’ day at the park. Outside the LF entrance, they had all sorts of games and events for kids. Like these little peddle cars that Tim drove around a little coned track:
After Tim drove this car, Colleen and Tim played around some more while I went into the Jake and watched the last few minutes of Mariners BP. I hadn’t gotten much in terms of stadium pictures the day before, so I needed to tour around a bit.
I headed to home plate where I got this panaramic view:
I headed down to the front row and tried to walk down the 1B line in that big red front aisle, but I got booted out. Apparently, that aisle is only for really special people. Since it was such an important aisle, I took a picture of it…
Two seconds later, Colleen called me and I headed back over to LF and met up with her and Tim.
We had excellent seats in the second deck just above the Mariners bullpen. So we headed over there to check things out.
Colleen sat in our seats while Tim and I hung out in the front row where this was our view…
After playing catch in the OF, Felix went into the bullpen and pitched off of the mound to M’s back-up catcher Rob Johnson. (I’ll still call Kenji Johjima our starter). It was pretty funny watching Felix warm up. We actually couldn’t see Felix because the mounds are under the second deck. So we could just see the ball fly into view and into Johnson’s glove.
All of a sudden Tim started yelling down to Johnson: “Hey, sneakers! Hey, sneakers! Can you throw me a ball sneakers! Hey, sneakers! Hey, sneakers! Hey, sneakers!”
I asked Tim why he was calling Johnson sneakers and explained his name was Rob Johnson. Tim responded, “That’s sneakers. Sneakers is my friend.”
I asked him why he called him sneakers. “He’s wearing sneakers.” Of course!
A few minutes later, the Mariners relievers marched out to take their spot in the bullpen:
Above to the right is the aftermath of a hilarious scene that I missed photographing. (I was wearing a new pair of shorts and I could never seem to get my camera out of the cargo pockets in time!). Mariners closer David Aardsma is standing at the bottom. Two seconds before this shot, he just finished going down that line of relievers having each of them smell the inside of his hat. Each reliever buried his face in Aardsma’s cap and then they would chat about how it smelled. It was pretty hilarious — much more hilarious than this picture of the aftermath of smellfest.
Soon, the game started. Just then, Tim spotted the kids’ funland that was situated directly behind our section (section 316). Here is a photo:
As MLB stadium play areas go, this one is pretty weak. If you have young kids, you’ll notice that everything in here is something you probably have in your playroom or back yard, or maybe your friends’ have it in their playroom or back yard. Nothing special here. Step 2, the manufacturer of all this stuff, is headquartered just outside of Cleveland. I guess that is why they have an all-Step 2 play area. Whether it was comparatively weak or not, Tim still loved it in there. He never wanted to leave he was having so much fun. Therefore, Colleen hung out with him and I watched the Mariners bat from the standing room counter behind our section. It looked like this:
Here are a couple more picts showing the empty upper deck concourse in RF and an incredibly steep look down to the RF foul pole:
This is interesting. Exactly like the bullpens at Nationals Part, the bullpen in the RF corner (to the right) is field turf, but the bullpen in CF (to the left) is real grass. Odd, huh? In D.C., I thought it was because there was an entrance from the employee-only (worker) level concourse where they could bring tractors, etc., through the bullpen to the field. I figured they put in turf so the heavy equipment passing through the bullpen wouldn’t get damaged. But I didn’t notice a similar tractor entrance in Cleveland. I’m not sure why one bullpen is grass and the other is turf.
Here is a view into the Mariners dugout — where Griffey (pre-home run) can be seen chatting up some of his teammates):
I headed up to the upper corner in LF where I got this view:
So, remember I mentioned Colleen was in line for pizza when Griff hit his home run? Well, she wasn’t able to get any. She is a vegatarian and when she got to the front of the line, they had just given away the last slice of cheese pizza. All that was left was pepperoni. So she came back and met up with us again.
After a little bit, we went back and I stood in the incredibly short but frustratingly slow pizza line. While in line, I took this picture of King Felix:
There were literally only 2 people in front of me in line for pizza. But before I made my way to the front of the line, Felix retired the side, the teams switched positions, and Griff came to bat. I was forced to abandon my spot in line to go watch Griff’s at bat, and take this picture:
After Tim got some pizza in him (yes, I eventually did make it through the pizza line), Tim forgot about the play area and we relocated to the LF bleachers so he wouldn’t see the playarea again.
Here is Tim out in the bleachers:
It was Kids Run The Bases day, but we had a six hour drive following the game, and Tim really needed a nap in the car so we headed out.
Despite two terrible losses, it was great to see our Mariners once again this season, and it was OUTSTANDING to see Griff hit his 624th home run of his career.
Season Fan Stats:
27 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
1 Ken Griffey, Jr. Homerun (Career Homerun No. 624, August 23, 2009 in Cleveland)
12 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, HHH Metrodome, Miller Park, U.S. Cellular, and “Jacobs” Field)
24 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Royals, White Sox, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals, Marlins, Pirates, Astros, and Brewers — and sort of the Giants)
22 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (5), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3), Yankees, Twins, Cubs, Brewers, White Sox, and Indians (and 1 Brewers Cheese Fries Helmet))
25 Baseballs (14 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire, 1 Nationals, 1 Pirates, 1 Twins, 1 Astros, 1 Royals, 1 Indians)
MLB Closed Out (NL Closed out on 8/16/09, AL Closed out on 8/17/09)
4 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Perry)
4 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
10 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose, Orioles Bird, Slider (Indians), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats), 4 Running Sausages (Brewers) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)
For the second day in a row, we woke up and had breakfast and played some baseball in Copley Square. On this day, however, we just played catch and did some base running (on four drains in front of the Church in the square).
Soon, it was time to head to Fenway Park for our final game of the weekend roadtrip. We were hoping for a Mariners sweep. But it wasn’t in the cards.
I’m going to break with my usual protocol and skip to the fourth inning. I’ll go back and cover the game from the beginning, but I don’t want to bury the most important part of this unfortunate Mariners loss in the middle of the entry.
You might have noticed by now that I am a big Mariners fan. And, by definition, that means I am a huge Ken Griffey, Jr. fan. Ken Griffey, Jr. means everything to Mariners fans (at least to real Mariners fans). I was 13 when Griff broke into the Mariners back in 1989.
The Mariners were a fairly unimportant team until 1989. Well, they were important to me and about 10,000 other people in the state of Washington. But they were sort of a minor league Major League team to everyone else. They had zero winning seasons in their history. There were constant rumors and threats that the team would move — most notably to Tampa, Florida. The Kingdome — as beautiful and perfect as it was — was largely empty. (By the way, that wasn’t sarcasm, the Kingdome was, indeed, beautiful and perfect).
And then, in April 1989, things changed. KEN GRIFFEY, JR. ARRIVED! All of a sudden, one of the most celebrated young ball players in baseball was a Seattle Mariner. People started to pay some attention to our club. People started showing up at the Kingdome.
In 1991, we had a WINNING SEASON!
In 1995, we WON THE WEST! We made the PLAYOFFS!! We were two games from the World Series.
The Mariners were no longer going to move away! Instead, they built Safeco Field. It was a golden era in Mariners baseball.
Long story short: Ken Griffey, Jr. changed baseball in Seattle, he saved baseball in Seattle, he IS baseball in Seattle.
Therefore, when my son was born in 2006 and we started going to baseball games together, I had a goal: Take Tim to see Griffey.
We have had incredibly bad luck in this respect. Prior to this weekend, we had gone to see him play more than 10 times, and Griff played in only three of those games. In those games, he has had gone hitless (but with a bunch of walks).
So we turn to this game. Shortly before game time, they announced the starting line-up. I was more saddened to learn that Mike Sweeney would be DH’ing and Griffey would have the day off.
I started thinking worst case scenario. This is very possibly our final Mariners game of the season. They don’t come back to the Northeast this season. In 30 years, would Tim have to tell his son, “Yeah, your grandpa took me to see the great Ken Griffey, Jr. when I was a boy. But I never saw him get a hit.” I hated the thought. But there was nothing I could do about it. The Mariners were facing a lefty, Jon Lester, and Mike Sweeney had to get his work in to stay sharp.
Then in the fourth inning (with no disrepect to Sweeney), something wonderful happened:
I was totally unprepared. (That notice was actually posted in the 5th or 6th inning).
Tim was sitting on my shoulders. We were at a food stand behind the grandstand behind the seats by the 1B dugout. I had just ordered a sausage with onions and peppers (for me), a hot dog (for Tim), a diet coke, and a bag of peanuts. There was no counter at the cash registered so I had to hold everything in one hand while finding my money and paying the cashier with the other hand (while still balancing Tim on my shoulders with no hands).
In the midst of all of this, I hear the following over the stadium P.A. system:
“Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, JUNIOR!”
Instantly, my thought was, “The Red Sox don’t have a Junior! AHHHHH!!!”
I jammed my wallet and change into my pocket, gathered up everything as best as I could and ran toward the field as fast as I could.
This picture shows our starting point and our route to the field:
When we ran into the back of the grandstand, I believe we were in Section 13 or 14.
I yelled up to Tim, “I THINK GRIFF IS UP!”
Right as we got in view of the field, we saw Lester start his wind up and deliver a pitch to Griffey. What happened next was possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever seen at a major league stadium: Griff drilled the pitch off of the Green Monster!
According to my DVR, it looked something like this:
I think that to everyone else in the stadium, it was just a random lead off hit in the top of the fourth inning. But to me, it was possibly the greatest baseball moment ever. For the first time in over ten years, I witnessed Ken Griffey, Jr. — my boyhood hero and favorite baseball player of all-time — get a hit for my Seattle Mariners and I witnessed it with my son sitting on my shoulders sharing the moment with me. And the fact that he hit the ball off the Green Monster, the most famous outfield wall in baseball, made it even more exciting.
This simple hit is easily the highlight of my season so far, and I plan to think and talk about it with Tim for years and years to come. I hope Tim and I get another chance to see Griffey play — this season and next. But, if that is not possible, this hit will keep me satisfied.
(By way of background and to clarify, *I* have seen Griffey get tons of hits, hit numerous homeruns, multiple grand slams, makes dozens of circus catches (including the one when he broke his arm in half) — but I’d never shared any of those moments with Tim. That’s what made this hit so special).
By the time I could get to a spot where I could put our food down and get to my camera, Franklin Gutierrez had advanced Griff to second with a single. Here is Griff leading off of second:
Okay, now lets back track to the beginning of the game.
We entered the stadium again through the CF gate on Lansdowne Street. It was a 1:35 start, but the teams still took BP. We arrived as the first group of Mariners were hitting, including Griffey and Ichiro.
We started out in the CF bleachers. Griffey was blasting bombs into the RF bleachers. I wanted to go over there, but there is no way I am going to try to catch a HR ball with Tim on my shoulders. Shortly after we arrived, Griff hit a ground rule double to straight away CF that bounced up into the stands and directly into my Dad’s glove.
My Dad has had great luck with Griffey this year. In addition to this BP ground rule double, on the first day of spring training, my Dad got Griff’s second BP homerun in his second tour of duty with the Mariners.
I decided to go up onto the Green Monster and see if Tim and I could get into the seating area. There is a staircase in the CF concourse that takes you up to the Green Monster. You can walk out to the edge of the seating area, but they won’t let you out into the seats without a Monster ticket. So Tim and I just stood around up there for a few minutes taking in the view before heading back down to the field level seats.
I had a thought in the back of my head that it would be neat to get a ball thrown up to us on the Green Monster. Tim and I stood in the closest spot to the seats that you can get to without a Monster ticket:
We stood in the spot under the red arrow where the guy in the red shirt is standing. I noticed Jason Vargas and Jason Phillips standing together below in LCF. (In the picture to the right, that is Jason Phillips after the two Jasons split up).
After a few minutes, someone hit a ball to Vargas. I yelled down from the Mondster, “Hey, Vargas!!!!” He heard me! He looked up! He turned around and he fired the ball to me. Unfortunately, it was too low and it clanked off a light and some bricks just below us — out of reach.
Jason Phillips stood and watched Vargas’s failed attempt. And just then, someone hit him a ball. “Hey, Jason!” Phillips looked back up at me. He turned around and he fired the ball to me. A perfect strike. It would have hit me directly in the chest. It was a very impressive throw, and much appreciated.
Here is a picture that illustrates the flight of the ball:
At the time Phillips threw the ball, he was even a little bit — maybe 10-15 feet — closer toward LF. He didn’t lob the ball up to me. He fired it on a line, just like the arrow in this picture. As I said, a very impressive throw.
Tim and I then went down to the CF bleachers and met up with my mom who was standing right where my Dad caught Griff’s ground rule double about 10 minutes earlier.
Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard were standing below us. Felix runs all over the place trying to make high light reel catches during BP. At one point, he caught one near us. He looked up and made I contact with me (and Tim). There was a lady from Seattle shouting at him standing directly next to me to my left. Felix fired the ball up to us. He threw it to our right side so the shouting lady wouldn’t interfere. I could have caught it without moving at all — I just had to reach across my body and back hand it. However, as I started to go for the backhand, I realize there was a 8’ish year old boy wearning a Red Sox jersey and a glove standing next to me. If I didn’t catch the ball, he’d get it. I decided to let me have it since we already had the ball from Jason Phillips and we got Felix’s warm up ball the day before.
Soon thereafter, someone hit a ball into the OF corner by the end of the Red Sox bullpen. Here was the scene:
We were standing in the red circle. Erik Bedard was standing at the red “X”. There was a rope running along the warning track. (I think it was to keep people involved in the pre-game ceremonies off of the grass). The rope went down the warning track and around a big door in the outfield wall. The ball went in the corner behind the rope as shown above.
Bedard turned around and walked over and grabbed the ball. A whole bunch of people including a bunch of 10’ish year old kids, were standing by the bullpen directly above the ball. I figured Bedard would grab it and flip it up to them. While those people all yelled at Bedard for the ball, Erik picked it up and looked at them. He then walked as slowly as humanly possible back over to the yellow “X” in the picture above. Then he looked up and made eye contact with me (and Tim), and fired the ball to us. I had the feeling that Bedard had watched Felix throw us the ball when I let the kid catch it and he was trying to finish what Felix had started. The yelling lady was still next to me. Like Felix, Bedard threw the ball to my right so she wouldn’t get it.
Next, it was time to walk around. We checked out the RF corner and the Pesky Pole:
As RF corners go, this is one of the most interesting in baseball. Not very “corner-ish.” More like a RF curve.
We walked up through the old wooden grandstand seats:
We headed out to Yawkey Way and watched Tom Caron from NESN interview comedian Mike O’Malley:
Sean Casey was walking around the NESN set. I walked over to get a picture of him (or possibly with him), but he vanished into thin air.
It was getting close to game time, so we walked back into the stadium and went through the busy concourse behind home plate:
When we were down here, we got Tim a chocolate ice cream helmet and headed toward our seats in the grandstand behind home plate:
The seats were great. Here was our view:
The red arrow points to where Tim and I were standing when Griffey hit his single off of the Green Monster.
We watched te pre-game festivities such as the reading of the Fenway Park Code of Conduct…
…the carrying of the pink backpack to the Mariners bullpen by Christ Jakubauskas…
…the third ceremonial first pitch by Marky Mark Wahlberg (and his re-do third ceremonial first pitch due to his first third ceremonial first pitch sailing high over the catcher to the backstop):
Finally, it was game time. As always, future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki led off for the Mariners:
I like this picture for two reasons — (i) the ball is captured right above the plate (but low, it was called a ball) and (ii) Dustin Pedroia is, for some reason, floating in the air at second base (click on the picture to see it larger, Pedroia is totally off of the ground).
I got some more Red Sox pictures:
I wanted to get a shot of Big Papi clapping his hands before stepping into the box but I missed it. He hit the next pitch into the RF bleachers, the second Red Sox home run in the first inning.
By the time Griff was up for a second time, we were touring around in the grandstand out beyond the Pesky Pole. He walked. Here he is leading off first base:
We went out to the concourse in the RF corner and took this picture showing the Red Sox World Series and other banners:
FYI, see the guy wearing the red shirt above the blue 1967 banner in the middle of the picture? He is standing in the walkway behind the grandstand seats where Tim and I spent a lot of time over the course of the weekend.
The red arrow in that last picture is pointing to this:
I’m guessing this guy is called the “Green Monster.” We saw the real one of this guy running around on the field before each game, but we never saw him in the crowd. This was the best we could do with respect to getting a mascot picture.
See the red arrow in that last picture? It is pointing to a staircase that leads to the “Players Club.” I’m not sure what the Players Club is all about. It looked like it was for special events or people with special tickets. But we headed in to check it out and no one seemed to mind. Here is what it looked like:
…more players club…
…and we found something cool in the Players Club:
(From Left: 2004 World Series Trophy, Todd & Tim, 2007 World Series Trophy)
We walked out of the players club just in time to see this…
Through the break in the grandstand and bleachers, that is Jacoby Ellsbury hitting a home run to bring the score to 4-3 Mariners.
We met up with my folks and watched the game on a TV while we ate some food at the tables in the RF corner. From our table, you could see the Players Club above the food stands:
While we sat here, the Mariners brought in Miguel Batista. It was not Miguel’s day. He gave up a bunch of runs and the Mariners eventually lost the game 8-4.
Tim and I watched the last inning from our familiar RF corner by the Mariners bullpen. We were hoping Griff would get one more at bat, but it wasn’t in the cards. We settled for one more picture with the field before heading out:
This game, we switched things up and exited the stadium from the RF exit so I could get a picture of this:
Boston Red Sox
The greatest hitter who ever lived, an American patriot, and a pioneer in the development of the Jimmy Fund. Ted Williams will forever be one of the great heroes in the history of baseball, Boston and America. He amassed 521 home runs despite sacrificing five years in his prime to serve his country during World War II and the Korean War. He was a relentless champion of children, such as this child to whom he is offering his cap, in their battle against cancer, and helped make the Jimmy Fund at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute the world renowned center of research and care that it is today.
The memory of Ted Williams will forever be a point of pride for the Boston Red Sox, the people of Boston, New England, and the United States of America.
We took one more picture outside:
With that, we started our walk back to the hotel…
For so many reasons, it was such an awesome weekend shared with Tim and my folks.
Season Fan Stats:
18 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
7 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park)
13 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Braves and Padres, Dodgers — and sort of the Giants)
14 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (3), Mets, Nationals (2), Red Sox (3) and Yankees)
17 Baseballs (12 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire)
4 Divisions Closed Out (So far in Tim’s Life — AL West, AL East, NL West, NL East)
3 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ryan Perry)
2 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
5 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose (2), Orioles Bird (2), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)